Two months after I was born, Hudson Soft introduced the world to Bomberman for the very first time.
It was a simple – yet effective – premise. You run around a maze with an arsenal of atomic explosives and have to destroy everyone else in your path.
But it’s the arcadey feel that has ensured this franchise stands the test of time. With powerups to deposit multiple bombs at one time, skates to move around faster, and even a glove to throw them toward the opposite side of the maze, there’s also a strategic layer here that’s yet to be matched.
So with 70 different games spanning every platform you can think of, it’s amazing it’s taken seven long years to see a resurgence of any kind. Yet here we are, with a huge launch title for Nintendo’s newest console.
Thing is, there’s good news and bad news. The good is that this is most definitely the Bomberman you know and love with a full single player campaign as well as online multiplayer. For most, that would be more than enough, but the fact you can play it on the go as well with the ability to have two players anytime, anywhere is something special.
The bad news, however, is that there are constant online lag making games borderline unplayable, the single player campaign is kind of dull, and then there’s ferocious input lag which causes your character to clumsily slip and slide all over the course. Oh, and that price tag is brutal!
This should be a celebration of everything that made this franchise great. It should be the icing on top of the Switch launch line-up, but instead, it barely tumbles over the finishing line.
Where to begin with the single player. It starts brightly. You get really vibrant, colourful, and entertaining cut-scenes that even reveal something of a story which sees the Bomber crew band together to travel between planets and beat some bosses. And the campaign definitely packs some value with 50 stages as well as several boss fights and customisation options.
Stages also mix it up with objectives, with some requiring you to collect all the keys to unlock a portal, and others tasking you with defeating every enemy. But despite the efforts, the campaign really starts to grate and feel like a slog when you reach the halfway point of the second stage. You notice the familiar patterns setting in and a predictable formula despite an environmental and enemy reskin.
That said, you will face different enemy types, including foes that jump over walls, and others that climb ramps or are attracted to you.
The boss battles also mix things up nicely and are easily the highlights of the campaign as you’ve trudged through treacle to get to them. But they also border on the frustrating in terms of the number of hits the big bads take to bring down and the damage they inflict. The epic scale of the confrontations are a cool addition, though, and you’re able to have two players fighting through the waves which also helps to keep things fresh and exciting.
The big draw, of course, is the eight player competitive multiplayer which can be taken online. And let’s face it, if Zelda is the must-have solo launch title, then that must make Bomberman the go-to multiplayer showcase.
At least, it should be, but the lag just kills the games’ momentum at seemingly every turn. For every one seamless game you get online, you’ll likely be cursed with several duds. Super Bomberman R just chunters along at times, to the point where you can end up on one side of the map from the other in a single motion. Suffice it to say, the online is utterly unplayable more often than not.
And just to be clear, this doesn’t seem to be an issue with Switch or the Nintendo Network. Having played Fast RMX online with several other players, that game is still lightning fast with up to four players at a time. A game that boasts much better visuals and is a lot more data intensive, I may hasten to add.
The good news is that Konami has already issued a major patch that aims to improve some of these issues. Having compared and contrasted, so far we’d argue that – while there are changes – they are minimal. And despite some improvement, there’s clearly plenty of work to be done. Hopefully, Konami continues to give the game a chance and don’t just abandon it.
Fortunately, you can play with up to four people locally – or include some bots if you don’t have that many friends – and the game mostly runs like a charm. Just turn one of the JoyCons on its side and you can get stuck in. You will find some input lag with them, though, with your Bomber character occasionally moving beyond your analogue press. There’s also the odd delay in reaction when tapping a button which – in a fast paced game like this – can be extremely costly.
It’s still great fun, though. And would definitely be worth a look at a £20 price point. At full RRP, however, Super Bomberman R is a tougher sell. The sad fact is, it has all the potential in the world to be a Switch killer app. It’s the classic game for a new generation and without question, Bomberman remains one of the most fun and fulfilling multiplayer experiences of all time.
There’s no major evolution here and there doesn’t need to be. And without the technical shortcomings, it would be easier to look past the monotony of the campaign if you’re going to tackle it solo. But this game is erratically broken and in desperate need of repair. And as a result, it’s difficult to justify that hefty £50 pricetag.
Still, that vintage Bomberman charm is ever intact and able to seep through, even in the game’s most frustrating moments.
+ Local multiplayer is unmatched on Switch
+ Great boss battles
+ Charming cut-scenes and style
– Some input lag (though much improved in 1.2)
– Online performance erratic with huge lag spikes
– Campaign dull when played solo
– Game feels hugely overpriced.
Super Bomberman R
7 out of 10
Tested on Nintendo Switch
Based on Version 1.2