As a forewarning: I’ve had very little experience with the Bomberman franchise. The most I’ve had was playing Bomberman on the Nintendo DS with friends in elementary school and—at least back then—I didn’t care much for being competitive. It was just an entertaining game to play with friends to pass the time. With Super Bomberman R Online, however, Konami has turned the classic four-player NES title into an online 64-player battle royale experience.
Now, I’m 24 years old, and I’m an avid fan of the battle royale genre. I play Apex Legends practically every day, and I’ve also been dabbling in the mobile BR scene with the recent Final Fantasy VII: The First Soldier closed beta.
Albeit those two are first-person shooters, I thought I was capable enough to have a go at Super Bomberman R Online. “It’s a lighthearted party game, how bad could it be?” I thought.
Boy, was I in for a surprise.
Super Bomberman R Online Review – A Standard Battle Royale Experience
The game works like every other battle royale game like Fortnite and PUBG, complete with a battle pass and competitive ranking system. 64 players are put into 16 different “rooms” where they duke it out between four other opponents in classic Bomberman style. From there, however, things get a bit different. After a certain period of time, whatever blocks that are left are removed, and players then go into a “Movement Phase” where four of the rooms will “close”, forcing players to move to another room or be eliminated.
This is where things get a bit dicey. Players are free to move to whatever room they wish meaning that, in some cases, you may be stuck in a room with a larger group of people eyeing to knock out their next bomber. Conversely, you might even be stuck in a room alone. Either way, it forces players to choose their next room wisely and avoid being in the same room as an experienced player. The phases repeat until only one bomber is left, at which point they are deemed “Bomber One.”
If you’ve gotten this far, congratulations! You are awarded a large number of experience points that can unlock new cosmetics and emotes. Win enough, and you can go up to the next rank and presumably fight more experienced players. The battle pass, called “Bomber Pass” allows players to unlock new customization options. The first season also offers a free “Start Pass” that requires no additional purchases to unlock.
You can also purchase cosmetics and characters using “Bomber Coins” which can be bought with real money. The battle pass can be purchased with 800 of these coins, however, it’s worth noting that these coins are only available in packs of 100, 500, 1000, and 3000. Unlike other battle royales like Apex Legends and PUBG, there’s also no way to receive any form of in-game currency for playing the game, making the whole microtransaction system feel a little cash-grabby at times.
If you’ve ever played a Bomberman game, the gameplay will feel both incredibly familiar and refreshing at the same time. The battle royale aspect definitely adds a new side to the series that will take some getting used to at first, but like other old-school remastered battle royales Tetris 99 and Pacman 99, the change is a welcome one. Konami was able to take the best aspects of multiplayer Bomberman and put a battle royale twist to it, without adding too much complexity to the overall flow of the game.
Super Bomberman R Online Review – Can You Even Call That a Tutorial?
Needless to say, my memory needed a little refreshing, so I decided to check out the tutorial as I feel most beginners likely did. The “Training” level, as Konami calls it, throws the player into a room populated with three other bot characters, and teaches you basic concepts like placing bombs, defeating opponents, and moving to new rooms.
While it does touch on collecting power-up abilities, however, the tutorial doesn’t explain what these abilities are, or the fact that some characters will not even be able to use certain power-ups. These power-ups are incredibly vital to the flow of the game and will quite literally dictate how far you’re able to go in a given match. Kicking bombs away, throwing bombs at players, blowing up multiple blocks are only a few of them, and that doesn’t even take into account the passive bonuses like speeding up or having the ability to drop more than one bomb at a time.
In fact, there are a lot of aspects of Bomberman that the tutorial doesn’t even give a passing mention. For example, it doesn’t even touch on the fact that bombs can be thrown outside of the stage and dropped on the other side (quite literally a game-changer). It also doesn’t mention that certain special characters, like Metal Gear Solid‘s Naked Snake, Silent Hill’s Pyramid Head, and every other Konami collaboration character have unique special abilities. These abilities are described in the character selection screen, but can only be seen in action by playing the game online. The tutorial—if you can even call it one—simply assumes that these are things that you already know.
Which is strange, because if you’re making a tutorial where you explain basic concepts of Bomberman to people—who I can only assume are beginners, because why else would you be teaching people how to put down bombs—why would you not include information on things that are vitally important to playing the game like power-ups or special abilities? Who, Konami, are you making this tutorial for?
This lack of information would be fine if there was some sort of “training ground” that players could test out different characters with; however, this only exists in the form of a “Private Match” mode which is available by purchasing the premium version of the game. This private mode functions similarly to custom rooms in previous titles, where players could change the rules and layout of the stage to their liking. It’s especially useful for when you’re playing with friends and would like to have the occasional lighthearted goofy match or two. Luckily, only one person in the group will have to have the premium version, but considering the fact that you could set up private matches without paying money in past games, it does make it a little scummy on Konami’s part.
Due to the fast-paced nature of the game, the wide variety of special abilities and characters, and the lack of learning and testing resources the game offers, it’s often incredibly difficult and frustrating for beginner players to get a good grasp of the game’s flow. It also doesn’t help that matchmaking will often put bronze ranked players with higher-ranked, veteran opponents (I’ve been paired with gold ranked players and above dozens of times). While this may not be too much of an issue for said veterans of the genre, it’s doubly concerning since Super Bomberman R Online is meant to get “more people interested in Bomberman“.
Super Bomberman R Online Review – Server Issues and Glitches
Aside from a pretty hefty difficulty hurdle, the game also suffers from issues with server lag. Matchmaking will take upwards of 2 minutes or longer in some cases. While the time it takes to find a match often varies depending on the time of day, there were multiple times where I would be staring at a loading screen or even an already loaded room, with no indication on when the match would actually start. Server lag also made it so that I would try to throw a bomb, only to have it freeze in my hand, and then suddenly explode a few blocks away as if I had thrown it. Similarly, opponents also often froze up, making battles understandably difficult and hard to counter.
Super Bomberman R Online also occasionally suffers from weird graphical and text glitches that will render most menus unreadable. There were several occasions where the entire main menu bugged out, and all of the buttons ended up frozen and stacked on top of each other at the bottom of the screen.
This bug would also persist in-game, and would often result in me not being able to see which rooms I was in, or what abilities my character had. You can still navigate through the page, but no amount of going into different menus helped resolve the issue, and I ended up having to restart the game.
All of these technical issues make an already difficult game even harder and more frustrating to play, especially considering Bomberman titles should have a faster turnaround than most, and especially considering it’s a battle royale game. The developers have mentioned that the addition of the two-life system should make it easier for players to continue fighting, and avoid the frustration of repeatedly being knocked out of the match.
However, these two lives are basically meaningless when going up against veteran players of the game that are likely out to nab as many knockouts as they can. The addition of new special collaboration characters, while a cute gesture from Konami, nevertheless is mired by microtransactions that also add a slight pay-to-win aspect to the game as they’re immediately available through the Premium Pack DLC. Silent Hill’s Pyramid Head Bomber, for instance, can literally kill an opponent by simply touching them.
That is to say, I don’t think that Super Bomberman R Online is a bad game per se. After all, the game is free to play. And winding down with a few silly, low-effort games online with random people, pointing at the screen and saying “haha, that person got knocked out in a funny way!” or “I’m so stupid, I just ran into my own explosion” might just be the thing that you’re looking for. Personally, I think that’s been the core of Bomberman titles since it began in the ’80s. Maybe that’s why the battle royale, always-ranked competitive style of Super Bomberman R Online just doesn’t feel right.
Or, maybe it’s just the long matchmaking times and frequent glitches.
Yeah, that’s probably it.
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