Bomberman Generation Review

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Publisher: Majesco
Developer: Hudson Soft

Platform: GameCube
Reviewed on GameCube

Perhaps no game introduction will ever again replicate the majesty of "All your base are belong to us," but Bomberman Generation makes a go of it. Rather than summarize the backstory of Bomberman Generation, we'll let the game speak for itself (spelling and punctuation as it appears in-game):

"In the infinitely expanding universe... This is where energy unfathomable... to human kind is overflowing... In the search for this unknown energy... many researchers have challenged outer space... The time is cosmic year 200X... The BOMB Research Laboratory led by Professor Ein... has succeeded in mining BOMB Elements with this secret energy... for the peaceful utilization of this strange power. A Space Freighter carrying Bomb Elements made up of 6 Crystals... has departed for Planet Bomber... however... the evil HIGE HIGE Bandits, searching for domination, sent a hired gun to seize the Bomb Elements. And so the great battle for the Bomb Elements begins..."

Hmmm. I'm not sure, but I think someone set us up the bomb.

Rob de los Reyes

Bomberman Generation the game comes across much like Bomberman himself – solid if unspectacular, charming at points and listless at others. The game consists of two almost unrelated parts. The first part is a single-player platform adventure game, centered around Bomberman's quest to round up certain bomb parts before his foes use them for mischief. The second part is a series of party games, multiplayer mini-games that last no more than 5 minutes a pop and are unconnected to any story line. Each part is possessed of its own strengths and weaknesses, but they both struggle against one weight, namely, the Bomberman character himself.

Perhaps it's simply a matter of cultural differences, and perceptions are different in Japan, but for a franchise hero, Bomberman is appallingly short on personality. Our protagonist resembles nothing so much as an electrical outlet stuck on top of a 3D rendering of a stick figure. With a jaunty scarf. His head consists of two vertical lines for eyes and two diagonal lines for eyebrows. What's more, Bomberman never speaks. Without speech and without a mouth to smile or snarl or whatever, Bomberman's only way to communicate to the world is with his eyebrows and the occasional leap of joy. All this may at first strike you as much ado about nothing, but as the game wears on, you realize you just don't care about the expressionless Bomberman or his quest. In all platform games, levels come and go, some more exciting than others. The one constant is the hero. A character like Nintendo's Mario turns good levels into classic adventures and bad levels into minor bumps, easily forgiven and forgotten. Bomberman just doesn't have that power, and, consequently, the slow levels and weaker design points of the single- and multiplayer game alike stand out more.

It's a shame, too, because Bomberman Generation at its worst is merely adequate, but wonderfully clever at its best. The single-player game takes a single, simple concept – the classic cartoony bomb, complete with fuse – and turns it into a veritable Swiss army knife of functionality. At various points, your bombs are hurled, kicked or planted as weapons. At other times, your bombs serve as trampolines, ice makers and other tools. You'll discover all the functions since the levels are designed to require you to take advantage of them. Pleasantly, you won't find yourself cycling through option after option blindly hoping to stumble across the right choice. Sometimes you're told outright what to do, but other times the choice is presented as a puzzle. Even in those circumstances, however, the choice is logical enough (in the context of the game world) even if it takes some time to figure out precisely how to use the correct bomb to its greatest advantage. With the exception of a few absurdly challenging boss monsters, most levels require more creativity to beat than raw twitch reflexes, though Bomberman Generation is certainly not devoid of arcade-style spirit.

To a certain extent, in addition to the trouble with Bomberman as a character, the single-player game suffers from trying to be too many things at once. At a very few points in the story, you'll have the chance to play some mini-games in order to collect prizes. The first of the games appeared to involve steering yourself from a great height in order to land on a leaf. I'm not entirely certain since the game was over practically before it had started. Other games (there are only four total) are less rapid, but still feel much like a plan that simply never took full root.

So, too, the charabomb battles. Charabombs are, essentially, little Pokémon-like creatures that you capture and use to add different functions to your bombs. The first couple join you, then you have to use them to fight and defeat other charabombs for use. Although replete with stats and multiple attack orders, it's hard to tell whether any of your choices make a difference. Other than choosing to use an extremely low level charabomb against one of a much higher level, it's hard to figure out how you would ever lose one of these fights. That might not matter if the fights were more interesting to see. Instead, you watch a brief, 2D battle almost devoid of animation, in which only one charabomb appears on the screen at a time. Like the mini-games, these sequences don't actively detract from the game so much as leave you vaguely unsatisfied.

The single-player game offers enough interesting moments to be worth some play time, but you won't be a purchaser unless you find some satisfaction with the party games. Fortunately, that satisfaction isn't too hard to come by. True, as with the single-player game, the party games deserve a more interesting player character. (Where would Super Monkey Ball be without its spherical simians?) The party games also suffer from being a bit too small to accommodate four players at once. With maximum players in a game, the strategy and skill components are too easily washed away by blind luck. With fewer players, however, you are able to see the same a-lot-with-a-little ingenuity on display in the single-player game. The Standard Battle game, for instance, actually consists of several sub-variations. All involve trying to detonate your opponent, but the game maps (with names like "Turn and Bang" and "Pipe Bang") offer subtle but powerful differences. One map is covered by pipe segments to navigate and hide in. Another is completely devoid of barriers, permitting a more direct assault on your opponent. Moreover, not all of the party games are directly confrontational. One especially frenetic game involves all players dodging bombs and explosions dropping at random from the sky. Although there are far fewer games than you might find in a dedicated party game, there are enough here, with enough replayability, that you may find these games stealing your focus away from the single player adventure.

In brief, Bomberman Generation is a reliable platformer and a nifty party game in search of more inspiring franchise hero. Neither the single-player nor multiplayer component of Bomberman Generation on its own outshines the more mono-focused games in each genre currently on the market. Together, however, you'll find a value greater than the sum of the parts. And, what the heck, maybe Bomberman's little Speed Racer scarf will be all the personality you need to push you on to victory.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on September 11, 2002 6:58 PM.

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