The gameplay found in the NES version of Bubble Bobble is pretty much intact here. The levels, the enemies, the power-ups...they’re all here. The only real difference in this version in comparison to the NES version is the control scheme, which is modified to work with the Commodore 64 joystick, where the ‘fire’ button controls the bubble barfing and moving the joystick up results in Bub and/or Bob jumping. For people used to a controller, this may take a little getting used to, but for the most part the Commodore 64 control scheme works alright.
Another big difference is the graphical presentation. The Commodore 64 produces weaker graphics than the NES, and it shows in Bubble Bobble. For the most part, everything is still easy to see, but the crisp-looking graphics found on the NES won’t be found here; it almost looks like a lego version of the game. Unfortunately, the lack of graphical power does effect the gameplay in some aspects...For example, in the NES version, when an enemy trapped inside a bubble is about to burst out, the bubble turns red and flashes a little bit. In the Commodore 64 version, the bubble remains white, but the bubble flashes on and off around the character. The way this is done on the C64 makes it kind of difficult to figure out when an enemy is about to escape or not, which can lead to deaths when you go try to pop a bubble and it pops in your face, resulting in death.
Now, honestly, it’s not really right for me to be doing these comparisons as the Commodore 64 version of Bubble Bobble actually came out a year before the NES version, buuut the NES version is a pretty accurate recreation of the arcade version of the game and while the Commodore 64 version is close enough to give C64 owners their money’s worth, it’s just not the same level of quality that was achieved a year later on Nintendo’s 8-bit console. With that being said, here’s a comparison-free opinion: it’s fun.
Graphically, Bubble Bobble looks alright. Long-time fans will know what enemy is what. They’ll recognize the same levels, notice the same power-ups and point-filled fruits, and be able to distinguish Bub from Bob. They’re blocky, but by no means bad-looking. The audio is good. The background music that fans know and love is here. However, the sound effects aren’t...At least not in my copy. It doesn’t really effect the experience much, but if you’re used to playing Bubble Bobble on any other system, it’ll seem a little weird when you see something happen and it’s not accompanied by a sound effect.
In the end, the Commodore 64 version of Bubble Bobble isn’t the best port of the game available, but it’s still fun. If all you happen to have is a Commodore 64, you can’t go wrong with Bubble Bobble. However, if you own any other system that contains Bubble Bobble, from the NES version to the recent Wii remake, I’d go with getting that one instead. But still, it speaks volumes about Bubble Bobble when even its weakest port is still very fun to play. Bubble Bobble may not be on everyone’s ‘Favorite Commodore 64 games’ list, but it’s definitely on mine.