In the early years of the N64/Playstation era, many of gaming’s classic franchises were getting 3D overhauls. In 1997, Hudson Soft’s Bomberman made the jump to the new dimension on the Nintendo 64 with the aptly-named Bomberman 64.
With the then-new 3D visuals, Bomberman could move more freely than ever, with bigger environments to explore, and players could move the camera in eight different directions (even when paused!).
The core gameplay remained reminiscent of the 2D entries, as Bomberman still planted bombs to destroy objects and enemies, though there have been some tweaks to the formula: Bomberman can now kick and throw bombs without the need of power-ups, like in most games in the series. He can also “pump” the bombs he holds to make them larger and more powerful.
What really set Bomberman 64 apart from its predecessors, however, was the adventure mode. Bomberman 64’s single-player adventure mode was more story-focused than previous games, with Bomberman out to save his planet from a space-travelling villain named Altair and his band of Bomberman-like cohorts.
The adventure mode is split into five worlds, with the first four being selectable from the get-go. Each world has four stages, with levels one and three being the standard stages, while two and four are always a boss fight. Not every level progresses exactly the same, which adds some variety to the stages (in the first level in the first world for example, Bomberman needs to step on four hidden switches to activate the exit, while on the third he is chasing down a giant emerald, which is repeatedly carried away by an enemy).
Even more notably, each level contains five secret gold cards, which are either hidden away or acquired by performing certain tasks (think Xbox achievements, but long before Xbox achievements). Collecting all 100 gold cards unlocks a secret sixth world, as well as revealing more elements in the game’s story.
Admittedly, the adventure mode, while ambitious, has a good deal of missteps: The stages are either too easy or just simply aren’t compelling. You have less control over the camera during the big boss fights at the end of each world, which often makes them feel clunky. And you may find yourself getting flustered when either trying to pick up or kick a bomb, as you often are trying to do one, but end up doing the other. Still, it provides some solid fun when it wants to.
Seeing as this is a Bomberman game, however, you’ll mainly be concerned with the multiplayer mode. For the most part, it doesn’t disappoint.
Battle mode can be played with up to four players (you can even fight computer AI if you simply get tired of adventure mode), and sees the Bombermen facing off against one another in single-screen arenas like in the other games of the series. The mechanics work the same as the single player mode, but without a camera to maneuver some of the perspectives of the environments can get a little confusing.
Even if a player gets blown up, they can still partake in a match as a ghost who can hop on the back of a remaining opponent and temporarily mess with their controls. Whoever gets three victories first wins the battle mode.
As is the norm with Bomberman, the multiplayer is simple but addictive. It doesn’t stack up to the better Bomberman games, but if you have a full party of friends and an N64 you could do a whole lot worse.
Bomberman 64 is a difficult game to rate. It can provide a lot of fun with its multiplayer mode even without taking nostalgia into account. Completionists may have a good time collecting all the gold cards and unlocking customizable costume parts and stages for the battle mode. But the game has suffered from age in a number of areas regarding the adventure mode, and even the battle mode can be a little hindered by the confusing perspectives.
Simply put, if you have enough friends over, you can never go wrong with Bomberman, not even with 64’s drawbacks. But Bomberman 64 without a full party simply isn’t, well, a party.