This Cherry Bomb’s a Dud
A blast from the past, Bomberman games have lit their little fuses for decades now, popping up every now and then in different forms on different platforms. Its staple gameplay of blasting walls and incinerating enemies (and friends) has burned fond memories into many gamers nostalgic minds, making it an easily recognizable series. It seems perfectly suited to complement Nintendo’s quirky new console, and if it were a budget-friendly eShop offering, Super Bomberman R would have been. However, with minimal content options, an obscenely brief solo campaign, and frustrating controls, the $50 price tag is far too steep to recommend as a launch day purchase.
If you ignite Super Bomberman R ’s Story Mode first, you’ll have to suffer (or skip through) some pretty bad, Saturday morning anime-inspired cartoon cutscenes. It sets the scene by introducing an evil mastermind bent on destroying the universe with the help of his Dastardly Bombers, five sinister, yet easily flappable, underlings who helm the boss battles at the end of each world’s eight stages. Each board presents a winning condition of finding keys, flipping switches, rescuing hostages, or clearing out every last baddie. New mechanical enemy types are introduced to hinder your progress, such as jumping grasshoppers, drill-tipped drag racers, bomb eating chompers, and others. You’d think this would bolster the strategic requirements, but in practice placing well-timed bombs with a dash of luck takes care of the objectives. On the other hand, luck takes the forefront in part one of the boss battles, where the Dastardly Bombers have a chess-like mastery of finding a safe spot away from the blast zone. Part two consists of the boss in a massive mechanical form, where blasting the weak spots becomes a tedious chore rather than an exciting climax.
After clearing the Super Bomberman R campaign in roughly two hours, you’ll feel unfulfilled, a little cheated, and somewhat frustrated with the death dealing controls. For likely presentational purposes, the camera lens in the Story Mode is isometric, which is fine, but tilted at an angle, which is not. This odd perspective makes it difficult to maneuver around the grid-like stage. On larger boards with a cooperative partner, too much distance apart can cause one of you to get lost off-screen or covered by the interface. This annoyance is compounded by a movement system that requires absolute precision in your turns. If you don’t hit the gap just right, you’re left staring at a barrier while the fuse on your bomb dwindles or overshooting and heading down the next alley, likely into the embrace of an enemy. The frustration even has you question whether you should pick up speed and bomb upgrades that are revealed or burn them off the board.
Switching over to the multiplayer Battle Mode yields an opposing force of controls, actually feeling heavy, sluggish, and unresponsive. This is particularly irritating in online battles, where the slightest hiccup in the network connection (which happened many times in nearly every one of my online matches) can toast your Bomberman’s butt right off the screen. Considering there are ranked League Battles accompanying the casual Free Battles, tight controls and a smooth connection should have been at the top of the quality assurance checklist. At least the viewing angle is at a clean, centered, nearly top-down angle, with a dodgeball like perimeter for players knocked out early to perch and still affect the outcome, or even get tagged back in.
Super Bomberman R ’s control vexations aren’t limited to the action on-screen, but a poor thought process in the menu screens. For instance, if you have been playing the Story Mode solo using both Joy-Cons in the grip, a partner couldn’t simply pop in and play, even though the “Press Any Button” signal on the bottom right of the screen suggests you can. In order to do this you have to go back to the main menu, start a local multiplayer battle, and go to the final setup screen in order to change the controls to Horizontal, which allows each Joy-Con to sync individually. Also, there is no “Quit” option during a match. You can leave the game, but you have to press the “Battle Menu” option, which you wouldn’t immediately guess translates into “Quit”. Yes, some issues are small, but they’re still big enough that they should have been caught before the final release.
Local multiplayer is where Super Bomberman R is meant to be played, and should be the only redeeming quality when deciding whether to purchase the game. It is a welcome addition to any party lineup or couch gathering, allowing up to eight players to join the mayhem. Getting caught between a bomb and a wall, quietly (or vocally) setting your sights on a singular opponent, and narrowly avoided a blast are all elements that will strengthen (or test) relationships. In the end you’ll likely be joking and taunting your couch neighbors, and loading up the next grudge match.
For the most part the visuals are decent and appropriate for the series, with nothing too flashy. The multiplayer arenas are easy to decipher and don’t clutter the screen with bloated details. The Story Mode, despite its odd camera angles, shows off some nice shading effects from an unseen sun, and the enemy animations are simple and consistent. The massive mechanical bosses are imposing, thoughtfully crafted, and beautifully designed. The menu screens are a bit on the paltry side, as are the cartoon cutscenes, but at least they get the job done.
The music is a mixed bag, with the criticisms taking up more space than the compliments. Super Bomberman R ’s main menu melody harkens back to the 8-bit days, but the excessively high pitch makes me reach for a bottle of Tylenol to soothe the imminent headache. Most of the Story Mode world themes are too short and repetitive, with the soothing New Age-style of the snow world, Planet LaLaLand, being the pleasant exception. The localization efforts, with the regards to the voice acting, is amateur at best, and I still can’t conclude whether the wooden delivery is merely a lack of quality or done by design to supplement the cheesy cutscenes. Battles are rife with the sounds of exploding bombs, but like the musical score, they pull from old-school archives, and in this respect some full-powered explosions coming through the speakers would have been nice.
If you want Super Bomberman R for the occasional good time blasting your friends and family around the television, then it is worth considering, but only down the road when the price drops significantly. At $50, there is simply too little it offers and too much it does wrong. With the issues presented, it begs speculation as to whether Konami simply cranked this out quickly to capitalize on the hype of the launch of a new system.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
The Story Mode is pleasant, the bosses artistic and imposing, and the multiplayer arenas clean and simple. 2.2 Control
You have loose controls in the campaign, and heavy controls in multiplayer, not to mention a wonky camera in the Story Mode. 2.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music feels retro, but some tracks are irritating and repetitive. The voice acting is remedial, and the sound effects needed a little more “BOOM!” 2.2 Play Value
With a $50 price tag, the value is obscenely lacking. Unless you’re a die-hard Bomberman fan, wait for a bomb-sized price drop before picking this one up. 2.8 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|