There are few more deeply established institutions in the world of multiplayer gaming than Bomberman. Born on the NES and MSX as a one-off single player experience in the mid-80s, it wasn’t until Hudson Soft resurrected the concept in 1990 on NEC’s underappreciated PC Engine (or Turbo GrafX if you prefer, though the software lineups between regions were so radically disparate that they may as well have been different systems) with its five-port multi-tap that the concept would realize its true potential. Although Hudson would offer up the token Bomberman II to launch alongside NES multitaps Four Score and Satellite during this era, it topped off at three players and didn’t serve as much of a clue as to what the series was doing elsewhere.
As NEC’s console presence in the west began to wane, however, and Bomberman, among many other franchises that had made the PC Engine their home, over the course of a few popular sequels, proved too good to leave on a platform that wasn’t enjoying global success. A mainstream breakthrough became inevitable. That would eventually come to pass in 1993 with Super Bomberman, a wildly successful reintroduction to Nintendo fans complete with the true multiplayer Bomberman experience for the first time on a Nintendo platform. Super Bomberman would quickly grow into a complete branch of the brand all its own, racking up five titles in only four years on the Super NES. It wasn’t the ultimate high point for the franchise (that honor is reserved for 1997’s Saturn Bomberman), but it was still an important one. It’s what makes the name of the current attempt at reviving the brand, Super Bomberman R, so specifically telling of what is being attempted.
So with all of these success stories and this talk of rampant popularity, why is another revival even necessary? The answer lies in the simple fact that Bomberman is a former Hudson property, which was gulped up by Konami a few years back with all the rest. This is, of course, the same Konami that alienated most of the industry during the debacle that was Metal Gear Solid V’s development cycle and gave every indication in the wake of it all that they wanted nothing more to do with the gaming business, apparently opting to reinvent the company around the pachislot medium instead.
What Is It?
Super Bomberman R is Konami’s surprise contribution to the Nintendo Switch launch lineup, giving Nintendo’s seventh home console some major old-school credentials right out of the gate. (To be fair, it wouldn’t have had to wait long otherwise, with Blaster Master Zero out within days of the launch itself.) It is the first Bomberman title to bear the “Super” name since those prime 16-bit releases, which leaves nothing uncertain about what this game aspires to achieve.
As for the “R”, you can safely assume it stands for “Rangers”, as Bomberman is joined on this adventure with seven counterparts who, playable though they might be, mostly want no part of any of this. The lone exception is the hot-blooded Red Bomber, who finds a working synergy between his love of justice and his love of wanton destruction. Everyone else – the “above it all” Black Bomber, lethargic hacker Blue Bomber, two-faced suck-up Green Bomber, airheaded Yellow Bomber, competent but largely disinterested Pink Bomber, and insufferably infantile Aqua Bomber – all run closer to being liabilities than companions or teammates to Bomberman.
The enemy is Emperor Buggler and his Buggler Army, including the “Five Dastardly Bombers”, which don’t really represent anything new or groundbreaking as Bomberman antagonists, but are serviceable opposition as you play through the Starry Sky Solar System’s five well-varied worlds that make up Super Bomberman R’s one- or two-player Story Mode.
Why Should I Care?
Super Bomberman R’s campaign is certainly an enjoyable and even challenging journey that you’ll be acquainting yourself with quite well as you work to unlock the game’s bonus content, but at the end of the day, this is still a Bomberman game. Like any self-respecting Bomberman game, competitive multiplayer is where it truly justifies that $49.99 price tag.
Fresh out of the box, competitive multiplayer is an ideal presence on the Nintendo Switch, allowing you to connect up to eight Joy-Cons for, naturally, eight-player matches, and you start out with a strong variety of stages available with even more that can be unlocked in the game’s shop. Four-player matches play out by default on the same size of map you’ve known for years, while they’re expanded slightly to accommodate players in excess of that number.
Once you get up to seven or eight players, unfortunately, even that expansion feels a little congested. Konami may have been well advised to employ the same dimensions Hudson used for Saturn Bomberman’s 10-player matches. Perhaps it’s something that a patch or future DLC can solve, though, and even as it is, it doesn’t do that much to mar the otherwise great game of multiplayer Bomberman that you’ll get with R. With the eight-player support working as well as it does, the wealth of stages available, and some of the best rule customization options ever provided, it’s clear that Konami is taking Bomberman’s multiplayer reputation seriously.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Of all hardware manufacturers, Nintendo has always been more deeply invested in single-screen multiplayer than anyone else, and with both Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2 failing to make the Switch launch, Super Bomberman R’s surprise appearance on the lineup serves to both bail Nintendo out of a jam and declare to the gaming world that Bomberman is still very much alive in 2017. Bigger multiplayer games may be on the way, but Super Bomberman R will still give you plenty of reasons to gather around the TV – or perhaps even just the Switch itself – for a long time to come.