Rainbow Islands: The Story of Bubble Bobble 2
is a very cute, possibly the cutest, arcade game to ever grace the Amiga computer. Or any other computer. Ever. Think Hello Kitty is cute? Well go play this game. Then watch out as you barf rainbows out of your eyeballs.
Originally created in Japan in 1987 for coin-op arcades worldwide, Rainbow Islands was ported three years later for the Amiga. It is believed that the Amiga version was based on the Atari ST port. However when you compare the Amiga and Atari versions, the graphics, sound and overall responsiveness is quite obviously superior on the Amiga (but of course). To that end, the Amiga version is quite likely the best arcade port of the game to hit any
home computer of the times.
The game itself, in typical Japanese fashion for platformers, looks very simple on its face but holds within itself multiple layers of intricacy and hidden secrets. Complete mastery is for only the greatest of gamers and the most devoted.
The idea behind the game sounds simple. Take your character and jump up to higher and higher platforms while avoiding bad guys and collecting power-ups. Getting to the top platform in a level completes it and you’ll continue on to the next one. After a series of completed levels you face a boss character, which is a gigantic and immensely strong version of one of the bad guys from the previous levels.
Oh, and it’s freaking hard. Tear-inducing, curse shouting hard. But the truly devoted can indeed master and complete this game. And let’s not forget about those rainbows, which is one of the most unusual and creative features we’ve ever seen a character have in an arcade platform game. Your character can create a rainbow with the press of a button. It can be used as a weapon against bad guys, a “trap” to hold bad guys, or a stepping stone to help you reach areas above more easily or quickly. It’s hard to use at first, but soon becomes an intensely cool game mechanic unlike any other game we’ve ever played.
What is also interesting about this game is how incredibly tightly it was embraced by the European markets. Bubble Bobble, it’s spiritual predecessor, could be found from time to time in North American arcades. But to quite frank it was not the most popular game made by Taito by any stretch of the imagination. And Rainbow Islands, to put it kindly, was an obscure arcade oddity. Put simply, playing it on the Amiga was our introduction to it! And we not only went to arcades quite frequently but even worked in two.
We have to say we really like Rainbow Islands, and is probably one of the best arcade ports on the Amiga. Some of the level designs are simply genius.
But in some ways it feels like an extremely well-polished 8-bit game. The Amiga version could have easily
looked exactly like the arcade version but seems to lack about half of the color palette the arcade delivered. Regardless, it’s a very enjoyable and addicting experience that every gamer should check out. You might not get very far at first as the difficultly level is very high, but you’ll certainly want to keep trying.
To our knowledge, there was never an NTSC ADF created for Rainbow Islands (update about this below). We tried five different ADFs and every single one displayed the exact same error on 4 different NTSC machines: the score area would either vibrate, be clipped, or both. The rest of the game played beautifully. The only way we could play the game without any visual glitches was via emulation on PAL settings. As a result, it played just slightly more slowly but was still very snappy and responsive. It simply lost even more colors as a result of not being able to play it on a CRT with its natural pixel blending.
As a result, we’ve added both NTSC and PAL emulation screenshots below to demonstrate the difference.
from Andrew Braybrook, coder for Rainbow Islands sent directly to AmigaLove:
I can assure our American cousins that there was an NTSC sku: they had it display "GOAL !" rather than "GOAL IN!" at the end of each level.
Thank you, Andrew! The hunt for the elusive NTSC version shall continue. We've never seen a single copy that didn't have "Ocean" stamped on it, and there's no current clue as to whom the US publisher would have been. But we'll keep looking!
The ADF attached to this page is written for PAL machines, but can be played on NTSC with a minor glitch to the score area.
There are two main ADFs that were created, and there is a very long and complicated development history. We won’t repeat it here, but it’s worth a read.