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Bust-A-Move 2: Arcade Edition

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Reviewed by Scott McCall It was originally developed by Taito, the same company who made classics such as Space Invaders, Arkanoid, Chase HQ, Bubble Bobble, Elevator Action, Operation Wolf, and Darius. It has appeared on lots of platforms since its arcade inception many years ago, including the Super NES, Game Boy, PC, PlayStation, and Saturn. It is generally referred to as one of the best puzzle games of all-time by hard-core gaming fans. It has nothing to do with the recently released Japanese PlayStation game of the same name. (The series is called "Puzzle Bobble" in Japan.) And now it has surprisingly found a home on the Nintendo 64. The game is called Bust-A-Move 2, and puzzle-starved N64 fans should thank Acclaim for porting it to their system. More than likely, if you're reading this, then you probably already know what Bust-A-Move 2 is about. But for the newbies out there, I'll describe the concept. Basically, there is a group of randomly colored bubbles at the top of the screen on each stage. This group slowly moves closer and closer to the bottom of the screen. Your job is to get rid of every single bubble. To get rid of these bubbles, you must make three (or more) bubbles of the same color touch so they can burst and disappear. So you have to shoot bubbles at the like-colored bubbles on the screen. In order to do this, you have control of a bubble machine that lets you shoot out one bubble at a time. This machine has 180* of aiming power. Bubbles can even be shot off the side walls in order for them to bounce to reach difficult angles. Once a bubble goes underneath the "deadline" at the bottom of the screen, your game is over. There are also combos in the game. If there are extra bubbles attached to the underneath of a cluster you shoot, then the extra ones will fall off, too, resulting in "garbage" being sent to your opponent in the Vs. modes and bonus points in the one-player modes. Bust-A-Move 2: Arcade Edition contains several modes of play. There's the Puzzle Mode, a Vs. the Computer mode, a Player vs. Player mode, and a Time Attack mode, which can be played by one or two players. The Puzzle Mode is the main mode for one player. You go from stage-to-stage, getting rid of progressively larger, faster-dropping, and more mixed groups of bubbles. There's a map in which you get to choose your path. Each world is just known as a letter. There are several stages for you to complete inside each letter. The object of the Time Attack mode is to finish a stage as fast as you can. The stages are set up so that chain-reaction bursts can be triggered if bubbles are shot to the proper place. The two Vs. modes are self-explanatory and are the heart and soul of the game's replay value. By the way, the control in Bust-A-Move 2 couldn't get any better. First of all, you have the option between the Control Pad and the Control Stick, which was a great idea. You also have the ability to use the L and R buttons to get that pin-point accuracy you might need if you can't get the Control Stick or Pad where you want it. Then you just press the A button to launch a bubble. You might also want to press the Right C button during the game to bring up a menu that will show you how to center the screen and score for your TV. There are quite a few options that can be toggled in Bust-A-Move 2: Arcade Edition as well. You can change how many continues you get (3, 6, or 9), you can change the difficulty level, you can change how many match points are needed for a win in the two-player mode, you can listen to the various sound effects and musical tracks, and you can change the sound type between stereo and mono. Interestingly enough, Bust-A-Move 2 is also the first N64 game to feature a screen saver! You can change how many minutes it takes until it comes on. Besides the screen saver, one other nice thing about the N64 version of Bust-A-Move 2 is the Controller Pak support. The game will save all of your options and all of your best times and scores. Understandably, the graphics and sound in Bust-A-Move 2 are secondary to the gameplay. So you shouldn't expect any N64-specific enhancements to the graphics. In fact, the same cheesy sprite animation and the same low-res backgrounds are used; it basically looks no better than a 16-bit game. I was disappointed, however, in the sound department. Although the game is supposedly in stereo, there is absolutely no separation in the background music. Speaking of which, the MIDI music isn't all that good. It's faithful to previous versions, maybe with a little more bass, but it just wasn't as robust as I expected. Apparently, there are more sound effects in the N64 version than the CD versions, but the samples aren't quite as good. Fans of the game will be happy to know that the N64 version of Bust-A-Move 2 is a carbon copy of the arcade and all previous versions. So if you own the game on another system, there's no reason to get this version. But if you've never played Bust-A-Move 2 before, then you should definitely give it a try. It's one of the better puzzle games ever made, especially in the two-player mode. You might have a hard time finding a copy, as it seems to have been released in limited quantities, but you may find it was well worth the effort.

Graphics: 1.5 out of 5 Sound: 2.2 out of 5 Control: 4.2 out of 5 Gameplay: 4.0 out of 5 Lastability: 4.4 out of 5 Overall: 4.0 out of 5

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