Review by: Matt Boehland
I picked Bubble Symphony up on a whim. It was under $45, and everyone needs some variety. So I was hoping for a decent mindless action game, and having two player simultaneous play is and added bonus. I have played a few other versions. In the 80s, I considered Bubble Bobble one of the funnest 8-bit games for two players at that time. Parasol Stars on the Turbografx was decent enough, with a good variety of levels, and I would have rated it a 7 out of 10 at the time. The first Saturn collection was just a re-release of the older Bubble Bobbles, and there wasn’t much new to see. Which brings us to the newest Saturn release.

Graphics: 6/10

No problems here. Bright and colorful, with occasional special effects in the backgrounds. Unfortunately, there’s absolutely nothing to impress here either. These graphics could be almost done on a Super NES, with maybe just a little loss of color. Then again, Bubble Bobble was always about gameplay, not graphics.

Sound: 4/10

I might be being generous here. The same tune drones on through all of the levels. The only saving grace is that the song is okay, and it only mildly gets on the nerves once you’re on the 35th level or so. The sound effects are passable.

Control: 8/10

It’s still fun to move around the little guys and have them hop from bubble to bubble. Granted, it’s as difficult as ever to bring them up from out of a pit by jumping on your own bubbles, but with practice, you can manage. One difference from the other Bubble Bobble games is a few more kinds of special bubbles you can pop. In addition to the lightning bubbles the shoot a lightning bolt horizontally across the screen, there is now other kinds such as a rainbow bubble that drops vertically upon the enemies, Wind Bubbles, Fire bubbles, as well as the old water bubbles. Also, there are now four characters to choose from, each with different foot speed, bubble speed, and bubble range. Strangely, there is a rating for ‘shot’, but every character has a ‘1’ rating. Also, there are now ‘charge’ attacks’. When you hold down the button for a while and then release, each character has a special kind of shot they can release. For example, Bubblun shoots three bubbles at once in front of himself. However, for the most part, these special attacks aren’t worth bothering with.

Gameplay/ game design: 4/10

First off, the worst flaw in the game: 99 continues! This is the single reason I don’t see myself playing this game much. I can live with outdated graphics and music, but what’s the point of catch all of the special bubbles to spell ‘extend’ when it only nets you one free guy? Whee, 99 and a half continues! Even playing for a high score is made pointless by the bonus levels where you rack up a ridiculous amount of points without any real skill. Killing a boss without dying, something that requires skill, isn’t rewarded, nor is staying alive through 15 levels without dying. Basically, the high score list should’ve been named the ‘most bonus levels’ list.

Overall: 5/10

What could’ve been a decent diversion was made a complete bore by the 99 continues. The only real way to have fun in one player mode is to enforce your own restriction on continues. Even so, the levels really begin to feel the same after awhile (thanks in part to the repeating music). I definitely didn’t get my money’s worth out of this game, but I may keep it for the occasional 2-player play. Anyone with any other version of Bubble Bobble should stick to it. If you don’t have any version at all, you can probably buy the American release of the Bubble Bobble collection for much cheaper than Bubble Symphony, and even probably have more fun with it.