Ever since Taito released Bubble Bobble in the arcades (1986), I have followed the adventures of these two ultra-cute and oh-so-colorful dragons (Bub and Bob) from Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Island, Paraol Star, Bubble Symphony, Bubble Memories... also, the great Bust-A-Move series (Puzzle Bobble in Japan). Bust-a-move has released a total of four arcade games, the latest (IV) being released in December 1997. So far Bust-A-Move IV has been released on the Playstation, PC (with net support) and now Dreamcast.
As for the gameplay, if you never played a Bust-A-Move game before, it's pretty simple. The basics are that you shoot colored bubbles into the screen using the arrow-shaped pointer. Connect three or more of the same color and they disappear. Bubbles connected to the disappearing string will fall off the screen. This is vital when playing versus the cpu or another human, as the amount of bubbles falling off your screen will be ADDED to your opponent's screen. If one or more bubbles reach the bottom of your screen (the limit), you are dead! That goes for your opponent also. What is new in terms of gameplay in Bust-a-Move IV compared to the others? Not too much! They have added a few new types of puzzles, pulleys and an anti-gravity block. A pulley consists of two anchor blocks attached to a rope. If each anchor has an equivalent number of bubbles attached to it, the pulley is balanced. If you add bubbles to one side, it pulls that bubble cluster down and moves the other up. All bubbles attached to the bubble cluster will be dropped if the anchor bubble is dropped. An anti-gravity block acts like a trouble block. You can't pop it. When you end up in a situation where a group of bubbles would drop, the anti-gravity block pulls that group of bubbles up the board until it sticks to one or more bubbles. Once the anti-gravity block reaches the top of the board, it becomes an anchor block.
Like many other arcade ports on Dreamcast, the game has been converted above and beyond the standarda arcade game. In the game they have added a story mode like in other Japanese games where you must pick one of 10 playable characters. In your adventures to help Cronoa, Governess of the Futura, retrieve the Arcana cards. These mystical cards have fallen into people's dreams causing the energy of the cards to go out of balance unless you can skillfully enter the dream world and seal the cards! I never said it was a good story...
Unlike the traditional puzzle game, Story Mode is less rigid. You will have to use a cursor to move around a pictorial map and choose each set of the puzzles that you want to attempt. Each set of puzzles you complete will win you an Arcana card, and beating several sets will open up more locations on the map, until you've won the entire pack of cards. The sheer number of rounds you have to win to complete this mode means you'll be glad that the game allows you to quit, come back later and carry on from the last set of puzzles you attempted. The next time you start this mode and pick a character will allow you to continue where you left off.
The traditional Puzzle Bobble puzzle mode, with an alphabetical map of stages, with two route options to choose from between each set of puzzles. Plenty of replay value here. But everything isn't perfect in Bubble Bobble's world. Intead of having a 2-4 player mode your limited just to two-players. Come now, if Bust-a-Move 99' on N64 can do four-players why can't a Dreamcast do it? And with the PC version sporting Online play what can a man say but...dammit! Mother fooker... where is my online puzzle game? I was stuck with some god damn mice!! I'm not saying the two-player mode is bad, it's actually great, but all that it could have been it makes a gamer really sad.
Beside that one thing, this is one of my favorite puzzle games on Dreamcast next to Tetris 4-D and Puyo Puyo IV (import only), so go buy it if you enjoy a good ultra-cute puzzle game.
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