Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bomberman 2 (Nintendo DS)

Game: Hudson Soft
System: Nintendo DS
Online: Wi-Fi and Single Cart Multiplayer
Release Date: Currently available in Europe, no US release planned

Hudson Soft is once again playing the continents against each other like some kind of creepy 80s cartoon villain.

With the Nintendo DS system, Hudson has taken a weird regional approach to Bomberman, their perennial mascot and flagship title. In the United States, we've seen the release of the Bomberman Land Touched games, a series of confused submissions that can't tell if they want to be an RPG or a nostalgic Bomberman trip of the past. However, in Japan, Hudson has started the Custom Battler Bomberman series, featuring RPG leveling and the ability to collect and arm your man of explosives however you want. Luckily for those who can't read Japanese, they have also translated and brought this game over to Europe for importing.

Like its original name implies, this version of Bomberman is more battle-centric than games past. Taking inspiration from the Mega Man NT series, you log into the Bomberman system at the beginning of the game and travel to different levels of the programming in a very cyberpunk or virtual reality-influenced fashion.

In Battle Mode you can set up simple, classic Bomberman matches against both humans (whether in the same room as you or over the DS Wi-Fi) or Bots. Do you sometimes regret that online ranking systems only grade you based on if you won or not? Thankfully, Bomberman 2's battle mode ranking system takes into effect how many kills you got during the battle or how long you lasted, too, so the person who ducks around getting the last kill isn't necessarily the highest ranked. In a game like Bomberman 2 that can easily take over two screens of action, that's a godsend.

Mission mode is the real meat and potatoes of Bomberman 2. You'll find various themed worlds, each with 10 levels to beat each. There's the standard factory, deserts, all the old Bomberman favorites make a return. Each world also has their own gimmick, whether it be teleporting pads, conveyor belts, or magnets that draw bombs a specific way. Each stage is made up of a handful of sub-missions that flow from one room to the next. In one such stage, you might have to kill all enemies in the first room, blow up red or blue energy orbs in the next, find a keycard by blowing up blocks in the next, or finishing it all up by destroying targets with a set amount of bombs or time. In each world there are also a battle-specific level and a mega sized boss end level. The battle-specific level plays out like the Battle Mode does against bots, with you having to win against 3 computer controlled characters in a set amount of time. The end boss levels bring back memories of the classic NES Bomberman entries or even Blaster Master as you face off against an enemy that can take up nearly half the screen with only your trust bombs.

Throughout almost all stages, you can find new helmet, torsos, gloves, and boots underneath blocks. The amount of parts found in each stage if displayed on the level select by stars. Obviously the customization is a big selling part of Bomberman 2 and does play a great part in the missions themselves. However, the game does suffer a bit of MMORPG-loot-isms. While having many options is always better than no options, you will find yourself wearing a weird looking mish-mash of different costumes so you can get the most attributes and special abilities. I played most of my game wearing parts I found in the second level just so I can have the ability to pick up and throw bombs. Also, the parts themselves are all well designed, but do lack a bit of the weird Japanese kitsch the recent Xbox Live Arcade or Wii versions have had. While it's nice to see serious Bomberman costume choices, it would have been extra nice if we also got attribute-less costumes for battle mode such as the Ninjas, Clowns, Robots, Pirates, and more found in other system games.

With Bomberman 2, Hudson Soft has gone out of their way to provide the ultimate Bomberman experience. This does mean that almost all DS specific features have been used sparingly, though. The dual screen is used only to display your current statistics and the mission text in mission mode. Touchscreen use is minimal at best. And thankfully Hudson Soft has not forced its users to use the microphone. Battle-mode can feature battles that span both screens, though, and these are often the most frantic.

Bomberman 2 is a great love letter for people who grew up on trying to block your friends against a rock and an exploding place. While prior versions have offered precious little for their asking price, with Bomberman 2, you get a fully functioning classic Bomberman in battle-mode and an almost RPG-centric Bomberman experience in mission-mode. Anyone who loves Bomberman and felt left out in the cold by the recent US releases can safely import this game from their favorite video game dealer overseas knowing there is something for everyone here.