Review: Super Bomberman R

Like Mega Man, Mario, Pac-Man, Bomberman is one of those characters that has enjoyed a long run across many console generations. The addictive multiplayer, the simple premise, and the (usually) solid art style has helped to keep the series relevant over the years. With the release of the Nintendo Switch, Super Bomberman R steps up as one of the more notable launch titles. So, does the Bomberman formula still work?

Super Bomberman R, like many “retro” franchises, sits in a weird place at times. You can’t quite tell if it wants to be a modern twist on a classic formula or if it wants to be a classic gaming experience with a modern look. Choosing to not lean fully into either, comes at a bit of a disappointment. All the classic conventions from old-school Bomberman are present, but they’re paired with some, to be honest, pretty rough visuals during gameplay.

Stages are a fancier breed of the classic Bomberman rectangle arenas. Some stages have multiple levels to them or they might scroll a bit, but they’re fairly basic overall. Sight lines often get messy due to the vertical aspect of some levels and the isometric view, which can be a little frustrating when trying to navigate around quickly or judge explosion paths. I would have much preferred to see the upper levels turn mostly transparent until you moved up into them rather than letting upper levels block your view. Sometimes Bomberman just doesn’t work with vertical levels.

Sight lines aside, the visuals are just inconsistent. The story mode uses cutscenes that are cartoony, fully voiced, and true to the series’ classic art style. When gameplay starts, the 3D-modeled boxes and platforms feel totally devoid of charm. Nothing is wrong with a 3D style, but sticking with a more cartoon look would have helped maintain consistency.

Enough about the visuals, however. Thankfully, Super Bomberman R plays as fans would hope and expect it would on the multiplayer front. There’s no major twists to the formula here, so anybody with a mild familiarity with the franchise can jump right in and understand things. Multiplayer sessions are, excuse the pun, an absolute blast. With support of up to eight players, things can get quite crazy. I’ve seen more imaginative map designs in the franchise than we get here, but even the most basic maps provide a good amount of fun.

The single player, however, is mediocre. Most levels are the “destroy all enemies” type, with the occasional twist thrown in (find/activate switches, escort duty, etc.) across mildly varied levels. The story will introduce you to a world, but from stage to stage, there’s no story progression until you get to the boss. The time between starting a world and getting to the boss can feel a bit monotonous, and some additional story hooks might have helped. Boss fights and the highlight of the single player experience, but they’re only about 5% of the mode.

The AI is pretty frustrating in single player as well. The enemies don’t react properly to you as you run around, rarely trying to run you down or gang up, but as soon as you lay a bomb, they turn tail and run with lighting reflexes. The result is that eliminating enemies to clear a stage feels like busy guesswork, trying to anticipate the complete randomness of the AI. By the time you reach a boss, you’re thankful for something different to do.

The story mode is also fairly short, which is fine. The way it was built, you really get your fill of things quite quickly. The real bummer is, however, is that past iterations of the franchise have seen great single player experiences. We just don’t get that here. If you’re thinking of picking this game up, make you’re going to be able to play with others.

Super Bomberman R also uses a currency system to handle certain unlocks and continues in single player. This works ok, but it feels like they gave very little though to what things should cost, and the rewards often feel like they aren’t worth the effort it takes to earn them. At least they don’t push microtansactions at you.

Super Bomberman R is a game that is really best experienced with friends, and occasionally online (providing you can find a match that’s not laggy). If you’re going to be playing alone, I would pass on this or wait for it to be steeply discounted before jumping in. While I’m satisfied with certain aspects of the game, I have to admit that it feels a bit phoned in. Many have claimed that Bomberman as a series is on life support. While this won’t be the game to save the franchise or elevate it to new heights, it’s not so disastrous to be the death of it either. Here’s hoping for a bit more next time around.

Pros

  • Multiplayer is a lot of fun
  • The music is fantastic
  • Controls are snappy and responsive

Cons

  • Inconsistent art style
  • Single player is boring and short
  • Online play can get quite laggy (no dedicated servers, P2P only)
  • Expensive for what it offers in regards to content

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