Bomberman is a series that has stayed fairly true-to-form since its release in 1983 as a tech demo for Hudson Soft. That’s not to say the games haven’t evolved, as all games do, over time. But it wouldn’t be a stretch to say if you’ve played one Bomberman title, you should have a pretty good idea of what you’re getting into when you start a new game. In many ways, the same can be said for Super Bomberman R. And yet, while the core experience remains the same, there’s a lot to be said for this title that makes it an enjoyable experience, at least for a little while.
Super Bomberman R follows the same simple, arcade-style gameplay that Bomberman games are known for; your character exists in a small square area, with pillars lining the inside. You place a bomb, and after a couple of seconds, it explodes, creating a cross-shaped line of fire that spreads outward. The goal, at least in battle mode, is to eliminate your rival bombers by hitting them with the explosion. There are power-ups throughout the stage to give you an edge over the competition, and the last bomber standing wins. Players can choose to play online, in a local match, or against computer opponents. Up to 8 players are supported in every game mode except “ranked” online battles, which are limited to 4 players maximum.
Battles are short, usually lasting 3 minutes or so, and very fast paced. The gameplay is as much about mental and psychological warfare as it is about physical reaction time, and every match forces you to create a new strategy for dealing with those pesky rival players. When playing with friends, either locally or online, there are customization options that allow you to shape the match how you like it, but these are mostly minor preferential adjustments.
Luckily, the online battles are stable, for the most part. There’s some lag, especially when playing with someone far away, but the game offers 4 different setting that can really limit how distant your wi-fi connections get. The game will also show you how strong your connection is before a match starts, so you always have the option to leave a room that looks too laggy. Match-making is straightforward and quick, and there’s very little keeping you from booting up and starting a match within a minute of powering on your Switch. It should also be mentioned that the frame rate of 60 FPS (frames per second) is maintained online by reducing the quality of the graphics. It’s not a jarring change, but it is noticeable compared to the smooth visuals present in single player campaigns.
Story mode is available for one or two players and tasks you with completing 5 worlds, each with 8 levels. There’s not a lot of depth to the level objectives themselves, which usually just involve killing the enemies on the stage before progressing to the next one. There are a few custom objectives in the later levels, but once again the core experience is unchanged from these adjustments. After these levels, you’ll be treated to a short cutscene, and a rather challenging two-part boss battle, before advancing to the next world.
These short cutscenes really are a charming way to tell a rather simplistic story, and they help give Super Bomberman R some much needed personality. Every one of the 8 playable Bomber Brothers has their own personality, which are delivered via cutscenes at the start and end of each world. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking or awe-inspiring about the story, but it has personality, and it’s genuinely pleasant to watch. These character’s personalities are also present in battle mode, which each character having a victory screen and a few lines of dialogue present. There’s something fun about trying each character at the start of the game, just to find your favourite. And while every character plays more or less identically you’ll most likely find yourself gravitating to a particular one as you progress through the game.
Unfortunately, that progression won’t take very long, assuming you don’t have the burning desire to unlock every customizable character feature and secret stage. Story mode is a simple 3-4 hour romp, especially on easy mode. If your goal is to obtain every unlockable item in this game, you can expect to do a lot of level grinding in story mode. 3 game difficulties and some rather tough boss battles do add a bit of bulk to story mode, but these are entirely optional.
If you’re buying this game, you need to buy it with the mentality that you’ll be playing mostly for multiplayer. Even so, it’s not going to be anything you haven’t experienced in past Bomberman titles. In fact, even the story is a retelling of a past Bomberman game (although admittedly it’s a bit more fleshed out). There’s a lot of fun to be had with this game, but you need to be willing to either jump online or set up some couch multiplayer. If you aren’t a fan of classic arcade gaming, or you’re an entirely solitary gamer who dislikes online gaming, it’s difficult to justify the $40 price tag.
Make no mistake, this is a game with a lot of heart. There are plenty of little things I didn’t notice until the 5th time through a specific level. You can tell the development team had a lot of fun reinventing their characters, creating personalities for them and giving them each unique motivations, however two-dimensional, for their bombing antics. And in turn, that makes it a game worth playing. However, these days gaming is about getting that bang for your buck, and even the most die-hard unlockable collectors will probably run out of single player objectives around hour 30.
That ultimately means the choice comes down to how much enjoyment you’ll get out of multiplayer mode. It might be best to wait until this game is $20 before you dive in, but I would recommend you give it a try at some point. It’s a genuinely fun game that’s bound to put a smile on your face, right before you accidentally blow yourself up on world 1-6, ruining your perfect run and turning that smile into a frown.
Final Score: 4 out of 5