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Platform:  Neo Geo
# of Players:  1-2
Developer:  Taito
Publisher:  SNK
Features:  Linkable
Ratings:  Everyone
Memory Req.:  
When I heard that this game was coming out for the Neo Geo Pocket Color I was not surprised (after all it is a Neo-Geo favorite) but I was still overjoyed. Not only was Bust-A-Move (a.k.a Puzzle Bobble in Japan) one of my favorite arcade puzzle games but I knew that it would translate well into a portable system. I am happy to report that the game comes off nearly arcade perfect and captures all of the fun of the arcade without losing any of its addictive nature.
Now if you have never heard me or anyone else here at Gametour rave about the Neo-Geo Pocket Color, allow me some gloating. This system has one of the best brightest color schemes of any handheld out there. Not to mention the controller is superb. Once you put the controller in your hands you will know what I mean. It fits so perfectly and is so comfortable you could play all day. Not like the Gameboy that gives you sore hands after a little while. The controller is a true 8-way controller meaning the diagonal movements are just as easy to do as the straight ones. The controller is circular, not a + sign like in the other handheld games. So just like in the arcade you can pull off circular movements with ease.
But how does this all apply to Bust-A-Move. Well the proof is in the pudding. Bust-A-Move got its start as an arcade addiction for a small but highly devoted group of people, I being one of them. If one of these people saw a Bust-A-Move machine anywhere they would have to go up a play a round trying to get farther than they ever had before. This is what makes games so desired when they come in a home version. Well devotees will be happy to know that all of the arcade levels are present in the home game as well as a bunch of others to test that true puzzle solving genius.
If you have never played Bust-A-Move then you are really missing out. Luckily it is one of the easiest games to pick up. It goes like this: the dragons from its predecessor Bobble Bubble are manning a bubble shooting cannon at the bottom of the screen. You are in charge of aiming the cannon and shooting the bubbles up into the playing field. The object is to match up 3 or more Bubbles in order to make them disappear. Make all of the bubbles disappear and you go to the next level where the bubbles are even harder to eliminate. The strategy of the game is to try to eliminate the bubbles at the top of the screen so that everything underneath will have nothing to attach on to.
There are some elements that have been added for the home version. The most fun is the Vs. mode. In it you can challenge 8 different computer opponents to a round of bubble-throwing mayhem. If you clear more than 3 bubbles then the extra bubbles get shot onto your opponents screen. Be careful, it works both ways. True players will probably have to up the difficulty level since the default one is very easy.
Another new feature is the special bubble, which adds a slight strategy to the gameplay. If this sparkly bubble is hit then all the bubbles that are the same color as the bubble that hit it will disappear. This is a quick way to eliminate all of the bubbles that are giving you trouble, but usually the bonus takes some clever maneuvering to get to. Purists will say that this addition makes the way for cheating, but I say that it is just a clever strategically planned maneuver.
The only problem I had with the game aside from not being able to put I down was with the control. Now, whereas I love the controller on the NGPC, the game was a little less responsive than I wanted it to be. For exact shots it took a series of tappings before I got my aim exactly correct. In the arcade it is much easier to aim the shooter where you want it to go, but being that everything is shrunk down, the exactness was a little slippery. In a game where aim is so important it is equally important to have a control system that allows for exactness.
So if you are puzzle game freak or just a fan of the Bust-A-Move series then you are going to love this version of the game. Thought the game is on nearly every platform and system, this one shines as one of the most pure most fun versions. It is loyal to the arcade, interesting, and has enough added features to give it its own personality. I would say that it is a must-have in your NGPC bag.

Chris Shade

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