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Rainbow Islands

1987 Taito

Sega Master System



The much acclaimed sequel to Bubble Bobble gets the royal treatment on Sega's 8-bit machine. The happy-looking super deformed characters and simple yet incredibly deep gameplay illustrates why exactly the Japanese will always make better platformers than we will.

The game stars Bub and Bob in their human forms as they transverse a number of themed islands, each of which is slowly sinking. Instead of dinosaur bubble powers you have the ability to fire rainbows which can be climbed or jumped on. The rainbows will kill monsters either on direct contact or by you collapsing them on the monster's head. At the end of each level is a large "Goal" treasure box, with a large boss at the end of each Island. Pretty simple so far.

The depth comes from the huge, huge number of bonuses and powerups available. In addition to random "goodies" spread throughout the levels, each enemy killed will change into an item with a progressively higher point value, from a 10 point green pepper to crowns and money bags worth 10,000. There are also "hidden" goodies which can only be found after being shot with a rainbow, as well as hidden powerups.

The main "goal" of the game is to find seven colored diamonds in each Island, which only appear when killing an enemy via a collapsed rainbow or with powerup abilities (there is a hidden item that gives you all seven diamonds in one swoop as well.) Get all seven diamonds and a large diamond appears after the next boss is defeated. Collect seven Big diamonds to get the best ending (the arcade version featured unlockable levels which, to my knowledge, did not make it into this port.)

Each Island also has a secret room, which is accessed by collecting the different colored diamonds in the same order they appear on the rainbow (which is done by collecting them in different areas of the screen.) This room allows you to bypass the island boss, still collect the big diamond, as well as get a special, permanent powerup such as faster running or protection faries. In addition to these there are also "special" powerups that appear as in line as you collect them, as well as super duper rare powerups such as the "Rainbow cross" that lets you fire four rainbows at once. In all there are 135 different types of goodies and 42 different kinds of power ups to collect. Yikes.

Well, how is the game? Pretty fun actually, and deceptively easy. Even the later "hard" levels aren't that hard, you tend to die more often from accidentally walking into an enemy from going too fast than from anything else. It's easy to just blow through it, ignore all of the item collecting, and get a quick platforming fix if you want. The game is long enough to require a password, but not so long that it can't be completed in a few sessions. The real way to play this game is of course to collect all the various bonus stuff, whereupon that password comes in handy. You won't die as much from the enemies as you will from committing suicide as to start the level over to get a missed item.

The cute, near iconic characters, addictive gameplay, and surprising levels of depth puts the game onto the top shelf of Master System titles. This is one of those few games where everything comes together and is executed nearly flawlessly.

Graphics: Accurate translation from the arcade version with good animation and use of color. We won't be winning any awards here but everything looks good enough.

Sound: Bright, almost too happy music thankfully keeps itself from getting too annoying.

Gameplay: Very simplistic controls and mechanics hide extremely deep gameplay. The multitudes of hidden bonus items can keep you coming back over and over.

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