Super Bomberman R
The past 20+ years have largely been good to the Bomberman series. Well-received games on the Saturn, N64, SNES, Xbox 360, and a PS3 re-release have given the series highly regarded games on major platforms. As a multi-player franchise, it has been something that usually worked perfectly either offline or online – with the Saturn Bomberman offering up 10 player action, and most games since offering up eight players. Super Bomberman R comes along at an interesting time for the franchise and launches on brand-new hardware for the first time ever.
The Switch itself feels like the perfect device for a new Bomberman game. The ability to play on the go via the handheld mode, and then play it on a TV with friends, works perfectly – plus, you can control the game with just one JoyCon. This may not be ideal, but for a minimalist game like this that doesn’t need a lot of buttons, it is serviceable. Super Bomberman R finds itself in a tough spot because of a few things – its heyday as a retail game has long since passed due to the ever-changing market making games like this a digital-centric affair. This leads to the price point being worth around $20 to most – and that’s actually a bit more than the last game cost, which had more overall content than this one does now.
Super Bomberman R’s launch price of $50 is its most divisive point and is tough to fully justify. On one hand, Konami and DexaDrive have released an excellent overall game. There isn’t a ton of content, but what’s here is largely good offline – but highly-flawed online. The bulk of the single player is a story mode with a blend of silly and goofy animated cutscenes, and a “take over the world” plot that has been done to death. It works, but the only part that sticks out are the various bomber brothers and sisters being given personalities and checking off boxes along the way. You’ve got the smart one, the rage-filled one, the secret badass girl who acts like she has a heart of gold, but can destroy you. There’s no new ground broken, but it works as a whole.
The core mechanics of “bomb things out of your way before bombing enemies and being the last person standing” hold true most of the time. This formula is changed up with key-grabbing and exit-finding stages, but even then, the goal is to clear a path and destroy as much as you can in the area to find the correct way out. It’s an odd diversion in a way, but it does work at adding a bit more core content while mixing the formula up a tad too.
The story itself is basic Saturday morning cartoon fare and isn’t all that exciting, but it’s not awful – just nothing special. The core missions are fun and the best parts are easily the boss battles. They take the game’s usual mix of puzzles and peril, and raise the stakes by pitting you against gargantuan beasts that test your skills. Every boss battle has two stages where you fight the main enemy and then face them in another form in a giant mech suit of some degree. You have to figure out the best way to not only avoid their attacks, but damage them with a slew of bombs while also avoiding blowing yourself up.
These battles can be tough, but they’re also quite rewarding. The game’s ‘continue’ system is quite fair – especially if you’ve spent some time online. Playing online allows you to earn coins, and it only takes 10 coins to earn a ‘continue’ and keep fighting right where you left off in the main game. This is forgiving, perhaps too much so for some, but with this no doubt being the first Bomberman game for some players, it’s a wise inclusion. It allows the main campaign to be enjoyed in as frustration-free a manner as possible and while it is lean on content, the stages are a lot of fun and can always be counted on to provide thrilling action.
Sadly, the online action can’t be counted on for much of anything beyond excessive lag. Bomberman Live on the Xbox 360 and Bomberman Ultra on the PS3 were the last true entries in the series; they were online-centric and they had far better netcode than this does. Mode selection is sparse, character customization is somehow worse than those games, and the level of lag during every single game I played was worse than anything ever encountered in a Bomberman game before. This has lag the likes of which I haven’t seen in a decade and reminds me of a one bar connection game of Street Fighter Anniversary on the original Xbox where you can technically play the game, but the experience is so sub-par that it doesn’t do justice to any part of the experience. It’s worth soldiering through to some extent for the single player game’s continues, but is an absolute slog in its current state.
Visually, Super Bomberman R is a minor upgrade in some ways over the 360-era game, but not by much. The character models are a bit more detailed, but the worlds themselves are far less varied than before. The wider variety of camera angles are a mixed bag as well, as the straight overhead view makes things easy to see, while the slightly tilted view provided by some stages makes judging where you are in relation to the rest of the stage somewhat harder. The franchise’s usual light-hearted music is back, but lacks flare. The songs keep you going during a match, but that’s about it – none of it sticks with you after a play session. The voiceover work is technically solid at times, if a bit stereotypical. You’ve got a nerdy character, a needlessly aggressive one, and super-evil characters. They’re all pretty one note and aren’t memorable, even if it’s all reasonably well done.
Super Bomberman R finds itself in a bad spot. It’s a fine game in some ways, but is far too lean on content to be worth a full-priced purchase as it stands. The mode selection offline and online is sparse, and the online play is absolutely dreadful. There’s no good reason a game in 2017 should have online play as laggy as this is, and what’s worse is that the 2007 Xbox 360 and PS3 entries wind up eclipsing it in terms of quantity and quality of content. Super Bomberman R is a fine rental for die-hard fans but for newcomers, you’re far better off going with either Bomberman Ultra on the PS3 or Bomberman Live on the 360 – you’ll get far more bang for your buck.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
This review is based on a retail copy of Super Bomberman R for the Nintendo Switch provided by Konami.