Bomberman lives! In his first console outing after seven years, it warms me up inside to see the white bomber back in action. Super Bomberman R revives the series’ trademark grid-based bomb battle mode, and it remains a blast. But after the initial nostalgia high, the game fizzles out from its lack of content and lag infested online mode.
Here is the Video Review for your viewing pleasure!
The series is synonymous with multiplayer, and Super Bomberman R’s battle mode steals the show. Up to eight players are locked in a square grid-based arena, armed with bombs in a showdown to be the last player standing. The single-screen arenas are densely packed with destructible blocks that grant power-ups such as the abilities to kick and throw explosives. Customizable options let you decide factors like sudden death and revenge carts, the latter of which allows defeated players to throw bombs from the arena’s perimeter for a chance to get back in.
Naturally, frantic action arises from the constant threats of the chaotically placed quadridirectional explosives. Players can carefully drop bombs to trap others, throw bombs across the arena for surprise kills, and stun opponents with well-timed punches. With so much danger on the battlefield, I often lost matches due to my own bombs. Such moments are even funnier when enjoyed with others, which is why battle mode is at its finest when playing locally on one system or with other Switch owners in handheld mode.
As fun as battle mode is, it lacks the variety that older entries in the series had. Only the standard mode is available, so unique forays like Dodge or King-of-the-Hill battles are absent. Also, mainstay power-ups like remote or pierce bombs are missing in this installment. Although there are a decent number of arenas, they mostly feel like palette swaps of one another, with simple stage hazards like disappearing and moving platforms providing the most pizazz. You can purchase more arenas with in-game coins, but they take some time to grind.
When not playing locally, there are two other options for battle mode. You can play with computer-controlled characters, though there isn’t much enjoyment from doing so. CPU opponents seem programmed to always find the perfect hiding places, making them unfair to play against. The other option is online mode, which should be good in theory. However, Super Bomberman R suffers from an unfortunate input lag where movements you make result in a near-second delay. This lag plagued most of my online matches, leading to unfair deaths because I unintentionally walked into bombs or didn’t turn fast enough to avoid an explosion. In a fast-paced game where a single missed second is the difference between life and death, such lag makes the game unplayable. Konami updated the game to resolve these issues as of this writing, but the controls are still not as tight as they could be.
Though the franchise isn’t typically known for rich single-player modes, I’ve enjoyed Bomberman’s adventures on Nintendo 64 and GameCube, which featured bigger worlds and even some light platforming. Super Bomberman R takes a more classic arcade approach and pits you in a grid similar to battle mode, except with an unnatural isometric perspective that makes movement confusing. Enemies are dull, following simple patterns of meandering aimlessly through the arena and running into you, even on higher difficulty levels. In most stages, the goal is simply to clear out all enemies, which gets monotonous quickly. Though there are occasional missions that task you to hit switches or escort other bombers to the exit, it hardly changes the overall gameplay. At least each world adds a new mechanic, like bomb-attracting magnets and slippery surfaces. Otherwise, there’s little variety throughout the 40+ stages. Two-player cooperative multiplayer is a welcome addition but doesn’t improve the tedious gameplay.
The few shining moments that story mode delivered were the boss encounters with the Five Dastardly Bombers. Each boss comes in two forms: a fast-paced one-on-one bomb battle followed by a duel with a gigantic robot. Requiring strategic moves and quick reflexes, these larger-than-life duels were easily more gratifying than the typical stages. In addition, the Five Dastardly Bombers, along with the eight colorful members of the Bomber team, are brimming with personality, producing an entertaining story. Simple still-image fully-voiced cutscenes featuring the misadventures of Bomberman and his family mold the pink-antennae bombers into lively, likable mascots.
From a visual standpoint, Super Bomberman R looks bland. While minimalistic graphics are acceptable for an arcade-like experience, better visuals could have cloaked the lackluster arena design. The music is more impressive, delivering upbeat synthesized tracks to accompany the on-screen action.
If you’ve ever played a Bomberman game, nothing will surprise you about this modest entry. The fast-paced multiplayer action remains on top of its game, provided you’re not playing with the laggy online mode. But it’s still a tough sell, considering we’ve seen this standard battle mode before, and done better in some cases. Unless this is your only means of playing old-school Bomberman, there are cheaper and more content-rich options on older consoles. More than anything, Super Bomberman R serves as a blip on Bomberman’s heart monitor. As a fan of the series, I’m excited that the little white bomber is back, but he deserves better than this.
Note: This review was originally posted on DarkStation in April 2017, based on Version 1.2 and slightly updated for Version 1.3.1. As of this writing, Version 1.3.1 is the current version with Version 1.4 on the way.