Saturn Bomberman

Saturn Bomberman
Game Name: Saturn Bomberman
Media: 1 CD-ROM
Publisher(s): Hudson Soft
Developer(s): Hudson Soft
Genre(s): Action
Release Date: January 1997
Serial Number: PAL -MK81070-50
Region: PAL

The Bomberman series of games has been around for a long time, and a version of Bomberman has been a less than surprising entry in many platform’s catalogues.

Saturn Bomberman ScreenshotThe game casts the player as a little character into a 2D grid in which walls are made up of soft and hard blocks. You start with the ability to drop a bomb that will explode after a few seconds and destroy anything except hard blocks that is caught in its blast wave (including yourself). Soft blocks may leave powerups behind- the standard ones being bomb blast range increase and multi-bomb drop ability – but there are many, many others allowing the player to kick bombs, throw them over walls etc – allowing for players to create a number of different strategies.
In single player mode, the idea is to kill all the enemies in each level that move around to set patterns and paths in the levels.

Bomberman has really always been about the multi-player mode though – the single player mode has always been there, and in many cases beefed-up to a 2 player co-op mode, but the battle mode is the star of the show. A number of players are placed into the arena and its a case of last man standing.

My first real experience of the battle mode was via the still quite brilliant Super Bomberman on the SNES. This version of the game ,with a multitap allowing 4 player battle modes, sent the playability through the roof. Game magazines are sprinkled with stories of how this game became extended lunchtime fodder in game development houses (apparantly the N64 Goldeneye team almost fell out with each other on occasions over this). Its addictive “one-more-game” quality is still there and there is no such thing as having one round of this with 3 other combatants.

Along comes the Saturn version of this game, and quite frankly, it is still in my opinion the best version available today – and there are a number of reasons for this.

Saturn Bomberman ScreenshotI’ll get the main and most obvious reason out of the way first. The multi-player battle mode is stupendous – it supports up to 8 players across 7 different special battle arenas, and there is a special wide arena that supports up to 10 players. Getting a full-on session of this would require a wallet-busting 2 multi-taps, a batch of controllers ,and loads of food and drink to feed your friends while they play this. The smaller scaled graphics on the wide 10 player arena will require a bigger screen too.

Even without the full compliment of players though (I’ve had 4-6 player sessions) the game is still a riot. What is also great is that practically everything is configurable – from the basic stuff like number of rounds for victory, through to stuff like random start positions, sudden-death on/off and a selectable bonus game for each round winner giving the chance to start the next round with a power-up.

You can set up teams and series of games which are saved to backup memory between sessions. You can also decide how many computer components you want to battle against, each with a selectable level of AI.

The options go on and on. It is quite simply the definitive version to play. The only niggle I have is that the dinosaurs your character can find and ride on that appeared in Super Bomberman 3 feature in the game and you can’t disable this – but that is a minor thing that might only annoy purists.

Saturn Bomberman ScreenshotThe standard 1 or 2 player coop game is here too – but it’s on a grand scale. The graphics in the battle mode are a tad on the functional side, but this mode features beautifully detailed graphics which are more or less the pinnacle of 2D sprite work. You can save your progress in this mode too and its pretty entertaining as the levels are cleverly designed and have lots of little touches and quirks – a labour of love. The music in this mode is a step up from the plinky plonks of the battle mode.

However that is not all. Saturn Bomberman features a new mode – called Master Mode. This is a special one player challenge mode whereby you must navigate a set of specially designed levels – the layout of which almost makes it feel like a puzzle game. Like the standard game, it is beautifully presented and has great music too. Bomberman isn’t known for great music – the battle mode features the usual fare – but this mode and the standard game have had some effort expended on them in this department and it shows.

Each level has its own best score saved and stokes up the replayability. When a game of this mode ends, you may get the chance to save your score in a high score table and you also receive a ranking for your efforts

Saturn Bomberman Screen Shot

Not only is this game the best version of Bomberman available (and I have sampled the excellent Gamecube and PS2 versions of Bomberman) , I would go as far to say that its damn close to being the best game on the Saturn – it is without peer on the Saturn in the multi-player genre at least. As a single screen multi-player game this is as good as it gets on any platform.

Even the XBox360 version of this doesn’t one-up the Saturn as it supports a max of 8 players on-line – OK – it is easier to get 8 opponents on-line, but the same room experience is better. I’m not convinced that the forced perspective more modern versions of the game have used is a good idea either.

If you have a Saturn and access to a multi-tap and extra people to play with then get this game – it is as simple as that. You owe it to yourself.

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