Format reviewed: ZX Spectrum
Submitted by: Anthony Staude
The Spectrum is easily misunderstood. Here in Australia growing up in the 80's, I never saw one in action. it was all C64, Amstrad with a bit of Atari and a bit of Tandy Color Computer. Spectrums were very rare.
All my knowledge of Spectrum games came from magazines like Crash and Computer and Video Games. To be honest, what I saw didn't impress me. Static screenshots of Spectrum games are either dull monochrome or garish color clash. And yet, reviewers would rave about certain games stating they were better than the C64 or Amstrad versions. How could this be?
The secret is playability.
At first glance, Spectrum arcade conversions such as Rainbow Islands may not look very accurate. It's not until you see it move or better still play the game that you can fully appreciate how good the conversion actually is.
Rainbow Islands on the Spectrum is excellent. Whilst it probably looks the dullest of all the conversions, the graphics are still very pretty.
The catchy up-tempo version of "Somewhere over the Rainbow" tune plays in the background and you can't help but hum along. It's such an intrinsic part of the game that it would have been sorely missed if it was absent!
It seems that most of the original arcade game is present, including all seven island levels, the end of level baddies, power-ups and hidden extra goodies.
Hooray for the Spectrum! I'm off to find some other wonderful old arcade conversions.
Format reviewed: PC EngCD/TurboGrafxCD
Developer: Nec Avenue
Submitted by: Alley Kat
Bubble Bobble's equally classic rainbow throwing sequel was a late conversion to the PC Engine, but made amends by being the most accurate and complete version availible.
For those poor souls unfamiliar with this classic, the gameplay involves climbing to the top of each vertically scrolling level before it begins to sink into the sea.
The titular rainbows are used as platforms, as well as offensive projectiles or traps against the games numerous and varied cutesy foes.
As with Bubble Bobble, there are a staggering amount of obscure bonuses and secrets awaiting alert players, not least the collection of variously-hued diamonds, which if collected in the correct order throughout the first seven islands allow access to the final three hidden super-tough islands.
Other versions of Rainbow Islands tend to have flaws which mar the experience: the excellent ST and Amiga versions lack the final three islands and more recent compiled versions lack the classic tune due to legal issues. Even the otherwise superb Megadrive port has a stunted jump, impacting on gameplay.
Even this wonderful version doesnt succeed 100%, as there are some oddly timed momentary loading pauses. This is a small quibble, however, as the PC Engine version remains the best alternative to owning or emulating the original arcade board.
A true classic.
Format reviewed: Arcade
Submitted by: Craig Hawkins
It's all in the music. Rainbow Islands ports are defined by their ability to emulate the coin-op's almost-exact-copy-but-please-don't-sue-us Over The Rainbow ditty. Rainbow Islands' theme is Harold Arlen's universally-loved classic from The Wizard of Oz with a couple of note changes and an increase in tempo to transform the original's yearning melancholia into a starburst of joy.
There have been versions of the game with better graphics, arguably better gameplay, but the coin-op's music reigns supreme. The 8-bit computer conversions all performed a valiant job of retaining the melody's effervescence; later efforts remixed the song to the point of ruination, while others jumped the potential copyright violation hurdles by offering a completely different melody, which simply won't do.
On its release, this sequel to Bubble Bobble felt like the greatest thing ever seen in arcades to kids of a certain persuasion. The islands model a palette of bright and cheerful colours, and then comes Taito's masterstroke. As Bub (or Bob) you fill the levels with rainbows, sending your serotonin levels soaring, well, somewhere over the rainbow.
You conjure said refracted spectrums of light to neutralize the islands' many inhospitable inhabitants. More importantly, they help you make your way up the stages. It stands to reason that a game in which you climb the levels offers the most pleasure. Horizontal scrolling is all well and good, playing downwards, as in Dig Dug for example, isn't especially depressing, but the ability to go upwards, with the goal awaiting you at the summit, naturally offers the most heavenly experience.
The seven individual islands are all themed. Insect Island is swarming with creepy crawlies, and with that kind of logic, Monster, Robot and Toy islands speak for themselves. Three bonus islands incorporate previous Taito titles Darius, Fairyland Story and good old Bubble Bobble.
Bub and Bob's gaming history is a convoluted one, but the key adventures of the aforementioned Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Islands and Parasol Stars all offer essential platforming. Rainbow Islands is the greatest of them all. It's just a pity that every modern remake of the game is wretched to the core.