When Nintendo announced it would be holding a Switch event in January of 2017, gamers imaginations largely got the better of them. Every corner of the internet was abuzz with rumors and wish lists that ranged from the “so bizarre I still think it’s true” Mario and Rabbids crossover to the more conventional “Retro is REALLY working on Metroid Prime 4 this time.” One franchise that was largely absent (until a 100% accurate leak the day before the event) was Bomberman. And why wouldn’t he be? Bomberman was a casualty of the Konami/Hudsonsoft merger, and he had not seen a physical console release since 2006’s woefully received Bomberman: Act Zero, and had not been seen outside of mobile since 2010’s Bomberman Live: Battlefest on Xbox 360. But here we are, with a new Nintendo console launching with a new Super Bomberman. So, does this entry in the series hold up well against the classics, or does it blow in an entirely different way?
So what’s this about?
Bomberman is one of the longest running and most prolific franchises out there, and this version of the game hews very closely to the multiplayer-centric formula that was more or less perfected in the 16-bit ERA. In the game, you play as one of 8 color themed Bombers (not including unlockables) in either vs style maps or in a short but fun story mode. The battles are what the series is known for, with up to 8 players being able to duke it out locally or online in a variety of grid-based maps with their own specific gimmicks. The point of these battles it to be the last man standing while placing bombs and avoiding both your explosions as well as those of the other players. It’s simple premise that can result in short but hectic matches.
What does it do right?
As I just mentioned, Bomberman matches are rather short affairs. The main Vs mode, for instance, is a best of 2 affair with a short time limit. This works surprisingly well with the Switch’s overall design gimmick. Bomberman is a game where you will primarily be using 1 or 2 buttons and a control stick. It’s a perfect way to show off tabletop mode multiplayer, especially due to the short nature of matches. The gameplay is virtually unchanged from the Super Nintendo Super Bomberman games, with most of the same power ups, including Bomb Punch and Bomb Kick, returning. More importantly, it is perhaps the BEST local multiplayer party game on the Switch at the moment. It might not feel as fresh as something like 1-2-Switch, but is extremely accessible and can support matches of up to 8 players at any time…as long as you have the controllers.
The story mode also helps set this game apart from the last few digital releases in the series. This game brings back the Dastardly Bombers, evil cyborg bomber-people first introduced in Super Bomberman 2 on the SNES, and pits them against the eight Bomberman Bros. Konami did a great job of making all the different colored Bombers feel different by imbuing them with very broad and archetypical character traits. White is the passionate and over enthusiastic leader, Red is the hot head, and Blue is….always sleepy. Look, this isn’t a game you play for character development. The story is silly in a Saturday morning cartoon sort of way. It’s an enjoyable and frivolous waste of time that can be finished in an afternoon/evening if you are dedicated enough. This mode is more fun with two players, and the game does a good job of mixing things up from map to map, with different objectives (escort, kill all enemies, hit all switches, etc) and challenging but not “too challenging” boss battles – all scored to a great soundtrack.
But is it Good?
The good news is that this game is classic Bomberman. The bad? Well, it’s classic Bomberman at a premium price. This is a full retail game that clocks in at $50. I have no problem paying that for a premium Bomberman experience, but this game doesn’t deliver much more than the Wii Ware, Xbox Live, and PSN games that game out six plus years ago. In some cases it actually delivers less. Some of the aforementioned Bomberman games let you change the view of the battle, for instance. This game always has you view the action from directly above, although story mode maps are viewed from an angle. Speaking of, although the map gimmicks are fun, there are only 8 in total so I can see map fatigue setting in rather quickly. It should also be mentioned that while the Bomber Bros. (and the Dastardly Bombers) all have great personality, the actual unlocks to customize your character in VS mode are a bit lackluster compared to all the interesting and diverse costumes from Bomberman Live: Battlefest. You can and will unlock gear, but having an electric guitar strapped to your head isn’t quite as good as a full fireman or nurse outfit.
The online is a mixed bag. For the most part, I was able to get online and find games no problem, and most of the matches were at the least playable with probably 75% or so suffering from minimal lag. I did have a few instances of bad lag, though, and any sort of slow down can result in a dead Bomberman. Still, it’s great to be able to play a game of Bomberman at any time, and Super Bomberman R even has a ranking system so you can track just how well you are doing. This title also bring back the “revenge” cart that circles the map, and players that have been eliminated can ride on it and throw bombs into the field of play. If the bomb blows up an opponent the fallen Bomber takes their place and is revived for the round. It would be nice, however, if the game had included more of the series more niche powerups or abilities. Once again, this is a full priced game, so it should have had more special content. I would have loved to have seen something like ridable animal buddies make a return, for instance.
The final verdict
All that being said….the game IS good, and the story mode adds extra value not seen in digital only Bomberman releases. Very few party games can match the local multiplayer fervor of Bomberman, and this is where it shines. This is a solid but not spectacular entry into the franchise that I sincerely hope is built upon for future iterations. If the game had more content or was about $30 cheaper, I would recommend it to anyone. I can understand why Konami would not want to go with digital prices for this, but I think this game is a good example of modern game pricing needing to be more flexible. This game has the same amount of content I might expect on a cheaper 3DS game, for instance, so why not price it to match that expectation? As it is, I still think it is worth your consideration if you are looking for multiplayer action on the go for your brand new Switch.