Wario Blast: Featuring Bomberman Review

Despite having originally been released in 1983, Bomberman is a timeless game, comparable to Tetris or Super Mario Bros. in this regard. Like Tetris, Bomberman is the kind of game that’s held up well enough that it could be ported to any modern console or device and be justified in doing so. And like Super Mario, it has produced numerous sequels in the decades since its original release.

But Bomberman sits somewhere between Tetris and Mario. Tetris is still released on every available platform to this day, and Super Mario Bros. – though holding up well on its own merits – has been bettered multiple times over by its sequels. Bomberman, meanwhile, has seen many iterations through the years, and while some of them have added a lot to the formula (Saturn Bomberman being a particular highlight), many of its sequels are so close to the original that they can feel more like ports.

That brings us to Bomberman GB. As its name implies, Bomberman GB was to be the Gameboy edition of the series. Released in 1994, Bomberman GB successfully brought the classic Bomberman gameplay to the handheld. But for the game’s release outside of Japan, Bomberman GB was given a slight makeover. Hudson Soft (Bomberman’s now-defunct original developer) and Nintendo decided to add one of the latter’s characters into the game, and chose to use Wario, the comically villainous “anti-Mario” who had debuted two years earlier in Super Mario Land 2 and quickly became one of Nintendo’s most iconic characters.

The end result was Wario Blast: Featuring Bomberman, a game which successfully translates the Bomberman gameplay to Nintendo’s Gameboy handheld, but doesn’t do too much more than that. Though Wario Blast is fun, it’s far from the best Bomberman game, and the fact that Wario’s presence in the title is simply cosmetic means his addition – while welcome – isn’t exactly meaningful.

Like any traditional Bomberman game, the goal is to eliminate all of your opponents on the battlefield. Your weapons are (quite obviously) bombs, which you use to destroy obstacles in your path, and ultimately try to blow up your opponents. The bombs explode in lines that travel in four directions, and you are susceptible to your own bomb blasts, meaning you’ll often have to take cover behind walls to avoid destruction by your own hand, as well as your enemies’.

Some of the usual Bomberman power-ups also return, and can be found after destroying certain obstacles. The bomb power-up allows you to plant an additional bomb on the field (one extra bomb for every power-up gained), while the fire power-up increases the range of your bombs’ explosions (making it easier to destroy your foes…and yourself). There is also a skull power-up, which is something of a double-edged sword. At first, the skull power-up seems purely bad, as it temporarily removes your ability to plant bombs (as well as the character skills you learn as the game progresses). But on the plus side, if you’re crafty enough, touching an opponent while under the effects of the skull will remove their ability to plant bombs as well. And if you infect an enemy with the skull, its negative effects will wear out on you before them, making for an easier target.

In a nutshell, it’s Bomberman, but on the Gameboy. On the plus side, Bomberman is one of the few games that could be translated onto the original Gameboy and not feel like it’s sacrificing the series’ quality for the sake of portability. On the downside, it’s Bomberman… but on Gameboy. That’s all well and fine, except unlike Tetris, this isn’t supposed to be a port, but is instead one of Bomberman’s less creative sequels.

There are some changes, with the most prominent (aside from Wario’s mug being added to the game) being that the rest of Bomberman’s usual items (such as the ability to kick your bombs forward) are now instead permanent abilities that are learned after defeating bosses.

There are eight worlds in the game, each comprised of four stages (again, bringing Super Mario Bros. to mind). The first three stages of each world are the traditional Bomberman battles (the first against a single opponent, the second against two, and the third against three), which are played in best two-out-of-three rules. The fourth stage of each world is the boss stage.

“Of course I’m going to pick Wario in WARIO Blast.”

Though the game allows you to play as both Bomberman and Wario, the change really is purely cosmetic. The only difference is Bomberman’s non-boss enemies are Wario clones, and Wario’s are Bombermen (additionally, the passwords for each stage differ between the two characters). And considering these are Gameboy sprites we’re talking about, the cosmetic change only goes so far (though in all honesty, just play as Wario. You can play as Bomberman in any Bomberman game, so you may as well play Wario and benefit from the crossover aspect).

Though the game is short (it probably won’t take much longer than an hour), the fact that each world introduces new stage gimmicks means there’s some fun variety throughout. And I enjoy the two-out-of-three nature of the stages. Though even with these benefits, Wario Blast does feature some unfortunate shortcomings.

One of the big issues is that – with the abilities gained from the first few bosses – the player quickly becomes overpowered. I can accept the usual power-ups from the series are made into learned abilities (though there’s also an argument to be made that aspect in itself takes something away from the experience), but one ability which sees the player learn how to dash an enemy against a wall to stun them makes the proceedings way too easy. The early stages will see the AI try to outmaneuver you (to varying degrees of success). But in later stages, you can just pick up bomb and fire power-ups as you go, and once you run into an enemy, just dash them into a wall and plant a single bomb for an easy win.

Another problem is that there’s an awkward few seconds after your opponents have been defeated where you can still potentially die before the victory screen is displayed. You’d be surprised how often you’ll end with a draw and add another round to the best two-out-of-three because of it.

While Wario Blast may have a number of elements holding it back, I have to reiterate that the classic Bomberman gameplay will always be fun. And sure enough, Wario Blast: Featuring Bomberman is a rare example of a Gameboy title that’s still fun to play today. But Wario Blast does suffer from being one of the more basic Bomberman sequels, offering little to the experience that you couldn’t find in every other Bomberman title.

Perhaps the biggest missed opportunity of Wario Blast, however, is the simple fact that Wario’s inclusion in the game was merely shoehorned into the game’s international release. Perhaps if Wario Blast lead to some follow-ups of its own that integrated Wario’s presence into the proceedings in more meaningful ways relating to gameplay or level design, it would be easier to look past Wario Blast’s underutilization of its namesake character. But because this was the beginning, middle and end of Wario butting heads with a third-party character, it’s more than a little disappointing that the game never had a real chance at fully delivering on its concept.

Think about it, what better video game character is there to go toe-to-toe with various gaming heroes than Wario? Super Mario is the face of gaming, so it only makes sense that the “anti-Mario” would try to sabotage other people’s games and try to slap his face on them. Hudson Soft and Nintendo could have been onto something here with Wario Blast. Sadly, instead of seeing Wario face off with Bomberman again, or try to hijack Mega Man, Castlevania, or any other series, it all ended just as soon as it began. By the time Bomberman GB 2 made its way westward, Wario was nowhere in sight…

But hey, Wario Blast is still fun. And that definitely counts for something.

 

6

Advertisements

Super Bomberman R Review

*This review originally appeared at Miketendo64.com*

It’s been a long time coming, but Bomberman is finally back! Once developer Hudson Soft – creators of the Bomberman franchise – were purchased by Konami, the series took an extended hiatus. Konami was so quiet in regards to Bomberman, in fact, that many wondered if we’d ever see the beloved multiplayer series again.

Thankfully, such fears can be put to rest, as Konami’s first original Bomberman game arrived as a launch title on the Nintendo Switch, in the form of Super Bomberman R. But is Bomberman better than ever, or does his return prove to be a little rusty?

It may as well be said now, Super Bomberman R is very much the Bomberman you know and love. Though it may not be the best of the traditional Bomberman titles (that honor would go to Saturn Bomberman), it is a welcoming return to the series that may also serve as a fitting introduction to the classic Bomberman gameplay for new players.

Just as the case is with most titles in the series, Super Bomberman R sets players in single-screen arenas, where they have to blow up blocks and other obstacles to make their way through. Along the way, they can pick up power-ups that allow you to plant multiple bombs at once, increase the length of the explosions, allow you to throw your bombs, and so forth.

The gameplay – being identical to the majority of Bomberman titles – is fun, though its over-familiarity may make the Bomberman initiated feel underwhelmed if they were looking for anything more than a simple return for the series after years of absence.

The game has two primary modes: Story and Battle.

Story Mode sees one or two players progress through a series of single-screen levels, where they must simply get to the exit to move on. Though they must first activate the exit by meeting a certain requirement (usually it’s defeating every enemy, but you may also need to escort characters to a designated spot, collect keys, or simply survive for a set amount of time). Each world consists of eight such levels, followed by two boss fights.

The first boss fight always pits players against one of the Five Dastardly Bombers, who each have their own unique bomb type. You only have to hit them with a single bomb, but their AI is quite crafty, and at times can feel like you’re up against a human player, making for some intense encounters.

The second boss of each world is much larger, and involves one of the Dastardly Bombers piloting a large robot or other vehicle. Unfortunately, these bosses aren’t nearly as fun, primarily because they quickly become tedious. Each boss has their own pattern, which never really changes during the fight, and having to expose their weak point only to hit them with one or two explosions before the process starts over quickly grows monotonous.

One notable complaint to be had with the story mode is the perspective. While not bad for the most part, the perspective during the story mode is at a slant, which can become difficult in certain stages where there are higher and lower grounds to traverse, as it can be tough to discern when which plain certain objects and enemies are on.

This perspective issue is also noticeable during the aforementioned giant boss fights. Oftentimes, the bosses are so large that they take up most of the screen, making it difficult to see your character as they disappear under the mechanical bosses. What’s worse, you may often get killed by accidentally touching part of the boss when you can’t even see where your character is.

All this is a non-issue in battle mode, however, as the camera is fixed in the series’ usual top-down style. Battle mode is where you’ll be spending most of your time with the game, as you can battle other players locally or online in deathmatches which are as fun as ever. Super Bomberman R doesn’t do anything new with the Bomberman multiplayer formula, but after years of a Bomberman-less gaming landscape, it is good to have it back.

In the end, Super Bomberman R may not be one of the greatest entries in the series due to its lack of innovation to the classic formula and some camera issues and tedious bosses in its story mode, but it does provide that classic Bomberman gameplay that it sure to bring a good deal of fun in multiplayer sessions, whether battling various foes online or teaming with a friend in story mode. Combine that with some pretty gorgeous visuals and catchy music, and you have another healthy reminder of why this series was so memorable to begin with.

If you’re a Bomberman veteran, you’ll feel right at home with Super Bomberman R. If you’re new to the series, it serves as a good introduction to what the franchise has to offer. Either way, it’s great to have Bomberman back.

 

6

Top 5 Third-Party Characters I’d Like to See in Super Smash Bros.

I already wrote a list of characters I’d like to see added to Super Smash Bros. via DLC, but of course I realized there were a few other characters I failed to mention. Two of the characters I listed belong to third-parties, but some of the characters I failed to mention also fall under that umbrella, including one that I personally feel guilty for not listing.

Now, some people will give the usual “too many third-party characters” argument, but I’m not saying all these characters will be added to the game, or even that I’d like to see them all thrown in at once. It’s merely a list of five third-party characters I’d like to see. Nothing more. Besides, I’d rather see more third-party characters than any more anime swordfighters by this point (spoiler alert: Lloyd Irving isn’t here). So at the very least, the characters listed here would bring some added variety to the mix.

Keep in mind I’m sticking with characters who have a history with Nintendo. So while I love Halo as much as the next guy, Master Chief has no place here. I should emphasize that these characters have strong ties to Nintendo, so Cloud’s cameos in those handheld Kingdom Hearts games amount to nothing here.

Although Rayman games are fun (if maybe a bit overrated), I don’t particularly care for the titular character, so he’s not here, either. Finally, Solid Snake was already in Super Smash Bros. at one point, so while I wouldn’t mind him returning to the series, this list is solely for potential newcomers.

Feel free to vote for any of these characters on the Smash Bros. character ballot if you haven’t already!

Anyway, let’s get onto the list. But first, an honorable mention. Continue reading “Top 5 Third-Party Characters I’d Like to See in Super Smash Bros.”

Bomberman 64 Review

Bomberman 64

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.

Bomberman 64Admittedly, 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.

 

5