Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Top 52: Bomberman 64 (#46)

This week's game features a Nintendo 64 sleeper hit: Bomberman 64. Many people were upset at the gameplay changes, as Bomberman 64 diverted from its classic style. I thought the change in style was exactly what the franchise needed. I'll dive more into that in the body of this Top 52 segment.

Title: Bomberman 64
Console: Nintendo 64
Release Date: 12/01/97 (US)
Genre: Action-Adventure
My Ranking: #46

Bomberman 64 has a perfect balance of entertaining multiplayer, challenging single-player, and tons of well hidden golden cards to collect. The music was also surprisingly awesome and fit with the overall theme of bomberman. Bomberman 64 had the complete package of what makes a great game, and even twelve years later I still come back to this old standard every now and again.

The bomberman game took a huge risk by completely changing the old-school gameplay that they had used for the NES, SNES and TG16. In older versions, Bomberman was played from a top-down view and the maps that bomberman walked in were very angular. Bomberman could place bombs down and they would explode in a “+” pattern. This means you could avoid a bomb by simply moving one block horizontally and one block vertically. It was simple, but still fun.

Bomberman 64 ignored this standard and made a 3D adventure game. Bombs would now explode spherically, leaving you no safe spot whatsoever if you were anywhere near the bomb. In one-player mode, this means you had to be really strategic about how you use your bombs. You could try and plant bombs in front of an enemy and run away. Or, you could try and kick the bomb to the enemy from a safe distance. Or, you could even pump up your bombs by grabbing them, mashing the A button and tossing them to your foe.

Photo Source

Despite going into a 3D landscape, the gameplay still stayed very simple. You can lay down bombs with one button, and the game helps you out by telling you where your goal is on each stage. Getting to that goal may require you to hit some carefully placed switches or maybe blow up some bridges along the way. Regardless, figuring out how to beat a stage may take you awhile, but it is not impossible to figure out what you need to do.

If you’re really good, you can complete the main story within a couple of hours. There is a story of some sort, but you won’t love this game for it’s riveting tale of bad guys trying to take over the world. What you’ll really love about this game are the extras in the one-player mode, as they appeal to almost every type of gamer.

Each world has 4 stages that you need to complete, two of which are adventure/puzzle orientated while the other two are bosses. Within each of those stages you can try and collect five golden cards. These cards will unlock different costumes for bomberman, extra stages in the multiplayer mode and a hidden, crazy difficult world called the Rainbow Palace. Getting all the cards is enough to drive you mad but they add so much to the game’s replay value.

In the adventure/puzzle stages, 3 golden cards are hidden throughout the map, usually in places that require you to think very creatively. In the one stage of the game, a warp tile is seemingly out of reach unless you create a bomb ladder by stacking bombs on top of each other. It’s incredibly hard to pull this off, but very satisfying once it’s done (see video below for a crazy example). This type of gameplay appeals to the explorer type of gamers. The fourth golden card is always a kill count card, meaning you have to kill 30 enemies in that stage to obtain it. So if you like blowing things up, bomberman has got your back. Lastly, the fifth card is a speed run card. If you beat the stage before the allotted time, you’ll get the last card of that stage. Bomberman 64 combines the styles of exploring, killing and fast play all in their extras. It’s a brilliant idea that keeps you playing the game in different ways.

The five golden cards in the boss battles will also keep you entertained. Depending on the boss, you may have to hit certain spots of the boss, or kill off optional area of the boss altogether. The last card is still a speed run card though, so chances are it will take you multiple battles to collect all five cards. The bosses are hard enough to begin with, requiring you to have pinpoint accuracy in throwing bombs. In addition, the game usually puts you right in front of the boss’ attacks. You’ll die often if it’s you’re first time playing, but since figuring out how to beat the boss is easy, you’ll push on until you execute your strategy correctly. This way, if you do get frustrated, you’ll most likely be frustrated at your play, not the design of the game.

The game does not stop will the immensely entertaining one-player mode however. If you have three friends, you’ll have a blast (no pun intended) in the multiplayer mode. Or, if you only have one friend (you anti-social person), you can put in computer bots. In multiplayer, you’re bombs are still in their 3D form and you can now kick bombs into your friends, hopefully stunning them and then blowing them up. You can collect items by blowing up boxes, which will give you more bombs, give you a status effect, etc.

Photo Source

Strategy isn’t really that important in the multiplayer mode. Throw and kick enough bombs in the right places and you have a good chance at winning. Since every one is completely balanced at the start though, you’ll find that the gameplay is extremely competitive and blowing up your friends never gets old. Even better, when your friend is stunned, you can pick them up. If you’re close enough to the edge of the stage, you can then throw them off the map. Try it sometime; it’s a satisfying way to kill someone.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with Bomberman 64. The one-player campaign is a little short, but it makes up for it with all the extras you can try to collect. Bomberman 64 is a complete game that went severely underappreciated for the Nintendo 64. There have been numerous games in the Bomberman series before and after this game, but nothing has even come close to the explosiveness that was this game.

Alright, maybe THAT pun was intended.
My Top 52:
#52 --- Star Fox 64 (N64)
#51 --- Kirby's Adventure (NES)
#50 --- Roller Coaster Tycoon (PC)
#49 --- Grand Theft Auto III (PS2)
#48 --- Metroid Prime (GC)
#47 --- Halo 3 (Xbox 360)
#46 --- Bomberman 64 (N64)
#45 --- Revealed on 8/26


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