Bomberman has been out of action for a half decade or more depending on how you count, but as a franchise, it’s been around for over thirty years — thirty-three in fact, as the box art proudly depicts. Despite that impressive duration and being released on numerous platforms I have owned over years, and hearing good things from a couple of my friends, I never played a Bomberman game until I brought my Switch over to play local multiplayer with a friend who was much more experienced in the series than me.
We fired up the Story mode, which is actually rather well done for a series that is known for and pushes multiplayer mayhem above all else. Spreading across six cool planets (starting with Planet Technopolis) in the Starry Sky Solar System, and some fifty-plus stages with bosses at the end of each world, the Story mode is a strong point of the release. Don’t expect anything deep here of course, with the gist being that the Bomberman family is teaming up to go against Emperor Buggler and his minions. Depending on your skill level, it might be something you can complete in just an hour or two, or it could take a good while longer than that. For me, I’ve still not seen the end of it, and a big reason for that is running out of the ‘coins’ that you get in-game, with the other reason being playing multiplayer. Fortunately, these coins do not require real money or transactions to get, but, you do have to play multiplayer battles to get more. This might be the first game I can think of where in order to continue my adventure in single player I have to play multiplayer to unlock more continues, but so it is. While I can see that the idea is to motivate players to go online or play locally with others, it’s an odd choice.
As you’re likely well aware, or at least were so more than me, the gameplay is simple, but requires both some strategy and twitch reactions. You control one of about eight of the Bomberman family, who look and sound a bit different from one another, but functionally are all the same. Each stage is a self-contained grid packed with walls and obstacles that you can blow down, and lots of enemies. Objectives are simple, and typically involve destroying all enemies to activate the exit tile or you have to press all of the switches on the board, or both. Enemies usually move in predictable patterns, but, sometimes can throw you for a loop, or other enemies have the ability to jump over the walls and create trouble for you. Having only the bombs to use as your weapon means that yes, you can defeat these enemies in one hit, but, if you’re in your own bomb’s blast radius, you’re toast as well. Power-ups allowing you to run faster, increase blast radius, kick bombs before the explode, and other goodies are hidden within the walls that you blow down. On Easy, you get nine lives, but those can go pretty quick if you aren’t careful. Given that twitch reactions with the left thumbstick are required, be weary of lag or connectivity issues from your controller to the console if you’re playing in docked mode.
Speaking of lag, on Friday, Konami announced on their website that they’re looking into control lag issues for multiplayer. My online multiplayer experience so far is pretty limited — I played on one docked Switch, with me and my friends using one joycon each. We didn’t experience any issues, but I noticed when I hooked my Switch back up in a different arrangement and I had more distance and obstruction between the console and the joycon, the left stick would sometimes feel slightly laggy. Online play sometimes has its own network or network-code based lag, but my experience overall has been positive. I have not had much trouble finding games to join and typically play is smooth. Having only deathmatch to play does get kind of boring, though.
As far as presentation goes, Konami Digital Entertainment and HexaDrive have done a really nice job. From the box art to in-game cutscenes, the artwork is wildly colorful and charming. The boss characters look great as well. The stages themselves are, by nature of the game itself, kind of blah looking and repetitive, but that’s part of the game’s overall design and charm, if that makes sense. Voice-acting is fitting and good, and while the music can get pretty repetitive, it promotes the frantic, short-play atmosphere that the game is going for. Alternate costume pieces can be purchased from the start menu with the currency you earn in-game, offering a variety of hats for your Bombermen.
All in all, Super Bomberman R is one of the most interesting releases on the Switch so far. That said, unless you have a core group to play lots of local multiplayer with or expect the online community to thrive, it’s hard to give it a high recommendation at $50. Then again, if you’re a fan of the series and are starved for a new experience, SBR makes a lot more sense at face value.