Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bomberman Hero (N64, VC) Retro Review

Bomberman is not quite a household name in America, but he's very well-known in gamers' hearts and minds. Bomberman Hero recently hit the Wii's Virtual Console, so what better time to check it out on my old Nintendo 64 than now? That's rhetorical, mind you. Here's the review, our first retro review of the year.

Bombs Away!

Now that Hudson has been taken over by Konami, I thought it'd be a perfect opportunity to look back at Hudson's masochistic mascot, the white bomber, Bomberman. Armed with nothing but an endless supply of bombs to blow up enemies with, Bomberman has seen it all from 2D to 3D. In all, there were three Bomberman games for the Nintendo 64. Bomberman Hero is the odd duck as it was not a sequel of the original Bomberman 64. That said, how does Bomberman Hero shape up to other games on the system, much less other Bomberman games in general? Is this game a blast, or does it just blow?

When an evil galactic federation attacks Princess Millan's home planet, she escapes via starship towards Planet Bomber. The princess is captured, but not before giving a special disc to her robot companion to send to Bomberman. Bomberman receives the disc and its contents and declares that he will rescue Princess Millan. What follows are five planets of action featuring dozens of levels each.

Get reacquainted with Bomberman, our hero.

Bomberman Hero is one of the most unique titles in the franchise as this time around, Bomberman can jump. No longer do short cliffs taunt Bomberman as he can happily leap up to them. Our hero can also leap into the air and toss bombs at airborne foes. The bomb kick maneuver is still intact. By pressing the R button, Bomberman drops a bomb. Just walk up to the bomb, and he'll kick it in the direction he's facing. Power-ups like firepower and bomb upgrades allow Bomberman to drop more bombs at once as well as have the blast radius of each bomb explosion increase. When Bomberman loses a life, his maximum firepower goes down by one.

As stated already there are five planets in Bomberman Hero to tackle. Each one gets progressively more difficult than the last. There's three acts to each planet. Each act is divided up into 4-6 levels. The conclusion of the second act is always a battle against Nitros, Bomberman's then-newest adversary. His battles involve circling around a squared-arena, dodging his attacks. The attacks he unleashes depends upon what square he is currently standing on. As you meet Nitros again and again, newer attack squares are added to the battlefield. The final act's ultimate level features a boss battle against one of the game's five major bosses. One has you hopping over four electrified poles as you toss bombs at the boss who stands in the middle of the arena while another has you avoiding the whip of a woman of the feline persuasion.

Crates hold priceless gems that beef up your score.

When you're not fighting bosses you'll be playing the game's many normal levels. These levels are short with the longest taking about five minutes. There's no checkpoints, so die (run out of hearts or fall off the level), and you have to begin the level anew from the starting point. This is annoying, but since the levels are so short, this doesn't become a huge frustration as it could have been. These short levels have Bomberman collecting pieces of a key to open the exit of the level to riding the Bomber Marine through a chamber of water, dodging mines and enemies alike to using the Bomber Jet to play a level Star Fox 64-style, albeit in a much slower fashion.

Introducing the Bomber Jet upgrade!

Most levels have a static camera. Static in that you cannot flip it around-- not static as in it never moves. Bomberman controls decently enough. Chucking and kicking bombs is a breeze-- just don't get caught in the ensuing explosions.

The visuals of Bomberman Hero show exactly how ancient early 3D technology was. Bomberman and other characters are made up of a handful of polygons while backgrounds and levels feature textures that are are practically two-toned in color. The textures are very simple, and nothing here will have you leaving your mouth wide open in awe. That said, this early 3D was astonishing back when it premiered in 1998 when Bomberman Hero originally released. Meanwhile, there's little in the way of voice-work, and what music there is-is catchy enough.

Even in deep heat, Bomberman is cool as ice.

Bomberman Hero is an imperfect game. It can be completed in less than three hours, but if you want a challenge, try collecting all of the gems and defeating all of the enemies in every level to get the top scores in each level. By scoring at or over the target score of a given level, you're rewarded with a number five (the absolute best you can achieve in a level). Score a five in every level, and you unlock a sixth planet which contains the most difficult levels in the game. On the Virtual Console, you can pick up this game for the price of ten dollars. Not bad for a game that features enough boom for the buck (if you try to unlock everything, that is).

[SuperPhillip Says: 6.5/10]

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