By Josh Speer / March 10th, 2017
|Title||Super Bomberman R|
|Release Date||March 3rd, 2017|
|Genre||Action, Puzzle, Party|
|Age Rating||E for Everyone – Cartoon Violence|
One of the benefits to being an old school gamer is I grew up with many series that are now considered classics. I got to see them before they tried various facelifts and new mechanics, and appreciate them for their pure focus on gameplay. As such, I decided I had to give Super Bomberman R a shot. After all, I am a fan of the Bomberman series, and was dismayed when Hudson Soft went under, only to be bought by Konami and then ignored for several years. I honestly thought Bomberman was going the way of Mega Man, and when I saw Konami had a new game up their sleeves, for the brand new Switch no less, I was cautiously optimistic. So much so that I decided to bite the bullet and pre-order the game at my local store. The question then is was this the return to form I’ve long hoped for, or something altogether different?
When the game started off, I was pleasantly surprised by the colorful and energetic cutscenes. I don’t expect that sort of thing from a series this ancient, and it certainly didn’t hurt that they were all well animated in a very cartoony, comic book style. That excitement was quickly tempered when I realized how juvenile these cutscenes were. When you factor in that they pop up every few levels, they quickly become more grating than entertaining. Having said that, the voice acting isn’t half bad; it just isn’t given much material to work with. Regardless, I wasn’t ready to pass judgment on that factor alone, so I buckled down to see what else the game offered.
The game world is split up into five different planets, each composed of several levels and a boss fight at the end. The plot won’t win any awards, as it is focused on the rise of a villain inexplicably named Emperor Buggler and his army of Dastardly Bombers. There’s not much to it, but it did give enough motivation to go planet hopping in order to save the world. I did find it interesting that the plot focused on the fact that the original Bomberman (called White, due to his color scheme) and his family of similarly named Bomberman Bros. are all robots. They reference some standard sci-fi Asimovian tropes, though you never actually see any humans during the story. I also found it entertaining that the game box contradicts things by referring to the Bomberman Bros. as the Super Bomberman Rangers. Maybe Konami missed that when they did the final quality check…
The levels themselves are much what you would expect from the series, with some nice quirks. There are different mission types, such as merely destroying all enemies, finding hidden keys, surviving for a period of time and even escorting other robots safely to the exit. I appreciated how this kept things from getting too stale, since let’s be honest, the original premise of the game hasn’t aged all that well.
What I found less appealing was how the game doesn’t really explain anything other than the basic game mechanics. For example, there are several power-ups you can find during the game, but they never bother to show what they all do. You have to figure that out through trial and error, and even for an old time fan like me, I didn’t remember what half of them did. Another frustration is how difficult the game can be. Even though I played Story mode on Beginner, I still lost many lives and was even unable to beat any boss without using a continue. This is okay on Beginner, which only asks you pay coins you win in-game to continue, but on harder difficulties the amount required is exorbitant, and forces you to play through the entire planet again if you can’t afford a continue.
Despite these faults, the game itself plays well and makes good use of the Switch controls. I alternated between using it as a portable and splitting my Joy-Con to play multiplayer with a friend, and each control scheme felt natural and easy to pick up. The problems started to come when I got to the boss fights.
Each of the five Dastardly Bombers will challenge you twice; first in a one-on-one battle in their special arena, and afterwards while riding a gigantic custom mech. Though the mech fights were pretty entertaining and I loved their designs, the boss fights against lone Dastardly Bombers were very hit or miss. Their AI is good to a scary level, and actually hitting them with a bomb quickly becomes a chore, especially when you factor in their special bombs, such as ones which are magnetically drawn to you. I ended up just running around like a headless chicken chucking bombs haphazardly, hoping I would finally hit them. The mech fights, on the other hand, are more fun, requiring you find and hit their weak spots to stun them, then bomb the living hell out of them while they are down. The only complaint I had with regard to those was they didn’t telegraph their attacks very well nor give you a fair chance to evade them, meaning you could end up with many unfair deaths. The worst example was when facing Karaoke Bomber’s mech on a field full of ice, causing me to slip into her traps again and again.
You’re probably wondering how the multiplayer works, and that also is a bit of a mixed bag. While it is very easy to set up matches with friends, and you only really need one Switch to play another person, it forces you to play against four people at minimum. That means it will be you and a friend against the computer players, and much like the boss fights in Story mode, the AI is beyond ruthless. That said, there are a variety of arenas to play on. You can even play as the different Bomberman Bros. and unlock the Dastardly Bombers. It’s also fun that when you get hit in multiplayer, you can run around the top of the arena tossing bombs at everyone. If you hit someone, you’ll get brought back into the fight. There just isn’t that much variety to keep things interesting. Also, since the game doesn’t really explain anything, I was unclear how to use the Bomberman abilities that are supposed to be available. I gathered that each of the different Bombermen has a unique quirk, but after many battles with a friend I am still unclear what those are or how to even utilize them.
As far as aesthetic design, Super Bomberman R does pretty well. Each level is a complex, well designed arena with multiple levels to play on. I’m also a huge fan of the art style for the cutscenes and the Dastardly Bombers’ massive mechs, each with a totally distinct look and different array of attacks. That said, the basic levels, though well designed, were also very lackluster visually. It was also occasionally problematic when on a bigger level and the camera wouldn’t be exactly where I needed it. Levels are large, so it’s more than possible not to know exactly where you are on a crowded stage. On the musical side of things the game does okay, and is peppy and perhaps a bit overly Japanese. The tunes work, but can become grating after too long.
I’m glad that Bomberman isn’t dead yet, I truly am. I just wish the game that brought it back to Nintendo consoles wasn’t this one. While Super Bomberman R isn’t utterly horrible, it is such a mixed bag that at best it just feels average. That’s not great, especially when you consider it costs $49.99 and only gave me around three hours of gameplay. While it’s true you can replay Story mode levels and the multiplayer isn’t bad, there’s just not a lot to recommend the game. If you’re an old fan of Bomberman like myself, then I recommend you pick Super Bomberman R up on sale. For everyone else, it’s probably best to wait for the next game in the series and hope Konami gets things right the second time around.
Review Copy Purchased by Author
Konaminintendo switchReviewSuper Bomberman R