Super Bomberman R
Developer(s): Konami, HexaDrive
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Release date(s): March 3rd, 2017
The revival of the recently-dormant Bomberman franchise is not something to be taken lightly. The explosion-obsessed hero has certainly been M.I.A as of late, and with his original developers Hudson Soft. closing up shop, hope seemed lost. With Konami now owning the rights to this once-great mascot, the pressure is certainly on to bring classic Bomberman back to the modern era. Unfortunately, Super Bomberman R’s steep price tag and lackluster single player options result in an experience that fizzles out way too soon.
Classic Bomberman games have always followed a simple formula in both single player and multiplayer: navigate a grid, drop bombs, blow up the enemies/opponents. Super Bomberman R revives this gameplay and keeps it largely unchanged. Powerups can be collected to improve things like blast distance and bomb count, barriers can be destroyed to get closer to the enemies, and new abilities can be learned mid-match in order to create more offensive options. It has worked well for years and certainly hasn’t lost its charm, and while Super Bomberman R doesn’t do much more than add a fresh coat of paint to the blueprint, it didn’t really need to do much else.
Multiplayer has been the heart and soul of the Bomberman franchise for years, and this entry gives fans exactly what they expect. Battle Mode pits players against each other in bomb-based warfare with the goal being to be the last Bomber alive. The more players that join the mix, the more frantic it becomes. The Nintendo Switch benefits great from this type of gameplay, as each Joycon half can be used by a player. Super Bomberman R even supports up to eight players via local play, which is just as hectic as it sounds.
This type of gameplay has remained fun over so many years due to its simple nature. Anyone can hop in and start blowing up their opponents in a matter of minutes, and matches are often quick enough to keep players from having to wait. The portability of the Switch makes it even easier to set these games up, although TV play works fine as well. It’s an addictive experience that is as hilarious as it is timeless, it’s just a shame the single player doesn’t live up to expectations.
Story mode in Super Bomberman R is nothing more than a chore. Gameplay is largely identical to the multiplayer except with the maps taking on new shapes and enemy Bombermen being replaced with little enemies that each have their own movement patterns. It’s a style that has been around since the early days of Bomberman, but it just feels archaic in 2017. Levels don’t do enough to differentiate themselves from each other, boss battles are frustrating rather than fun (albeit with some cool fights here and there), and the objectives stating “defeat x number of enemies” or “touch x number of switches” are just plain dull. Repetition sets in quickly, even in the co-op mode.
The best part about the story mode is the Saturday morning cartoon-esque cutscenes that take place between worlds. They are fully voice acted, well animated, and cheesy enough to let the player know that the game isn’t taking itself too seriously. It’s a nice addition that serves as the only real reason to trudge through the story.
The price tag is what hurts this title the most, as an msrp of $49.99 is just too much for a game like this. The multiplayer is as fun as it’s ever been, but it lacks content and doesn’t do anything extra to warrant the inflated price tag. Bomberman games have been released in the past at around $10, and while they only include the multiplayer modes, it still shows the lack of value in Konami’s package. Super Bomberman R should have simply focused on the multiplayer by either ditching the story mode and dropping the price tag, or adding a ton of new multiplayer content to the already great formula. As it stands, it simply isn’t worth the cash.
Visually, this is the best Bomberman has ever looked, although that isn’t saying much. The grid-based maps certainly look pretty, they just don’t look varied. It would have been interesting to see these visuals used for an adventure themed story mode instead of a grid based one (see Bomberman 64 and Bomberman Heroes). Unfortunately, the visual upgrade doesn’t do much to alleviate the game’s overall sense of tedium.
There are unlockable extras in the game, but the system is so shallow that it isn’t even worth paying attention to. In game currency is used to buy new hats, new stages, and continue in the story mode. It would have been nice to see some substantial content with a $50 price tag, but that just isn’t the case here.
With a reasonable price tag and a focus on the multiplayer, Super Bomberman R could have been great. The current model would have been passable if the game was half the price of its msrp, but the developers were just too set on shoehorning in a disappointing story mode in an attempt to justify the high price point. While the multiplayer mode is bound to provide hours of entertainment, it simply isn’t enough. It’s clear that the Bomberman franchise needs to take a new approach to its releases in the future, as it currently doesn’t offer enough bang for the buck.