compeau's Bomberman Generation (GameCube) review

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Bomberman Generation - the first good 3D Bomberman

The Bomberman series is well known among party-game fans.  Super Bomberman, widely considered the original 4-player console party game, combined an unbelievably addictive multiplayer bomb-fest with a rather sub-par single-player mode.  Not much has changed since then – a plethora of sequels that oft-neglected the single-player experience, to focus on introducing new gameplay elements into the multiplayer experience, which more than often failed to improve the already nearly perfect formula (kangaroos anyone?).  In the move to 3D, Hudson Soft attempted to revitalize the series with an increased focus on the single-player mode, while failing miserably to create an entertaining 3D battle mode.  Now, finally, we have a Bomberman game that focuses equally on creating an addictive multiplayer experience, and an entertaining single-player diversion.  And much to my delight, Bomberman Generation succeeds on both fronts.

Graphics

Bomberman Generation is the first game in the Bomberman series to use cel-shaded graphics.  The effect fits Bomberman quite well, as the series has always had a cartoon feel to it – after all, Bomberman does throws giant, round bombs with wicks sticking out of the top.  Many of the characters look quite well cel-shaded, and most fit right in with Bomberman’s cartoon world.  The characters look even more impressive in motion, as some time was obviously spent in creating simple, yet delightful animations for all the different characters and enemies.  Characters are marred slightly by some aliasing problems which are magnified greatly in close-ups in cinema sequences.  However, the overall quality of the characters and enemies is quite good, and certainly gives Bomberman Generation a very appropriate light-hearted feel.

Sadly, the quality in character models and animation does not carry over to the worlds those characters populate.  The areas Bomberman explores are decidedly simple – made with very few polygons, the environments are functional, but with very little frills.  While there is a variety of different environments, each one has a very small selection of simple, low polygon background items in it, and many items repeat endlessly over and over throughout the levels, until the environment changes to another.  The only redeeming factors of these background items are the vivid colors, and nice animations that keep with the cartoon theme of the graphics.

The overall visual feel of Bomberman Generation emulates the look of a cartoon, with colorful and light-hearted characters, and simple, yet vibrant backgrounds.

Single-Player Mode

The single-player game in Bomberman Generation follows in the footsteps of the mildly successful N64 games, while throwing in enough new ideas to significantly improve upon the limited formula.  There are five worlds for Bomberman to explore, each with levels creatively labeled 1-1, 1-2, and so on.  At the end of each level, Bomberman faces a relatively simple mini-boss, and twice per world Bomberman encounters a large boss.  These bosses require some strategy to beat, and often necessitate a trial-and-error system to find out how to hurt them.  Bomberman starts out with the ability to kick and throw bombs, and begins by only having access to one bomb, with a limited blast.  Various pick-ups throughout the levels increase the number of bombs Bomberman can use, as well as increase his speed, and increase the blast radius of his bombs.  Early on in the game, Bomberman learns how to pick up a bomb and charge it to create a super bomb, which often is used in puzzles, and for defeating bosses.  The basic formula of the levels is one quite familiar to gamers – progress through by defeating enemies, pushing switches (with bombs of course), and solving straightforward puzzles.  Many of the puzzles are quite simple – In one early level, the player must use a super bomb to knock a boulder off of a tower, and on top of a door-opening switch.  There are numerous side-paths that contain power-ups – enough to satisfy any completist gamer.  One important addition is that of different types of bombs – the player can find an element, and fuse it with a standard bomb to create elemental bombs.  Certain bombs work better against different bosses and enemies, and also have special effects – water bombs can explode even while under water, and also put out fires that block your way.  The single-player mode of Bomberman Generation will take 5-8 hours for a gamer to complete, depending on how much the player explores, and searches for each and every power-up.

The most interesting addition to the single-player experience is the introduction of Charabombs.  Charabombs are Pokemon-esque creatures capable of modifying Bomberman’s powers.  For example, one Charabomb allows Bomberman to throw bombs higher and longer, and another reduces the damage Bomberman receives by half.  Also, Charabombs compete in a battle mini-game.  Interestingly enough, the player does not control the Charabomb during the battle, but instead chooses 3 different strategy pieces beforehand, and these meld to create one overall strategy for the Charabomb during the battle.  One strategy is “Defensive”, while another is “Get Wild”.  The last Charabomb standing, or the one with the most energy after 3 rounds, is the winner, and if your Charabomb wins, you gain the use of the loser.  Throughout the levels, there are power-ups that increase the Charabombs’ stats, and provide one more reason to thoroughly search every level.  The Charabomb part of Bomberman Generation not only adds deeply to the gameplay, but also provides a fun mini-game for gamers.

The single-player mode of Bomberman Generation is the best yet in a Bomberman game. It serves as a great side-dish to the multiplayer game, but is still too short, and too repetitive to stand on it’s own as a compelling game.

Multiplayer

The meat and potatoes of the Bomberman franchise.  Bomberman Generation takes the series back to its roots, with graphics that are 3D, but with gameplay that is decidedly 2D, and quite similar to the original, but with some nice improvements.  This edition comes with five distinct play modes, each a compelling, and addictive experience, and with plenty of options to play with.

Standard – The classic Bomberman battle mode.  Relatively untouched gameplay-wise, the only addition is to allow players, when blasted by a bomb, to move to a bomb-turret at the outside of the arena, where they can move around and shoot bombs at the players still competing.

Reversi Battle – When a player’s bomb explodes, the floor panels will flip to the color of that player’s Bomberman.  If a player is hit by a bomb blast, they lose half of their panels.  The player who owns the most panels at the end of the game wins.

Coin – Breaking barrels or hitting Bomberman Bandits cause coins to appear.  There are three different types of coins, each with their own value.  When a Bomberman is hit by a blast, he will lose half his coins.  The player with the most coin-points at the end of the game wins.

Dodge – In this game, you cannot use bombs, but you can punch and kick bombs that reign down from the sky.  As time goes by, more bombs drop, and they increase in power.  The last Bomberman standing is the winner.

Revenge – Here, players start out in bomb-turrets outside of the arena, and they gain points by throwing bombs and exterminating the moles within the play field.  The first player to reach the goal score is the winner.

Each mode is fun, with Standard, Reversi, and Coin standing out as the most addictive.  There is a nice variety in levels for Bomberman Generation, with the classic standard and pipe levels, as well as some new level ideas such as a level with bomb-wormholes: if a bomb is thrown in one end of a wormhole, it reappears out the other end, often with disastrous results!

The Multiplayer mode in Bomberman Generation is not only the first stellar 3D one in a Bomberman game, but is also the best Multiplayer mode in a Bomberman game, period.

Final Thoughts

If you are a fan of multiplayer Bomberman (and who isn’t), then you should definitely look into picking this one up, as Bomberman Generation has a solid single-player experience, and the best 4-player Bomberman action to date – it’s faster, prettier, has more options and modes, and is just all around better than any of its predecessors.  However, if you have grown tired of multiplayer Bomberman, or for some reason have never enjoyed the frantic bombing action that personifies Bomberman, you may want to just give this one a rental.

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