We’re big fans of Taito’s Bubble Bobble spin-off series Puzzle Bobble around these parts. We used to know it as Bust-A-Move in the West, and news that a new entry in the series was coming to Switch next year courtesy of publisher ININ got us rather excited.
Puzzle Bobble Everybubble! is a four-player co-op take on the classic tile-matching billiard-bubble shooter, with new dragons Peb and Pab joining Bub and Bob in a story mode which is a first for the series.
Recently we got the chance to ask the game’s director, Tsuyoshi Tozaki, some questions ahead of the game’s launch next spring…
The Puzzle Bobble series has been going for nearly 30 years. Do you remember what first inspired you to make a spin-off for the Bubble Bobble series?
Tsuyoshi Tozaki, Game Director: The original Puzzle Bobble was a puzzle game called ‘Billiardesu’. As the name suggests, the game was inspired by Billiards, where you are supposed to either shoot your ball directly or let it bounce off the walls to hit the other balls.
In the early 1990s, when Puzzle Bobble was created, many companies started to focus on puzzle games. Among the prototype games, Billiardesu proved so attractive that Taito decided to work on the game’s commercialization. And to make this puzzle game more appealing for women, which were the main target group at that time, they decided to use the pop and cute Bubble Bobble character.
Why is now the right time to bring Puzzle Bobble back?
we want to continue growing and nurturing the Bubble Bobble IP
The Puzzle Bobble series has continued to be released as game platforms evolved, with games such as Puzzle Bobble Journey (Bust-A-Move Journey), which is still available as an app for smartphones. There have also been arcade machines such as Bust-A-Move Frenzy. Furthermore, we released Puzzle Bobble 3D: Vacation Odyssey for PS4, PS5, and PSVR last year, in cooperation with Survios, although the 3D experience differs greatly from the previous games.
We decided to work on Puzzle Bobble Everybubble! as a Taito-developed game following the positive reception following the release of Bubble Bobble 4 Friends, where we received many requests to bring back the Puzzle Bobble series. Moreover, we also want to continue growing and nurturing the Bubble Bobble IP. We hope the new game will appeal to as broad a range of players and fans as Bubble Bobble did.
What was it like coming back to the spin-off series with Bub and Bob at the helm again?
As it’s the first console title in a while, we revisited the Puzzle Bobble series and took a look a fresh look at what makes the game what it is.
The first thing that comes to mind is the game system that defined the bubble shooter genre, but we also believe that the characters of Bub and Bob are essential to the game. Furthermore, we thought that, since there’s a four-player mode this time, we should also the story mode available for four players too, so we introduced Peb and Pab.
Bubble Bobble 4 Friends marked a surprise return for Bub and Bob. What made you want to return to the overall series?
Back in 2019, when we thought about reviving some of our well-known IPs for the console and PC market, Bubble Bobble came up because, unlike shooting games such as Space Invaders and Darius, Bubble Bobble has a wider appeal thanks to its cute characters. Our expectations were right, and Bubble Bobble 4 Friends has been bought and enjoyed by more than 200,000 customers and continues to be popular long after release, especially in Europe and Asia.
The last time Puzzle Bobble was on Switch was with 2020’s Touhou Spell Bubble. What did you learn from that crossover game, and did anything from it influence Puzzle Bobble Everybubble!?
The two development teams are basically separate, but there is some crossover between us and the Touhou Spell Bubble team, so we had some insights. Among other things, the system of the “blank bubble,” which changes to the same color as the ball you shoot it with and disappears if three or more bubbles of the same color are in contact with it, was very well done, so we incorporated it as a blank bubble in Puzzle Bobble Everybubble!
However, Touhou Spell Bubble implemented some elements of rhythm games, which makes it quite unique and greatly influences the player’s experience. The game system of Puzzle Bobble Everybubble! focuses more on solving puzzles to clear the various stages, which gives it that familiar Puzzle Bobble feeling.
This new entry will be playable with up to four players. What made you want to add an additional two players to the game？
There have been games in the Puzzle Bobble series which supported a four-player mode, but the story mode (puzzle mode) was always single-player. The Japan-only arcade game, Azumanga Daioh Puzzle Bobble had a two-player co-op mode where both players would work to erase bubbles together, but this time up to four players can cooperate to solve puzzles, as well as play in a competitive 2 vs. 2 mode, but more on that later.
We made it four-player cooperative because the co-op play in Bubble Bobble 4 Friends was so popular with players. Plus, as it will be released exclusively on Nintendo Switch, we wanted to make it a game that could be enjoyed with friends and family
Can you tell us anything about potential single-player modes?
Although you can play with up to four players, every stage is designed to be playable by a single player too. It took a lot of work to balance the game, but now we’ve implemented the stages so they’ll adjust themselves in size and bubble layout to match the number of players, so it’s fun no matter how many people play.
On top of that we’re preparing a lot of varied stages: challenging ones, exhilarating ones, and more puzzle-based stages too, along with unlockable elements for finishing stages with three stars like we did in Bubble Bobble 4 Friends, but you’ll have to wait a little longer for all the details!
Are there any plans for characters to return from previous Puzzle Bobble games?
As depicted in the key art, Woolen and Packy from Puzzle Bobble 2 will reappear along with Bubble Bobble series favourites like Bonner and Chack’n. We also have lots of other characters from past titles lined up, so please look forward to what’s about to come.
You might notice some new characters in the key art too, such as Liber, a girl with braids who wears glasses and mint-colored clothes, and Hootwit, an old owl, [who] will make their debut.
We hope you’ll look forward to seeing each character in action, as they all have a unique storyline and personality.
What do you think makes Bub and Bob such popular characters after so long?
Probably because they are so cute – their design has changed little by little over time, but they always stayed adorable. Also, I think that their simple design is easy to remember.
We post photos and videos on Bub’s Twitter and “Bub’s Broadcast” YouTube channeland we’re always happy to see so many people respond with “cute” and friendly reactions. We also love seeing all the fan art people post, and the best ones always get shared with the team and have we have a lot of fun discussing them.
Besides bringing in four-player mode, is there any other feature that’s new in Everybubble?
The best feature is without a doubt the two vs. two game mode, where two teams battle it out on the same screen. I think that teaming up and playing cooperatively is a whole different level of fun and excitement.
With two players working together, you can erase bubbles even faster and can send an even greater number of bubbles to your opponent’s side to hinder them. It also brings a new element of strategy and teamwork to the game with each player’s position meaning they can hit different bubbles, but they might also fire at the same bubble too.
Even if you don’t have all four people, you can have the computer make up the numbers for a 2v2 game, so please give that a try too. For example, if there are two players, they can play on the same team, against the computers, but it’s also possible to have human and computer on each team and play like that too.
Other new modes will also be added in Everybubble, so please wait for further information.
Where do you want to take the Bubble Bobble franchise in the future?
First of all, we’ll continue to make Puzzle Bobble Everybubble! as enjoyable as we can for the series’ countless fans to enjoy, but beyond that, we want to continue to create new titles in the Bubble Bobble/Puzzle Bobble franchise. That includes titles like Rainbow Islands which we’d like to expand upon too.
Bub is also working hard as Youtuber on “Bub’s Broadcast”, where he not only introduces new games in the franchise but also takes on challenges like radio broadcasts, crane games, playing the drums and more. I think he has a secret ambition to become known and loved throughout the world! As part of this, we want to see merchandise on shop shelves around the world too!
Our thanks to director Tozaki for taking the time to answer our questions. Puzzle Bobble Everybubble is scheduled for a Q2 2023 launch on Switch. While we wait, we’re off to check out import prices on this amazing Bub-backpack.