Believe it or not, there's a lot of pressure on Super Bomberman R. No, seriously.
It's the first Bomberman game in seven years – the last was 2010's Bomberman Live: Battlefest, and who remembers that? It's the first instalment since Konami bought original developers Hudson Soft back in 2012, and the first quote-unquote 'proper' video game Konami itself has released – aside from Pro Evolution Soccer – in years, as the Japanese company has shifted focus to mobile titles and pachinko machines. On top of all that, it's a day one title for Nintendo's experimental new Switch console.
Yet despite all of those pressures, Super Bomberman R is a little bit brilliant. Maybe it's the warm glow of nostalgia, but there's something very special about being able to blast your friends to pieces again in grid-based mazes. Even better, the controls remain the essence of simplicity – move on X/Y axes, place bombs with a single button – making it perfectly suited to the Switch's built in multiplayer.
There's something very special about being able to blast your friends to pieces.
Each of the Joy-Con controllers can split off for local two-player matches, and you can pair up to eight Joy-Con 'halves' to your Switch for massive group battles. Matches are always four or eight players, with any non-human players filled in by fiercely competent AI. Matches get incredibly frenetic, with any players blasted out of the match taking up position in "vengeance carts" along the maze edge, throwing explosive doom at the remaining players. There's also support for online matches, with plenty of customisation options to craft your own tournament needs.
Multiplayer is the main draw, but there's a story mode to play through too. The story itself is hyper-cheesy sci-fi nonsense about the Bomberman Brothers (including three sisters) defeating the five Dark Bombers, all delivered with groan-inducing gags in thinly animated cut-scenes, but its worth your time. With 50 entertaining but tough stages to play through, all puzzle-like challenges to defeat all enemies or activate portals to move on, they serve as great training for playing against others.
Boss battles in Story Mode are a nightmare though. That fiercely competent AI mentioned above? All the bosses seem powered by it, making them incredibly frustrating to defeat. Most matches come down to luck rather than skill, and the hope you can pin them with enough bombs. The game loses marks for an annoying auto save too, which forces you to replay all stages on a world from the beginning if your run out of lives.
Luckily Super Bomberman R's multiplayer is brilliant enough to overcome those frustrations – there's nothing else on Switch yet that's as immediately accessible and as much pure fun to play with friends. We still have no idea what the 'R' stands for, mind.