‘Super Bomberman R’: Our First Take

'Super Bomberman R' combines fun, retro gameplay with forward-thinking Nintendo Switch hardware

There’s a new generation of Nintendo hardware coming in March, and with the Nintendo Switch, Konami is looking to rejuvenate the Bomberman franchise for a new wave of players. Super Bomberman R brings back the series’ classic gameplay, balancing a few new twists with the multiplayer formula that the series has always championed.

This is big news for fans of the franchise, as we haven’t seen the little pyromaniacs in a main series, non-portable title since 2010. More importantly, it’s a big deal for Bomberman itself, as the game is part the Switch’s day-one launch lineup, alongside the new Zelda, 1-2 Switch, Just Dance 2017 and Skylanders ImaginatorsSuper Bomberman R  will need to draw in a new generation of gamers to its explosive ways, while helping the Switch itself have a healthy launch.

The bombing continues

Bomberman has been around in some form since the mid-1980s. As in past games, you control a bomber-person, who runs around a grid based map, dropping bombs that explode in vertical and horizontal lines. Those explosions kill your enemies and crucially, you, if you can’t get out of the way. Although things have changed a little over the years, Super Bomberman R remains committed to that tried and true tradition. The gameplay was fast and frantic as ever, especially towards the end of a round, when many of the intervening blocks had been blown away and it was a race to see who could trick the other person into stepping into a dangerous part of the map, while avoiding danger yourself.

Joy-Con bombs

True to form, the controls in Super Bomberman R are very simple, which makes them a great fit for the Switch’s Joy-Con controller. Using a single Joy-Con, you use the analogue stick to move, and one of the face buttons for dropping bombs. A secondary face button can be used for activating certain abilities – like kicking bombs over obstacles – but the majority of the in-game controls are based around movement and placing explosives.

That simplicity is perfect, because it opens the door for the Switch’s unique brand of local multiplayer.

Classic power-ups like the speed boosting skate, boxing gloves and the bomb kick all make returns, alongside the additional bombs and fire radius boosts. All are reasonably self explanatory for new players and feature the traditional icons for the more experienced.

That simplicity is perfect, because it opens the door for the Switch’s unique brand of local multiplayer. Up to eight players can compete in a single match: The game only supports two-player local multiplayer using a single Switch console, but you can link more consoles for larger LAN battles. You’ll also be able to play online. The situation isn’t perfect, though: Staring at the Switch screen from a distance wasn’t always easy, especially when the camera zoomed out to show us the exterior of the level.

Playing this game on a TV feels like the right way to go. If you do want to play on the Switch’s small screen, doing so by yourself up close, is going to be a lot easier than trying to play at a relative distance with a friend.

Evolving explosions

The world outside the borders of the stages you battle on is where the game’s new visual style is most apparent. Super Bomberman R features maps with “photo-realistic” backdrops that look like they were ripped right out of the real world. It seems like an odd choice: while the design is sharp, there’s nothing about Bomberman that seems like it would be enhanced by true to life aesthetics. There may be a functional purpose to the design, though it wasn’t made clear in our short multiplayer demonstration.

That photo-realism stands in stark contrast to the visuals in the rest of the game. They are cartoony, colorful and crisp, without the aliasing we noted in other Switch games like Fast RMX, but they do little to evolve the traditional Bomberman aesthetic.

We may see more visual variation in the game’s single-player story mode: According to Konami, the campaign will feature as many as 50 stages, with goals that vary beyond blowing up all of your enemies. While we have yet to play the campaign itself, we are told there are new and interesting boss fights, some of which we were able to see in early screenshot releases. We’ve also been told the campaign will include new ‘3D’ stages, which add some verticality to the experience. It’s not clear if those stages will also be available in multiplayer.

The campaign may also have more story than Bomberman fans are used to: The game will reportedly feature voice acting, which is an interesting addition for a series which has a soundtrack traditionally dominated by repeat explosions.

One new danger to watch out for on some multiplayer maps though, are falling or destructible floor tiles. In one rather frantic matchup, we found that the square under each bomb placed within a certain section of the map, was destroyed. This quickly lead to a map that was far more constrained than it had been at the start and helped funnel us all towards the flames.

Lasting impression

For fans, Super Bomberman R has the makings of a solid party title that’s every bit as fun as its predecessors. As one of the few day-one launch titles for the Switch, it will need to make a big impression to impress players not only interested in the game, but the console as whole. As with Nintendo’s upcoming mini-game collection, 1-2 Switch, we wonder if a game as simple as Super Bomberman R is going to have enough meat on it to attract players, especially given its projected $50 price tag.

Highs

  • Classic Bomberman gameplay
  • 3D and ‘photo realistic’ visuals
  • New stages, dangers and some verticality
  • Local multiplayer is a great fit for the Switch

Lows

  • Can be hard to see characters when playing on Switch screen
  • Not much has changed
  • Price may be too high for a refresh of a classic series
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