Bomberman explodes back onto the scene
Very few multiplayer games had as big of an impact on my social circle during the ’90s as Bomberman. Like clockwork, my friends would gather at my place for our daily fix of Hudson Soft’s frenetic, bomb-blasting extravaganza. It was thrilling, explosive, and there was nothing else like it on the market.
Despite Bomberman‘s continued popularity, uncertainty surrounded its future following Hudson’s sudden closure in 2012. Fast-forward five years and miraculously, Bomberman has received a new lease on life by its new stewards at Konami. That game is Super Bomberman R for Nintendo Switch.
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Developer: Konami Digital Entertainment, HexaDrive
Publisher: Konami Digital Entertainment
Release Date: March 3, 2017
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10+)
Old-school Gameplay on Nintendo’s Latest Console
Super Bomberman R marks the 33rd entry in this venerable party game series, and for it, Konami has gone decidedly traditional. Back is the classic gameplay where you navigate grid-based maps and blow up destructible walls to reveal power-ups.
There’s a plethora of recognizable items to collect, from Skates that increase your movement speed, to Bomb-Ups that boost you bomb capacity by one. Using these items, you race around the battle arena strategically planting bombs to blast your opponents into the afterlife. It’s familiar and fun, sticking rigidly close to the series’ proven formula.
Time-tested Bombing Action
Despite treading familiar ground, the core gameplay in Super Bomberman R is as fun as ever. Running around battle arenas and deviously detonating bombs is satisfying, especially with the graphical boost on Nintendo Switch. Matches are generally fast, fun, and full of unexpected moments.
It’s also easy to learn for newcomers, while offering depth for those who invest the time. Setting bombs is done using one button, making the game highly accessible for those playing for the very first time. Meanwhile, more advanced tricks like punching or kicking bombs open up once you’ve mastered the basics. Even when these new moves are layered in, the controls never get overbearing in the heat of battle.
Super Bomberman R’s Battle Mode
As expected, playing Bomberman‘s Battle Mode with friends locally is where the most entertainment can be had. Up to eight people can play locally when your Switch is connected to the TV, or four people can play on the tablet screen. You can also sync multiple Switches together via WiFi, increasing the total player count to eight.
Playing with friends is tremendous fun, especially when everyone gets reasonably good at the game. Rounds get chaotic quickly as everyone drops, kicks, punches, and throws bomb in a fast-paced battle for supremacy.
8 Multiplayer Maps, Expandable to 18
By default, there are eight different multiplayer maps to choose from, each with their own gimmick. For example, Slippery Garden contains rows of ice that will make your character slide uncontrollably, while the Magnetic Sphere map has magnets that draws bombs towards them.
If you prefer classic Bomberman action, there’s also a plain grid map with no extras. While eight starter maps isn’t a lot, a further ten can be unlocked using currency you naturally earn as you play the game.
Battle Mode Customizations
A few battle mode customizations exist, including the ability to toggle Revenge Carts, Pressure Blocks, and Skulls. Revenge Carts give you a second chance at life by letting you toss bombs from the perimeter after getting blown up.
Next, Pressure Blocks activate Bomberman’s sudden death mode, and makes blocks rapidly fill the battle arena when the countdown clock reaches one minute. Lastly, Skulls infect your character with all kinds of nasty poisons, including extremely slow walking speed, or dropping bombs uncontrollably.
It’s great to see these customizations, but disappointingly there’s less than you’d find in the last few Bomberman games. For instance, Bomberman Blast had six different Battle mode variants, including team battles and an explosive air raid mode. Similarly, Bomberman Live had expanded options, like being able to turn individual power-ups on or off. Adding some of those features could have really rounded out Super Bomberman R‘s multiplayer offering.
It’s not always possible to get a bunch of friends together for local play, and that’s when Online mode comes in handy. Here you’re able to create matches with customized rules, or enter competitive league battles where you can rank up to challenge tougher player pools.
Joining up with friends to play online is a fairly painless process, I discovered. First, you need to swap friend codes, then have one person create a custom online battle. The rest of the group can then join the match, and any remaining spots can be filled by other online players. The whole set-up took just a couple of minutes.
My initial experience playing Super Bomberman R online was, to put it bluntly, a mess. Lag was persistent in every battle, even when I selected to play against those with a “good connection.” Thankfully, Konami quickly acknowledged the poor state of online play and released a patch to improve performance.
Since the patch, my experience playing online has been significantly better. Lag is minimized, and the overall controls are much more precise. I can now zip around corners with ease, and advanced moves like stopping bombs mid-kick feels noticeably more accurate. In short, the online component now works.
Konami has also publicly stated that more online optimizations are coming, so we can expect even more improvements down the road.
Super Bomberman R’s Story Mode
Multiplayer is the bread and butter of Super Bomberman R, but its 50-stage, two-player Story mode is also worth checking out. In it, you’ll meet the eight Bomberman Bros., a name I find odd since the group includes six brothers and two sisters. Like the 7 Dwarfs, each Bomberman Bros embodies one main trait, like Red who’s hot-tempered, and Aqua who’s a staunch pacifist.
The tale begins with a bad guy named Professor Buggler reawakening the Five Dastardly Bombers, with each one taking up residence on a different planet in the Bomberman Bros’ star system. Naturally, it’s your job to visit each world and dispose of the unwelcome Dastardly Bombers. For the most part, the story is fairly ordinary, though I did really enjoy the bright and colourful anime-style cutscenes that set up the action.
Each planet contains 10 stages, comprised of eight objective-style stages, a duel against an A.I. opponent, and finally culminating with a large mecha boss fight. Objectives range from clearing all enemies, rescuing stranded Bomberman characters, finding hidden keys, and staying alive for a specified period of time. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before in other games, but the variety of mission types helps keep the gameplay fresh.
Battles against the Dastardly Bombers and the boss fights are the highlights of Story mode. Every Dastardly Bomber has a unique special power, like bombs that are magnetically drawn to you, or explosives that detonate at varying times. The final battles are even more impressive with their enormous and highly detailed mechanized bosses that can fill half the screen. Bosses possess tremendous firepower too, and when you factor in your own bomb attacks, battle arenas quickly become dangerous raging infernos.
Super Bomberman R doesn’t revolutionize the franchise, instead it marks the return of traditional Bomberman gameplay on the Nintendo Switch console. I enjoyed the Story mode, especially the impressive boss fights, but the multiplayer Battle mode is where I spent most of my time. Playing with friends locally is a total riot, and the online component, while not yet perfect, has come a long way since launch. If you’re looking for a great multiplayer game for your Nintendo Switch, Super Bomberman R is a blast.
+ Accessible and energetic gameplay
+ Fun Story mode, playable solo or co-op
+ Nice 3D graphics
+ Refreshing boss fights
+ Incredibly fun multiplayer
– Limited multiplayer customizations
– Online play could be smoother
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5
Overall Rating: 3.75/5 (75%)