Some have described Nintendo Switch’s launch lineup as thin, but I’m guessing that’s because they haven’t played Zelda yet. If you have, you know as well as I do that juggling a second blockbuster in tandem with Breath of the Wild would probably be impossible, or at the very least dubious. As such, a console launch co-headlined by Bomberman isn’t as ho-hum as you might expect, and Super Bomberman R marks a pleasant and fun (if concise) return to the frenzied fun the recently dormant series is known for.
The Tale of Team Bomberman
Multiplayer is the focus, and I’ll get to it, but there’s a campaign for single or two-player co-op to tackle first things first. It’s comprised of levels, which are comprised of stages, each of the former occurring on a unique planet in Super Bomberman R’s cosmos for a total of 50 stages. It sounds like a lot, but so do the 80-plus levels in Captain Toad; in the case of Super Bomberman R, the story mode can be cleared even more quickly. Still, plowing through its challenges was undeniably fun, and a surprising number of each planet’s two-phase boss battles offered up challenges I didn’t expect. There’s nothing so devious as to halt your momentum for more than a few minutes, but even so, it’s nice when games make you use your noodle.
My lack of Bomberman veteran-status doesn't afford me decades of inter-series comparison, and as such I found the game’s aesthetic perfectly pleasant. In particular, the 2D cutscene vignettes between each major level go far in making the campaign more than just a structural change. These are goofy in nature, are dubbed in English, and offer up slice-of-life (yet plot-relevant) encounters with each of team Bomberman’s eccentric, bordering-on-foolish cast. I’ll admit that more development elbow grease probably could’ve gone into these (especially given to game’s $50 price tag), but they’re so light-hearted in nature that I’m ultimately fine embracing them for what they are.
The More the Merrier
Multiplayer is where bang for your buck really shines, and in true Sm4sh fashion up to eight players can partake with a single Switch system. It was news to me that Switch can even register so many inputs (and securing such isn’t exactly going to be cheap), but if you manage it the option is there. What I did spend substantial time with is off-TV mode, which caps player-totals at four but otherwise downscales the game’s explosive chaos perfectly. I’ll be interested to see how Switch multiplayer holds up off-TV when split-screen is involved, but thankfully it’s not something Super Bomberman R has to worry about.
Outside the core Bomberman gameplay that remains relatively unchanged (explode enemies and obstacles, increase explosion radius over time, adorn your Bomberman with frills and enhancements), the game is laced with a surprising amount of notable tweaks to the formula. Magnets send your bombs careening off course, while puzzler-lite switch-flipping and character customization add incentive to keep playing once the main story has long-since concluded. This goes double across R’s three difficulty settings, two of which I found similarly simple but the toughest of which did manage to muster a fair amount of Joy-Con-crunching deaths. I refrained from hurling my new Nintendo hardware, but it’s nice to know the extra challenge exists.
Details of Destruction
I do want to touch on the soundtrack for a moment. Though upbeat and suitable to the onscreen action at hand, and fortified with the robotic, synthesized techno-baubles one might expect, to me a lot of the tracks came off generic. Many are simply hype-tunes for boss encounters with gratuitous guitar riffs and the like, while others, though catchy, aren’t memorable. It’s not something to hold against the game in any kind of bitter capacity, but I always see soundtrack as a massive opportunity to push a fun but modest package like Super Bomberman R to the next level. The tracks here serve their function, but are no Bomberman Hero.
That said, other quirks like bonus characters and levels bolster the title’s longevity, but ultimately you’re going to enjoy Super Bomberman R for as long as you’ve got friends around to play it with. There’s no doubt it’s Switch’s best multiplayer option for fellow-gamer friends (1-2 Switch takes the cake for non-gamers and farmers), and its status as a launch title, as in any launch scenario, boosts its standing a tad simply for launch attendance and achievement of general fun and respectable quality.
The $50 asking price of Super Bomberman R is hardly worth it to play by your lonesome, but as a go-to for when Zelda exhaustion kicks in or siblings get sick of hogged Joy-Cons, there’s little reason not to award a sturdy recommend. It provides serious multiplayer mileage, and acts as a return-to-function for the Bomberman franchise, hopefully assisting a more dramatic former-glory restoration sometime in the future.