Retro Resolution Retro Review
System: Sega Megadrive / Genesis
Developer: Aisystem Tokyo / Taito
‘There’s no place like home’
Taito’s 1987 arcade sequel to Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Islands, is a charming vertical-scroller which sees the player cast as a dragon-turned-human (yes, really) on a quest to defeat an evil monster named Krabo and save the rainbow sea. A platform-hopping search for seven mystical gems ensues across numerous thematically grouped levels including Monster, Robot, Toy, and Dragon islands, each sporting appropriately styled backdrops, enemies, end-of-level guardians and collectables.
Admittedly this abundantly saccharine world of spectral light may not immediately appeal to all, especially those whose virtual lives are spent at the darker end of the retro rainbow, embattled, perhaps, in Doom’s murky corridors; those willing to emerge bleary-eyed into the light, and to trade firearms for an altogether more novel weapon, may find themselves refreshingly rewarded by this gaming gem.
Your protagonist, Bubby, is blessed with the ability to cast dual-purpose rainbows of solid light, utilised both for vertical movement and for fending off the cute-but-deadly enemy hordes. Collection of certain special items increases the number rainbow-weapon spans, whilst others confer the ability to project sideways arcs of destructive light. As the frenetic action builds, and the screen becomes wreathed in prismic arches, the effect is akin to psychedelic trip in a toy box.
As with other stupendously-popular platformers such as the Mario Bros. series, Rainbow Islands is crammed with secrets and hidden bonuses in the form of extra levels, power-ups and score multipliers, massively increasing the longevity and replay value for addicted (and dedicated) gamers. The ‘extra’ suffix applied to the Megadrive port refers to an additional arrange-style game mode, in which enemies and stage bosses appear in alternate orders.
A wonderful recreation of the coin-op original, the console port features jaunty tunes, chiming spot-effects, and faithful visuals (with the possible exception of the characteristically muted Megadrive colour palette, and the tendency of your rainbows to flicker like expiring fluorescent tubes). Minor transgressions aside, nothing detracts from the infuriatingly addictive arcade-perfect gameplay.
Arguably the Megadrive conversion is one of the most triumphant of the countless home versions, proving true the age old adage: there’s a pot of (gaming) gold at the end of the rainbow.
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