Approximate Release Month: September 1993
Developer: Hudson Soft
Publisher: Hudson Soft
Super Bomberman is the bare minimum for what you’d expect of a Bomberman game. That’s okay!
After all, there are five Bomberman games available on the Super Nintendo (though only two came out in the United States). It’s rare for non-sports games to release that many iterations in a generation. And like sports games, not much changes between releases. Later games have more modes, features, power-ups, enemies, and mechanics that are meaningful additions. But the core of that experience is in Super Bomberman, and it is a blast.
The single player mode is a simple matter of destroying all enemies and finding the exit. There are six worlds of eight stages, with the last stage being a boss fight. I was initially impressed with the variety of enemies and environments, but at around the halfway point enemies started to be recycled. One of the final stages has some armored enemies that can’t be damaged from the front. It would have been nice to see more complex foes outside of the bosses.
The bosses are fun, though. Most of the fights require little more than dodging projectiles while waiting for an opening to attack a weak spot. With one boss you have to wait for its eye to open to damage it. Another boss flies around and you must use the glove power-up to throw bombs at its head. The fights are different enough from the rest of the stages that I looked forward to seeing what the next one would be. None of them are especially challenging and it helps that the game is only an hour or two long so it doesn’t drag. I beat Super Bomberman while playing it for review in a single session. It’s a breezy experience with a generous password system.
Super Bomberman scratches the itch, though. The best part of any Bomberman game is the point where you’ve amassed a stockpile of power-ups. I’m talking remote detonation bombs, maximum explosion size, the throwing glove, the kicking boot, the walk-through-walls item … it is absurd how powerful you can get. The enemies can’t do much to you at full power if you aren’t reckless.
Yet, I always get complacent. The more powerful you get in Super Bomberman, as in all other games of the series, the more dangerous you are to yourself. I might be over aggressive and trap myself, or I’ll be cute and try to toss a bomb over a wall and instead detonate it in my face. It’s a beautiful treatise on the pitfalls of pride and power where the absence of patience is your ultimate undoing.
Anyway, the real meat of the game is the four-player battle mode. Some versions of Super Bomberman came bundled with the Super Multitap, an adapter that allows up to five controllers to be plugged into the SNES at once. There’s also support for computer-controlled bots to round out a match if enough people can’t be wrangled together.
Battle mode is a bit limited in terms of options. Players can’t even choose which color bomberman to control. There are no team games or special modes beyond standard deathmatch. The only customization is from choosing the arena. Twelve randomly generated maps are available to battle on and many of them have little gimmicks to contend with. My personal favorite is the Duel Zone map, which spawns players in the center and fills the outside edge with items. Many other gimmick maps seem more annoying than interesting to play on.
I would have liked there to have been a little more to Super Bomberman. There’s a lack of modes and features that later games in the series would include which make this probably the worst Bomberman game on the SNES. It’s not bad, though. Super Bomberman is still a lot of fun but won’t blow anyone away.
(Super Bomberman‘s release date is a minor source of controversy, which I discovered in the final stages of preparing this article for publication. My notes say May 10, 1993, but a PDF list of game release dates that used to be on the Nintendo website says September 1993. My guess is that one date is the version that came with the Super Multitap, and the other is the standalone version. I have no evidence for that and game release dates back then were already squirrelly enough. However, I will be going with Nintendo’s listed date, hence the significant jump forward in SNES chronology! We will return to May 1993 for the next game.)
Next time: Is it too much to hope for that you play as Jones the cat in Alien 3?