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Released by Taito in 1988, Bubble Bobble was a very popular action title for the NES. Players took control of Bub and Bob, two boys transformed into dragons on a quest to rescue their girlfriends from the clutches of the evil Super Drunk. While the plot's a bit laughable, the action certainly is not. Featuring a two player cooperative mode and some challenging gameplay, this was a title that kept players coming back for more.


Best 2-player bad ending time with warps and deaths: single-segment 0:30:52 by Andrew 'AND4H' Shute and Brandon 'TheFirstKnight' Shute on 2010-07-21.

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Andrew Shute's comments:

First of all, I would like to thank Romscout for inspiring me to attempt to speedrun games in general with his inspirational Mario RPG efforts. More importantly, though, I'd like to thank Brandon for sticking with me throughout this run. You never believed you had it in you, but I knew that you were the only one awesome enough to back me up in this run! Finally, I'd like to thank everyone else who supported our efforts.

As for the inspiration for speed-running Bubble Bobble, in particular? It came on a whim. I generally wanted to run an old, classic game that wasn't on SDA yet so I could finally fill in that gap in the annals of awesomeness. My first idea was to run Rocket Knight Adventures. I decided, however, that while I wasn't bad at the game, I was incredibly lazy and didn't keep up with it. Later, I was playing Bubble Bobble with a friend, a game that I've literally grown with. This made me think about running it, but I knew a 1 player run would be impossibly difficult (the game is hard enough as it is, to speed run it by myself would be murder!). I thought about potential partners, but the choice was obvious. My brother is the only one who has about as much experience with the game as me (after all, we both grew up with the game).

What separates the good ending from the bad ending is that on level 99, there is a crystal that summons a magic door to the secret road. The secret road is 13 or so more levels that culminates in the same boss as a bad ending run. However, defeating this version of the boss alone doesn't net you the good ending. You must have both players alive to trigger the good ending at the end of the battle. Since this is a bad ending run, though, this information is irrelevant to us (however, a future experiment for us may be to try a good ending run).

As far as strategy goes, the most important thing about running Bubble Bobble is that it's surprisingly mostly NOT random with its magic items. Each of the magic items has an in-game counter associated with it, and when that counter is met, the next level will spawn said item. If multiple conditions are met, then the item of highest priority spawns first. After that, the counter for the spawned item resets and the item next in line spawns on the next level (provided the players don't meet the requirements for a higher priority item before that next level). This continues until there are no more items in line. Note, however, that even if the item doesn't actually spawn in time due to level completion or game over, it will still count as having spawned. These counters are reset as soon as the game is powered off. Our run is recorded from a fresh power on to prevent such exploitations, as it is possible to get a game over and start over, keeping the counter where it is at.

The four most important item triggers (the only ones I'm actually familiar with) are the shoes (15 bubble bounces, granting increased move speed), green candy (35 bubbles blown, granting increased bubble blowing rate), blue candy (35 bubbles popped, increasing bubble range), and the umbrella (20 water bubbles popped, skipping 3-5 levels, though which amount of levels you skip I believe IS random). Shoes have priority over blue candy, which has priority over green candy. This relationship is the only one I'm familiar with. For example, on level 1, if one manages to dilly-dally enough to blow and pop 35 bubbles and bounce 15 times before clearing it, level 2 will spawn shoes, level 3 will spawn blue candy, and level 4 will spawn green candy. It's important to know this hierarchy so players can arm themselves optimally.

The first 11 levels are meant for setting up our power-ups accordingly so we will be optimally powered for as long as possible. In the event of a death later in the run (losing the power-ups, an almost inevitability with this difficult game), we try to set it up so the weakened player can get powered up as soon as possible (optimally with green candy and shoes, blue candy is not nearly as imperative).

One more thing to note is the letters. There are 6 different letters that spell out the word EXTEND. If you succeed in spelling out EXTEND, you gain an extra life and automatically skip the level you are on. To trigger these letters, you must either cause a chain reaction of killing at least 3 enemies at the same time (you get a point bonus as well, and the more enemies chained, the more letters are spawned in an open ceiling/floor level) or get a white necklace. However, WHICH letters are spawned in either scenario are randomly chosen. You'll probably notice a lot of duplicates floating around in this run, but we are lucky in WHEN we get our EXTENDs (generally in levels we dislike or tend to lose at least 1 life in).

Without further ado, here is the level-by-level synopsis...

1-4 - Simple levels. These are used to set up shoes on level 5.
5 - First water level. We wait for an extra water bubble as well as for me to set up shoes for level 6. We need 20 water bubbles by level 20 (which is the last water level until level 40, so the umbrella is optimally triggered there)
6 - Wait for a few more water bubbles.
7 - Easy level, we set ourselves up to spawn blue candy at level 8 so we don't have to worry about accidentally spawning it on level 9 instead of the green candy we absolutely need
8 - Easy level
9 - Green candy received by Brandon, another green candy set up for me at level 10
10 - Green candy obtained by me. Blue candy set up
11 - Blue candy received by me
12 - Goes by without a hitch
13 - Blue candy put to use by me to help build a bridge for Brandon to get into the heart. Otherwise, basic. I chicken out from the T though fearing that I'd waste time getting to my corner.
14-19 - Simple enough levels, we get close to the 20 water bubbles.
20 - We hit our 20th water bubble here. Also, a white necklace is obtained, spawning some extra letters.
21 - Umbrella get, skip to 26
26-32 - Nothing of importance
33 - First EXTEND
34-35 - Nothing of importance
36 - Another level of little importance, but Brandon saves time with a lucky bounce off a floating enemy.
37 - Nothing of importance
38 - A few seconds can be lost if the fire bubbles alternate sides, but we were lucky here.
39 - Nothing of importance
40 - First water bubble level in a while. We miss out on an extra life (with the green necklace collected, at the end of the stage, all empty bubbles turn into replicas of the player characters, one of which is different functioning as an extra life, unless of course no empty bubbles exist upon completion)
41 - Our first casualty. Brandon tries some risky maneuvers to save time and takes a hit.
42 - We wait until Brandon claims a shoe before clearing the stage.
43 - I choke slightly, then get EXTREMELY lucky.
44 - Nothing of importance
45 - I wait to finish the last enemy while Brandon claims green candy
46 - Nothing of importance
47 - Second EXTEND
48 - Nothing of importance
49 - Water level. We get a couple of water bubbles off-screen (you can hear the sound effects). We worry that we miscount and hope for the best later (luckily we end up correct in the end)
50-51 - Nothing of importance, but we nearly choke on 51
52 - More water
53 - 56 - Nothing of importance
57 - This level is the bane of many a Bubble Bobble player. What you are supposed to do is set up a staircase of bubbles at the middle (the currents push bubble to either the middle or the sides) and climb up the bubbles, all while avoiding laser fire. However, this is incredibly dangerous (blue candy certainly doesn't help). We decided that a more optimal strategy to save time is for me to purposely die (alas, the only INTENTIONAL death) and use my invulnerability time to scale the wall.
58 - I go to where the shoes spawn (57 was full of bouncing, so we always assume shoes will be there) and wait. Otherwise, basic level.
59 - Close shave. Luckily, no deaths, and I get green candy
60 - Easy level
61 - Brandon ekes through lasers somehow. Simple level otherwise.
62-63 - Simple levels
64 - I get spooked by the last enemy and kill him before we can get more water bubbles. Oops.
65 - Easy enough level
66 - Catastrophe! We both somehow lose a life here.
67 - Power-ups or not, not a bad level.
68 - I grab a new shoe, the enemies in the middle are annoying to kill.
69 - Easy level
70 - Brandon gets a shoe.
71 - Normally this level is a bit more annoying. We handle it pretty decently. Also, I get green candy.
72 - Easy level
73 - Brandon gets blue candy.
74 - Simple level
75 - Slight hiccup that is easily amended.
76 - Brandon gets green candy
77 - Arguably the worst-played level of the run. I get murdered and time is lost.
78 - Easy level
79 - I almost get my head shot off (I tend to jump on an angle from my bubbles at the beginning. If you notice, my head goes through the floor, right next to a laser. I get lucky in this case.) I get green candy shortly afterward.
80 - Brandon gets overrun and loses a life.
81 - A level we tend to hate (as we normally both have shoes in this level, which makes getting through the ceiling harder). Luckily, things go somewhat smoothly.
82 - Simple level
83 - Brandon gets killed again, but then pulls back up to back me up for the final kill.
84 - Easy level
85 - Simple level. I jump too high, so I handle popping duty.
86 - Simple level
87 - Another level we despise. However, as luck would have it, I bag a 3-chain right away, spawning the E we need for another EXTEND, which we gladly take.
88 - A luck-based level. The fire can be pretty iffy when it comes to getting over to where we want it. Also, I learned recently you can unpause the game during Hurry (by double-pressing Start). Unfortunately, this has no real benefit to us in this case, as enemies are still frozen until after the effect.
89-90 - Easy levels
91 - Normally an annoyance. Brandon gets killed, but otherwise, it goes by without a hitch. Brandon gets a shoe after he dies.
92 - The final water level in the run. We be careful in avoiding the enemies until we get the amount of bubbles we need for the umbrella (We also avoid trying to meet the counters for other items in the levels in this vicinity. Apparently, umbrellas aren't exactly the most prioritized item. One of our run attempts had a level 96 umbrella, wasting the 5 levels we could potentially warp by forcing the minimum of 3 to get us to 99)
93 - Umbrella! 5 levels skipped!
98 - Handled poorly, but no casualties.
99 - Also handled somewhat poorly, but at that point we were a bit anxious, knowing that this was our best run. One of our run attempts ended (one that was going to be sub 32:30 when that was still a big deal to us) when we accidentally triggered the secret door and went through it, triggering the start of the good ending path (of 13 or so more levels that we definitely have not practiced without lives to spare to boot... Run RUINED). Despite the time lost, we accepted it and ran with it.
Super Drunk - Simple to execute strategy makes it easy enough

Obviously, the aforementioned trouble spot levels can be improved. However, this run was easily our best in terms of speed and survival, and it's doubtful that we'll get EXTEND and umbrella luck like that again anytime soon.

Bradon Shute's comments:

I'd like to extend a heartfelt thanks to the Kings of the Abyss and, especially Harker for helping us keep track of water bubbles. I'd also like to thank my dear Amie for putting up with my Bubble Bobblin' for many-a-evening.

And of course, I need to thank Andy for having me participate in such a run. He and I have played this game forever and I'm nowhere near his level of play yet. Thanks for putting up with me Bro! I never thought I'd ever be able to do a speed run, but you helped make this all possible. Let's go for the gold! GET CHANCE AND LUCK!

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