Bomberman is a classic video game franchise created by Hudson Soft, but ended up being controlled by Konami and finally closed it doors in 2012 - yet the Bomberman still lives on. First introduced in 1983, the series quickly gained popularity due to its unique gameplay mechanics involving placing bombs and navigating through mazes to defeat enemies. Bomberman was especially popular in the 16 bits era. I remember playing its port on the Amiga called Dyna Blaster at the time. It was very good fun.
Super Bomberman R was the latest entry in the long-running franchise, released for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in 2017. This installment featured enhanced 3D graphics and gameplay mechanics compared to previous titles, while maintaining the core concept of laying bombs to clear a path and defeat adversaries. Super Bomberman R adds some new characters, stages, and power-ups for players to explore and master. One notable difference between this entry and its predecessors is the addition of a story mode that provides a single-player campaign with cutscenes and dialogue, allowing gamers to experience an engaging narrative alongside the classic multiplayer battles. Super Bomberman R 2 continues in the same direction, by expanding the multiplayer mode. We were granted a key to review this new episode, so here we go!
The main meny gives you access to the multiplayer modes on the left side, and the story mode, level creation and customizations on the right.
I’d say that the main allure of Super Bomberman R 2 is probably its new online battle mode, organized in seasons just like Rocket League and other Fall Guys do, with player ranking in its core as a game mechanic. The online mode is savage, with 64 players invited to participate at once in a Battle Royale format. Of course not all 64 players are not at the same time on screen - instead, the game allocates them across several areas that are connected to each other.
When you start you are temporarily stuck in one area, and after one minute or so the gates will open around you area and you will be able to move to a different place if you feel like it. In some cases, you must move, as your area is going to be “closed” as the game progressively restricts the space as more and more players are eliminated. Once you move to a new area, you are unable to lay any bombs, and you have maybe 10 to 20 seconds to find a spot before the new blocks fall from the sky onto the space and block players away from each others until they get rid of the blocks with bombs.
You win when you are the final survivor, but even if you don’t win you will collect points based on you long you lasted. By the way, you are not eliminated after just one death, you have 2 lives if I remember correctly - so they you respawn twice until you are finally eliminated. When a gamer is eliminated, all the bonus they have collected is then spread at the place where they were bombed, causing other players to rush to get them.
There are numerous bonus available through the stages: stuff that likes you punch, kick or throw bombs, speed boosts, bomb boosts that makes them explode beyond blocks (nasty!), and more.
You can choose multiple characters when you start the online mode, and that actually matters immensely. The pink, girlish character is actually one of the stronger ones as she starts with a lot of powerful bombs from the get go. On the other hand, the green Bomberman seems completely useless: he can only have one bomb with only a very short range of explosion (even after picking bonuses, he’s completely capped!) and its only power is to be able to throw bombs beyond blocks. That sounds like a nice power on paper, but since his bombs are so weak, it’s completely useless at the end of the day. Do not pick that one!
The Battle64 mode is pure mayhem. There’s often 5 or 6 players on the same screen at once, and that’s very hard to keep track of what’s happening everywhere at he same time until some players are gone. The longer your survive the more difficult it gets, as you can imagine, with all the remaining enemies being boosted to the max, leaving tons of bombs on their trail at once, and powerful ones at that. I’m sure skill plays a role but luck is probably just as important to make it.
The online mode is quite fun actually, the only problem being that it takes a while to get into a game. You may have to wait 30 s to 1 minute for a game to recruit all players, and then the character selection screen is another 20 seconds of waiting time. Add the loading times which is another 20 seconds or so, and it’s probably over 2 minutes between the time you want to play and the time you’re in. That feels a bit long, especially when you’ll probably die anyway in less than two minutes once you are in.
The one player mode of Bomberman has always been the weaker part of the series. It felt like an awful grind, completely uninteresting, with bosses to fight every now and then after waves of boring enemies. And forget any kind of story. Since Super Bomberman R, there is now a decent Story mode, with an actual story (!) even though it’s probably as bad as you’d expect. The second episode’s story is once again about some kind of villain trying to conquer a planet or something, and you have to defend the poor and cute animals that inhabit that planet by using your wit and your bombs.
In practice you end up with some kind of open world with blocks on the way that you can destroy with bombs, and companions (in this kind, some kind of blue rabbit-looking aliens) that you will progressively liberate on the way. You actually need to free as many of them as possible since several gates will require you to have at least a specific number of such aliens before open.
It’s definitely a lot more engaging than the older solo modes of old, but the cutscenes are quite annoying (but they can be skipped at least!). They included a way to use the credits you make on the way, with the ability to add some weapons or defenses in your HQ in order to defend it from enemy attacks. You can purchase canons, turrets, which will fire projectiles to repel or destroy enemies.
While I am not sure they got the story right, there is a good game loop there to make you spend time in the solo player to achieve some kind of purpose.
Performance, Convenience and Steam Deck
The game will work OK on most modern hardware, but its performance is far from impressive. There’s nothing really exceptional displayed on screen, yet it will require 6W of the GPU of the Steam Deck to hit 60 fps while reducing the details to the minimum. The same goes for laptops without GPUs.
Worse than the graphics are the loading times. What is the game doing while running on a SSD that can transfer hundreds of Megabytes per second? It’s incomprehensible. This kind of game, you’d expect to load instantly on a SSD, we are not talking about a huge open world a la Cyberpunk.
The game works fine on Linux with Proton and the Steam Deck. The default controls for the Steam Deck are working just fine. However the Escape button to exit the game is not mapped to any gamepad control by default, requiring you to change the Steam Deck (or gamepad) configuration to be able to exit the game without a keyboard at hand. It’s a little strange they did that while all the other buttons work fine for all other aspects of the game.
Pure Nostalgia ?
I was just thinking about the music again. There’s something awfully similar to the Ace Attorney soundtrack in there… could it be? No, probably not. Anyway. Is Super Bomberman R 2 worth it? The answer depends a lot if you have people to play it at home with you, or friends online to play with. It will probably be the most fun if you play against people you know locally or remotely. But the global, crossplay online mode with complete strangers is actually very decent too, while completely chaotic. I see myself coming back to it and try to improve my survival stats.
As for the single player campaign? MAAAAAAAAAAAYBE. It’s probably the last thing I want to play in this game, but I believe it will unlock things that can be used in the multiplayer mode, so, why not.
I’m not too much of a fan of the 3D style. With the ongoing wave of remakes or new games making use of sprites (Star Ocean, Octopath Traveller), it may have been a good opportunity to came back to a true 2D game, because 3D brings absolutely nothing to Bomberman: it just makes it objectively look worse.
However, price-wise. it’s steep. 50 USD? This is not AAA material and there’s not that much content to justify the price. I’d wait for a sale if you are interested.