Review by SneakTheSnake
"Drivin' and movin', sailin' and spinin', Bustin'-a-Movin', wailin' and winnin'"
It's the subtle differences, you know? The little things. The tiny details can really make a difference in a sequel sometimes. Tweak something here, update a little bit there, add in new features that have developed in the interim period (take a franchise and add online play, for example, something that any modern game just about can't do without), and you've got the ingredients for what could be a great video game sequel. Super Bust-a-Move 2, in that regard, is ages beyond its predecessor, the at-times awful Super Bust-a-Move.
Though the bubble-busting gameplay of the original Super Bust-a-Move was, at its core, not truly terrible, its presentation was sorely lacking. Very few modes, a ridiculous graphical style, ridiculous load times, wonky mechanics like "tiny bubbles" and insipid, disgusting characters made Super Bust-a-Move a game to skip. The sequel, released hardly a year later, corrects enough of the foolish errors of the original, twisting and turning the already-skewed presentation just enough to make the gameplay and presentation a lot more enjoyable. This game also has some great features that, as far as I know, have not been brought back since this game, like full VO and a level editor (!!!).
The bubble-busting gameplay is still here, in-tact. The match-three-or-more bubble-launching is at the crux of gameplay. Conveyor belts are back, for better or for worse and, instead of "tiny bubbles", "rainbow bubbles" are the new variety of bubble in Super Bust-a-Move 2. These change the color of any bubbles it touches. The trick is to launch them at solitary bubbles suspended from a larger cluster; the rainbow bubbles, then, are a nuisance, but they don't have to fudge up one's strategy. One can either play through puzzles in the Story Mode, go about it classic-style by ascending the inverted pyramid, or play against the computer / a friend.
A story mode is in place here in Super Bust-a-Move 2, and this is clearly the game's biggest change and one of its best assets. Each character, most of which spawning from the first Super Bust-a-Move, aspires to ascend the legendary Puzzling Tower. The tower has five stages: some are regular rounds of Bust-a-Move, others are vs. battles with other characters, and one for each character is an endurance round of sorts. There are cutscenes for the intro, ending and interludes for each character, done in a simplistic cel-shaded style.
This is a great boon for the franchise. Though it would have been nice for the story mode to be longer, or perhaps for it to have a world map or unlockable goodies for completing the game with certain characters, I can't really complain with what's been presented. The characters are still ridiculous, but this is downplayed a great deal. Space Bust-a-Move for the Nintendo DS fully fleshed this out, with currency won after completing certain sets of puzzles, and items to buy with that money, but Super Bust-a-Move 2 is a great stepping stone. The Story Mode is also where the greatest aesthetic changes are best seen.
There has been a significant step forward here. Cutscenes - which look as though genuine effort were put into their programming - bookend the game quite well. The English voiceovers - a first for the series? - are laughable at times, but the effort is ages beyond its predecessors. There is a semblance of progression here, and the grammatical or spelling mistakes are considerably fewer since the dialogue has been recorded. They're not quite delightful in the "so bad it's good" kind of way, but there is a certain charm in watching your character progress.
As stated previously, there are three different kinds of puzzles in Story Mode: the traditional, of which a "stage" is comprised of five or six puzzles, a versus battle, where dropping bubbles off your screen pile on as "garbage" on your opponent's playfield, and an endurance mode, or what the game calls a Long Puzzle. The Long Puzzles are challenges in which a meter along the left side of the screen fills up the more bubbles you clear from the screen. Think of it as a standard Bust-a-Move level with something over a hundred rows. The rounds take a good six or seven minutes to complete and are can be quite challenging to complete in one round.
There aren't many more options than there were in Super Bust-a-Move, but there is something in this game that even many current iterations, for some ridiculous reason, lack: an edit mode. It's been a while since I've seen an edit mode so easy to use and intuitive! With six different playfields to choose from and every kind of tile available from the get-go, it's very easy to make a level, play it, save it and share it with friends. I don't understand why this feature isn't in future iterations.
In-game graphics are just the same as they've always been, but the game's intro and cutscenes are done in a goofy, cel-shaded style. Thick black lines accent the characters' exaggerated facial and body features. As far as the in-game graphics are concerned, my primary complaint is that, once again, the characters take up a lot of real estate at the bottom of the screen, and their animations can not only block part of the action but can also be distracting at times.
Sound effects and music are taken mostly from the original Super Bust-a-Move, which is a negative for me. It's lazy of developers to take that exact same content and shove it right into what's supposed to be a completely different game. It shouldn't matter if the developers feel the old music stood up well enough on its own; these aren't even remixes, just flat-out rips from the original. That saddens me.
Replay value is just about as high in this one as it is in the other iterations of Bust-a-Move. You'll either be compelled to play through every path of the inverted pyramid (with the Other World, a completely different pyramid) and its several dozen puzzles or you won't. You'll either desire to complete the Story Mode with the myriad different characters, or you may not. That being said, the pristine gameplay transfers over well in this new game, strategies and charm intact. I can recommend this game for those looking for some Bust-a-Move action during PS2's console generation; between this, Bust-a-Move 3000 and that unusual XBox version, this may be your best bet on a home console.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Super Bust-A-Move 2 (US, 09/24/02)
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