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Super Bomberman

Year released: 1993
Company: Hudson Soft
Genre: Action Puzzle

Super Bomberman is not a very complex game. Not to say that's necessarily bad or good, only that it doesn't have a whole lot of intricate details to expound upon. There are only major items. I have more positive things to say about this game than negative, but the negative things are just about as significant to the game as the positive. It's about as good as the game could get, really, but it is hardly perfect.

The plot of this game? Well, to tell you the truth, I really don't think there is one. Actually, there is, in the sense that there's a good guy (Bomberman, natch) and a bad guy (a generic evil scientist, partnered with some dude in a top hat), but aside from that, I just don't know what's going on. I have no idea exactly what the scientist and haberdasher are doing that requires Bomberman to step in and thwart their plans. Now, you could argue that this is a simple game, and as such, requires a lengthy storyline as much as a lawyer needs a pair of needle-nosed pliers, but at the same time I would like to see something going on during the course of the game, especially since there are a couple places where the scientist and/or hat-wearer stand still for a few moments, as if begging to have some dialogue to flail at our hero.

Audiovisually, the game really doesn't make many mistakes. The graphics are quite obviously going for caricature, but that paradigm had already been set when the NES sequel to Bomberman (with the inspired title of Bomberman 2) was released. The height of the game's cuteness comes in the little luminescent blue-and-yellow enemies that whoosh from side to side, its heads popping in and out as they swing. I like the variety of the scenery; since it appears as if they used at least 20 different backdrops to house 48 levels of play - and that's not counting the battle mode backgrounds. One little nit-pick, though: I would rather have had a numerical timer counting down the time limit to each level as opposed to the confusing time-line they use.

When it comes to the soundtrack that accompanies this game, the folks at Hudson Soft who programmed the music better have gotten a raise. They took the overwhelmingly elementary ditty used in the original NES game, and transformed it from a melody to a bass line. All of a sudden, you've got a piece that was once mind-numbing and is now an absolute masterpiece. And better still, later levels further modify the simple ten-note phrase. However, the 6 rating I gave in the Audio category is still a very generous one, because the sound effects are just far too loud in this game. From the squeaks Bomberman makes as he walks to the blaring pause sound, they really needed to turn the volume down on the effects front.

For the most part, the control is solid. Bomberman moves a mite slower than I'd prefer, but there are speed powerups to be found in the game which counter this small gripe. The larger complaint I have is that the programmers seem to have come down with Link to the Past Syndrome. Put simply, they saw that the front of an SNES controller had four main buttons, and felt an obligation to assign a different task to each and every one of them. Moreover, they felt an obligation to require you to pick up the appropriate power-up in order to be able to execute said auxiliary actions.

This game is both too hard and too easy. How does it accomplish that? Well, first, regarding the too easy part. For one thing, the invincibility you begin a level or new life with lasts far longer than it ought to, especially since invincibility in this game doubles as the ability to become a one-man blast furnace, perpetuating an explosion with timed bomb-droppings, leveling enemies and walls until you stop dropping bombs moments before your immortality wears off. Also, most of the time, lives are lost not by contact from enemies or their projectiles, but more by one's own stupidity in either A) setting a bomb, forgetting it exists, and walking back into its path as it explodes; or B) setting a bomb, then trapping yourself between said bomb and a wall, without powerups to get out of the bomb's blast. If you could avoid the brain farts, you can probably reach the 2/3-point of the game before you'd have to spend one of your infinite continues.

But this is where too easy becomes too hard. As a general rule in video games, losing a life often results in your forfeiting of whatever power-ups were in your possession at the time of death. In the original Bomberman, this was true except for two things: The number of bombs that could be on the screen at one time, and the range of said bombs. These abilities carried over from life to life, and even from continue to continue. Sadly, this isn't the case in Super Bomberman. When you get a game over, not only do you lose the fancy stuff, you also lose the bomb capacity and range. While it is possible to beat the game with minimal levels of both, it does accelerate the number of deaths that will take place on your way to the end. Not only that, but the final battle of the game requires you to have a particular power-up activated in order to defeat the boss. That is a major, major problem. Granted, the power-up in question will appear every so often in the last level, so if you don't have it to begin with you aren't completely out of luck, but waiting for it to show can take forever, and besides, it's one of those items that uses one of the auxiliary buttons that I have a hard time using.

Now, I'd be lying if I said this game wasn't fun. It is - until that first continue is used. From that point on, the game becomes more frustrating than it's worth, especially since there's no ongoing story to spur you on, and not enough reward at the end of the road. As a result, your best bet is to play this game in short spurts, playing the first couple of stages, rather than making a long campaign out of trying to beat this game. There is a battle mode included as was mentioned above, but it's kinda silly to play it against the computer.

Super Bomberman is an OK game, when everything is taken into account. It has some major flaws, but they don't appear until later on.

Overall Ratings:

Play Control:
Technical Score: 15
Challenge: (Bipolar)
Aesthetic Score: 15
Overall Score: 71%

You are now listening to the first stage music to Super Bomberman.