When I first pre-ordered the Switch, ‘Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ was all I needed with it. Then, February swung around and I realized I wanted a game where I could test multiplayer “on the go” and online play on the Switch. So, I went back to GameStop to add ‘Super Bomberman R’ and a pair of JoyCon to my pre-order. So far, I have not regretted the addition.
The first feature I tried was Bomberman’s local multiplayer. Players can pretty much pick between four-player sized maps and eight-player sized maps. At first glance, it seems that any character slots not filled by human players will get automatically filled in with CPU players. This is actually not the case and, for beginning or rusty players, I recommend avoiding playing against the CPU. They are brutal and give off that unsettling sense that, whenever you do beat them, it is only because they let you.
Battles are smooth and hectic, just like you’d expect from a Bomberman game. Blow other players up before they blow you up. Also, try really hard not to accidentally get yourself stuck between your own bomb and a wall. There is a nifty “Revenge Carts” option. When this is turned on, players that get blown up, spawn on the outer wall of the arena and are able to toss bombs into the fray. If any of these bombs’ explosions hit another player, the carted player will actually replace the active player in the arena, effectively coming back from the dead and having another chance at winning the round. It is a cool feature but I mostly play without it as I feel it makes matches more about luck and less about calculated bomb placement.
Online multiplayer works pretty much the same way. Being a true sucker for punishment and and anything with the word “rank” in it, I tried “League” play. This mode pins two to four players on the standard sized maps, and does have Revenge Carts enabled as a default. First player to win two matches, wins the round. I had a lot of fun, even though I was getting whooped by pretty much everyone. Online Bomberman players mean business. Performance was very solid too. Out of the seven or eight rounds I played, only round one suffered from serious lag issues. Once the round was over, everything went back to normal. So, the lag was probably caused by a server hiccup or a particular player having terrible “internets”.
Now for Story mode, the other reason why I got the game. Why? Two players can tackle the campaign together! I mean, this is a pretty classic and arcade-y feature, but it is not that common of late. This mode has given my son and I something to play together and it has proven both entertaining and challenging. There are animated cutscenes with voice acting splattered throughout the campaign which add a lot of flavor to the cast of wacky characters and make an otherwise bland story line, fun to go through.
Each world has about seven stages with varying objectives like defeat all foes, hit all the switches and gather all the keys. One particularly interesting goal involves guiding NPC’s to a goal area without getting them hurt. These NPC’s will trail behind the character which forces players to be even more careful with bomb placement. After the standard stages, each world pins players against its boss Bomber. These encounters are split into two: first players face against the boss in a standard grid stage where each is trying to bomb the other; bosses having access to some special bombs. Then, the boss retreats into some kind of giant mechanical monstrosity that players get to face in a free-form non-grid arena. These second phases break the conventions of the game a little and are very refreshing while still remaining challenging. There is no better feeling than creating a half-circle of highly explosive bombs around the boss and watching it get hit over and over.
Like the skilled player I think I am, I initially started Story Mode in the “Veteran” difficulty. I figured it would be fine considering it is the middle difficulty, it is selected as the default and the one under it is called “Beginner”. Well, after a good day of failures and pretty much being stuck on planet one, I realized I might be enough of a Bomberman “noobie” to warrant “Beginner”. With a bit of shame, we tried that difficulty and Story Mode quickly became a lot more manageable. Still dangerous, but manageable.
As for unlockables and overarching rewards, finishing Story Mode planets and individual League battles grants players coins. These coins can be used within the games Shop to buy additional characters, stages and cosmetic items. These coins are also used to pay for “Continues” if players run out of lives in Story Mode. Where “giving up” makes players restart the current planet from the beginning, “Continues” bring them back exactly where they left off, with all upgrades and progress within the current stage; like they never died!
Overall, ‘Super Bomberman R’ has been a great addition to my budding Switch collection, especially as the go-to multiplayer game. Releasing this game as a Switch launch title was a good call by Konami as it serves as a good platform to showcase some of the console’s portability features. By the same token, being part of the smaller cartridge launch lineup probably also allowed them the $50 price tag. Granted, the production values are there with animated cutscenes, voice acting, smooth polished gameplay and local/online multiplayer. But, with so many eShop titles out and soon to come that offer just as much content at less than half that price, gamers might find it hard to justify the cost.