I’m an older gamer, well, I’m in my thirties. The first console I played was an Atari, I had a gray brick Game Boy, I was there when Pokémon released, and I remember having to use a cable to trade between games. Because of this I also have a huge love for Bomberman, after the plucky explosives expert appeared on the Game Boy Color, SNES, and Mega Drive during my youth.
This year is also the 40th anniversary of Bomberman, a fact that Konami is pushing in all of its trailers for its latest title, Super Bomberman R 2. A sequel to Switch launch title Super Bomberman R, it’s interesting to see what Konami has added over half a decade since the original’s release, and how it hopes to justify a full-price release when the Switch’s library has grown exponentially.
Well, it turns out, Konami isn’t adding much. However, if you’re a Bomberman fan like me, then there is probably enough here to keep you satisfied, even if the results don’t quite blow you away. But would you want to spend $50 on a Bomberman game in the year 2023? That is entirely up to you.
If you didn’t play Super Bomberman R, and want to get up to speed, here’s a brief rundown. This is classic grid-based Bomberman gameplay, with a very thin story mode, some online features such as head-to-head battles, and a few fun Konami costumes for your Bomber…men? Plus, it has this slightly strange 3D art style that frankly doesn’t come close to the classic pixel art of old in my opinion.
So, what’s new about Super Bomberman R 2? Well, other than sounding like the start of a Star Wars tie-in, R 2 brings a brand new story mode, some more fun costumes, a sprinkling of new online modes, and a level editor you can share with pals across the world. The only thing is, a lot of these things were in the recently delisted Super Bomberman Online… for free, but now you’ll have to pony up for this full-price release if you want to play the admittedly fun 64-player Battle 64.
Anyway, forget the price and other games… for now. Super Bomberman R 2 has a few really fun additions, and one is the aforementioned 64-Player Battle 64 mode, which is fairly self-explanatory. This feels like a true modern twist on Bomberman without losing what makes the original work. It takes me back to frantic games of Bomberman Blitz on the DSi, one of the first Bomberman games to feature online play, and a really fun step up for the series.
64 players is also a great amount, and as the players slowly get blasted sideways, that exciting tension builds as you slowly rise up the ranks in the hopes of getting that winner-winner Bomberman dinner.
Next up, fans also have the Grand Prix mode, where you buddy up with friends or online players as two teams of players compete against each other. You either play through the regular basic bomber mode, with is team-based Bomberman, or crystals, where the game shifts focus to collecting the titular crystals so you can collect points (a bit like shine sprite mode in Mario Kart).
One of the completely new modes is Castle, an asynchronous game where players either defend or attack the titular castle, much like a capture-the-flag type of game. If you’re attacking, you work through the normal grid-based Bomberman zones, but have to grab keys before making your way to some heavily guarded chests, often well-defended by traps, enemies, and opposing players. Should the attacking team manage to get five keys and capture all five chests, they win. Otherwise, the defenders win.
You can also equip some fun new moves like a large bubble that hits enemies around you or a powerful laser beam that blasts in a straight line. Along with the differences in characters (more on that later), there are a lot of ways to play and enjoy your classic Bomberman experience.
Castle is possibly the best mode here, and is unique to R 2 as well. After so many years, it’s refreshing to see that Bomberman can still throw up some surprises, and this team-based twist on the formula helps to show why that original gameplay is still so solid. Ducking behind blocks, carefully planning your blast zones, and just clipping an enemy with a well-planned blast is as satisfying as ever.
These online modes are another area where R 2 works well, adding fun wrinkles to a tried and tested formula, and giving fans reasons to come back. Meanwhile, much like Super Bomberman Online, there is a currency system and plenty of different Bomber costumes to unlock and play around with.
A few wins under your Bomber-belt and you’ll have enough cash to splurge on some fancy costumes, based on Konami characters like Simon Belmont, Alucard, Naked Snake, and even Pyramid Head. However, if you played and unlocked some of these outfits in Super Bomberman Online (like I did), then there is very little new here to entice you. You can unlock the Fall Guys ‘Bean Bomber’ immediately for free, so at least you don’t work for that one again.
There is a point to these costumes as well, as different characters hold different stats, and it’s up to you to choose the ones that best suit your playstyle. Some characters are quicker but can’t place as many bombs, while some are sluggish, but have a huge blast radius. You can also improve stats as you play, so if you want a particular character for online play, don’t stress too much if they start out slow.
Adding to the customization are other features such as outfits, accessories, poses, and other fluff like player icons and taunts. It’s all par for the course in modern online games, but I have to say that the amount of coins you earn for a win is pretty dismal, and unlocking all of these pretty tame and often lackluster extras is going to be a chore. It’s giving me flashbacks to Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, and how annoying it is to pay full price for a game and then do homework to get even the most tedious extra features.
Luckily, there are a few more new modes, with a brand new story letting you build up your bombing skills. You travel between three planets, and explore interconnected levels of familiarly grid-based tiles, bombing enemies and finding these small creatures called Ellons. Finding all the Ellons is the key to progression, and you must also find and transport them to checkpoints to unlock fast travel in each new area.
However, they drag behind you for a possible total of six (any more and they get stored elsewhere), and like a game of Nokia snake, you have to do your best to avoid blasting your own Ellon tail, lest you lose some of those cute creatures and their help.
This regular exploration is fairly monotonous though, so it’s thankfully broken up with some additional combat. In story mode you have a HQ, and between levels, you can defend it by placing gimmicks such as lasers and canons. Level up in the main story mode, and you unlock more gimmicks and tiles, so the better your HQ can be. Then, occasionally, enemies rush your HQ, in a version of the new online castle mode.
It’s a pretty fun way to break up the formula, and it’s also fun to tinker with your HQ, though if you think you’re about to get Mario Maker levels of customization… think again. It’s bare bones, and the slow addition of gimmicks and available slots is painful. The story mode also features some brief cut-scenes, as the Bomberman gang (are they friends, siblings, polyamorous bombing cabal?!) argue and take on evil.
At least one fun element of the original makes the jump, as massive boss fights are a highlight, and are one of the few parts of the game that feel like an actual test of your Bomberman skills. However, it’s not much we haven’t seen before in titles as far back as Pocket Bomberman, or the stellar Bomberman Land Touch! games for DS. I know it’s unkind to judge a game by what isn’t here, but this hardly feels like a satisfying or particularly loving celebration of Bomberman’s 40th birthday. Not that I should ever expect much more than the minimum from Konami.
Finally, there is an additional level creator, and this is something I fully intend on exploring as the floodgates open up and people can make some truly grotesque gauntlets for your adorable Bomber-folk to try and survive like some twisted technicolor Saw trap. Outside of some basic tinkering, there isn’t a lot we could do pre-launch, but this also isn’t particularly promising.
The UI for level creation used in the level editor (and in your HQ curation from story mode) is abysmal, as you must press L to select parts, and fiddling around in the menus is bafflingly tedious. Meanwhile, there is a lack of touch controls, which is a real shame in a mode where they could make things so much easier. Level creation is fun to have, but I can’t see myself having the patience to put up with the controls, and there aren’t many interesting features or gimmicks to keep me engaged either.
Now, if you played Super Bomberman R, then you also have a rough idea of the visuals, and I’ve already mentioned I just don’t like this charmless 3D approach. I think this game would be better as pixel art, and Bomberman of all games doesn’t need to look graphically impressive, especially when Konami clearly doesn’t want to spend the budget to make things actually look good.
The textures are bland, the world feels flat, and ultimately it’s all just a bit lifeless. It’s nice to have different characters, levels, and costumes, but the actual visuals themselves don’t do a good enough job of bringing everything to life. Plus, there is quite a bit of stuttering when roaming menus, occasional slowdown, and frankly, the game doesn’t look ambitious enough to get away with it. There is crossplay in online modes now, which is a great way to keep the lobbies full, but is that perhaps a cause of some slowdown when playing online?
I’m a huge Bomberman fan, but at this point, it’s feeling a bit like Stockholm Syndrome. I was happy with Super Bomberman Online (despite its aggressive monetization methods), but now here I am unlocking the same costumes again in a full-price retail release. I hope and fully expect that Konami is set to bring out additional seasons or at least content over the lifetime of Super Bomberman R 2, otherwise, this really is a lackluster improvement.
It was one thing to pick up Super Bomberman R at the Switch’s launch when there were about four games for the console and Konami could justify the price. But, nearly seven years on, and coincidentally in the shadow of Breath of the Wild’s stellar follow-up, there are just so many reasons not to buy this sequel. Especially when you can buy its (very similar) predecessor for much cheaper, and it’s actually pretty underhanded of Konami to delist a free online game with new features, only to charge fans all over again just a couple of years later. Bomberman is still fun, new modes add a few fun twists, and a level editor is an addition that I hope pays dividends down the line… but this is nowhere near the celebration that Bomberman’s 40th birthday deserves.
Super Bomberman R 2 review
An unimpressive and incremental sequel to an already underwhelming game, Konami is in desperate need of doing something interesting with the Bomberman formula. Luckily for Konami, the time worn Bomberman gameplay is still a blast, and new online modes are sure to please longtime fans, but it’s hard to justify spending the full price of a retail game on a title that doesn’t do enough to earn that price tag. I’ll have to forget my dreams of a true reinvention along the lines of Pac-man Championship Edition DX+ for now.