Bust-A-Move 2: Arcade Edition

Developer: Probe Entertainment
Publisher: Acclaim
Released: May 20 1998
Regions: NA, PAL
Genre: Puzzle
Multiplayer: 1 - 2 Players
Cart Size: 8MB / 64Mb
Saving: Controller Pak
Rumble Pak?: No
Expansion Pak? No
- Required? No
Shooting orbs with cute monsters inside them at other orbs with cute monsters inside them, destroying them all in the process, has never been so sickeningly adorable...

NOTE: Bust-A-Move is also known as Puzzle Bobble, which is a far better name, but for the sake of consistency, Bust-A-Move will be used to address the game.

Arcades, since the dawn of video gaming, have always lead the standard for home consoles... Right up until the PS1, N64 and Saturn came along. We all know this subject well enough so there isn't much to open this review on, just to say that it's about an arcade game that was ported to lots of home consoles, including the N64. That game, is Bust-A-Move 2: Arcade Edition. This particular version of Bust-A-Move was originally released on the Taito F3 arcade machine under the name Bust-A-Move Again and was also ported to the more well-known NEO-GEO MVS. The game eventually found it's way onto home consoles. The N64 port was handled by Probe who are most well known for their awful Genesis ports of Primal Rage and the Mortal Kombat series. What's perhaps the most shocking thing about this game, is it's actually a really accurate port. How accurate? Well, let's start from the top.

Bust-A-Move in general was pretty popular and quite saturated in the arcades. Taito of course had lots of versions on their own hardware, but as with the case of SNK and the NEO-GEO, the game was popular enough to find it's way onto other platforms, including home consoles, handhelds and competing arcade hardware. What I'm getting at here though, is Bust-A-Move doesn't really need an explanation. The How to Play screen from the arcade original is even still present in the N64 version, so there isn't much to say about how Bust-A-Move is played.

Most arcade ports tend to screw up the graphics and sound first, but some just control badly too. That's fortunately not the case with Bust-A-Move 2. It seems to play exactly like the arcade version, in fact it might actually be better. In the arcade versions, the cannon is aimed with a digital joystick. It moves at an okay speed and is quite usable. The N64 offers that same control option thanks to it's D-Pad. The difference here lies in the analog joystick. Depending on how far you move the stick, determines how fast the cannon tilts. That by itself wouldn't be very noteworthy, but the control stick input is very, very sensitive in Bust-A-Move 2. It's probably a good option for rapid fire competitive players or people who just like the analog stick better, so even just that makes this port a bit more interesting than the original. Bust-A-Move 2 only uses one button to fire the colored balls with, there really isn't much to comment on it. Press the button and it fires a ball, that's it.

The graphics are where Probe got the most right in porting Bust-A-Move 2. Pretty much all the visuals are in tact and appear the same as the arcade versions. All the colors are here, no dithering needed. No animation seems to have been cut and even the cheesy CG rendered opening has made the transistion. There isn't a whole lot else to say, other than the graphics really are fantastic. Bust-A-Move 2 goes to show that 2D graphics are not only possible on the N64, but 2D games can look fantastic on it too. Most consider the NEO-GEO (and by extension, the Taito F3) to be a graphical powerhouse, so to see the N64 handle a bright and colorful arcade game is pretty cool.

In the audio department however, something unfortunate happened it seems. For the most part everything is intact or slightly changed, some of the sound clips have been downsampled and have a low quality-ness to them. The N64 is certainly capable of clean sound playback, so in this case Probe was probably doing another one of their corner cuttings. Some bits of music like the lovable intro tune have had some instruments changed within it. It's not a huge issue, but it makes the music arcade imperfect. For the most part the audio is okay for casual play, but the arcade versions remains superior.

As far as console exclusive content and features go, Bust-A-Move 2: Arcade Edition has some extras, but it's otherwise just a straight port. A new Time Attack mode has been added, giving the game a bit more replay value. There's a nice options menu with a sound test, credit and match point settings, a difficulty setting and even a time option for the attract mode, which is called "screen saver" in this port, oddly enough. Other than these updates, Bust-A-Move 2 doesn't deviate too much from the Taito F3 or NEO-GEO MVS versions. It's not a bad thing in this case, since it doesn't take much to make Bust-A-Move enjoyable. For those who like their Arcade games with a lot of extra stuff tacked on, this port might seem a bit meager.

Overall, Bust-A-Move 2: Arcade Edition is quite a fine port. The gameplay and graphics are unchanged, the sound is a bit hampered in quality but it's not bad and there's some extra console features but nothing significant. This port is quite a nice alternative to the arcade version, in more ways than one actually. Arcade PCBs have become reasonably priced over the years, especially NEO-GEO MVS cartridges. Bust-A-Move Again however, is an unfortunate exception. While the Taito F3 version isn't too expensive (around $60), the MVS cartridge costs upwards of $150 to even $200. The N64 version on the other hand, can be had for between $5 and $10. If only for that reason alone, the N64 version is a far more accessible game to the average player. That along with the overall excellent job Probe put into porting Bust-A-Move 2, makes it a worthy purchase indeed.

Presentation: 9.0
Taito knows how to put a spit-shine polish on a good arcade game and Probe finally learned how to not make a sloppy port. Bust-A-Move 2 in both regards fares quite well.

Graphics: 9.0
It may be a 2D arcade port, but it's a fantastic looking game which appears to be unchanged from the Taito F3 original. Overall the visuals are excellent.

Sound: 6.5
The audio quality has had some inexplicable downsampling and at times sounds a bit muffled. Some tracks are slightly different too. Otherwise the sound is fine, but it could have been closer to the arcade original.

Gameplay: 9.0
Bust-A-Move is a always a fun game, the sheer amount of ports is proof enough. The gameplay has made a clean transition to the N64 with no noticeable losses. There's even an extra Time Attack mode.

Lasting Appeal: 8.5
On it's own, Bust-A-Move 2 doesn't exactly have much replay value to go on outside of it's Puzzle and Vs. CPU modes, but the Time Attack mode does help that and the Vs. Player mode rounds out the game nicely. The game really is best enjoyed with a friend though.

Overall: 8.4

Written by Aaron Wilcott
June 19 2012