Acclaim's Bust-A-Move 99 brought little to the series on the PlayStation, aside from a hefty collection of homemade puzzles and a sparsely entertaining edit mode. However, the Taito-created Nintendo 64 version of essentially the same game delivers what most puzzles game fans want most - more in terms of multiplayer mode, along with a few additional features added since Acclaims Bust-A-Move 2 Arcade Edition that came out on the N64 this time last year - namely, a collection, a four-player mode, and an edit mode. There are five modes of play in all. Arcade mode is the arcade conversion of Bust-A-Move 3, with a puzzle option, in which a single player works through the levels without an opponent, neither human nor CPU. There is also a player vs. computer mode, and a player vs. player mode for two-player challenges. The challenge mode is a single-player match where you solve about 25 puzzles. Your success will be evaluated at the end. The win contest mode is another player vs. CPU game. The collection mode is basically what you saw (or might have seen) in Natsume's Bust-A-Move 3. A bunch of people of no discernable age made puzzles for Taito, and more than one thousand of these ended up in the final game. These puzzles usually take just seconds each to get through, and a good handful of them require little more than one to four shots (or turns) to complete. The ones that take longer seem nearly impossible, poorly constructed, and are likely the craftwork of some mean, disturbed little child with a vengeance. The good thing is, you don't have to complete one collection puzzle to move on to the next. You can sample them all and simply skip the ones you don't like.
The last option in the N64 version, like in the PlayStation game, is the edit mode. The puzzle-building components aren't exactly complex, but they can be quite addictive. You select from a handful of primary and secondary colors, then throw in clear bubbles, stars, block bubbles, and so on. The screen can be adjusted for wide-screen or regular play, and you can save about 25 of your puzzles to a memory card to progressively work through. The interface for constructing puzzles is basic and intuitive, and it is actually pretty fun to try to determine what makes for a good puzzle - easy or difficult. The problem is, it's just as easy to construct a simple puzzle that brings bubbles smashing down in two moves as it is to build an extremely difficult puzzle by alternating colors and never grouping two together - which can be disappointing.
Where Bust-A-Move 99 for the N64 really shines is in the three- or four-player modes. These modes are engaging enough to keep you playing after you've long since tired of a simple two-player game. One complaint, however, is that (in what appears to be an obvious developer oversight) you're stuck with four game spaces on the TV monitor, whether you're in a three-player or four-player game. Because of this, the screens are really tiny, with silly pictures of your respective character under your playing space taking up about one fifth of your panel of the monitor. This makes no sense. Clearly, resolution issues were at play, but why not just present three spaces for a three-player game? The N64 version, like the PlayStation game, suffered from the occasional cluttered background, making the bubbles occassionally difficult to see. However, this wasn't consistently the case and therefore didn't really damage gameplay. And aside from a few sound glitches between levels, the cartridge didn't do much to damage the music. Could it, anyway?
A minor, yet positive, note: Taito held on to the subtle control feature introduced in Bust-A-Move 2 for the N64. That is, besides analog/digital control options, you can use the left and right shoulder buttons to move the bubble projector ever so slightly, as opposed to a complete move with the stick or the D-pad. The game is Rumble Pak compatible, too.
So really, the way to play Bust-A-Move 99 on the N64 and get the most out of it is to play the four-player mode (just sit close to the TV) and learn the characters well. Bubbloon is no doubt the most charismatic of the lot, but the other characters have pretty decent fighting patterns, so to speak. For example, SSB will drop sets of and Jack will drop the tough to dispel rainbows and the impossible to rid blocks on your partner every time you clear a set or more of bubbles. When you're playing against three other players, each with different characters, learning and following the strategies of each adds a lot of value to the game.
Overall, Bust-A-Move 99 for the N64, like the PlayStation version, is neither a revolutionary take on puzzle games nor a unique take on its own series. Yet it's a good game that will likely satisfy fans of the arcade game, as well as puzzle-game fans in general. If you have both systems and you're considering which version to buy, choose this one because of the multiplayer mode - the Nintendo 64 library is not brimming with cool multiplayer puzzle games. If you aren't familiar with the series, you don't have a PlayStation, and you simply want to know if it's worth your while, you can't go wrong picking this one up.