One thing I thought for sure would never happen would be the resurrection of Bomberman as a leading franchise on a brand new Nintendo console. After all the events that transpired with Konami over recent years, one would think that they were exiting the gaming industry altogether. Recent events such as the announcement of Metal Gear Survive and the release of Super Bomberman R are looking to make a statement and show that Konami is still invested in the industry, however. Unfortunately, it may have been better for Bomberman to remain in the thoughts of gamers that remember the series fondly, as Super Bomberman R doesn’t do anything new or special for the loveable character. Instead, it falls extremely flat and was not a pleasant experience on the Nintendo Switch. Read on for our full review.
Title: Super Bomberman R
Developer: Konami, HexaDrive
Available On: Nintendo Switch
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: March 3, 2017
Copy provided by the Publisher for the sake of this review
Before I get further in, I want to explicitly state that I was a huge fan of Bomberman on the NES and SNES during my childhood when I would rent a game or two almost every weekend to keep me occupied in between the times when I would receive new games that I actually owned. I went through a plethora of games thanks to local video game rental stores, and one I can remember back fondly on playing time and time again with neighborhood friends with Bomberman. We would all gather in one of our houses, group up around the TV, and just have a blast on an otherwise boring Saturday afternoon or evening.
My mind started racing when Super Bomberman R was announced for the Nintendo Switch. Did I need to text and message my friends that we were about to be in store for more epic battles? Would this finally be the return of the series back to the spotlight that it so rightly deserved? Not by a long shot. Developed internally at Konami and through a partnership with HexaDrive, it shows that this is the first title to be developed without the minds at Hudson Soft behind it. Had they still been around and assisted or even fully developed the game, would opinions be different and the game have been received better? It’s hard to say. Bomberman hasn’t necessarily been “great” since the days of the Super Nintendo, but it has certainly seen better days than what is currently available on the Nintendo Switch.
Super Bomberman R plays exactly like you remember and exactly how you expect it to. You play as Bomberman, a character that is able to freely move around throughout 2D grid-based levels and stages. Your main objective is to defeat all of the enemies on a stage, activate switches to reveal the exit to each stage, and move on to the next. There are powerups to collect in order to make things easier as the stages become more difficult in nature. In order to defeat enemies, you drop bombs and attempt to trap the enemies in a section of the grid or in a corner, causing them to explode when the bomb goes off after a few seconds. It’s a very simplistic concept that has been around since the series first debuted.
Those that were hoping for this release to bring the franchise into the modern world and put a different spin on things or make the gameplay more exciting for newcomers, you’re going to be disappointed. Super Bomberman R does not do anything that we have not already seen before. Those familiar with the franchise will feel right at home, and may even get struck by the nostalgia bug when loading up the game for the first time. But trust me, once that initial honeymoon period ends (and it doesn’t take long), you’ll be wondering why something different wasn’t at least experimented with to make it unique. I’m afraid that newcomers to Bomberman will quickly get bored and move on to something else that is available on the Nintendo Switch, even if there isn’t much to choose from at the moment.
Perhaps the craziest thing about this release is the fact that it originally launched at $49.99, and continues to retail at that price to this very day that the review is being published on. This is not a $50 game, folks. Without having a lot to offer in terms of the single player experience (this mode is laughably bad and feels so outdated right out of the box in today’s gaming landscape), and with a multiplayer experience that leaves a lot to be desired, it’s missing a lot of potential sales by being priced a little too steep. Had this been a $20 or even $30 game, I truly feel as if it would have sold almost double to what it has done so far since launch.
It’s not all terrible though. While I did just state that the multiplayer leaves a lot to be desired, it also can offer up some pretty fun moments in short bursts with a group of friends. The unique design of the Nintendo Switch allows for each Joycon to be representative of a single Bomberman in multiplayer. So, you can technically gather up seven of your closest friends, sit around the Switch or TV, and try and be the last man standing in an all out brawl of bombs and wits. It can be fun, but again… in short bursts.
Perhaps the best thing Super Bomberman R has going for it is the visual style. This is without a shadow of a doubt the best Bomberman has looked to date. Had the actual design of the stages themselves felt more alive and had a bit more variety to them, I think the overall response to the game would have been a little more on the positive note. Cutscenes are reminiscent of an older cartoon that many of us remember watching when growing up, and I’m fairly certain that this style was chosen on purpose to play into the nostalgia factor. Even with the pleasant style, it isn’t really enough for this game to go on alone.
Super Bomberman R could have been the return to glory of a franchise that has been missing for quite some time, especially over here in North America. Not counting small releases that hit platforms such as Xbox Live Arcade on the Xbox 360, the PlayStation Store on PlayStation 3, and the eShop on the Nintendo Wii, we haven’t seen an actual Bomberman game since Bomberman Land on the Wii back in 2008. That’s a fairly long time to go without any new releases on a franchise as popular as Bomberman once was. It’s sad to say, but Super Bomberman R is not going to rekindle the love for the series that fans were hoping for. Maybe one day we’ll get lucky, but that day is certainly not today.