|Dev: Konami, HexaDrive|
|Release: March 3, 2017|
|Players: 1-8 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 720p-1080p||Cartoon Violence|
by Sean Engemann
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.