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Falling Well Short Of Super

Classic Bomberman titles are known for delivering fast-paced
action that is best appreciated in a multiplayer setting. Super Bomberman R tries
to follow in those footsteps, but it does not achieve the same level of
entertainment. This entry relies too heavily on the existing formula for
success, and when it does attempt to expand on what worked in the past, it
fails to do so in meaningful or memorable ways.

The multiplayer’s setup is familiar: You drop bombs around a
grid-based map in hopes of being the last one standing. Battles can be played
locally on one Switch or multiple Switches, or online via network play. I had
fun blowing up blocks, scurrying for power-ups, and blasting enemies, but the action
gets old quickly. Different maps that feature distinct elements and layouts
shake up the matches initially, but as the novelty of these variations
diminishes, players are left with the same deathmatch-style gameplay the series
has relied on for decades.

When you’re playing locally, you have the option to add human
or computer opponents. Playing with the latter often feels broken, as the A.I. runs
instant calculations and knows exactly where to place its character the way an
expert player would, and you can’t tune the difficulty to be more in line with
the other players in the match. Unless you’re in a match full of skilled
Bomberman players, you’re probably better off leaving those extra spaces blank.

If you’re looking to jump online and throw down against
players across the globe, Super Bomberman R’s online suite gives you the option
to play quickplay battles with customizable rules, or the more standard league
battles that let you play to level up into new, more competitive player pools. These
simple options could deliver a satisfying way to play, except that network instability
renders most matches unplayable due to lag. Even when I tell the game to only
find those who have a “good” network connection, the matches feature some
degree of latency, with the level of impact ranging from a simple half-second
delay from command input to execution, to players running in place and falling completely
unresponsive.

Story mode (which can be played solo or in co-op) gives you
five worlds, each consisting of eight stages, a duel against an A.I. character,
and a boss fight. The biggest way it attempts modify this simple formula is
through additional objective types, but they are more frustrating than
fulfilling. While I enjoy the most common objective of eliminating every enemy
on a stage, as well as survival objectives that require you to stay alive for a
set period, story mode struggles beyond that simple scope. 

Missions like finding hidden keys or throwing switches to
open the exit portal do a good job of bringing new takes on Bomberman into the
mix in inoffensive ways. However, when a mission variant that requires
Bomberman to rescue abandoned NPCs across a given stage is introduced, the
story mode reaches its low point. In these stages, you dodge enemies and collect
several stranded NPCs and deliver them to a safe zone. The NPCs don’t stay
right on you, and are likely to get caught in bomb blasts as they trail behind,
causing them to respawn in their original locations. I was thankful that these aggravating
stages didn’t pop up frequently, but I dreaded them when they did.

Even with these issues, Super Bomberman R’s most egregious
offense comes with how it handles a game over in story mode. The gems you use
to purchase characters, customizations, and multiplayer maps are also tied to story
mode continues. If you run out of lives and don’t have enough gems to continue,
you lose all your progress on that world – a hefty penalty, especially if you
reach the boss fight. With no way to go back and replay earlier missions prior
to finishing the whole campaign, this can leave you stuck, making multiplayer
your only way to earn gems. Lowering the difficulty reduces the number of gems
required to purchase a continue, but you shouldn’t have to cheat the system to
avoid losing progress.

When you make it through the eight acts of any given world,
you engage in a duel against an A.I. opponent. These battles should be exciting,
as they veer closer to the classic Bomberman shtick than any other element in
the story mode, but just like in the multiplayer battles, the A.I. proves to be
a whale to take down. In this mode, the computer players are particularly tough
since they also have special abilities, like bombs that are drawn to you or
explosives with varying fuses. This level of challenge forces you to be
reckless rather than strategic, which dwindles your lives as you reach the end
of the world.

The boss fights that follow each duel are inventive and fun
most of the time, and they stick out as a highlight of the otherwise bland
story mode. I enjoyed leaving a trail of bombs to blast a giant robot out of
the sky, then lining its downed shell with explosives and watching them all
detonate to do high damage. The biggest problem is that fights sometimes rely
on cheap attacks that once again pull the flawed continue system into the
spotlight.

With a skippable story mode, a poorly implemented in-game
currency system, and shallow multiplayer offerings, Super Bomberman R is not
worth your time. It’s a better multiplayer game than a single-player game, but
it’s not a particularly good multiplayer game either.

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