You dropped the bomb online, baby.
Slang has about as long a lifespan as fashion. "Word to your mutha" went out of style with parachute pants and getting words cut into your hair. But what do I know about hip. I'm still missing out on the whole appeal of calling something "da' bomb." [And that's why you will never board the Mothership. - Funky Ed.]
Really the most appealing bomb out there is Bomberman, who has been safely blowing things up since the NES days. You could say that he's an old school flava that never gets stale, but please don't - you'd sound silly. In any case, Bomberman is here for one last Dreamcast hurrah with Bomberman Online.
Bomberman is about a little guy in an explosion suit named, aptly enough, Bomberman. He sets down bombs that blast horizontally and vertically. Bomberman has to both stay alive and kill everyone else to win. Sounds like Thanksgiving at the Liu family household.
Bomberman Online brings a change of pace to the familiar formula with some brand new alternate rules. In addition to the original "Survivor" rules, there's now Panel Paint, Ring Match, Submarine, and Hyper.
Panel Paint, my favorite new mode, is like Othello. Every player has a designated color. Bomb blasts paint the ground in those designated colors, and whoever ends up with the most colored area wins the match. Incidentally, when you die, you lose all the area you've accumulated.
Ring Match mode pits players against one another in a small ring. The object? Kill. Ring Match feels best as a 2 player or team game - too many players on a extra small board makes for way too much confusion.
Submarine mode is more or less Bomberman Battleship. The screen is split in half with two teams facing off. Placing a bomb down is like calling out the coordinates to the other player. The bomb sinks and reappears on the opposing team's side. It's not as cerebral as it sounds; the games are quick and fun.
Hyper mode is the one most similar to Survival mode. The only major difference is the appearance of 'neutron' items. Winning simply requires collecting 3 of the 5 neutrons in a stage and bringing them back to your base. Neutrons can also be nabbed by blowing up neutron-carrying aggressors and stealing their booty as it randomly appears scattered across the board.
Rather than having you face minor, stupid bad guys, the single player mode in Bomberman Online offers battle matches versus significantly smarter bombermen. There are 5 races of bombermen to correspond to the 5 different rule sets within the game. After you've finished the three levels and the challenging boss that corresponds to each bomber race, you face the final showdown.
The bombermen AI is good, especially when it comes to group dynamics. I once trapped one of the enemies behind a bomb. From out of left field, another enemy comes up and frees his entrapped buddy by kicking the oppressive bomb out of the way. If only there was a cooperative mode so someone could kick bombs out of my way.
In truth, the enemies are only following built in routines akin to elementary Chess AI. If the enemies were slightly less predictable and more random, they'd seem more human. Expect the enemy to know your bomb radius and stand just out of range.
I've always found it a drag how once you die, so ends the fun. Some of the new modes let you play for the full duration of the clock, which is a nice change. Waiting for the last two players to duke it out gets boring, and keeping everyone in the game just makes it more fun for everyone.
You might have noticed the 'Online' part of the game's title. For the most part, my online game experience has been decent, though the servers seem rather bleakly populated (poor Dreamcast). The matchmaking system works pretty well, allowing the room master to set the rules and get the bomb rolling. Up to 8 players total can play on a single board.
When Bomberman lags, things get seriously out of whack since the game relies so heavily on timing. Don't expect the same fluidity of an offline game.
Unfortunately, only Survivor and Hyper modes can be played online. I don't know if it was the network timing or the game release deadline, but it's a bummer that more game types weren't included in network play.
As you play through the single player game, these little food and animal items will randomly appear about once a match. These also pop up during online escapades, and collecting theme will grant you parts to create your own little bomber dude. The one I made has a Samurai Warrior head with a Lucky Cat body and Big Foot feet. That's one fashion combo that will thankfully never get popular.
Too bad your custom Bomberman is only playable in the network mode of the game. It doesn't make sense to be confined to the dull standard characters in the offline game modes when you have this created custom character just sitting there.
Another feature that I would have welcomed with open arms is a win/loss record. If you keep playing games against the same set of friends, who wouldn't want to have a little digital reminder of who's the boss?
Graphically, things are nice. The cel-shading mimics the style of Bomberman intro sequences. It's a good match and captures the cartoon-ish essence of Bomberman. Though some of the boards have lighting and moving objects that distract from playing, it's not a big deal. The camera view is at a slight isometric tilt, which can be problematic. You might carelessly miss a bomb directly behind your bomberman due to his big head.
Bomberman Online manages to breathe new life into an old formula. I love the new rules and hope they show up elsewhere in the Bomberman series. The online games can be fun when there's no lag, but it feels like this is just too little too late in the life of the Dreamcast. Nonetheless, this is pretty good for one of the last DC games. What can I say? Bomberman Online is, in fact, the bomb. Er, da bomb.