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Bomberman 64

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Reviewed by Scott McCall Raise your hand if you play Bomberman games for the one-player Adventure mode. Since there are so few of you, why does Hudson always seem to put more emphasis on the adventure portion than the Battle Mode? With that in mind, this review will mostly concentrate on the multi-player Battle Mode, though there will be a passing mention of the Adventure mode. Bomberman 64 is the first version of the popular series for the Nintendo 64. The game has appeared on virtually every system, from the NES to the Super NES to the PC to the Saturn to other systems. This version, however, marks the first time the game is using three-dimensional, polygon graphics. In addition, Hudson also decided to put a heavy emphasis on the Adventure mode. First, we'll discuss the control. The Control Stick is used for moving, but, unfortunately, the Control Pad cannot be used. The A button is used to set a bomb. It can also be used to kick a bomb, or after you pick up a bomb, press it rapidly to pump up your bomb. Pumped-up bombs are twice as strong. The B button is used to pick up bombs or enemies, throw bombs or enemies, catch objects being thrown at you, or talking to people. The R button is used to stop bombs after you kick them. The Z button is used to detonate remote bombs (requires you to pick up the appropriate icon). Finally, the C buttons are used to control the camera angles in the Adventure mode. In the Adventure mode, your task is to get Bomberman to the end of each level. There are five different worlds in the game (not including the hidden one), each with four stages. Along the way, you must defeat enemies with bombs, collect items, and figure out various puzzles. You get three continues to begin with, but you can pick up 50 gems for an additional one. There are also five gold cards hidden in every stage. Finding them all will reward you with a secret. I don't know if it's just me or what, but I just couldn't get into the Adventure mode at all. Changing the camera angle on your own the whole way through is completely annoying. I don't mind doing it some of the time, but you're required to do it all the time. But more importantly, I just didn't have any fun with it. I found the majority of the levels boring and uninteresting. About the only challenge is to figure out the puzzles. Unfortunately, the thing that would help this mode the most is not included: two-player simultaneous play. The original Super Bomberman for the Super NES had two-player simultaneous play in its Adventure mode, but all subsequent games do not have it. Why? Now let's talk about the Battle Mode. As with any Bomberman game, this is the reason you buy it, this is the reason you play it. This time around Hudson decided to change it quite a bit. Once you pick Battle Mode from the title screen, you're presented with three options: Single Battle, Team Battle and Options. Single Battle is the old mode you're used to. Team Battle introduces the concept of teams, with a little twist. And in the Options you can change how many wins it takes to be crowned champion, how many minutes there are to battle before the match is over, if you want Sudden Death on or off, and if you want Ghosts on or off. I'll talk about Team Battle first. In Team Battle, the object is to destroy all five gems of the other team. You do this by blowing them up. Of course, you can divide up the two teams however you want. Unlike Single Battle, though, if you die, you can rejoin as many times as you want. You can play this mode on any of the levels. And since this is team, you can have yourself protecting your own gems and have your teammate go after the other team's gems. While it sounds nice in theory, the mode really isn't that fun. I'll probably never play it again. The Single Battle is the classic "every man for himself" mode you're used to. Like before, if you don't have three other people to play with, then you can play with the computer. The computer difficulty level can be set anywhere from one ("weak") to three ("strong"). And, yes, the computer is actually pretty good on level three. Since you're probably wondering, turning Sudden Death ON means that when there's one minute remaining, then something will happen to the stage that might kill you. For example, water might rise to the top, the side walls might start to close in on the center, or meteors might come crashing in from the sky. That last Sudden Death "rule" is really stupid and unfair, though. Also, turning Ghosts ON means that after a person dies in the Single Battle, then they can return as a "Ghost." A Ghost can do the same thing as a normal person, except it cannot use bombs. But that means you can throw or kick bombs that are already dropped (but not pump them up). You can also pick up other Bombermen and try to throw them out of the level to kill them. Ghosts disappear when the time remaining hits one minute. I personally think this is a great addition to the series. For either the Single Battle or Team Battle modes, there are six initially available stages to choose from. But if you keep pressing start as fast as you can at the title screen (you'll hear a chime if it's done correctly), then that will open up four more stages for a total of 10 in all. Unfortunately, you have to do this little code every time you turn on the power. There are three main differences to the Battle Mode: Ghosts, power-ups/blocks, and level design. I've already talked about the Ghosts, so let's talk about the other changes. Next up is power-ups/blocks. I've lumped these two together because they go hand-in-hand. Unlike previous Bomberman games, the stages are now initially much more wide open than before. With the other games, you had to destroy blocks to get to your opponent. Now you can just run after them. And there used to be power-ups underneath those blocks. While there are still some blocks in Bomberman 64 that give power-ups, they are spread out across the stage and regenerate after they're blown up. Furthermore, the selection of power-ups is far fewer. For example, all Bombermen can now kick and punch without a special icon. That leaves the following icons: Fire (increases bomb power by one level; regular can go to level 3 and pumped-up can go to level 6), Bomb (gives you more bombs to use, up to eight), Power (makes the bombs red and makes them twice as strong), Remote (bombs become remote bombs; can be detonated at any time with the Z button), and Heart (lets you take an extra hit). The Skull has also made a return, and it can now be thrown at an enemy. There's also an Evil icon that affects everyone for a short period of time. As far as level design goes, I already mentioned how the levels are much more wide open. But because of the 3D nature of the game, some of the levels are also multi-layered now. That means two things: 1) The bomb explosions are now 360*, and 2) You can throw stuff from above, from below, or at an angle. When you mix all of this together, what's the result? Well, it's a little less like Bomberman and a little more like Konami's Poy Poy. Because you don't have to blow up blocks to get to your opponent, you'll just find yourself running around and throwing pumped-up bombs at someone. You'll probably try blowing up a few blocks, only because you want to increase your bomb's blast radius. And when you die, you'll probably go running after someone, trying to throw them out of the level. If you get hit by a bomb this time around, you will be stunned for a short time. You can get out of the dizziness quicker by rotating the Control Stick. However, whenever you're dizzy, you're vulnerable to be picked up and tossed out of the level. Oh yeah, along the way, someone will probably pick up a Skull or Evil icon to make it even more hectic. So how does it turn out? I personally like the change of pace. Part of me just wanted to see a 64-bit upgrade of the old mode, but I was also glad to see something different because I could always just pop in the old game. It's not quite as good overall, but it could potentially lead to something great. If I were developing the sequel (and I'm obviously not), then there would be a few changes I would make. First, I would bring back the population of blocks to blow up (with no regeneration) -- at least on some of the levels. It was more rewarding to have to work to get to your opponent. Second, I would bring back the wraparound of bombs. You know, throw a bomb off one side of the screen and have it appear on the other as a surprise. Third, I would have the bombs blow up after a certain amount of time, whether it's being held or pumped-up or not. Fourth, I would make power-ups more important. I guess throwing would have to be included from the start since you need to pick up a bomb to pump it up. But maybe some older ones (like roller skates) could be brought back or some new ones could be made. Fifth, I would get rid of the heart and the meteor death. They're both lame. Sixth, I would try to come up with some more interesting level designs. You know, bring back different things like conveyor belts and tunnels. On the other hand, I think there were some good additions. I do like the multi-layered levels so that you can drop surprises on your opponents. This would be more interesting with bombs that blew up after a certain amount of time (i.e., in mid-air), though. I also like the idea of ghosts because it lets everyone continue to have fun until there's one minute remaining. Picking up and throwing Bombermen out of the level is a good thing as is pumping-up the bombs to make them stronger. Graphically, Bomberman 64 looks pretty nice. The one-player Adventure mode is vibrant, sharp and alive. The multi-player mode looks pretty decent, too, with no problems associated with the graphics. When it comes to the aural aspects, the music is pretty good, too. There's a limited amount of voice, and there are quite a few tracks in the Adventure mode. But there's only one musical track for the Battle mode, which is kind of annoying, but I think it also gets the blood pumping. Bomberman 64 is almost a must-have addition to any multi-player fan's library of games. It doesn't quite have the same edge that previous Bomberman games had, but it does give you something somewhat new and different to play. By the same token, it's not exactly up to par with GoldenEye and its multi-player mode, but it is one of the better party games for the system. However, like the previous games in the series, just don't expect much from the game's one-player Adventure mode.

Graphics: 4.0 out of 5 Sound: 3.7 out of 5 Control: 3.9 out of 5 Gameplay: 3.8 out of 5 Lastability: 4.3 out of 5 Overall: 3.9 out of 5

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