It's been a long time, Bomberman. Nice seeing you again! It's a shame the meeting wasn't quite everything I hoped and dreamed when you went away all those years ago.
Bomberman Live: Battlefest for Xbox Live Arcade marked the last proper Bomberman outing, all the way back in 2010. The last great Bomberman game was Bomberman Ultra for PlayStation 3 in 2009, which was the end of a three-year lap of excellence that included 2007's Bomberman Live for Xbox 360 and 2008's Bomberman Blast for Nintendo Wii. Since then publisher Hudson Soft stopped making Bomberman titles, officially becoming a subsidiary of Konami in 2011. Konami has mostly sat on the license until now.
Super Bomberman R doesn't change up the classic Bomberman gameplay because it doesn't need to. Walk around a grid-style field, use bombs to blow up obstacles and enemies, and make sure you don't blow yourself up. If you've played Bomberman, you'll take to this rather easily. If you haven't, it's not that difficult to pick up.
Jointly developed by Konami Digital and HexaDrive, Super Bomberman R decides to up the presentation stakes with a full 50-stage Story Mode. Across six worlds, the Bomberman Family offers cute cutscenes in-between basic Bomberman levels with some puzzle-ish mechanics and alternate objectives to keep you entertained. I'm actually impressed of the work that when into the animated cutscenes; it's low-level humor, but they're well-animated and get the characters across quite clearly.
Super Bomberman R's Story Mode kicks things up a notch with the boss fights (two per world), which can be fun and impressive. The boss of each world will be faced in Bomberman form - easier for two players in coop than a single player - and in giant construct form. The bosses tend to ahve rather simple pattern and the Story Mode is rather straightforward. You'll clear the entire thing in around an hour. Once you're done, there are two other difficulty levels to polish off.
If you happen to run out of lives, you have to buy back in with a faux-arcade system. Continues cost gems, which are an in-game currency that's also used to unlock new levels and costume bits for your Bomberman. It doesn't feel all that grindy though and it doesn't seem to connect up to any real-world currency, so it's mostly there to give you incentive to play more. Some players may run into a situation where they run out of gems in Story Mode, leaving with multiplayer as the only way to move forward. It wasn't a problem for me, but I can see it being frustrating for some players.
The real action in Super Bomberman R is in the multiplayer mode. You can play with up to 4 players on a single Switch in portable mode, up to 8 players locally in TV mode, or connect 8 Switches together for local multiplayer with your own screen. The 8-player maximum also extends to the game's online multiplayer. Local play is damned enjoyable with close friends.
That's where the options taper off though. Super Bomberman R doesn't extend the multiplayer match customization to anywhere near the three-peat of Live, Blast, and Ultra. You have one major mode - Deathmatch - and the option to change the time, number of rounds, start position, turn on sudden death, skulls, or allow players a way to get back into the game after losing a life. Super Bomberman R offers 8 levels to start with and you can unlock a few more with the in-game currency. Otherwise, you have quick play battle or league battles if you think you're up for competitive Bomberman.
Online multiplayer is quite fun, but finding great online matches is a spotty proposition. When a match is smooth, it's great, but occasionally bouts of lag will completely mar the proceedings. Even choosing only matches with good connections will still sometimes offer up games with a high degree of latency. That's something Konami can patch out, but it's a problem right now.
Surprisingly, Super Bomberman R's visual presentation can be a pain. The game itself looks great, but when you're playing the Story Mode in portable, the tablet size, complex art style, camera zoom, and isometric viewpoint combine to make to easy to miss the finer details. Story Mode plays much better on your TV than it does on the tablet. It's less of a problem for online multiplayer, as the levels are more straightforward and the camera is oriented in the basic top-down style of previous Bomberman games.
Super Bomberman R isn't a bad title by any stretch. The problem is it falters both in where it expands the formula and where it plays it safe. The Story Mode didn't really need the more complex visual presentation and the Online Mode could've used more match customization options, like older titles in the series. You also can't miss that Super Bomberman R is $49.99, compared the $10 price tag of Live/Blast/Ultra. Given that it's missing additional options found in those versions, the hefty price tag is a bit hard to swallow.
If you absolutely need new Bomberman in your life, pick it up. Otherwise, given what's here, I'd wait for Super Bomberman R to come down in price.
While Super Bomberman R brings back the classic Bomberman action, the package could stand to be better. Once you've polished off the short Story Mode, you're left with multiplayer. Local and online multiplayer is solid, but lacks match customization options found in older Bomberman games.
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