Does anyone remember the days when a death match wasn’t in first person? How about a time when multiplayer didn’t involve the use of an internet connection? Super Bomberman 2 takes me back to a time where games were much simpler and hours would be lost in the blink of an eye, coupled with an almost endless stream of laughter as my friends and I plugged in a multi-tap and tried to bomb our pixel avatars to smithereens.
There’s no question the main draw of this game is the battle mode. Sure, if you need some practice you can play against the CPU, but the AI can’t compare to having up to 4 human players trying to outmaneuver and outwit each other. I use these words purposely, the game is fully skill based and there’s no element of surprise. Every player starts in their corner of the single screen arena and can see what their opponents are doing, what power ups they are picking up and which player they are hunting. Initially, it might seem like a good idea to watch your opponents but losing focus for even a second can mean certain death. If you want to have some back-up, players can be divided into teams for the tag matches but that is only a slight diversion from the free for all mode.
One unfortunate feature is each mode has a timer. However, in story mode that timer is rarely a prominent threat. This timer becomes a much larger presence in the battle mode, as when it runs out it will result in a draw for any players that remain standing. When there is a small amount of time remaining the game will remind you that the end is drawing near by creating walls that reduce the play field to essentially half the size. If you weren’t able to bomb a friend or yourself accidently before that, the more confined area will make sure that you do. This is where friendships are tested and bonds will be made or broken.
The story mode on the other hand will take you through 5 distinct worlds which are each divided into a series of stages. The objective of each stage is to blow up all of its switches and defeat the enemies in order to open a door and proceed. Let’s just ignore the fact that letting a bomb explode will only trigger a switch rather destroy it entirely. At the end of the level, you face against a boss who hogs a significant portion of the screen while attacking in a unique but clearly discernible pattern. These are easily the most entertaining battles the game throws at you, despite the fact that they aren’t overly difficult.
In fact, most of the game can be considered easy. A majority of player deaths will actually be the result of cornering themselves with their own bombs. This is not a bad thing however, as it allows for a simple kind of fun that children can enjoy and adults can still have a blast with. There are passwords if you cannot complete the game all at once, which are mercifully limited to 4 characters in order to prevent mistakes being made when taking them down or entering them back in. The only real negative about this password system is it makes you realize they’re short due to minimal data, doing nothing more than putting you at the beginning of a world and not the individual stage that you were on.
In true 16 bit fashion, the graphics are bold and colorful. Characters and enemies lack an overwhelming amount of detail but are infused with an extraordinary level of charm. Don’t believe me? Just finish a stage and watch your character do his little dance of celebration. Power ups in particular drop on the map with cute self-contained designs and glow, creating an image that just beckons you to go pick them up, even if you don’t want them. Why wouldn’t you want a power up? Well, you can increase your bomb radius up to 9 but that will just cover the full length of the screen with your explosions and result in many of the previously mentioned self-deaths. If you want to avoid offing yourself it might be wise to stop at around the 5 mark like I usually do. Otherwise pick up everything you can, the glove is especially fun as you can throw bombs over gaps and walls to catch enemies off guard. All of these fun animations will elicit bystanders to want to join in the fun.
This is where the one truly negative thing I have to say about the game comes up. Outside of the battle mode this is an entirely single player experience. You heard me, of all of the Super Bomberman games this is the only one where the story mode is relegated to one player. All of the fun and laughter from the battle mode cannot be carried over into the campaign. This is by no means to say that it’s not fun to do the story mode, in fact I encourage it, but you will be hard pressed to find the same replay value out of this cartridge if that is all that you are after.
There is really no reason to dwell on the lack of coop in the campaign as this game is so much greater when viewed as the sum of its parts. The story mode really is fun for a casual run through and the battle modes will keep you laughing and swearing with your friends well into many countless nights. Anyone who is looking for a game that could easily top the multiplayer charts of its era should not hesitate if they see this game kicking around their local game store.