Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!

#95 – Bomberman

You’ll get to blow up a lot of bricks and things over all these stages!

It’s Bomberman, not Bomber Man.

To Beat: Reach the ending
What I Did: Beat the game without dying
Played: 7/30/18 – 8/1/18
Difficulty: 2/10
My Difficulty: 2/10
My Video: Bomberman Longplay

The Bomberman franchise is one with a long history and a loyal fanbase. I think Bomberman really grew in popularity on the Super Nintendo with the Super Bomberman games. The simple nature of the game, combined with the SNES Multitap, made it a perfect party game for multiple people. He would have his solo adventures, and those games have their fans too, but the multiplayer is what most people remember and what they would prefer to play. I’m more a fan of the solo outings, and that’s what I got here with the NES version. Bomberman comes from a humble beginning, as this early title is a bare-bones adventure.

Bomberman got his start on home computers in Japan and Europe in 1983. The game was remade for the Famicom, releasing in December 1985. It was developed and published by Hudson Soft. The NES version would wait until January 1989. Since then, there have been dozens of Bomberman games spanning various consoles and computers. There wouldn’t be another Bomberman game after the Famicom/NES release until 1990, but then there were multiple games released every year all the way through 2010. There was another long hiatus until Super Bomberman R came out on the Nintendo Switch in 2017.

Bomberman is a top-down action game with kind of a sad story. Bomberman is named appropriately as he makes bombs all day in an underground compound and he doesn’t like his situation at all. He hears a rumor that if a robot like himself leaves the compound for the surface then he will become human. He leaps at the opportunity but other robots pursue him. Luckily, he has unlimited bombs of his own making which will help him. You beat the game by clearing all 50 stages.

Make way for Bomberman!

The game has simple controls. Bomberman can walk in four directions with the D-pad. The A button places a bomb which is locked to one of the tiles on the playfield. Eventually it blows up leaving a brief trail of fire on the playfield. Later in the game, Bomberman can detonate his own bombs with the B button. The Start button pauses the game. That’s all there is to it.

Bomberman is a really simple game too. Each stage is two screens wide and free scrolls left or right to follow the action. The playfield consists of indestructible columns spaced evenly apart. Sprinkled among the level are bricks that can be destroyed with a bomb blast. Usually you are blocked from parts of the stage and you have to bomb your way through. The goal of the game is to defeat all enemies in each stage, then locate the exit door and leave. You have to drop bombs in spots where the enemies will walk into the blast and get themselves killed, or you can trap them with your bombs near an explosion. All enemies plus Bomberman are killed by a single bomb blast, so there is a strategy element as you also need to keep yourself out of harm’s way. A chime will play when all enemies have been defeated. The exit door is hidden behind one of the destructible walls. It’s completely random so sometimes you’ll find it without trying and other times it’s one of the last bricks in the whole level.

There is a little information on the top of the screen during game play. The level timer begins at 200. Now usually you would lose a life when time expires, but here a bunch of strong enemies are introduced when the timer hits zero. In the early game, that’s just as bad as death. In the middle is your score. You earn points through defeated enemies and you can score more points per kill if you defeat multiple enemies with a single explosion. On the right side, labeled Left, is the number of remaining lives. You start with three lives and you earn one after beating each stage. That’s very generous!

Setting up chain reactions is both fun and dangerous.

The primary mechanic in Bomberman is the bomb blast. When a bomb is placed it stays dormant briefly before exploding. The blast extends outward in the four cardinal directions. It won’t travel through the solid columns or the destructible bricks, but it will rip right through enemies and Bomberman himself. If an explosion hits another bomb, that bomb also explodes immediately. Naturally, you can set up multiple bombs and set off a huge chain reaction. It’s all very intuitive and satisfying to rain fire on large portions of the stage. The catch of course is that you should be thoughtful in your placement so that you don’t get yourself caught up in the blast, whether you get greedy with bomb chaining or trap yourself in an unescapable spot.

Bomberman can find powerups. Each level has exactly one powerup hidden somewhere within a breakable block, just like the exit door. Collecting the powerup causes the music to change, which is an interesting and unusual way of reminding you that you don’t need to hunt for the powerup anymore. Here are the powerups you can find. The bomb powerup lets you lay one extra bomb on screen at a time. The smiling flame powerup extends the bomb blast one tile in each direction. At the start of the game, Bomberman can only lay one bomb at a time with a tiny blast radius. By collecting multiple bomb and flame powerups throughout the game, your bombing ability grows fast. The speed skates let Bomberman walk faster. The wall walk powerup lets you walk through the breakable walls, and the bomb walk powerup lets you walk through your own bombs. The detonator powerup is a heart with a small bomb on it. This lets you blow up the oldest bomb with the B button, and also causes bombs to stay dormant until you blow them up yourself. The flame proof powerup looks like a little person engulfed in flames. This keeps you from being hurt by your bomb blasts. The mystery powerup looks like a question mark and gives you temporary invincibility from enemies and bombs. All powerups except for the mystery powerup last until you die, while the bombs, flames, and speed skates are permanent upgrades.

It does make sense that you could also blow up both the powerups and the exit door. You might not want to do that. Blasting either one spawns several enemies which are typically more challenging ones than the initial enemies in that stage. Not only that, but if you blow up the powerup you lose it, putting you at a double disadvantage. The lesson here is that you want to be careful with explosives.

Blow up enemies in the bonus level without concern.

There are bonus stages sprinkled between some levels. The standard unbreakable columns are still there but there are no bricks to deal with. Each bonus level features only one enemy type but there are a lot of them and they keep coming. Bomberman is completely invincible from both enemies and explosions here, so this is a great place to go wild and set up huge chain reactions. This is simply a point-scoring affair, but it’s a fun break while it lasts. The bonus levels occur after every five levels for most of the game. For some reason they put the bonus areas after levels 39, 44, and 49 instead of multiples of five like it started out. I get that they didn’t want the game to end on a bonus stage, but I think they could have just adjusted only the final bonus level instead. I’m all about the minutia here on the site, so I just had to let you know about this.

Bomberman also features some special, hidden items. These are nothing to get excited about and are just for points, but they might appear in a playthrough when you don’t expect them. There are six of them. Each stage has one and there is a specific method to get it to appear in the stage. I’ll spare you the details on this one. Most players will not come across them at all because the requirements are kind of ridiculous. I didn’t in my playthrough, though I believe I found one in a past playthrough.

Lastly, there is a password system. Lose all your lives to get the password. These are 20-character passwords consisting of the letters A through P only. Passwords save the stage you are on, the number of bombs you can deploy, the blast radius, and even your score. Nice!

Strong powerups like this give you great versatility.

Though I have played Bomberman before, I haven’t played it all that much. I am pretty sure I played the SNES Bomberman games before playing this one, and it feels primitive in comparison. At least I had the basic idea down for how the game works. I beat the game for the first time a few years ago as part of the NintendoAge contests. Bomberman is a common game but it’s one of the more expensive commons, selling for over $15 for a loose cart today.

I think Bomberman is a really easy game. I was able to beat the entire game on one life on my second try. While the difficulty of the levels increases as you play, I believe the first level is the hardest one. You have little explosive range so you have to get a little too close to the enemies and they are tough to reach with bombs. You start off with a flame powerup in Stage 1 which helps out greatly. In Stage 2 you can get an additional bomb, and in Stage 3 you can get the detonator, putting the game into easy mode. With the detonator and cautious play, you probably shouldn’t die anymore the rest of the way. The flame proof powerup comes late in the game and pairing it with the detonator is ultra-powerful. Then you can drop bombs and immediately detonate them at your feet, essentially surrounding yourself with a fire shield for as long as you keep pressing the buttons. Even without the best powerups, you can still password creep through the game the long way.

Bomberman is a basic, but fun game. The core gameplay is solid, laying the groundwork for future titles. Aside from that hook, the game was primitive by the time it released on the NES in 1989. From a 1985 perspective, I can see why this was well regarded. It’s a fun game with a bunch of levels, randomly generated obstacles, and some neat powerups that make you feel very powerful by the end of it all. The music is catchy enough in its simplicity. The graphics do well enough to carry the idea of the game, but don’t offer anything further. I’m glad to have played it, but I don’t plan to go back to it.

#95 – Bomberman

Posted In: Finished

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