It’s been some time since the bomb-dropping character has had a console release, with Konami reviving him for Super Bomberman R, one of the launch games for the Nintendo Switch. And at the Switch reveal event in January, Super Bomberman R was one of the titles I was most excited about.
Initial impressions from reviewers last week, however, painted a different story, focusing on the $50 price point of the game. For some, that may be a deterrent, but here’s the rub: a large portion of the game is nearly unplayable. That’s not to say that there’s a whole lot to Super Bomberman R . There’s not. It’s Bomberman, and if you like Bomberman, then on some levels, that might be enough.
First off, the mode that does function: Super Bomberman R includes a story mode, which follows the Bomberman brothers (there’s a whole bunch of them, apparently!) in an effort to stop the Five Dastardly Bombers who have been revived by Emperor Buggler. Yup. The comic-stylized and fully voice acted cut scenes are reminiscent of kitschy Saturday morning cartoons, in both good and bad ways.
The story mode can be played with one player or in two player co-op. It goes through five planets, each split up into different levels. Each planet has its own boss, and the game ultimately culminates with an end-game final boss area. Most of the levels were pretty standard “Destroy all the enemies to proceed” fare, with a few other tasks — navigating people to the goal, hitting all the hidden switches — thrown in the mix. But pretty much the task is to move through Bomberman-esque mazes and blow stuff up with your bombs as you avoid and kill enemies and collect power ups. I liked how the power-ups you get carry through each level within a world, so you are essentially slowly building a beefed up version of Bomberman before you reach each boss.
So, in a nutshell: It’s Bomberman. You blow things up with bombs. It doesn’t overcomplicate it, for the most part. The single player isn’t quite as hectic as multiplayer battles can get, but it still feels good to trap enemies in a corner with a bomb. That will probably always feel good. BOOM.
And that’s perhaps the thing about Super Bomberman R: The core concept of Bomberman — no doubt partially fueled by nostalgia — is still solid enough that it has the potential to excuse of lot of other areas where it isn’t a shining paragon of gamedom. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it still managed to be mostly what I wanted from a Bomberman game, so maybe it didn’t have to.
Is the story mode perfect? Nope. Among other things, the difficulty didn’t feel well balanced: You only have a certain numbers of lives for each planet’s set of levels, and if you run out and can’t buy more with coins (in-game currency, not microtransactions), you have to start over at the beginning of that planet, which sucks. I died in veteran mode and had to restart, dropping down to beginner mode, which then felt a bit easy given how cheap buying extra lives became. So, perhaps I’m not great at Bomberman, but it felt like there needed to be some difficulty in-between the two levels (there’s also another higher difficulty level: Expert).
There are other problems as well: The 1-on-1 boss fights aren’t great, nor are the 3D bosses. It can sometimes be hard to tell where you can and cannot walk on the map. The game’s final bosses are also repetitive and lackluster. Multiplayer — from what I played — needed more variety. None of the out-of-the-box control schemes are ideal, either.
Yet I still really enjoyed most of my time with the game’s single player, and it ended up being more than a sum of its parts. It is short: I cleared the whole thing in around four hours. But, despite its problems, I liked it. The question remains if I liked it enough to recommend it as a $50 title, though.
But here’s where the TNT really starts to stack up against the game. After clearing the story I hopped into online battle mode. Multiplayer is really where the Bomberman action is at! Let’s play some online Bomberman and really blow stuff up! (The game does also have local multiplayer, either on one or multiple Switch).
Eh, well, maybe not. Super Bomberman R’s online is nearly unplayable, to the point that Konami has already made a statement about it on Twitter, and on the game’s website. I’ve also inquired with them to figure out additional details, but right now online battles are so problematic that they are pretty much best avoided. I’m not sure if this is a continuation of the left Joy-Con issues or just server connection or lag or what have you, but it sinks the game as a whole. I did have one run of matches that worked — but even those weren’t perfect — and then right after that, it was back to have issues again. Rage quit…and out.
Despite its shortcomings, Super Bomberman R is a fun, albeit imperfect, game. The worst part is that I actually enjoyed most of what it was trying to do, even if it wasn’t always doing it perfectly. But having a non-functioning online multiplayer mode isn’t excusable. If a major component — especially for something like Bomberman, where online multiplayer is a huge draw — isn’t working, that’s an issue. I just can’t recommend it.