Super Bomberman R’s explosive multiplayer packs a punch, but its short fuse fizzles out far too soon
At long last, Bomberman is back. It’s been a few years since we last saw the now-defunct studio Hudson Soft’s beloved pyromaniac in action. Thankfully, with the recent release of the social-savvy Nintendo Switch, the time is just right for Konami to resurrect the beloved franchise. And while Super Bomberman R may not be the most explosive title in the Switch’s launch lineup, it sure can be a blast when played with friends.
Super Bomberman R stays true to Hudson’s classic formula. Players take control of one of a squad of colorful Bombermen as they navigate mazes, blasting blocks and baddies to smithereens while taking care to avoid getting caught in an explosive chain reaction. It’s a simple recipe for fun, and it’s just as potent as ever today, over three decades since the original game introduced an entire generation to the joys of detonative delight.
Konami’s selection of modes featured in Super Bomberman R is surprisingly lean. Upon firing up the game, you’ll be able to choose between just two modes: Battle Mode, which allows players to battle it out in explosive online or local multiplayer matches, and the Story Mode, which is where the meat of Super Bomber Man R’s single-player content can be found.
Super Bomberman R‘s Story Mode tasks the Bombermen with traveling through five uniquely themed planets in a solar system as they work to overthrow the diabolical mad scientist Evil Emperor Buggler and his legion of Dark Bombers. Sure, it’s basically a repackaged take on Mega Man‘s Dr. Wily and the Robot Masters, but it’s a good enough excuse to get to blasting baddies to kingdom come. Each planet is also brought to life with whimsical, Saturday morning cartoon style cutscenes that breathe some welcome personality into the story and cast of characters. Don’t get me wrong – the story isn’t anything remotely worth writing home about, but it serves its purpose and will keep you entertained as you bombard your way through each planet’s gauntlet of challenges.
Each of Super Bomberman R‘s five planets is made up of eight stages. Most of these require you to simply blow up all of the enemies on the map, but eventually you’ll be task you with completing other challenges to progress to the next stage. Some objectives include flipping switches scattered across the environment, finding a set number of hidden keys hidden in destructible blocks, or rescuing and escorting NPCs to heavily-guarded extraction points. None of these challenges are especially ambitious, but let’s not forget it’s Bomberman we’re talking about here. What’s important is they do a good job of keeping the action fresh as you enact a scorched Earth policy on the game’s 50 unique stages.
Each planet is capped off with a grueling, two-part boss battle for you to complete. The first part will have you trading bombs with one of the Dark Bombers in a one-on-one showdown (that is, unless you’re playing the game with a co-op partner, which is definitely the more entertaining way to play Super Bomberman R). These battles can be a bit of a headache though, as the computer tends to play it incredibly safe, only moving when you do while being keenly aware of exactly where to stand when each explosive detonates. These pyrotechnic prognostics can make fights go on for entirely too long, making each win feel like little more than an act of luck than a hard-fought victory. After you finally best the Dark Bombers in a fair fight, they’ll up the ante by commandeering a giant mech to finish the fight. These battles are much more fun than the duels that come before them, and toppling each titanic terror will require keen pattern memorization, precise timing, and a whole heap of gems.
“Gems?”, you say? Yes, Super Bomberman R has a bit of a micro-transaction system baked into it, with gems being the preferred currency of Bombers everywhere. Gems are earned from completing stages, and can be spent on continuing your progress, as well as on various accessories and bonus maps in the game’s built-in marketplace. It’s not an awful system, per se. But I can’t help but wish the game just used a more conventional credit system, as simply muscling your way through the game by essentially credit-feeding can feel ultimately unsatisfying.
Of course, Super Bomberman R‘s real fun is found in the game’s adversarial multiplayer modes. When playing locally, up to four players can duke it out on a single Switch tablet, while up to eight players can participate when playing on a television. The more players you add, the more chaotic – and much more entertaining – the explosive mayhem gets. The sense of satisfaction that comes with kicking a bomb like a volatile kickball across the map and watching four columns of raging flame reduce a gaggle of human opponents to dust is nothing shore of wonderful. The only downside comes from the game’s rather lean selection of 8 maps to start with, though more can be unlocked with gems in the aforementioned shop menu. That minor gripe aside, Super Bomberman R is without a doubt the best party game you’ll find on the Switch at this time thanks to its addictive multiplayer component.
Online matches aren’t too shabby, either, with everything working just as you’d expect it to. The only real gripe I have at the time of this writing is the relatively sparse community which can make finding a match a bit of a hassle. Hopefully the game’s community grows in the weeks ahead. As of right now, only time will tell as far as that goes.
Super Bomberman R‘s visuals certainly don’t put the Nintendo Switch to the test, but they’re perfectly serviceable. The game is colorful, and each of the maps you’ll explore are vibrant and full of strange and interesting enemies to explode. It runs really well too, even when plenty of monsters and explosions are filling the screen. My only real complaint with the game’s presentation has to do with the pseudo-isometric camera angle, which can make navigating the mazes very cumbersome at times, especially when it comes to spotting small ramps and barriers which are easy to miss due to the camera’s awkward positioning. This, combined with some occasionally slippery controls when using the Joy-Con (the game handled fine when played with the Switch Pro Controller), can result in plenty of cheap deaths.
If there’s one are where Super Bomberman R‘s production really shines, it’s the music. Each stage is brought to life with some really fantastic music. These tracks range from traditional sounding Japanese instrumentation to pumping techno and even some infectious J-Pop ditties. If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably have these tunes stuck in your head for several hours after you power off the game. And you won’t regret it one bit. I mean it – Not. One. Bit.
Super Bomberman R may not be able to dethrone Saturn Bomberman when it comes to pure pyrotechnic perfection, but it’s still a solid entry in the series, and a welcome return to form for one of gaming’s most beloved icons. The main story’s 50 missions can be blown through in a flash, but they’re fun while they last and serve as a great way to hone your skills for the game’s infectious multiplayer mode. However, with just two modes to offer, $50 may be a bit of a steep asking price for what you’re getting here.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (reviewed) ; Publisher: Konami ; Developer: Konami, HexaDrive ; Players: 1-8 ; Released: March 3rd, 2017; ESRB: E10+; MSRP: $49.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Super Bomberman R purchased by HeyPoorPlayer.