A Totally Terrific Tribute To Taito

      There is a school of thought among some gamers a game isn't worth playing if it doesn't have guns, blood, tits, cursing, or John Madden. And while I do love guns, blood, tits, and cursing, I don't fucking buy into the idea that they're an inalienable quality of a good game. In fact, there are plenty of incredibly shitty games that are built entirely around these concept. For example, BMX XXX. Unfortunately, there is a growing sentiment among so-called "mature" gamers that every game should be Madden, GTA, or Halo. And when you run a company that doesn't make games like those, you get automatically written off by a sizeable albeit, completely retarded demographic of gamers. The company that gets ragged on the most by these jackoffs is of course, Nintendo. Nintendo creates fun, imaginative games that are fun for all ages. And because a seven-year-old can garner parentally approved enjoyment from Legend of Zelda or Mario Kart, cynics deride them as "kiddie" games. The notion is rather juvenile; a game's value comes not from blood or cursing, but from whether or not it's actually fun to play. And many of the games that Nintendo makes are pretty fucking fun. But if you're one of those smug little pricks who would rather play Major League Baseball 2K6 than Super Monkey Ball, this article is not for you. This article is a tribute a video game publisher who makes Nintendo look like Rockstar Games by comparison, a company so pure that their games don't let you input SEX as your initials. That company is Taito, and they're amazing. Get ready, for we are about to embark on an epic journey through the greatest games made by one on of the best video game companies ever. If you're coming along, you may want to bring some snacks...


Space Invaders (1978)

      Taito's first successful arcade game would eventually go down in history as one of the greatest games ever made. That game was 1978's Space Invaders. Space Invaders has been ported, remade, bootlegged, and ripped off more times than I care to count. The premise is simple: evil extraterrestrials methodically march towards you in five rows of eleven, firing shots as they go. Your objective is to eliminate them all before they reach the bottom of the screen. As you eliminate more and more aliens, their speed increases. If you're shot, you lose one life. However, if even one of the space monsters makes it to the bottom of the screen, your planet is invaded and the game immediately ends. The success of Space Invaders is legendary. In Japan, arcade parlors that were dedicated solely to Space Invaders opened and thrived. The game caused yen shortages so severe that the Japanese government had to QUADRUPLE the amount of coins in circulation. In the United States, several instances of juvenile crime were attributed to the game, including some grocery store robberies. One girl was supposedly caught stealing $5000 from her parents so that she could play the game; maybe she shouldn't taken it all at once. Space Invaders is also kin to Grand Theft Auto, in that it led to some of the earliest attempts to ban, censor, or otherwise restrict access to video games. In direct response to the popularity of Space Invaders, residents in a Texas city passed an ordinance making it difficult for arcade establishments to acquire business licenses and making it illegal for unescorted minors to enter arcades. The ordinance was challenged and in City of Mesquite v. Aladdin's Castle, Inc., the Supreme Court found it to be unconstitutional. It would appear that the Supreme Court made the right decision too, because Space Invaders has failed to destroy society... or has it? DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUN!


Qix (1981)

      I hate Qix. Oh, how I hate this game. Qix is little more than a footnote in video game history, notable mostly for spawning adult-oriented imitators. In this game, you must guide the cursor through the playing area to draw "stix" and form colored boxes. There are two different types of stix that you can draw with, fast and slow. Fast stix make cyan boxes, slow stix make maroon ones. Fast stix are much safer and easier to use, but slow stix are worth twice as many points. As you play, you must dodge electrical shocks (Sparx) that run along the borders as well as a generic mass of RGB lines (Qix) that moves erratically through the unclaimed part of the field. Once you've colored 75% or more of the board, you advance to the next level. Like most other arcade games of the the 70s and early 80s, Qix was repetitive and frustrating. Unfortunately for Qix, these qualities were not the hallmarks of the early classics. Space Invaders was clearly repetitive and sometimes frustrating, but it was also FUN. Qix is lacking something, in both concept and execution, that prevents it from being enjoyable. The lack of colors doesn't help much either. Qix uses only eight colors and it is built around the premise of filling in blackspace, making it a rather drab game to look at. In the wake of more vibrant contemporaries such as Donkey Kong and Centipede, Qix looked like a total pile of crap. 1987's Super Qix fixed this problem by replacing the black playing field with castle backgrounds that you colored in as you went. Sadly, the game still isn't that fun. Qix might actually have potential on the Nintendo DS, but Taito hasn't shown the hot handheld device much love yet. Bastards.


Jungle Hunt (1982)

      Jungle Hunt is the story of Sir Dudley Dashley, a big game hunter who must rescue his wife from the clutches of bloodthirsty savages. The game itself is comprised of four levels of jungle fun. In the first stage, you'll swing on ropes high above some pastel vegetation. It's unclear why you can't just walk in the tall grass below, but one would assume there must be lions, snakes, or other assorted trite threats lying in wait for you. In the second stage, you'll swim through a river and murder crocodiles, only occasionally stopping to surface for air. In the third stage, you'll climb a hill while dodging a steady stream of rolling rocks. Then in the final stage, you will attempt to save your wife, Lady Penelope, from dancing cannibals. After a brief congratulatory screen, the game repeats. If Sir Dashley's exploits seem somewhat Tarzanesque, they should. In fact, this game was originally called Jungle King and it starred a character who bore a strikingly resemblance to the Edgar Rice Burroughs creation. Unfortunately, Taito never actually bothered to ask for permission to do so. One cease and desist order later, the game was reborn as Jungle Hunt. It was later reborn again as the rather shitty Pirate Pete, but that's another story.

      Jungle Hunt holds a special place in my heart because it's one of the first video games that I played. They had a Jungle Hunt machine at a local Chuck E. Cheese that my grandmother sometimes took me to. I can still remember tossing my tokens in and trying to guide that stupid little safari guy from vine to vine. I sucked ass at this game in arcade, but I loved it anyway. I eventually coerced my mom into buying me the Atari 2600 version during an excursion to Toys Us; it was then that I finally mastered Jungle Hunt. The game is rather short and simplistic, but it's still pretty damn entertaining. Not only that, it pioneered the sidescrolling action genre that Super Mario Bros. would later perfect. It's also worth noting that Jungle Hunt scrolls from right to left. This probably isn't an issue for someone who is able to read a Semitic language, but it can be slightly disorienting for those of us who are used to video games and books that progress from left to right.


Elevator Action (1983)

      When you hear the name Elevator Action, you might jump to the conclusion that it's an adult film. And while 1983 certainly could have given us an X-rated romp where starlets such as Ginger Lynn, Joanna Storm, and Dorothy LeMay blew guys in elevators, no such film exists. Believe me, I've checked. Instead, Elevator Action is a classic arcade game where you take on the role of a secret agent codenamed Otto who lands on the roofs of enemy buildings and steals secret files from behind clearly marked red doors before making his way to a getaway car in the street below. You can attempt to blast your way through the game if you're in a particularly violent mood, but that's not what Elevator Action is about. This game is about stealth and cunning; you can shoot out lights, take cover behind doors, and maneuver elevators to keep Otto safe. Elevator Action was not a huge hit in its day, but it innovative use of covert tactics left a legacy that includes games such Rolling Thunder, Metal Gear, and even Thief.


The Fairyland Story (1985)

      The Fairyland Story is a relatively obscure Taito game, but it was the immediate precursor to Bubble Bobble. In it, you play as a witch named Ptolemy. Why Taito would name a female character after a male historical figure is beyond me, but whatever. Ptolemy combats her foes by turning them into delicious cakes. Sadly she's a diabetic, so she can't eat them. Instead, Ptolemy pushes the cakes off of ledges, destroying them and anything that gets caught in their path. Once Ptolemy has successfully dispatched all the enemies in a room, she moves on to the next one. It was an interesting idea, but it didn't quite catch on. Luckily, Taito realized this and improved upon the concept. The result was Bubble Bobble, their opus magnum. In fact, some of Bubble Bobble's power-ups, such as the fire cross and earthquake book, are stolen directly from the The Fairyland Story.


Bubble Bobble (1986)

      Every so often, a game comes along that is pretty much universally adored. These games are the quintessential classics, games such as Super Mario Bros. and Pac-Man. It's rather doubtful that you'll ever hear someone say they hate Pac-Man. If you do, be sure to whack him in the back of the head with a steel baseball bat when he's not looking and do not stop until he is dead. Another game whose detractors should be bludgeoned to death is Bubble Bobble. Bubble Bobble is the story of two dinosaurs, Bub and Bob, who must rescue their girlfriends from evil hoards of wind-up toys, fire-breathing monsters, flying whales, and an angry drunk. They accomplish this by trapping their enemies in bubbles and popping them or by utilizing one of the game's numerous power-ups. The game is cute, quirky, and filled with an enduring appeal; Bubble Bobble was fun when I was seven and it's still fun now. I first played Bubble Bobble when it came to the NES in 1988 and I actually prefer that version to the arcade game, the reason being that it has a proper continue feature. In the arcade version, continuing is somewhat tricky. In order to continue, you must keep at least one extra credit in the machine at all times while you're playing. If you do, you can continue by pressing and holding the start button as you lose your last life. You don't need to do this in a two player game; the second player can jump in at any point. However, you will need to be careful that both players don't lose their last lives simultaneously. Meanwhile, the NES version had a continue screen and it let you keep trying over and over again until you persevered. Not only did that give you a chance to practice the harder levels, it also made you want to keep playing. Back in the day, Bubble Bobble was the ideal game to play with your best friend on a lazy Saturday afternoon. And if you get sick of playing Tekken 5, Bubble Bobble is still a very suitable replacement. And don't forget, spell EXTEND for an extra life.


Darius (1986)

      WARNING! A HUGE BATTLESHIP IS APPROACHING FAST. If these words are familiar to you, then you've probably played Darius or one of it sequels. Although it never reached the popularity of Konami's Gradius or Irem's R-Type, Darius is a worthy addition to the space shooter genre with several interesting innovations. First, it has a series of branching paths. So although the game has 26 different zones, you will only play through 7 of them in any one run-through. This was a pretty amazing feature for the time period and it added a great deal of replayability to the game. But what made Darius truly unique was the hardware: the cabinet used three screens. Not only did this prevent game from ever getting a direct console port, it also make it ridiculously fucking hard. It's hard enough to avoid all the shit flying at you in a standard space shooter, but three times the screen length means you'll have to dodge an absolutely insane amount of enemy fire. The game also has a variety of giant bosses, each with an aquatic theme. So if you've ever wanted to fight a giant robotic lobster, a giant robotic hammerhead shark, or a giant robotic sea anemone, this is definitely the game for you. Oh, one more thing: you can't continue in the final level, so good luck beating this game.


Arkanoid (1986)

      In the beginning, there was Pong. Pong combined all the fun of tennis with all the fun of not actually having to play tennis. There was one slight problem with Pong: you needed to have friends to play it. Atari solved this problem when it introduced Breakout in 1976, followed by Super Breakout in 1978. So now instead of hitting a ball back and forth with a friend until one of you missed, your goal was to bounce the ball off of a poorly constructed wall and destroy it brick by brick. The game was a huge hit for Atari, so variants inevitably arose. Out of these variants, Arkanoid was by far the best. Not only did it add cool power-ups, it also had a storyline. Arkanoid, the titular character, is a spaceship which gets destroyed in the game's introduction. You play as Vaus, a small shuttlecraft which manages to escape from Arkanoid, only to get trapped in a space warp by an unknown enemy. That enemy is DOH, a giant floating head who happens to be the game's end boss. That's right, the game has an end boss. Does your precious DX-Ball have that? I think not.


Rastan (1987)

      Rastan is one of those fantasy adventure games where you play as some sort of warrior who runs around hacking mythical creatures to bits and racking up points. Rastan is not as fun as contemporaries such as Rygar, Magic Sword, and Altered Beast, but it still has its fans. I'm not one of them, but I'd still be remiss if I didn't at least mention it. Rastan had some very nice graphics for the time and an infectious soundtrack but the game simply is not very fun. However, it is very hard. This is one of those games where enemies spawn at a continuous rate that can only be described as insidious. So if you stay in one place for a few seconds, you'll suddenly have guys on either side of you. And when those guys have projectiles, you're probably gonna get hit. To succeed in this game, you have to move fast enough that you don't get bogged down by the constantly respawning enemies but cautiously enough so that you don't accidentally blunder into an enemy or level hazard. And the only way to really do that is through brute memorization. You restart from programmed checkpoints when you die, as opposed to the last solid ground you touched, so you can't even buy your way through the game. There are bosses at the end of each stage in Rastan, but I got so annoyed playing this game that I gave up before I actually got to one. If you have a lot of a patience and you're looking for a challenge, you may enjoy Rastan. You may also enjoy Rastan if you're a fan of Conan the Barbarian. Rastan was "inspired" by the Robert E. Howard stories and bears a striking resemblance to Arnold Schwarzenegger. So if you were ever emotionally scarred by the fantastically awful Conan NES game, Rastan is a blatant Conan rip-off that is highly playable by comparison.


Operation Wolf (1987)

      Every once in a while, we can all use some good old-fashioned fun. And by good old-fashioned fun, I mean picking up a light gun and waging war against an evil army somewhere in the jungles of Latin American. Seriously, if your name isn't Fidel Castro or Manuel Noriega and if you're not a far left crybaby like Michael Moore or Howard Zinn, it's hard not to enjoy Operation Wolf. This is jingoism at its best, the sort of game that makes you feel privileged to live in a free and democratic society. You play the role of Lone Wolf, a go-it-alone commando with a big gun and a patriotic heart who must rescue hostages and neutralize enemy operatives, with neutralize enemy operatives being a nice euphemism for blow the shit out of every single motherfucker you meet. Operation Wolf wasn't necessarily one of the best or most original gun games, but it was one of the most accessible. The game had good graphics, fun missions, and the arcade machine was all over the place. It also has a sense of humor. In addition to shooting guerillas, the game is rife with hapless barnyard animals for you to slaughter. Shooting pigs and chickens is incredibly fun, and it's also a great way to earn ammo clips and extra bombs. However, you have to be careful not to shoot the nurses, hostages, women in skimpy bikinis, and civilians who occasionally run across the screen like fucking retards.

      Another boost to game's name recognition came when it was ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1989. Since Duck Hunt was part of most basic NES bundles, almost everyone had the Zapper gun. The problem was that only a very limited number of games used the Zapper, with Operation Wolf, Hogan's Alley, and Duck Hunt being the only ones that didn't totally suck. Despite being one of the best gun games for the NES, this home version was still pretty mediocre, largely due to a severe graphics downgrade.


Rainbow Islands: The Story of Bubble Bobble 2 (1987)

      In the wake of Bubble Bobble's success, Taito released a sequel the very next year. Well... sort of. While Rainbow Islands bills itself as Bubble Bobble 2, the game is very different from the quintessential Taito classic. Most strikingly, there's very few bubbles and absolutely no fucking bobbles whatsoever. Instead, Rainbow Island picks up where Bubble Bobble left off. After beating the nefarious Super Drunk (Grumple Gromit) and rescuing their girlfriends, Bub and Bob were restored to their human forms. With nothing left to do, our heroes went back to leading lives of quiet desperation. But one day, Bub and Bob received a distress call from the Rainbow Islands which had been overrun by various baddies. Since they had nothing better to do, Bub and Bob answer the call.

      Despite being nothing like its predecessor, Rainbow Islands is a damn fun game. The game is a sidescrolling platformer where you must fight through cheesy theme islands, each comprised of four stages and a boss. But while most platformers progress horizontally, you make your way from the bottom of each level to the top in Rainbow Islands. The problem is that there aren't always platforms to aid your ascent. That's where the rainbows come in. Yes, rainbows. Since they are no longer bubble dragons, Bub and Bob make due by creating rainbows. Keep in mind that this was the 1980s, back before homosexual culture had any sort of real political power and before they were able to completely misappropriate the rainbow and turn it into one of their recognizable symbols. So while projectile rainbows are pretty gay, they're not *intentionally* gay. In addition to helping you climb upward, the rainbows are also your primary weapon. You can kill enemies by either hitting them directly with a rainbow or by collapsing a rainbow onto them. The latter is preferable because it will score you rainbow gems. If you collect all seven rainbow gems on an island, you will be rewarded with an extra life. If you have the gems, you will also get a giant rainbow gem when you beat the level's boss. And if you get all seven giant rainbow gems, three new islands will emerge. If you collect all the rainbow gems on THESE islands, you will be rewarded with bronze, silver, and gold mirrors. If you manage to do so, you will earn the game's true ending. Rainbow Islands is perhaps the ultimate Taito game. Not only does it have homages to Arkanoid, The Fairyland Story, Darius, and Bubble Bobble, it also has a nigh impossible to achieve trick that allows you to skip boss battles. It's also the only arcade game I know of with cheat codes. I'm not talking about secret characters here, I mean bona fide cheat codes. If you haven't played this game yet, you are doing a huge disservice to yourself.


The New Zealand Story/Kiwi Kraze (1988)

      It's tough being a bird, especially if you're Tiki the Kiwi. Not only are you flightless and endangered, but your friends have all been stuffed in a giant bag by Wally The Walrus and sold to various zoos in and around your homeland. As the last free kiwi in the land, Tiki must travel through the magical land of New Zealand, rescue his friends one by one and eventually confront Wally. So how does a small bird with no natural means of defense and a cheap pair of Keds go about saving his friends? By arming himself with a variety of weapons including arrows, bombs, lasers, and magic staffs, that's how. And since kiwi can't fly, Tiki is forced to hitch rides on balloons, UFOs, and hovercrafts. Along the way, he'll fight a host of bizarre enemies including flying cats, frozen whales, and mohawked teddy bears. And while all of this makes The New Zealand Story a fun game, it is the level design that really sets it apart from other platform games. The New Zealand story is comprised of labyrinthine levels filled with hidden warps and bonus items for adventurous players to find. A slightly bastardized version appeared on the NES as Kiwi Kraze in 1991. Some of the weapons, enemies and vehicles were taken out due to space limitations, but the magic was still there. Oh, there is one other small difference... Tiki can ascend into Heaven in the arcade version. The New Zealand Story embodies what Taito was great at: making games that were imaginative, challenging, and fun for all ages.


Wrath of the Black Manta (1990)

      As you may have noticed, most of Taito's classic games debuted in the arcades. However, not all of them did. There is one super awesome Taito game that was exclusive to the NES; that game is Wrath of the Black Manta. It is the story of Black Manta, an elite ninja who must discover why a bunch of children were kidnapped from New York City, including his former sensei's youngest student. Along the way, Black Manta will rescue the children one by one, fight level bosses, interrogate guys with bad perms, and FLY AROUND ON FUCKING KITES. But the best part of this game by far is all the different ninja abilities that you have at your disposal. You can turn invisible, throw fireballs, make a shadow clone, and even fucking teleport. And if that wasn't badass enough, you can use these abilities at will once you learn them. The game also has some rather interesting origins. Wrath of the Black Manta was originally released in Japan as Ninja Cop Saizou and some stylistic changes were made before the game made it to the USA. As a result, the American version is much better. If you don't believe me, here's the proof.


Liquid Kids (1990)

      Liquid Kids is the story of Hipopo, a brave hippopotamus who must rescue his hippopotamus pals and his hippopotamus girlfriend from the clutches of the Fire Devil, an vile fiend who just so happens to hate Pakistanis. But since the hippos live closer by, he goes after them instead. On its surface, Liquid Kids is just another Taito platformer. Cynics will say that there's nothing in the game that we haven't already seen before in Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Islands, or The New Zealand Story. The thing is, there's no such thing as just another Taito platformer. Liquid Kids certainly has that typical cutesy Taito feel to it, but the game is very well designed and it doesn't feel formulaic at all. Instead, it feels like an underrated game that you owe it to yourself to check out.


Warrior Blade (1991)

      Despite my personal dislike for it, Rastan was a fairly successful game. The game was popular enough to spawn two sequels, Nastar in 1988 and Warrior Blade in 1991. And while Nastar is probably one of the worst games you could ever hope to play, Warrior Blade kicks all kinds of ass. With Warrior Blade, Taito took the Rastan Saga in a new direction. Namely, they turned it into a Golden Axe wannabe with simultaneous two player action. In a lot of ways, Warrior Blade is actually better than Golden Axe. The game obviously looks much nicer than the original Golden Axe arcade game from 1989, but it also looks way better than Golden Axe: Revenge of the Death Adder which came out a year after Warrior Blade. The character detail in Warrior Blade is absolutely stunning. Look at that fucking screenshot, you'd be hard-pressed to find another game from 1991 that looks that beautiful. And unlike Golden Axe, this game has bloodshed. The only bad thing about Warrior Blade is that it's one of those games where your special attacks use up life points instead of magic potions. But if that one thing is really enough to keep you from playing this game, you're a whiny little bitch.


The Ninja Kids (1991)

      Most Taito games seem to involve rescuing someone whether it be your girlfriend in Bubble Bobble, the hostages in Operation Wolf, a bagful of your buddies in The New Zealand Story, or a sovereign archipelago of gayness in Rainbow Islands. Ninja Kids does not deviate from this theme, but its story is still ten times better. That's because in Ninja Kids, you must rescue your city from the clutches of Satan and his followers. You get to choose from four selectable ninja kids each with different magic-based attacks. As you can probably guess, each kid possesses one of the four types of magic you always see in Japanese games: fire, water, wind, and nuclear fission. Or maybe it's earth, I forget. Another interesting thing about this game is that all the characters look like Muppets. I don't know if that's intentional or not, but the Ninja Kids themselves are marionettes. While Ninja Kids isn't an unforgettable classic, it is pretty fun beat 'em up game. If you've already played Streets of Rage, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Golden Axe to death, this game is a high quality substitute.


Bubble Symphony (1994)

      In 1994, Taito issued the first proper sequel to Bubble Bobble. True, there had been Rainbow Islands which called itself Bubble Bobble 2 and the obscure Parasol Stars which claimed to be Bubble Bobble 3, but both games cast you as the human versions of Bub and Bob. There was also a game called Bubble Bobble Part 2 released on the NES in 1993, but few people were still buying NES games at that point and no one took notice. Also, it didn't help that the game looked like shit. So when Bubble Symphony was released, Taito decided to make it the official Bubble Bobble 2 and even gave it that moniker in some regions. Bubble Symphony has more of everything that made the original Bubble Bobble great: more power-ups, more selectable characters, and more bosses. Well, there's actually not more levels. However, the game does have branching paths and that's almost as good. Bubble Symphony also has the cool addition of a charge move; if you hold the bubble button for a few seconds then release, you can shoot multiple bubbles at once. Did I mention that this game is absolutely fucking amazing? Because it is.


Elevator Action Returns (1994)

      Eleven long years after Elevator Action hit arcades, Taito finally delivered a sequel. Elevator Action Returns has slightly less elevators than its predecessor, but it has a hell of a lot more action. In this one, you can choose to play as one of three secret agents: Kart Bradfield, Edie Burret, or Jad the Taff. With dynamic names like those and badass guns like the "Dessert Eagle", you can guess how intense this game is. Unlike its predecessor, Elevator Action Returns seems to focus a lot more on mindless violence than on stealth; they are even parts in some levels where you must dispatch an onslaught of enemies before you can advance. This isn't necessarily a bad thing though. The original Elevator Action came out at a time when games didn't have much, if any, graphical variation between levels. You fought the same bad guys on the same backgrounds over and over again. As a result, some of these older games can start to feel tedious. Like say, a stealth-oriented game where you slowly descend through teal buildings ad nauseam. Elevator Action Returns does not have this problem. Part of this is because each level takes you to an exciting new locale, part of it because the game it a LOT more fast-paced.


Puzzle Bobble/Bust-A-Move (1994)

      Years before a cheesy shareware game known as Snood swept the PC world by storm, there was Bust-A-Move. Well, in North America anyway. In most parts of the world, Bust-A-Move was known as Puzzle Bobble. This name makes much more sense because the game features characters from Taito's Bubble Bobble. The premise is simple: each level starts has a number of different colored bubbles hanging from the ceiling. You must help a pair of bubble dragons clear the bubbles by matching at least three of a color. After you take a certain number of shots, the ceiling advances down a little bit. If it pushes any bubbles below the line at the bottom of the screen, you lose. Alternatively, if you get into a position where you shoot a bubble below the line, you also lose. The game is simple in theory, but slightly harder in practice. I can't even begin to count the number of times that I barely missed a shot that I totally should have made. This game can be frustrating, but it's that frustration that will keep you coming back for more. Puzzle Bobble is a mightily addictive game, pure and simple. This game also bears the distinction of being the only game that I was willing to pay the ass-raping $5.95 download fee to put on my cell phone.


Bubble Memories: The Story of Bubble Bobble III (1995)

      OK, so Bubble Memories is not the best game ever. In fact, it is worse than Bubble Symphony in almost every way. First, the character selection is gone. Second, the branching level paths are gone. Third, the level bosses they came up with are far less inspired and entertaining. Fourth, the character models don't look so great. But worst of all, they put harassing low quality GIFs of animals in the background on every non-boss level. The good news is that it's still fucking Bubble Bobble. The gameplay is just as fun as ever, and that's good enough. Bubble Memories did introduce one cool new innovation: the super bubble. By holding down the bubble button, you can make a super bubble that will trap several small enemies or one large one. What's more, the super bubbles can be blown through walls. This makes it much easier to pop multiple guys at once, thus earning yourself huge bonuses and more EXTEND letters. You probably won't want to play this one more than a handful of times, but it's definitely worth a try.


      So what has become of Taito? In August of 2005, Square Enix bought 247,900 shares of Taito stock and became the company's majority shareholder. By September 22, 2005, Square Enix had acquired 93.7% of Taito's stock, essentially giving them complete ownership of the company. A week later, Taito became an official subsidiary of Square Enix. It's hard to say what the future hold for Taito, but the cynic in me is rather worried. After all, Square's first order of business as owner was to release a Taito Legends compilation on XBox, PS2, PC, and even the fucking PSP, but not Gamecube, so I don't have a whole lot of faith in their ability to run the company well. Will Square force Taito to add several hours worth of cut scenes to all future titles? Will they turn Bubble Bobble into an incredibly boring and irrelevant CGI movie? Will Rastan show up in Kingdom Hearts III? These are a Taito fan's worst fears. If I have to see the Square Enix logo alongside the Taito logo on future Bubble Bobble games, I just might puke.


Posted by: Syd Lexia