Friday, June 15, 2007
Saturn Bomberman Fight!
You know, it's a funny thing. Had this game carried any other name on the label, it would have been hailed as a minor triumph, a sleeper hit for the Sega Saturn. Too bad there's that Bomberman name on the box.
And too bad that Saturn Bomberman Fight directly follows up the greatest Bomberman game - and quite possibly the greatest multiplayer game - of all time, Saturn Bomberman. Now there's a great way to get drunk with some friends on a spare evening. Bomberman Fight had the unlikable job of following up that act. It certainly didn't help matters that the game was rendered in 3D, entirely with polygons. No, sir; that sort of thing borders on blasphemy. Which probably isn't a good topic when the subject involves bombs.
However, I will say this in Bomberman Fight's defense: it's a much better game than those two crummy titles that wobbled onto the Nintendo 64, and certainly doesn't deserve to be swept under history's tides. It's actually a nice little game, so far as I can tell.
So it probably would've helped Hudson's chances if they spun off the 3D Bomberman games into their own realm; perhaps this would have met with a kinder fate. Then again, I don't know how Fight was received in Japan. Perhaps it was something of a hit after all, and just became lost while Saturn was quickly being served with a Texas Burial.
You're probably wishing I'd get to the point, so here it is. Bomberman Fight is presented with playfields at an isometric angle, kind of like Atari's old arcade game Crystal Castles. Everything is drawn with polygons, which are impressively animated, move fairly quickly, and thankfully retain the iconic quality of the cartoon characters. Since when did the Bomberman cast become so goofy?
All of the game's graphics are fluid and colorful and just ooze quality. It's a late-era Saturn game to the core. Loads and loads and loads of explosions, all of which are fiery and fluid. This game introduces a pair of super-bombs, which will ignite a sizeable chunk of the playfield when detonated. It's a nice display of visual effects, even when you're scrambling to get the hell out of the way of the blast. I've managed to blow myself up this way quite a lot.
One notable addition is a health bar. Now you can withstand several bomb hits before being knocked out of the round. The super-bombs, however, will still kill you in one blow. Also, you have the ability to jump, which is an essential new skill. You see, most of these new arenas are in full 3D. Hills, valleys, buildings, bridges - Hudson really tapped into the deathmatch vibe. It's a nice surprise that (almost) makes up for the small size of these arenas.
All the standard Bomberman rules apply. You know the score by now. At least, you should. What are you doing reading this if you haven't played Bomberman? Oh, be warned - this is only a 4-player game. A serious letdown if you're used to the sheer chaos of 8-player matches on Saturn Bomberman. Whatever. There are so many explosions going on you'll barely notice.
Actually, that is a concern. It really is hard to see just what the heck is going on, amidst all of the bombs and super-sized explosions. The speed of the matches is greatly increased, too. I've had rounds finish in under ten seconds. Seems to me that some of the patented strategy was sacrificed for sheer visceral thrills. You'll have to decide for yourselves whether or not that's important to you.
The one-player story mode is a bit of a surprise this time. It's not there. Instead, you face a collection of computer opponents on the battle arenas, kind of like Quake 3. Would anyone be disappointed? Did anyone really ever play the single-player modes? I have a hard time trying to explain why they ever existed.
So Saturn Bomberman Fight is a much more compact and focused game than its predecessor. I've read a common complaint from other websites, that the game is far too easy. There's probably some truth in that, although the computer had no problem kicking my hide in battle mode. But this is meant as more of an immediate experience, and unlike nearly all the later sequels, there's still an actual sense of quality and competence. I honestly have no idea what happened to the Bomberman series after this point. As far as I can tell, Fight is the last good one ever made.
It's not unlike Dylan's Desire. Good album, very good album. It just came on the heels of Blood on the Tracks, which everyone was convinced was Dylan's masterpiece. Bomberman Fight gets stuck with the same curse. And...sing along, class, you all know the words to this one...we get screwed out of another good Sega Saturn fix.