Review: Super Bomberman R (Switch)
An explosive return
When most people pick up their Switch, they’ll likely be grabbing a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild along with it. If you’re picking up another game with your console however, we strongly suggest you consider Super Bomberman R. If you’ve never before played a Bomberman title before – and let’s be honest, the explosive hero has been out of the game for a while – then you’re in for quite a treat.
Bomberman games, are, by definition, very focused experiences. In that sense, Super Bomberman R is a perfect foil for Breath of the Wild’s spacious open world; its small, grid-based combat is as enjoyable now as it was many years ago on the SNES – which is great, considering that the game it’s most like is the 16-bit classic Super Bomberman.
If you haven’t yet played a Bomberman game, don’t worry – they’re very straightforward. The single-player mode drops your Bomberman onto a grid littered with obstacles and enemies, with your goal being to blow it all up and unlock the exit. Bombs explode in a cross-shaped pattern demolishing any destructible objects and enemies caught in the blast – as well as your character, if you’re not careful. When you begin, your can drop a single bomb with a very small blast radius but as you destroy more objects you find power-ups that increase the number of bombs you can drop, how large their explosions are and even items which grant you new abilities, such as the power to kick a bomb to cause it to slide down an aisle, or to pick up and throw a bomb over obstacles.
The story mode has its own campaign and is infinitely more fun when you’re paired with a friend. Each level consists of about 8 stages and takes place on a different planet. Between each level there are cute animated cutscenes that showcase each Bomberman’s unique personality, and at the end of each level there’s a two-stage boss battle. The first stage is a simple one-on-one (or two-on-one in co-op) battle, with the second stage being on a larger scale on an open arena. After clearing the stage you’ll be given a number of gems and a rank ranging from one to three stars based on your performance. Story mode can be cleared in a couple of hours, but it’s still fun to replay with friends if you’re feeling more cooperative than competitive.
The game’s campaign does a good job of drip-feeding the various play mechanics, including new enemies which can hop over walls and multi-player arenas which require you to ascend and descend ramps to reach other sections. In terms of invention, there’s not all that much on offer here and hardcore Bomberman fans may feel like it’s a step backwards in some ways, but given that the series has had an extended hiatus the game can be excused for focusing on the core components and taking the “refresher” approach.
There’s no denying that when played alone Super Bomberman R can feel a bit repetitive, but it’s a game that was never really meant to be experienced solo. The Bomberman series has always been multiplayer-focused, and that legacy continues in this latest iteration. Super Bomberman R is one of the few Switch titles to support online play at launch. At the time of writing we weren’t able to comprehensively test this portion of the game outside of a few matches, but it worked well enough with no major issues concerning connections or lag.
Being able to face off against other players anytime you want online is great, but local competitive play is easily the game’s hallmark mode. Playing any mode yields gems which can be spent to either continue in story mode or to customize your Bomberman’s appearance for use in any of the game’s modes.
Super Bomberman R is a no-frills entry in a series which has been dormant for far too long. It’s hard to believe, but it has been nearly 10 years since we had a proper Bomberman title on a Nintendo console, and the Switch’s unique focus on local multiplayer makes this a perfect fit – we can finally put the Sega Saturn version with its cable-tangling multitap accessory in the cupboard. Support for Switch Pro Controller as well as single and dual Joy-Con play – along with local network and online multiplayer – make this the go-to multiplayer launch title for old-school gamers who those who have never played a Bomberman title before and want to see what all the fuss is about. If you’re looking to share the joy with your friends at launch, Super Bomberman R is your best bet, but for those flying solo, it might be a less fulfilling experience.