Puzzle Bobble was a tremendous arcade hit on the Neo-Geo, with a successful port to the SNES that added more levels than the arcade version. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that when you have a successful game, you milk that cow dry and make a sequel. And a sequel would be the perfect way to sell Taito's new F3 "Cybercore" system in the arcade, (which was basically a Neo-Geo MVS ripoff... hell, just look at the mini-marquees on those US cabinets and tell me that's not a ripoff).
Thus, Puzzle Bobble 2 was made, and it was a worthy sequel. The usual Puzzle Game was given Darius-ish branching level paths, and a new Vs. CPU mode was added to simulate versus play with computer opponents. Bub and Bob and all the trapped enemies in bubbles were brought back, and a whole slew of new original characters were brought in for the Vs. CPU mode.
But, let's backtrack a little bit to the first game. When Puzzle Bobble was originally released in the US, they changed the name to that of an old Young MC song, Bust-a-Move (which caused further confusion when Enix used that same name in Japan for their PSX rhythm game, and were forced to rename their own US version "Bust-a-Groove"). But except for a different title screen and other trivial territory differences, Puzzle Bobble and Bust-a-Move were identical. One would assume that Taito would do the same thing with part 2, since... well, why mess with success?
But instead, Bust-a-Move Again was given a big overhaul for the US market. Namely, everything involving Bubble Bobble was cut out of the game.
Yup. For some unspeakable reason, Taito saw fit to remove everything about the game that was associated with their classic 80's single-screen platformer. Gone were those lovable dino heroes Bub and Bob, and the monsters trapped in bubbles. What could replace our classic dinosaur heroes? How about two generic hands turning a wheel? Wonderful. And all those new characters that were introduced in the Vs. CPU mode? All gone, and replaced with a generic computer (get it? because it's Vs. CPU mode? oh never mind) for EVERY stage. Hooray for variety! All the backgrounds were replaced too, even though they weren't strictly Bubble Bobble-related in the first place. The new backgrounds apparently follow a cycle of the "history of the Earth"... except they only put in 15 new backgrounds, meaning they get looped in the 30-stage Puzzle Mode. Oops. Still, they're not TOO bad.
So far you're probably thinking "Wow, Bust-a-Move Again sounds worse than Puzzle Bobble 2 in almost every way possible. What a pointless undeserved raping of the game!". Hell, that's what I thought about it at first. But believe it or not, this game is my favorite incarnation of Bust-a-Move ever, because of one other aspect they changed - the audio.
I know musical taste is subjective, but the new tunes that were placed in Bust-a-Move Again ended up sounding a HELL of a lot better than anything in Puzzle Bobble 2. Heck, there's only 3 main songs that get cycled in the game, but they're all extremely catchy. Even the short little "stage clear" ditty in Bust-a-Move Again sounds a lot more satisfying than the version in Puzzle Bobble 2, even if it means having to see Thing doing his spazzy thumbs-up impression of The Fonz. I wouldn't be surprised if I'm in the minority on this opinion though (and from most people I've talked to about this, I definitely appear to be). I mean, it's not that there's anything WRONG with Puzzle Bobble 2's tuneage. A remix of the old Bubble Bobble tune is fine and dandy, but it's Bust-a-Move Again's music that I came to associate with the game when I first played it in the arcade, and that's part of why it means so much more to me. Oh, and another nice perk of Bust-a-Move Again is the removal of all the annoying voices. I know some people enjoy those cutesy voices, but the removal of that annoying yelling bitch in the 3rd stage of Vs. CPU mode is a welcome relief.
Imagine my surprise when I bought the Saturn version of Bust-a-Move 2 (yes, they decided to call the Saturn/PSX version "Bust-a-Move 2")... and instead of having anything to do with Bust-a-Move Again, it played exactly like Puzzle Bobble 2. Despite the Bust-a-Move name being present, all the Bubble Bobble stuff was there (which was all new to me, since I obviously hadn't seen the Japanese version in an arcade before). I looked long and hard for a way to try to "switch" the game to Bust-a-Move Again, maybe they'd include the alternate music tracks as an option... but nothing. Even though the game played identically, it was a disappointment to me because I wanted to hear that wonderful music again. "Arcade Edition", my ass.
I suppose after Bust-a-Move Again was released, somebody from Taito woke up and said "Holy fuck, what the hell drugs were we ON when we cut out all the Bubble Bobble references from Bust-a-Move Again? That wasn't as good as the stash we had when we made PuLiRuLa!", and thus they tried to sweep all memory of Bust-a-Move Again under the rug. Even the Neo-Geo version, which was released 4 years later (seriously, what the hell happened there? Why was Bust-a-Move 2 re-released on the Neo-Geo format 4 years later? Oh hell, that's another topic altogether I suppose), contains everything from Puzzle Bobble 2 when played on a US machine. With no home ports containing the graphics/music, Bust-a-Move Again would forever remain an arcade/emulation oddity.
Before I get into the Taito Legends 2 debacle, first some boring backstory regarding Bust-a-Move Again's emulation! (yes, it's important, trust me on this one)
You see, Taito's F3 Cybercore system was similar to SNK's Neo-Geo MVS in more ways than one. Besides the fact that the games themselves ran on cartridges, the games also often had all the data for every territorial "region" programmed into it. So a Japanese system would be able to play a US cart and have the language in Japanese (although doing this required filing out a key on the motherboard? I'm a little hazy on the specifics here). More importantly, for the purposes of emulation, there seemed to be no reason to dump cartridges that were the same game from a different territorial region, as it was also quite trivial for emulators to add in support for the different regions that were already programmed into the game. Puzzle Bobble 2 could be booted up as Bust-a-Move Again and all the graphics changes were there, so everything seemed right.
Except there was one little problem - Puzzle Bobble 2 cartridges don't contain any sound data for Bust-a-Move Again. Whoops!
So what does the game do when it's not running on the correct sound roms? It "borrows" the sound from Puzzle Bobble 2, naturally. A lot of the sound effects are shared between the two games so there's no problem there. As for the music, Bust-a-Move Again will TRY to use Puzzle Bobble 2's music tracks, but it doesn't do a very good job of it. A lot of the tracks don't match up correctly, and in some levels the game will play a short clip for a few seconds, and then the rest of the level will be spent in silence. Obviously this was incorrect, but Bust-a-Move Again was like this in MAME, RAINE, etc. for years. It wasn't until early 2006 that a real Bust-a-Move Again cartridge was dumped, and with the correct sound roms the game now plays the correct music, and all is well.
Now, getting back to Taito Legends 2. You know the drill, Taito Legends 2 is one of those classic compilations released for home consoles. Getting nearly 40 games on one compilation is a good deal, even if you're really just legally paying for ROMs. And guess what just happens to be one of the games that was included on the US release of Taito Legends 2? Well, if you haven't figured it out by now, then congratulations, you're legally retarded.
Yes, Bust-a-Move Again was included on it. Not Puzzle Bobble 2, but Bust-a-Move Again, the game that never saw an official home port. And since Taito Legends 2 is an emulator, it's using the exact same romsets that you can find elsewhere on the internet. The exact same Bust-a-Move Again romset. Why is this significant? Well, because they used the older version of the romset - you know, the one that doesn't contain Bust-a-Move Again's actual sound roms.
If you bought Taito Legends 2, fired up Bust-a-Move Again and thought "What the hell's wrong with the music in this game? Why does it keep cutting out?", well, there's your answer. Lazy programmers/developers that didn't know enough about the games they were emulating (and putting the official Taito name on, no less). However, if you instead thought "Where the fuck are Bub and Bob? What is with these retarded hands pushing a wheel?", well, that's not Taito Legends 2's fault at least. But now you know. Interestingly enough, only the US version got Bust-a-Move Again, for the PAL release (which came out before the US version) they included Puzzle Bobble 2 instead (which also explains why Bub was on the boxart in the first place). In fact, the official Taito Legends 2 website lists Puzzle Bobble 2 as one of the games, and makes no mention of Bust-a-Move Again anywhere. Maybe they figured the US version was identical and didn't need to be listed.
So there you have it! The somewhat uninteresting tale of a Taito abortion that managed to remain arcade-only up until the Taito Legends 2 port... but let's be frank, the Taito Legends 2 port is just not the same game. I still stand by my claim that the music is part of what helps to define this game in my eyes. The gameplay might be identical, but it's still just not the same experience, so don't bother playing the version they slapped onto Taito Legends 2. Bust-a-Move Again was a pretty unnecessary revamping of a game that didn't need to be changed for the US market, but yet I love it all the same.
Also worth noting that Bust-a-Move Again's service mode sound test brings up a couple fun facts - first of all, it appears that all the sound effects/voices for Puzzle Bobble 2 are contained in the sound test, meaning that you'd still be able to hear all that stuff if the roms were hacked into Puzzle Bobble 2. And secondly, there are two different "sped-up" versions of each of the tracks in Bust-a-Move Again, but they're never used in the game! Presumably they were there to be played when the screen fills up close to the bottom, just like it did in the first Puzzle Bobble / Bust-a-Move... but as far as I know, the game never uses these sped-up versions. Did they completely forget to enable this feature for the sequel, seeing how it doesn't happen in Puzzle Bobble 2 either?