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NinjaRabbit's Burrow

Bubble Bobble Plush With Sound, by Gaya Entertainment

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One of the first things I ever wrote about on my blog here, way back in April, was a pair of then-upcoming officially-licensed Bubble Bobble plushes of the famous humans-turned-Bubble Dragons, Bub and Bob, which, at the time, were due to be released the following month.

What followed were countless delays, beginning with issues with the sound modules (what these issues were was unfortunately never revealed, but my guess would be on licensor approval, rather than manufacturing defects, for reasons that I will go into later in this article), and then plenty of hold-ups in manufacture and shipping, too.

The plushes finally arrived with the merchandise licensee/producer, Gaya Entertainment, in Germany this month, and Gamerabilia, the UK-based store from which I pre-ordered my plush of Bub, shipped them all out to their pre-orderers as soon as they had them in-hand. Mine arrived today - just one day after the shipping notification was sent to me.

I must take a moment to shout out some praise to Gamerabilia, here. They kept all of the pre-orderers of these plushes updated with informative and entertaining e-mails throughout the very long wait, and when the plushes arrived with them, they worked hard to ship out all of the pre-orders in just one day. To top it all off, they went to the effort of printing custom Bubble Bobble-themed address labels for the boxes that the plushes were sent out in, which raised a huge smile with me when my box arrived this morning.

So, with the pre-order saga ended, let's take a look at Bub himself!

As you can see, it looks as if someone has reached in and pulled him out of the game - the likeness is superb. This is one of those cases where the final product is even better-looking than the already-good prototype, which is now something which is thankfully becoming less rare than it once was. One notable change from the prototype is that the eyes are not outlined in black on the final plush, and the addition of the paw-pads on the bottoms of the feet has been made. All of the details are present and correct, the fabric and colour choices are spot-on, and the embroidery on the eyes and paw-pads is of very high quality - as is the rest of the plush.

I'm really impressed with the attention to detail, and even his size feels like what a Bubble Bobble plush should be sized at, to me. When I was a youngster and first got the C64 conversion of Bubble Bobble in early 1991, I always imagined that plush versions of the characters should be made at this size. To invoke an animation trope, it's the all-important "talking animal buddy" appeal that generates so much merchandise relating to animated feature films - renditions like this are cute and huggable, and not too big, making them the perfect size for carrying around.

The only disappointment is the sound module. For a plush that's partly being marketed on this point, and which had delays caused at least in part by the sound modules, it's quite a shame that it's its worst feature.

The first issue is that the sound module is located in a very strange place; Most plushes with sound have the sound module located in the belly, paw, or foot of the plush. Not with this one. Oh no, with these plushes, the sound module is located in the bottom. I don't just mean that it's at the base of the plush - I mean that it's quite literally in the general location of the arse.

The second issue is that, for a plush marketed as, and I quote, a Bubble Bobble Plush With Sound, you might expect it to feature sound effects from, say, Bubble Bobble - sounds such as, say, the insert coin noise, or the jingle that plays before the game starts, or maybe even a short clip of that oh-so-famous theme music. Upon squeezing the sound module for the first time, however, I was surprised and confused to hear yelling, instead, before I realised that speech effects from the Puzzle Bobble games have been used here, instead.

So, yes, Gaya Entertainment has released a set of Bubble Bobble plushes where you are expected to squish their arses in order to make them yell.

This brings me back to my mention of the earliest of the delays to these plushes, for which the sound modules were stated to be the culprit. I suspect that the licensor, Square-Enix, who now owns Taito (and like all good shell-of-its-former-self companies, does nothing with their properties but sell merchandise and hawk bad download-only games, at best), probably rejected whatever sounds were intended to be used early on - which I suspect would have been from the original arcade game - and mandated that these be used instead, so that the characters appear to talk, rather than make sounds that would be expected of an arcade machine. It makes sense to me, as I can't see any reason for Gaya Entertainment to promote the plushes as being based on Bubble Bobble, rather than Puzzle Bobble, otherwise, and a company requiring a change like this seems fairly typical of how character (rather than nostalgia) licensing is handled nowadays. Indeed, it's not as if Puzzle Bobble is any less well-known among the target audience as Bubble Bobble is, so the branding confusion is almost inexplicable if we don't consider this possibility. Even though these plushes were made with the Western market in mind first, perhaps it suggests an intent on Square-Enix's part to launch these plushes in the series' native Japan, later on?

All of that said, even with the very strange choices relating to the sound module, these plushes are the best Bubble Bobble plushes that have ever been produced for any market, to date, hands down. If you're a fan of Bubble Bobble or any of its spin-offs, you will very likely want to pick up one (or both!) of these plushes while you can.

Updated 25th September 2014 at 20:04 by NinjaRabbit

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