Buster Bros.

Buster Bros.

Retro Coin Op Synopsis

Now here was an odd concept: spear fishing for lethal balloons. That was the basic idea of Buster Bros., and apparently, there was enough of a demand for the sport that your character got to make a world tour.

Armed with a harpoon and decked out in safari gear, the Buster Bros. took aim at the brightly colored balloons that bounced around every screen. Starting at Japan’s Mt. Fuji and working west, the bubble-bursting brothers shot their weapons up into the air, trying to catch the balloons in mid-bounce. A hit split the balloons into two smaller ones, and once the smallest-sized balloons were hit, they disappeared. The balloons’ touch was deadly, however, so haphazard popping only created more of a headache for players, as an entire armada of tiny killer balloons soon filled the screen. Once the balloons were all eliminated, the tour moved on to the next stop, where another batch of balloons waited.

The premise may have been odd, but in practice, Buster Bros. played like a high-stress puzzle game, as one or two players tried to figure out the safest way to deal with each new threat. The single-screen playfields often had ladders, fixed obstacles, destructible walls, mischievous animals (which temporarily removed your shooting abilities) and other gimmicks, as well as differing numbers and sizes of balloons, making each screen a unique challenge. Since the Buster Bros. had no “Jump” button, the only way to stay alive was running away, shooting when appropriate.

When ordinary harpoon-hurling wasn’t enough, the game offered a handful of power-ups to your arsenal, appearing when certain balloons were popped. The Double Harpoon allowed your character to throw two missiles at once, while the Power Wire stuck to the ceiling (or any other obstacle) for a limited time, waiting for a balloon to cross its path. The Vulcan Gun gave rapid-fire shots, but without a harpoon rope attached. Other bonus items included a time-stopping clock, a balloon-slowing hourglass, a barrier that protected your character from one hit, and dynamite, which split every balloon down to its smallest size, often creating a deadly hail of tiny orbs.

Mixing the relatively new puzzle genre with traditional action and platform elements, Buster Bros. was a game unlike any other in the late 80’s arcade. It was also an international smash, winning over the world under its alternate title, Pang. A sequel was released in 1990, dubbed Super Buster Bros. (a.k.a. Super Pang). Along with improved background graphics and all-new levels, the game also included a selectable “Panic Mode,” wherein more balloons kept falling onto the screen until your character dropped.

Like its predecessor, Super Buster Bros. was a strong hit and a player favorite, offering all the tension of a Final Fight or Double Dragon, but with a lot less brawling.

Arcade Machine Release History

1989 - Buster Bros.
1990 - Super Buster Bros.

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Machine Manufacturer

Mitchell, Capcom

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