The original single-player adventure.
RELEASE DATE: January 1989
It’s always interesting to play the first game in a now classic franchise. Bomberman is about as simple as it comes and I’m sure Hudson Soft never knew how beloved it would become (though sadly it’s gone under the radar recently – why no online Bomberman?). While Bomberman is known for its multiplayer, this first game features only a one-player mode, nothing more. Some addicted to multiplayer might scoff, but I personally have never understood all the hate for one-player mode. Sure, it’s fast and/or furious crazy fun when you have four-players trying to blow each other up (or up to ten on the classic Saturn Bomberman). There’s a tranquil addictiveness that sets in, though, as you go through each stage by yourself, blowing up surprisingly spry enemies and collecting power-ups so you can become the biggest pimp of the Bomber world.
The gameplay is about as simple as it gets: run around stages composed entirely of randomly generated bricks and enemies, and destroy them. The goal is to blow up all the enemies, while collecting the one power-up within the stage and finding the exit, which is a red door. If you’re an impatient person, give the game a few levels to pick up, as it starts off really slow. The first level, you’re only armed with one bomb at a time and your bombing range sucks, so it can take forever. The more bombs and bigger range you acquire, the more fun the game gets. My favorite power-up is the bomb trigger, where you decide when the bombs blow up, instead of the game. Just remember: with more bombs comes more responsibility. It can become very easy to trap yourself next to a bomb or an enemy if you’re not careful (read: too cocky).
This game’s almost twenty-five years old and I’m impressed by the relative smarts of the AI, especially for the time. Many of the enemies, unless you trap them in a location, will not come near an area if you have laid a bomb there. Once they see the bomb is gone, they will leap out and come straight for you. Now, a disclaimer: they do also make a lot of stupid mistakes, but it’s that healthy balance that makes you stay on your toes. When you see an enemy bopping around between two bricks, and there’s an exit they could take to come out after you but they’re not, it’s good to beware. They could just be waiting for you to let your guard down. Also, it’s heartbreaking to see little Bomberman blow up, so try and limit his deaths if you have a soul.
Much like Battle City, both of my grandparents used to wreck shop at this game back in the day. I would watch them for what felt like hours, entranced at their ability to lay down nine bombs, blow up half of the screen, and not die, level after level. They plowed through the game’s fifty levels repeatedly and wouldn’t break a sweat (spoiler alert: in one of the Nintendo’s many bizarre WTF moments, Bomberman turns into Lode Runner at the end of the game). I always wondered then, when I would pick up the game as a child, why I sucked at it. Two levels in and I’d already used up all my lives. I’d set down the controller, shake my head and say to myself, “Bomberman’s just one game you’ll never be good at. Let it go, D.” Until today, that is! For whatever reason, the skills of my grandparents have passed on to me today, and I have come to appreciate the simplistic madness that is the original Bomberman. It might not be the Bomberman gamers remember today, but it’s a fantastic start to a wonderful franchise.