The selection of games available at the launch of a new console is always hit-or-miss. If you’re lucky, there’s a system seller, but for the most part you’ll have games that don’t show the hardware’s true potential. While Breath of the Wild was the former, and titles like Fast RMX and Snipperclips are the go to downloadable titles, Super Bomberman R manages to fit snuggly between nostalgia for the series and “oh god, is it really $110?”
With a nice mix of being one of the very few launch titles available, and being a part of most gamers’ history, it’s no surprise then that Super Bomberman R is the highest selling Bomberman in the last 20 years. What is a surprise then, is how so soon after launch it’s hard to find people online to play against. But before we delve into what does and doesn’t work, let’s have a quick recap on what makes a Bomberman game.
Bomberman is known for its fast-paced local multiplayer action. Up to 8 players (in Super Bomberman R, at least) have a few minutes to blow each other up with the placement of cartoonish black bombs. The last person standing is the winner of the round. Win the set number of rounds and win the game. It’s a fairly simple premise that only gets more challenging and more competitive with each power-up gained, and with each round lost.
Initially, you can only have one bomb placed at a time, forcing the start of each round to be slow and deliberate. Players are also spawned at set locations and have a very limited space in which they can move. The idea is to place a bomb, wait, blow up some surrounding blocks, and gradually blast your way closer to the other players. Bombs explode out into each cardinal direction a set number of squares so while you can judge what’s happening at any given point in time, a misplaced bomb or a step in the wrong direction will ultimately lead to demise.
Power-ups give you the ability to place more bombs, allow explosions to reach further distances, kick or punch bombs to knock them away, or – my favourite – let you lob grenades over obstacles to block your enemy in.
On paper this sounds great, and previous entries have proven that. There’s a chance that you’ve played an installment in the series and instantly know the satisfaction that can come from sitting back and watching the other players destroy each other, or the frustration from wiping yourself from the map with an ill-placed bomb at the very start of a round. The Switch, with its detachable controllers and instant two-player local multiplayer, would make Bomberman a no-brainer for the console.
Unfortunately, what should have been a home-run has all the traits of a title rushed to launch alongside a new console. Thankfully a patch released this week fixed a lot of the control issues that plagued the game, but that didn’t stop all online matches I ventured into from feeling laggy and nearly unplayable, and that was if I could find people to play against. No amount of fiddling with the in-game online settings would fix that one.
But Bomberman has never been about the online play, it’s about connecting to people in the real world; throwing controllers to a group of friends and taking each other on with a bit of loving banter and a bunch of laughs. So when myself and 5 others connected 3 Switches together for a 6 player all-you-can-blast, you can imagine our upset when the game just couldn’t keep up. Connecting over local wi-fi we found the game lagging for seconds at a time, and ended up giving up in favour of some lag free Mario Kart 7 on the 3DS instead. The worrisome thing here was the fear that this is what can be expected of local Switch gaming in the future.
The ability to connect 4 Switches together for 8 player local is a great idea, as is playing online wherever you can find a wifi connection, but if it doesn’t work, what exactly are you getting for your $110? A silky smooth 1-2 player story mode. The Story mode takes the Bombermen across their galaxy to take on the evil Bombermen out to stop them. The cinematics are full of Saturday morning quality acting, and managed to make me forget the woes of multiplayer. Once the game actually began, however, I was reminded that there’s a big reason Bomberman isn’t known for its single player action.
Each world is divided into 8 stages and end with a boss fight against much cooler looking Bombermen. Stages requires you to either destroy all the incredibly generic enemies, flip some switches, collect a number of keys, or various other small tasks that serve no purpose to the story. The one thing that the mode has, that should be available in each and every multiplayer battle, is a section of the UI that tells you exactly how many bombs you can drop, how far the blast will reach, and what pick-ups you have. For some reason, this very important set of icons is missing from the multiplayer.
Super Bomberman R isn’t a bad game when it’s working, and if you can get a few people connected to a single Switch you’ll have a great time. But due to a small online presence and some serious lag issues when connecting devices locally, the game just doesn’t work as it should. Super Bomberman R hasn’t launched with a downloadable title price – it’s a full retail game, with the price to match. If you need your fix, I’d suggest either waiting until you find this in a bargain bin, or dust off your Wii U and grab Bomberman 64 on Virtual Console.