When a company succeeds in creating a strong mascot chances are it will milk the character for all its worth. Mario has driven karts, gained a PhD and hosted numerous parties, for example. However, there’s a fine line between using the mascot in a positive way (see aforementioned Mario titles) and merely exploiting the public interest in the character to make some quick cash.
Hudson is certainly guilty of the latter case. Having realised that the distinctive White Bomberman is quite popular with the fans, the company has wasted no time in shoehorning the surprisingly expressionless character into a variety of different videogame genres. Sadly, in almost every case these games have been unforgiveably poor (we’re still trying to wipe the ghastly N64 versions from our memory), leading most fans to agree that Bomberman should really stick to what he does best – namely blowing things up in a ‘multiplayer stylee’.
Undeterred, Hudson has once again placed its mascot in unfamiliar territory. Bomberman Story is best described as ‘RPG-lite’. The same basic principles exist – you can drop bombs to blow up enemies, as well as picking them up and throwing them – but this time there are additional elements such as experience points, non-player character interaction and inventory management.
Bomberman Story calls to mind the classic GBA role-playing titles of old. The graphics are certainly appealing but they fail to tax the DS hardware in any way. Not necessarily a bad thing, you might think, but it would have been nice to see something a little more visually diverse. The same can be said for the music, which wouldn’t sound out of place in a SNES game. That said, the tunes contained within are perfectly nice and won’t have you turning the volume down to zero, thankfully.
However, once you’ve become acclimatised to the somewhat humble visual and aural experience, the game really beings to sink its claws into you, almost in spite of itself. The RPG aspects are incredibly basic and will have the most dedicated Final Fantasy fan scoffing in disgust, but regardless of this everything is balanced almost perfectly. Dungeons never outstay their welcome, combat never becomes too long winded and the smattering of mini games helps break up the pace a little.
Much thought has been put into the combat system, too. Hudson has ensured that it offers a myriad of strategies whilst remaining simple enough to avoid confusing the player. Differently colour bombs have unique effects, such as spitting out fireballs and even attracting dim-witted foes. Many other items – such as boots that increase your walking speed - hark back to the original Bomberman games, which helps to reinforce the perception that this is a more meaningful and authentic use of the franchise.
The best RPGs don’t rely on story, battle systems or sumptuous visuals (although all these features help, obviously) but on the addictive nature of the gameplay. All the graphical splendour in the world isn’t going to be much help if the core game stinks to high heaven. Bomberman Story certainly isn’t going to challenge the likes of Zelda or the Final Fantasy III when it comes to epic quests and gameplay features, but it unquestionably entertains. Whether or not hardcore Bomberman fans will take to the game remains to be seen (thankfully there’s a ‘traditional’ version of the much-loved multiplayer epic contained within which allows you to challenge people online) but anyone who is after an enjoyable entry into the sometimes-intimidating world of RPGs could certainly do a lot worse than take a look at this.