Review: Bomberman Hero (N64)

Bomberman flies solo

Apart from the very first game in the series, Bomberman has always been famed for its frantic, fast-paced, and, above all, fun multiplayer modes. Pretty much every single game starring the little guy has featured support for multiple players, with most of the Nintendo outings allowing four or five, and others like Saturn Bomberman even allowing up to ten.

Despite this, single-player has always been a big part of the experience — almost every game has a sizable solo adventure in which you generally travel across various planets blowing the living hell out of the creatures that are just minding their own business there.

Bomberman made his debut on the Nintendo 64 in another title featuring both single- and multi-player modes, the aptly named Bomberman 64, which didn't do much different from its predecessors apart from making the jump to 3D graphics and featuring slightly more puzzle-solving in the solo sections. Strangely, Hudson has skipped over that one and has chosen to release Bomberman Hero on Virtual Console first, which does things completely different than his first go on the ol' 64.

If you're a fan of blowing up your friends, you'll very quickly notice that something is suspiciously absent on the main menu: multiplayer. Although its N64 predecessor and the two games on the system that followed all featured it, this one eschews it in favour of a larger single-player adventure, which is not entirely like it used to be either.

The solo modes of previous Bomberman games practically just consisted of multiplayer levels with a few more hazards and enemies that randomly moved about, but this game turns it into more of an action platformer. Bomberman can now run and jump around in all directions, and instead of simply dropping bombs (or kicking them), he can now also throw them straight at any enemies he encounters.

The mazey level designs you always had to blast your way through are completely gone, and have been replaced by fairly open 3D areas with not many obstacles to speak of, as they're mostly made up out of the occasional enemy and some platforming. In fact, there are almost no walls, blocks or what-have-you to blow up; you're lucky if you encounter one or two in a single level, and even then they're almost never in your way. If a level isn't a straight, simple path to the end, the only challenge comes in the form of picking up a keycard or fragments of an emblem to unlock a door with. Bomberman can also take multiple hits, which is very welcome, as you'll end up throwing a bomb into an enemy or wall right next to you sooner or later.

Regardless, running and jumping around while throwing bombs everywhere is pretty fun, and like the old games, you can find some upgrades that increase the amount of bombs you can have out at any one time, as well as their blast radius. Unfortunately, the fun doesn't last forever, as the flow of regular stages is all too frequently broken up by a rather unwelcome addition: vehicle stages.

Far more than you'd want, Bomberman will have to take one of four "vehicles" (a helicopter hat, jetpack, submarine and snowboard) in order to get through a stage he wouldn't normally be able to move around in. All but the copter are pretty much identical: you go through one long, completely straight-forward path attempting to pick up as many items and destroy as many enemies as you can, with the level usually culminating in some sort of miniboss fight.

The submarine can go backwards but the other two can't, and the best you can manage with them is to slow down. With the helicopter, you can fly around in any direction and drop bombs anywhere, which is somewhat amusing, but the problem with all of these is that they're just so incredibly slow it actually brings down the overall experience — Bomberman is about fast-paced, frantic fun, and although the regular stages at least get the "fun" part right, the vehicle stages get none of them.

The game can take quite a while to beat, with over 70 levels available, though a good part of that will have to be spent watching Bomberman slowly plowing along in one of his contraptions. There's also some decent replay value, as each level has a goal score which will award you a bunch of medals — five if you hit the actual target. Collecting these medals does nothing at first, but if you collect all in a particular world, you'll actually unlock some additional single-player modes and, if you collect every single one in the whole game, some extra levels. It's debatable whether it's all worth it, however!

Graphically the game isn't really too interesting at first as most of the beginning areas feature almost nothing but wide-open terrain devoid of activity. It gets slightly better later on though, as the levels start filling up with a bit more eye candy. There's some moderately catchy tunes among the music, but there's only about seven or eight regular stage themes, counting the songs for each of the vehicles, which means you'll be hearing each of them a lot.

Conclusion

Bomberman Hero is a big departure from the Bomberman series norm, with no multiplayer mode and a single-player adventure that's more of a platformer than an action game. If you're not a fan of the other games in the series, then the gameplay change here might interest you, but otherwise, you'll simply find a moderately fun adventure bogged down by many slow sections. Bring on the other N64 games next, please, Hudson!

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