~ POP'N MAGIC ~
Riot / Telenet
While I don't have any particular bone to pick with Bubble Bobble or its many descendants, I don't have the same fondness for the line as a lot of other players do either. "Even" Parasol Stars is only fairly fun in my view. So I was quite surprised at just how much I ended up enjoying Pop'n Magic, which I'd pegged as "just another" BB aper.
Truthfully, PnM's gameplay isn't a mega-leap beyond what most of its peers offer up. You dash and hop around within the confines of box-shaped stages and use your magic wand to transform beasts into bubbles, which can be heaved about to obliterate other bubbles and create a fruit-strewn-everywhere brand of chaos. This is all fairly routine stuff in concept, but PnM is extremely impressive presentation-wise. Its colorful backgrounds contain so much more detail than the flat, simple canvases utilized by the likes of Parasol Stars and Rainbow Islands, and there's usually a heck of a lot going on in those backgrounds. These aren't still seas or static forests. From falling leaves to moving gears, there's always some sort of activity occurring in the distance as you take care of business in the foreground.
PnM's soundtrack is extremely lively, contributing to the hectically busy feel of the adventure, and it delivers a particularly nice-to-listen-to tune during the final set of stages. You won't get to hear that track unless you put in some practice, as this quest is no breezy jaunt. The bosses can be quite tough, as they frequently make use of hard-to-dodge missile attacks before moving in for physical assaults.
Beat those bums and you'll get to watch some nice cinemas, which are highlighted by cute voice work and amusing hijinks, with somber bits and touching moments occasionally finding their ways into the mix.
Riot was a maddeningly inconsistent development group, but they didn't slack on even a single aspect of this production. PnM is often available at fairly low prices these days; it typically costs less than Parasol Stars, which it's superior to in every way.