• Bomberman Generations Review - Nintendo Gamecube

    There used to be a time when the phrase “Bomberman is great” could be declared with pride. Unfortunately nowadays (edit: first published 2002), along with “Star Wars is great, apart from The Phantom Menace”, you have to say “Bomberman is great, apart from the two N64 versions”. Fortunately this year, not only has George Lucas redeemed Star Wars to a certain extent with Attack of the Clones, but Hudson Soft have also returned Bomberman to greatness with Bomberman Generations.

    Undoubtedly, one of the reasons why the N64 versions failed so miserably has to be the strange, if not suicidal decision to remove the classic multiplayer mode. Anyone familiar with the world of Bomberman will know that historically it’s generally only regarded as a multiplayer game. One might have thought that this simple fact alone would’ve highlighted the fatal error in the developers thinking. However, in a vein attempt to push the franchise in a new direction, a fresh single player action adventure game was introduced instead. This was of course in 3D, as in those days, any game wanting to be with the times had to be in 3D. Clunky is about the least offensive word that can be used to describe these games. Nobody would have really minded had the classic multiplayer game not been dropped altogether. It had, of course, and so the whole thing sunk faster than the Titanic.
    The developers at Hudson Soft have finally seen the light; the multiplayer game is back and all should rejoice in its greatness. It's simply the best incarnation of the multiplayer game since the Saturn and, although the recent Dreamcast release comes close, this Nintendo based adaptation should now be classed as the definitive version. Those Gamecube owners who fondly remember the old-school multiplayer madness it provided should stop reading this review and go and buy the game now. For those of you who still need convincing, there’s a single player action adventure game tucked into the package as well and surprisingly its not too bad either.

    Before looking at the single player aspect of the game, though, it’s worth describing what makes the multiplayer game so damn good. The whole battle game is based around the classic "kill everyone else before they kill you" concept. Old school maybe, but it certainly makes for instant accessibility. The play area is also classically simple. Basically, it’s a square grid filled with both destroyable and non-destroyable blocks. Up to four players start, one in each corner, with the ultimate aim of destroying the others with bombs. Using bombs is simply a matter of dropping them with the A button. The bombs explode after a certain amount of time, hopefully catching as many of the opposition in the blast as possible. They also clear a path through the destroyable blocks, some of which reveal powerups. These can boost the number of bombs you can drop at one time, increase your speed, magnify the power of your bombs or even add extra abilities such as bomb throwing and kicking. There’s really nothing more to it and that’s exactly what makes it so great. With no convoluted controls, ridiculously complex rules or split screen confusion to contend with, almost anyone can be successfully playing the game within minutes.

    As well as the classic standard multiplayer battle experience, Hudson Soft has added some new variations on the popular theme. In total, there are five multiplayer modes, adding four varying twists on the classic battle gameplay. Reversi sees the players trying to mark as many grid squares as possible with bombs, while Coin has the contestants fighting over falling loot. The Dodge version removes the ability to actually drop bombs, restricting the players to dodge the falling bombs and finally the strangest is called Revenge, where the players have to bomb moles for points. In truth though, only the Coin Battle really stands out as it supplements the standard battle mode with just that little bit extra to fight over. All of these modes are packed with options, including the ability to create teams, alter the number of rounds and set the time limit. One option distinctively missing is a volume control for the music. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the music, it’s just that after hearing it for the fortieth time it can really start to grate.

    To fill in the time when you’re not blowing seven shades of hell out of your friends in battle mode, Hudson have delivered a remarkably entertaining single player experience as well. The game is split into several distinct levels, each containing a number of stages. The basic aim is to guide bomberman through these stages, blowing stuff up and solving puzzles to collect crystals. The amusingly irrelevant back story to this has a comical “direct Japanese to English translation” feel. It certainly isn’t Morrowind in terms of depth or storyline, but fortunately what it lacks in those areas it certainly makes up for in simple addictive fun.

    On starting the game you’ll find the puzzles are somewhat trivial to say the least; Nothing more is required than maybe knocking over a tree to use as a bridge, but the complexity of the puzzles soon increases. Fairly early on you learn how to use the “Big Bomb”, allowing your bombs to move huge rocks out of your path or redirect water to fashion new trails. At different points during the stages you’re given the opportunity to play one of a selection of mini-games to win elemental bomb powerups. These can be used to imbue your standard bombs with special powers, but to do so you’re required to locate the nearest bomb-merging facility. You’ll come across certain obstacles or enemies throughout the game that can only be circumvented by the use of these specially fashioned weapons. This certainly opens up the puzzle element to more complex and entertaining challenges.

    Also along the way, you’ll encounter Charabombs. These friendly little creatures will join Bomberman on his journey, augmenting his abilities in different ways. Although the first critter you meet happily joins immediately, others will only join by facing off against other Charabombs in a special battle mode. Each Charabomb has certain combat characteristic which can be increased by feeding them special food found throughout the levels. The Charabomb battle mode is a simple turn based affair, where success is based on the characteristics of each opponent. It’s very similar to Pokemon in this respect and although it definitely isn’t ground breaking it does at least add an extra element to gameplay.

    In the age old tradition of this type of game, at the end of every couple of levels or so you have to defeat a boss character. These are possibly the hardest and most bothersome aspect of the game. Each boss has its own weak spot and follows a certain pattern. Players must find and exploit this weakness in order to defeat the enemy. However, there’s never really any hints as to what the weak spot is each time and it can certainly become frustrating trying to find it on the later levels.

    The controls for the single player game, like the gameplay itself, are also beautifully simple. Unsurprisingly, the A button is used for dropping bombs in exactly the same was as the multiplayer game. In the single player game, though, you’re given the ability to kick and throw bombs right from the word go. Kicking bombs is simply a matter of walking into a previously dropped bomb while pressing A; standing over them picks them, at which point depressing it again hurls them in the direction you’re facing. Hitting the Z button pops up the Bomb setup screen, where you can select which Charabom’s powers you’d like to currently take advantage of and which type of bomb is in use.

    On the graphical front, bomberman has always combined the simple but effective gameplay with simple yet effective graphics. It’s never really required anything flashy, having in the past been fundamentally presented in 2D. It wasn’t until the travesty of the N64 versions that bomberman really enter the 3D age. Interestingly, Bomberman Generations is also in 3D, but the developers have tried to keep the original cartoon feel by using cel shading, in essence rendering everything back into 2D. It works extremely well and using unashamedly bright colours recreates the legendary bomberman feel effortlessly. Everything is crisp and clean and no matter how many pseudo 3D bombs you have exploding on screen at once the frame rate never drops bellow silky smooth.

    It may just be the addition of classic multiplayer mode that lifts the single player experience above its simplistic roots. On its own, it’s quite possible that the single player game would have fallen flat, as with the N64 versions. As a package deal however, the game’s certainly worth the money. After all, its popularity was never questioned when it existed solely as a multiplayer game. In this respect, the multiplayer king is back and there shouldn’t be a Gamecube software collection anywhere without it. Gamecube owners need only chant “Bomberman plus joypads plus friends equals insane fun” and celebrate in possibly the best multiplayer game on the platform to date.

    A Bomberman Generations review by Andrew Court
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. cutmymilk's Avatar
      cutmymilk -
      How about the actual date that this was written too? Adds more context and will be less confusing!
    1. charlesr's Avatar
      charlesr -
      Not sure of the date. There are a whole bunch that all have the same date, but let's go with the release date Summer 2002
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