Review: Super Bomberman R 2

The lovable Bomberman Bots are back for a new adventure with Super Bomberman R 2. Taking place in the same universe as its predecessor, but featuring an all new story, players join White Bomber and his siblings as they fight to save the universe from being demolished by a mysterious force known as Lugian. This organization controls a Death Star-esque ship, known as the Black Moon, that has wrought destruction upon numerous planets in search of a rare resource. Being just the superheroes the universe needs, White wrangles his rambunctious brothers and sisters to action. Upon following a lead to the Black Moon, the Bomberman siblings stumble upon an alien infant race called Ellons. Working together with these newfound creatures, players will fight against the Lugian to restore peace. Super Bomberman R 2 makes a lot of callbacks to the first title while attempting to bring new ideas to the franchise. While the Super Bomberman R franchise maintains its vibrant aesthetics and classic franchise gameplay with this sequel, the newer elements make it feel muddy and uncertain in its purpose. The developers at Konami seem to have thrown everything but the kitchen sink at Super Bomberman R 2 in what seems like a catchall for demographics. The core mechanics are always going to be great, but much like its predecessor, Super Bomberman R 2 still doesn’t seem to bring anything new to the franchise other than new game modes for local co-op. The wacky, colorful aesthetics maintain that “Saturday-Morning Cartoons” feeling that seems to be geared towards younger audiences. Gameplay still features the standard Bomberman matrices that established fans know and love. The new additions to play feature sandbox elements that call out to fans of Super Mario Maker and other build games. There’s a mix of a lot of different genres going on that make Super Bomberman R 2 interesting on the surface, but murky once we dive into it.

While tracking an interesting energy signal that could yield clues about the Black Moon, our heroes arrive at their first destination on Planet Fulvita. Their investigation into what the Lugian want is interrupted as they stumble upon alien technology that spawns elemental infants known as Ellon. These Ellon come in different elements that will come in handy as you make your way through the game. This species of space babies is highly connected to the resource the Lugian are searching for and join forces with the Bombermen. While the introduction of these adorable squishies gives added flavor to the story, it turns the game into a babysitting simulator once it gets going. Firstly, the most notably-welcome change seen in Super Bomberman R 2 is the return of a more open-air level design that’s reminiscent of classics like Bomberman 64. This already creates more interesting gameplay elevated from the first Super Bomberman R title that was just levels of matrices with different gimmicks — defeating all enemies in a level would progress the story. This open-air system is refreshing, as there are secrets to be found and various paths within the map. The concept of this design is stronger than its execution, however, as the disappointing part is that gameplay is just navigating a series of interconnected matrices and mazes. You’re basically back at square one, except now you get to play outside instead.

These mazes have variety, as different areas incorporate various enemies and gimmicks to make traversal more challenging. Conveyor belts may line the path and cause mistiming with bombs. You may need to take out canons set up within a maze that deal damage. There are enemies patrolling regularly. It’s hard to feel powerful when you don’t have special skills or robust leveling. Destroying blocks and enemies in the world will yield experience. Leveling increases the amount of bombs that can be placed, speed and also power. You don’t get to choose how our points are allocated either; they appear to be randomly assigned. What feels worse is that moving to a new planet resets your level without keeping any kind of skills acquired along the way. Classic moves like punching bombs, kicking and throwing unlock as you level, but are lost when progressing the story.  The game manages to take standard Bomberman gameplay and make it tedious after awhile, as it doesn’t feel like you’re actually doing anything except collecting Ellons to help open new areas.

And why should you collect Ellons? Because the game railroads you into doing so. These little gelatinous babies are necessary resources — which sounds so weird to say. Through exploration, players will encounter barricades, fast travel points and secrets that must be powered-up for use. Our Ellon friends are able to integrate themselves with the technology we encounter which now unlocks new possibilities. There are a certain number of these squishy tots available to collect throughout the map and you’ll need them for progression. Bomberman now babysits as Ellons will follow us around as we find them. It’s important to have a few of them with us at all times to save time powering up these devices. For example, a fast-travel point must be powered by a certain number and type of Ellon. If you don’t have the necessary kiddos on hand, you’ll have to either go find them in the world or go back to camp to collect more from your collection. Ellons following us will be used to power devices, but they aren’t taken out of the total amount — only five can be brought along at a time. And here’s where it feels like a daycare: Ellons can be hurt by bombs and enemies.

They’ll quickly crowd around you when you stop moving, which is a nice touch to get them out of the way quickly. But if they’re caught in stray bomb fire, or if an enemy hurts them, they’ll dissipate and go back to your general collection. It’s slow going as you try to keep them safe. Not having any Ellons follow you is quicker since you don’t have to worry about maneuvering them to safety, but it also means more back tracking if you come upon a device that can’t be powered-up because you don’t have the Ellons to do so. Beyond the first planet Ellons will have different elements as well, which adds a new layer of frustration because locks in the world now have a combination of Ellons required. While completionists may have fun collecting all Ellons, the game forces the general player base to do so as well. You cannot progress through the map without unlocking various gates that require a certain number of Ellons. These gates connect the various zones of the entire planet, and also open the way to story progression.

There are three different planets where the story takes places, and each of these planets has numerous zones to explore. To progress further, you must unlock all the gates that lead to the enemy’s bases all over the map. This introduces the new game mode: Castle. Castle is basically a tower defense mode where you have the options to attack and defend. The Castle Side, or defense, allows players the sandbox freedom to create a maze with traps. Enemies must work their way through and steal treasure. There’s five chests in need of protection. You must do whatever you can to slow enemies as they gather keys throughout the maps. Enemy camps can be opened to be the attackers, but every few new areas uncovered prompts you to go back to base to defend from enemies — so you do play as both sides throughout the story. During our defense, our Bomberman will power up a powerful weapon that can be used in addition to bombs. There are different weapon types, but the laser that shoots through obstacles is cool. This mode allows for players to create their own defensive strategies.

The game also allows for uploads online so players can share their creations with each other. While the addition of this mode provides extra PVP variety, it feels messy in story mode when utilized. The Bomberman siblings will attack enemy castles with you. Their programming is subpar, as they’ll run into bombs placed by allies and even prevent you from succeeding. It’s unfortunate that everything about Super Bomberman R 2 feels like it’s preventing success. Once you do clear enemy bases, you’re able to take on the final boss of the area. This feels like a good step forward in gameplay, as the boss fights are intricate and ask the player to dodge various mechanics. The unfortunate part is progression leads to a new planet where you’ll have to do this all over again with no real reward.

Outside of story mode, Super Bomberman R 2 returns with its various online modes. Castle mode is available for online and local cooperative play. You also see the return of Grand Prix mode — introduced in the previous title. Standard play and Battle 64 also make their usual return as staples in Bomberman battle modes. There are a plethora of characters to unlock — with Easter Egg characters from across Konami franchises making an appearance (welcome back Pyramid Head). Players can customize their Bomberman with items from the shop and other unlocks. To purchase these aesthetic items, players will need to play a lot of battle mode to accumulate currency. This feels cheap compared to previous Bomberman party games where unlocks could be found in the battle arena. If anything, the title still delivers great cooperative and PVP play.

Closing Comments:

Super Bomberman R 2 brings a lot of ideas to the game without actually introducing new opportunities. A return to the open-air style of gameplay is reminiscent of classic Bomberman titles, but doesn’t manage to push the envelop further. This title unfortunately ends up being a mixture of various genres without committing to a new style of Bomberman. It seems as if the direction is unclear and instead is trying to appeal to every demographic of player possible. It’s a shame, considering this year marks Bomberman‘s 40th Anniversary. A lot of what we see in Super Bomberman R 2 feels like Konami wanted to do more, but ultimately decided not to. This could have been a great opportunity for an open-air Bomberman that’s more than just passing through various mazes that feel the same after awhile. This could have been an amazing opportunity to go in a more robust direction like what we’ve seen in classic titles such as Bomberman 64 on N64, Bomberman Quest on GameBoy or even Bomberman Story on DS. The game doesn’t offer any new skills or upgrades, and instead you rely on the cute mascots introduced into the game that just feel like it’s trying to grab on to the success of Zelda and its Koroks. The building mechanics are only in one type of game mode and don’t extend to the rest of the story. While you’re able to explore the world and uncover secrets, it feels tedious as you’re railroaded into collecting Ellons so that you can progress. Ellons feel more like a hindrance than anything, as you have to take care of them to make sure you have enough of them following you to access secrets, fast travel and new areas. The secrets and side avenues offer a detour in exploration, but don’t yield anything other than more Ellons to collect. This game feels as if Konami wanted to do a Bomberman RPG, but they didn’t fully commit to that idea. Instead, you’re given a mediocre title that can’t seem to decide its target audience. Super Bomberman R 2 does at least provide a lot of couch cooperative fun in an era that still craves local/offline play. If players can look past the bland and tedious story, Super Bomberman R 2 still provides the great party play that the series has always been known for.

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