Released in 1996 when retro wasn’t particularly in vogue beyond some classic arcade games and Atari packages being released, the PlayStation received a special package of both Bubble Bobble and Rainbow Islands. This package consists of three games, Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Islands and Rainbow Islands Enhanced, which already feels as though it could be a pointless exercise!
The disc boots up with a rendered FMV intro, which looks very ropey by today’s standards! We start off with one of my all time favourite games, Bubble Bobble. Now, call me a purist, but rather disappointingly, it’s not an exact copy of the arcade version, it’s as though they have taken it and ever so slightly remastered it so to speak. The music has a slightly different sound to the arcade, not in a bad way, but just different. The sprites have had a bit of extra colour and contours added to them too, but the level design largely remains the same, but again is not identical to the arcade fully.
All of these things shouldn’t really matter, and I guess when it was released at the time, it was probably considered more of a plus point, but today if a classic is remade, you tend to get the option to switch between the classic visuals and sound and the modern remake. But anyhow, these niggles aside, the gameplay is all here and plays, well, enough like Bubble Bobble, but there are a few things that just feel different! In many ways, these differences make this game make it unique and probably more collectable as a result.
Next, it’s Rainbow Islands. Rainbow Islands was never quite as popular as Bubble Bobble in the arcade, but received quite a fanbase on 8 bit and 16 bit home computers. It’s a bit odd with this package that places more emphasis on Bubble Bobble in its title that Rainbow Islands is the one that gets two separate versions of the game.
As with Bubble Bobble it becomes quickly apparent that Rainbow Islands is not a direct arcade port with the classic music being a bit different to the original, again, similar but almost more of a remix. But there’s less generally speaking different with Rainbow Islands than with Bubble Bobble, with the levels still being the same as the boss battles. My feeling is that this port is a more satisfying recreation of the arcade original.
Now, the odd addition of Rainbow Islands Enhanced. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this, it is a nice little extra being bundled in to be honest. The enhancements are as you would expect with some really nice backgrounds, and improved sprites and level graphics with many more colours being used.
I guess if you were going to choose a version to play, you may as well choose the enhanced version since the other version of Rainbow Islands on this disc is not arcade faithful either, so just for something different, give this version a go as you would not have experienced this with any other version of the game.
Bubble Bobble featuring Rainbow Islands is a bit of an oddity in the PlayStation library, and does definitely come across as half baked, especially by today’s standards in remaking retro classics, but nonetheless it’s still worth a play if not to just experience alternative versions of Bubble Bobble & Rainbow Islands.