As an explosive blast from the past, Super Bomberman R came as a welcome surprise when it was revealed at the Nintendo Switch Presentation 2017.
We last saw Hudson Soft’s character in Xbox Live Arcade release Bomberman Live: Battlefest, but, after the publisher merged with Konami in March 2012, the Bomberman series has since endured a seven-year hiatus.
With their arch nemesis Buggler once again threatening to destroy the entire universe after he summons the Five Dastardly Bombers, the righteous and robotic Bomberman Bros. leave Planet Bomber to put an end to his trail of destruction.
That pressing narrative unravels in the main Story Mode, where many players will first spend their time refamiliarizing themselves with the game’s chaotic bombing action. There are few surprises to the classic formula, with players placing bombs that create an explosion in four directions to blow up walls and wandering enemies.
You will come to rely on power-ups to help you on the road to victory, whether that be to speed up your character, let you drop more bombs at once, to increase their blast radius, or to even let you punch or kick them across the maze.
While a second player can join you in your quest to restore peace to the galaxy, this mode sees completion in each stage requiring that you tread on switches or destroy marauding foes to activate the teleporter to make your escape on to the next. As can be expected these become increasingly busy over the time, with developer HexaDrive throwing more enemies at you as you progress, which, on each world, builds to a point where you face off against one of the Dastardly Bombers.
These boss battles do away with the usual maze-like level design, instead, seeing players freely move around the stage as they dodge the Dastardly Bomber’s attacks and retaliate with a bomb bombardment targeted at their weak point. It certainly feels more dynamic, even if the execution doesn’t always feel on point.
Where Super Bomberman R will, understandably, draw more attention is in multiplayer. The Nintendo Switch exclusive presents online and local battle modes, each with varying success.
When taking on other players online you can choose between the ranked League Battle option or Free Battle, where you are free to choose the game rules and stage. League Battle will rank players with Battle Points, which increase with each victory and tumble in response to any loss – success promoting you to higher leagues. There is a simplicity to the often maddening multiplayer that is magical, but, when taken online, despite a software update there are still latency issues that are hampering the experience.
This won’t be a concern for those that are simply looking to gather a crowd together to enjoy multiplayer locally, with the game allowing for up to eight players to get involved. This is far easier to achieve given how easy the Joy-Con are to pair, and, if that doesn’t excite you enough, you can also play locally across four Nintendo Switch consoles with two players on each. If this is a glimpse at how multiplayer games will work down the line, then it’s certainly a promising one.
However, the back to basics approach means that it is only in a lack of choice that Super Bomberman R falters, which, given the lofty price tag, soon becomes a greater concern. This is a clear complaint that many have levelled at the game, and, while Konami has promised that free downloadable content is on the way, the sparse content is a hurdle that will sway most away from a purchase at the moment.