Bomberman has been on the skids since the 90s. After the disastrous Bomberman Act Zero (you know, the grimdark one with the weird BDSM overtones) plumbed the depths of the trash pile, the once-beloved franchise struggled to recover for well over ten years. Rehashes and reskins were cranked out to no avail, and Hudson Soft eventually shuttered before being absorbed by Konami. Now, seemingly out of thin air, the company most famous for firing Hideo Kojima decided to dust off its used IP for the Switch. Yet, in case it wasn’t clear, my hopes for Super Bomberman R were not, well, super. The thought of a dead IP cranked out by a dying company seemed like a quick cash grab and nothing more.
Still, I held out a little hope – a cute art direction and involvement of veteran Bomberman staff gave me reason to suspect it wouldn’t be a total disaster. Imagine my surprise, then, that not only is Super Bomberman R not a total disaster, but it’s not even close to one. In fact, despite some bits that are a tad rough around the edges, Konami managed to put out one of the better Switch launch titles.
At its core, Super Bomberman R is exactly what it says on the tin. Users can expect classic 8-player Bomberman gameplay, sans the bits and bobs added in the beloved Saturn and Nintendo 64 versions. Pick a cute little dude or lady, walk around a maze, blow up blocks, then blow up other cute little dudes. Power-ups pop out of the rubble, which can give players an edge on your opponents. But even if a player gets blown to bits, they’re just down, not out – they can skirt along the outer rim of the maze and blow up other players to earn their way back into the fray.
That was all a very roundabout way of saying that Super Bomberman R is, in fact, more Bomberman. Yet in 2017, that actually feels meaningful. This is a series that’s been skirting the outer rim of the game industry itself, lobbing bomb after bomb in hopes of earning its way back into the hearts of consumers. Konami, of all companies, has delivered a definitive shot in the arm to the franchise by going back to basics and slapping on a pretty coat of paint to make it feel fresh. Old-school fans will feel right at home, and the gameplay is simple enough for anyone to pick up and have a blast with.
Thanks to the Switch itself, too, it’s easier than ever to play with other people. For a console sold around the premises of portability and sharing, it’s kind of surprising that this is the only launch title with truly robust multiplayer options for people who want actual games and not gimmicks. The Joy-Con can be taken off and used as controllers for two players while using the unit’s kickstand. Multiple Switches can be linked together for four to eight player matches. Several Joy-Con can be synced to one unit for playing on a single TV screen or monitor. There are several ways to play Super Bomberman R, making it one of the least complicated multiplayer titles in recent memory. This is a title that speaks volumes to the Switch’s versatility, and one can only hope other developers take as much advantage of the system’s potential as Konami has.
Luckily, there’s more to Super Bomberman R than its stellar local multiplayer options, even if those other things aren’t quite as sterling. I’ve played a fair deal of the online multiplayer, which has ranked and unranked play, and while it’s definitely fun, it has a glaring flaw – input delay. This isn’t standard lag, it’s actual movement delay that Konami has publicly acknowledged and is working on a fix for. While it doesn’t break the game, it does make it more complicated and cumbersome than it needs to be. I’ve suffered quite a few deaths simply from a prompt registering too late. It’s something that needs to be fixed immediately, lest the entire player base dries up overnight thanks to a lack of proper maintenance. Still, it’s playable, and I have worked my way through the ranks a bit, which have cute titles like “Baby League.”
Speaking of cute things, the campaign in this thing is a straight shot of adorable. I’m biased towards anything and everything cute, so other player’s mileages may vary, but the Saturday morning cartoon-inspired romp of the eight Super Bomberman Rangers is stuffed to the gills with adorable design choices and endearingly campy voice work. There’s plenty of fun to be had in it, too, with a decent amount of levels populated by objective-based maze puzzles and some surprisingly inventive boss battles. There’s even local multiplayer for the campaign too, making it worth going through with friends at least once.
Super Bomberman R isn’t for everyone, I’ll admit. Fifty bucks is a lot to ask for old-school gameplay that remains largely unchanged from the 90s, with online gameplay that clearly needs some polish. Yet, for Switch owners dying to play something with friends that offers more longevity and replayability than the other launch titles, and something that has a whole wealth of unlockable content to boot, I feel it’s a title well worth the money.
With better online gameplay — which is allegedly being worked — on I’d be more forthcoming to recommend it. Still, Super Bomberman R is well worth considering if you want something to play with friends, and will definitely tide me over until Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2. With more games like this, the Switch is sure to be one of the coolest things to happen to multiplayer gaming in a long while.