With an influx of incredible modern takes on classic titles such as Tetris 99, Pac-Man 99, and the short-lived Super Mario Bros. 35, Super Bomberman R Online feels like the video game equivalent of a kid picked last for the sports team; an altogether scrappier, less elegant battle royale title than its peers, but one that houses simple, compelling gameplay underneath the layers of jank. It’s not the best Bomberman game to grace Nintendo platforms, but it’s certainly worth a look.
In terms of pure gameplay, anyone familiar with Super Bomberman R, or the series in general, will feel right at home with this free-to-play battle royale spin-off which debuted on Google's Stadia last year. You play as one of several Bomberman characters (and a smattering of special characters that we'll explore in more depth later) dropped into a 11x13 gridded arena filled with an assortment of blocks. Pitted against your opponents, you must strategically drop bombs within the arena’s grid to both take out your opponents and clear pathways for better mobility.
Super Bomberman R Online amps up the classic gameplay by incorporating 16 interconnected arenas enabling a total of 64 players to take part in the action. Each match starts off in familiar territory and feels very much like classic Bomberman titles; it’s just you against three opponents in a phase known as ‘Battle Mode’. After a certain amount of time, the game shifts into the ‘Movement Phase’; here, the game forces you to vacate to a safe arena as it gradually whittles the 16 arenas into just one, where the last remaining competitors battle for victory.
Aside from the main Battle 64 mode, you can also create matches with a variety of different rules, including the number of players, time limit, number of rounds, and more. So if you wish you, can strip the game back to basics and just have a good old fashioned game of Bomberman with up to 16 players. Of course, creating these matches means waiting for players to join, which at this point in the game’s life can take a fair amount of time.
Nevertheless, the main Battle 64 mode is a genuinely fun take on the battle royale genre that’s absolutely free to play, but is massively bolstered by a selection of excellent special characters if you’re willing to punt for the Premium Pack DLC. It contains several Konami icons from the likes of Castlevania’s Richter Belmont and Alucard to Metal Gear Solid’s Naked Snake and Raiden. Each character boasts a unique ability to aid in battle, with Alucard able to transform into mist, effectively becoming temporarily invulnerable to bombs, and Snake utilising his stealth abilities to turn invisible for a short period of time.
It’s undeniable that those who own the Premium Pack DLC automatically have somewhat of an advantage over those that don’t, but Super Bomberman R Online strikes a surprisingly fair balance during gameplay, with pick ups and power ups providing base characters with ample opportunity to gain ground over the objectively superior special characters. Even the mighty Alucard would quiver in fear at the sight of six bombs sectioning off an entire corner of the arena.
So the gameplay itself is sound, and reason enough to at least download Super Bomberman R Online and see what’s what, but let’s talk about all the superfluous jank surrounding it. For starters, the game has some major teething issues at this stage of its release, with multiple short freezes occurring during matches that can often completely derail your progress. It’s an incredibly frustrating occurrence that we hope gets resolved sooner rather than later before the console player base vacates to another game.
In addition to technical issues during gameplay, it also takes an unnecessary amount of time to simply start a match in the first place. In the interest of providing accurate, scientific findings, we actually timed it from start to finish: initially, you hit the ‘Quick Match’ option, and the game takes (on average) about 40 seconds to find other players; then you have about 25 seconds to pick your character before going into another loading screen for approximately 60 seconds — just over two minutes to get into a match, then. This is of course exacerbated if you happen to be unfortunate enough to perish early on, meaning you have to go right back to the start and begin the whole rigmarole all over again. Come on now.
Super Bomberman R Online also comes with a heap of optional microtransactions and a battle pass. The battle pass is fairly standard stuff, awarding new costumes, accessories, and poses whenever you increase your rank, but the game gives you the option of purchasing the ‘gold battle pass’ for 800 Bomber Coins giving you access to multiple items instantly. It’s worth mentioning that, as you might expect, you can only purchase Bomber Coins in packs of 100, 500, 1000, and 3000, so you need to purchase 1000 Coins for the gold battle pass, leaving 200 left to gather dust unless you spend it on an individual item.
For a game so simplistic in nature (and that, ultimately, is what makes the Bomberman series so enduring), the addition of battle passes and microtransactions feels completely at odds with the rest of the experience, and it’s not something we can honestly say we’ll be taking advantage of again anytime soon. This, along with the freezing and asinine loading times, makes Super Bomberman R Online a difficult game to recommend, even if its core gameplay remains as compelling as ever.
Super Bomberman R Online joins many of its peers as the latest classic franchise to receive a battle royale twist. It’s not entirely successful, with technical issues including freezing during gameplay and awfully long waits to get into matches alongside a battle pass and microtransaction system that just doesn’t fit in with the nature of the game. Underneath all the added padding, however, is the same classic Bomberman gameplay that’s tweaked to fit 64 players, making it an experience that you should, at the very least, download and try out. It’s free Bomberman, after all.