Third Party N64 Games That Didn’t Suck Vol. 4: Bomberman Hero

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Vol. 1: Beetle Adventure Racing
Vol. 2: Winback Covert Operations
Vol. 3: Star Wars Rogue Squadron

Originally written in October 2009.

I always felt like Bomberman Hero never quite got a fair shake. Maybe part of it was me scraping the barrel for good Nintendo 64 games to play back in the day. I understand it went counter to why a lot of people played Bomberman, but I still saw it as an enjoyable game on its own merits.

When you think of Bomberman today, you think of that classic little multiplayer game that now has a modern downloadable version on nearly every current platform. This was Bomberman’s original form and is probably where the franchise needs to be today.

There was a time however when Bomberman tried to be a little bit more. There was a brief attempt to completely bring Bomberman out of his old construct – to take his strengths and use them to turn him into a real action hero – a Bomberman Hero if you will.

Even among singleplayer Bomberman adventure games, Hero tries to do things differently. Movement was more three-dimensional and less grid-based to contrast it with the more conventional Bomberman 64. It was an all-out attempt to put Bomberman in the same space as other cartoon video game action heroes like Mega Man and Sonic. In doing so Hudson altered the game at a fundamental level.

Many of Bomberman Hero’s levels were cast in camera angles from the side or behind as opposed to 64’s mostly top-down view, making things slightly more three-dimensional.  Bomberman could now jump and throw bombs with just one button press. Hero I believe was also the first game where Bomberman had a health meter instead of just dying in one hit. Controlling Bomberman and traversing his worlds in Hero felt much more dynamic, it was almost as much of a platformer as it was a general action game.

Then there was the scenario. Most Bomberman games do take place within something resembling a narrative – a universe if you will.  Hero however tried to paint the hero as something slightly more serious. In this game, Bomberman is an operative – a member of a trained force with objectives and all that cool stuff. The first area of the game is devoted to showing off the headquarters at which he trains and receives his orders. I honestly know little about singleplayer Bomberman games prior to 64 or if they boasted anything resembling Hero’s universe and narrative, but this was the first time I’d heard of it.

On his adventures in Hero, Bomberman even has access to several gadgets that placed him in minigame-like scenarios that turned around the franchise’s mechanics. Hudson basically took Bomberman’s ability to form bombs and applied it to different vehicles.

The submarine and jet attachments were easy – turn the game into a shmup and Bomberman’s bombs into missiles. The most interesting attachment for me however was the helicopter. It turned Bomberman into, well, a bomber. One of the most interesting levels in the game was when Bomberman used this attachment to assault a castle gate – bombing cannons and submarines in a way that looked almost like what a real military would do.

Another unmistakable difference in Hero was its music. Bomberman music has always had that completely lighthearted tone to it – probably still a child of the NES era in which the franchise was born. 64 went for something a little bit more sophisticated, but Hero’s music obviously told you the game was going for that “extreme but still cute” style. The music in Hero was not at all dark, but not completely subdued. It denoted a pace more in step with an action game than the adventure that 64 felt like in comparison.

Looking back I have no idea how I found the time to get 100% on games like this when these days I’m done after just seeing the credits. I guess having access to fewer games with an N64 caused me to get the most out of what I had.

A perfect score in Hero meant just that – perfect – defeating every enemy and finding every item to get a 5/5 rating on every stage, over 100 in all. For bosses it meant beating them in record time. Some of these were bosses I’d struggled to beat period.

In the end however, Bomberman Hero got a lukewarm-to-hostile response from critics. They either criticized Hero’s wild departure from what we know to be Bomberman or considered it mediocre compared to the games it tried to brush up against.

While searching for images for this blog I came upon a Screw Attack blogger’s love for Bomberman Hero.  Apparently it is his favorite game beginning with the letter B because he came upon it in a completely blank mindset. Having never played a Bomberman game and never seen any hype or critical reception to the game, he was able to take Hero for what it was, and what it was is a unique and appealing game no matter how you slice it.

That mindset is probably what epitomizes this series of blogs most of all. Almost none of the games I’m giving a shout-out to on this list were super-hyped or critical darlings.  They are, in some ways, the true hidden gems of gaming that some of us played and enjoyed for what they were, and that is very possibly the purest way to play a game.

BULLETS:

 

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