It goes without saying that the Nintendo Switch launch line up was a bit dry other than the monumental success that was Breath of the Wild. Yet, there was another game that was a must have on day one for a lot of my retro gaming buddies, Super Bomberman R. Now, Bomberman has always been a series I have known about, but I didn’t really get into much other than playing it back in the day on the Sega Genesis. I also really enjoyed Bomberman Hero for the N64, never really playing one since then. Now that I’ve got some quality time in with this newest title from Konami and HexaDrive, I can honestly say that this is the party game to pick up for the Switch, at least for right now.
In reality, Super Bomberman R hasn’t changed the formula for the franchise much. Players battle it out in simple arenas by dropping bombs and avoiding explosions with everyone running around picking up power-ups to get stronger. Stages can have some elevation at play with ramps and elevators, making some of the stages feel more complex. The basic battle mode consists of this arena gameplay, all being played from an top-down perspective. Players can eventually kick bombs, stop kicked bombs, and lob them over obstacles with collectible power-ups that drop after clearing destructible blocks. Throwing a bomb towards the outer barrier also warps it to the opposite side, which makes for some interesting moments and strategies. Dying in multiplayer also puts the player on the outside, where they throw basic bombs at those left. Getting a kill on the side lines brings back the one who scored the kill, making it feel more like dodge ball sometimes. This ensures that those defeated can still enjoy the party.
Controls are incredibly simple, so much so that it’s a breeze playing with the Joy-Con turned sideways. This also makes Super Bomberman R the first game on Switch that I could share with a friend for some mayhem or even some co-op play. While I still stand that the Joy-Con isn’t the best controller, this is the way the Switch was meant to be played and shared. I found myself playing Zelda and then if someone in the office was bored I’d ask if they wanted to try Bomberman.
There wasn’t a single session in which me and whoever I was playing with wasn’t laughing. Each battle was an absolute blast, showing this game at its best when played around friends. There are several ways to play multiplayer, either by connecting multiple Switch units or by having more controllers. If there isn’t anyone around, players can easily jump online, where they can also climb through the ranks to be the best Bomberman player. I do admit that I have a rough time with beating other players, which will probably result in me being in the lowest brackets for quite some time. I would love to see local tournaments though, especially since this is one of the first competitive games on the system.
I will add that the AI in the battle mode is ruthless and plays the game a little too well. Almost every match I played against the computer left me on the losing end. The AI will even stand in between squares, dodging fire walls with scary accuracy. Although, this crazy high intelligence goes out the window in Sudden Death, where spikes slowly enclose the arena. Yet this precision carries on to the campaign, which can make some boss fights an absolute slog that relies on a lot more luck than I would have liked.
Story Mode in Super Bomberman R feels more like a puzzle game more than anything else. I was strangely reminded of the Adventures of Lolo games, even though they both play differently from each other. Each stage has a specific goal, like survive waves of enemies until the counter runs down, blow up all the enemies, or hit all of the hidden switches. This does break up the monotony of the game’s core mechanics by quite a bit, especially since your character gets to keep his power-ups from stage to stage in the confines of that world.
The Bombers travel from planet to planet, clearing stage after stage, with funny cutscenes in between. These scenes are all voiced over, which is a great change of pace for a game of this scope. Each Bomber has their own personality with my favorite being the overtly lazy Blue, who has an odd knack for technology. There’s nothing too adversely amazing in the story, but it is fun to jump into while traveling or during a party. The entire story is also playable with a friend, which can lead to some awesome plays. Boss battles are varied and gives the player a lot more room in run around in, but I always found tackling the other Bombers to be a bit too tricky.
These evil Bombers are prone to dodging all the but most perfect strategy, which typically resulted in my cornering both of us to take a life and take them out. I never felt like I won one of these fights fairly. Each boss does have two stages, with the second one being that broader space with a much larger machine. These fights are all about discovering a pattern and exploiting their weakness like a lot of video game bosses. On even the standard difficulty, this was a token-taker. Players can get more lives by spending coins, but the price of this continue increases with the difficulty, making it pretty rough for me to get through, so I went to Easy. On Easy, continues are much cheaper, but it still felt like I was tossing myself at some of these bosses as their fights are a bit one sided, even with all the power-ups I had collected through that world.
Super Bomberman R doesn’t do anything incredibly unique as far as the series is concerned. Fans of Bomberman will want to pick it up though, since its still a rip-roaring good time with friends.
Having Super Bomberman R on the Switch is a huge benefit, as it is the type of fun that is best experienced on the move. This is the first multiplayer game that really benefits from being on this console, making sharing half a Joy-Con actually fun and worthwhile. There just doesn’t seem to be as much content I would have like to have seen for the price the game launched at. This is a game that would fly off the shelves for about $30-$20, but many will shy away from the $50 asking price, which is a shame since there is a lot of fun in this little game.
Super Bomberman R is exclusively on Switch.
Note: This is also the game that showed just how apt the Joy-Cons are to de-sync from my launch unit. Many have said that newer Joy-Cons don’t have this problem and Nintendo has been allowing users to ship their controllers in to be fixed for free.