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CONSOLE: Game Boy DEVELOPER: Eleven PUBLISHER: Electro Brain
RELEASE DATE (NA): November 1999 GENRE: Action RPG
// review by SoyBomb

Bomberman's Awakening.

Let's go on a quest... (Let's go on a quest...)
A Bomberman quest... (A Bomberman quest...)
From the highest peaks... (From the highest peaks...)
To the deepest seas... (To the deepest seas...)

Alright, now that I've triggered an 80s-style ballad about Bomberman without any notable melody that you can discern, let's go on a real quest while talking about Bomberman. But wait, what's this? You've never heard of Bomberman before, one person out there who has been living under a rock that was buried under a group of other rocks? Bomberman is a hero to the people of Planet Bomber, cheerfully keeping the peace against renegade monsters. His key ability — from which his name is based — is creating and dropping bombs at will. I don't understand the science behind the ability; I can barely make a cheese sandwich appear under the best of circumstances. He uses these bombs to defeat and/or capture monsters, emprisoning them and preventing them from ruining the daily lives of the Planet Bomber citizens.

In this particular episode of the Life & Times of Dan Bomberman, Bomberman is chipperly returning a group of unruly monsters to their prison by way of his Bomber Shuttle and its attached prison cells. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, his vessel is attacked by four beams of light — the Four Commanders! All four of his engines are stolen, and Bomberman must now make a crash landing on a mysterious new planet. So now he has a few problems to take care of: defeat the Four Commanders, reclaim his stolen engines, and also recapture all the monsters that were turned loose from the rough entry.

The first thing you'll notice is that Bomberman Quest doesn't resemble your typical Bomberman game. He's not running about in a blocky arena, blasting away walls, toasting enemies, avoiding his own bomb explosions. Instead, he's on a mission—NAY, a QUEST! And this quest resembles another adventure on the Game Boy. As soon as you start walking around, you'll feel like you entered The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. The game certainly LOOKS like Link's Awakening, right down to the random staircases leading into dungeons. (Who built these concrete staircases?) And as Bomberman wanders around, the overworld appears in single-screen doses, just like Zelda. AAAAND Bomberman uses a flute (that very much resembles an ocarina) to warp back home. AAAAAAAAND it's the one game where Bomberman can equip an item that lets him jump, just as Link could do in Link's Awakening but not in other games. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND Bomberman's not wearing pants, just like... oh...

Bomberman starts out in Peace Town — the central location of the game, similar to Link's Awakening's Mabe Village — where he can enter houses and talk turkey with the locals. The most useful shack to visit will probably be the Bomb Workshop, where Bomberman can bring items he finds to make new types of bombs or to upgrade the fire power of the ones he already has. There is also a save Kepo here. ...wait, "save Kepo"? Yes, a Kepo: a furry robot that, in this game, will offer to save your data. Thanks.


Who's the real blaster master now?

Leaving the town in different directions will take you to one of the four zones of the planet. Only one is explorable initially (Field Zone), but as you defeat each of the Four Commanders, more lands become available to you. It is here that you have to hunt down all 12 monsters per zone plus the Commander. As you progress, you'll note that not all monsters can be easily defeated and will require special items or specific bomb types. You won't get rid of all monsters in a zone on your first run-through; you'll need to backtrack once you have all the right equipment. And believe me, there is a LOT of backtracking and revisiting of areas. It's not so bad, though, considering how relatively small the overworld is.

But that's what grinds my gears about Bomberman Quest's design is in its inventory system. To put it bluntly, it's a clunky mess. Bomberman can hold a LOT of types of bombs (sixteen in all, each with their own unique purpose), as well as a ton of other useful items. You can only have two items equipped at a time. You generally want to have a bomb handy at all times, which leaves one spot open. If there is a time when you want to jump up a cliff (or down, since apparently he needs a special item to FALL off something), you'll need to go equip the Jump Shoes. This menu is deep inside another menu, which is inside ANOTHER menu, so there is no such thing as a simple switch. But wait—now you want to run fast, too? Better go a few menus deep and equip the Dash Shoes. A peg in your way? Equip that Hammer. Low on hearts? Whip out your shovel and start digging for them! Some dungeons REQUIRE switching these things in a short period of time, so it's a nuisance to have to interrupt gameplay so frequently for this. Too bad it couldn't be better streamlined... or better yet, just let him gain some of these abilities naturally... or EVEN better, not implement this at all on a puny Game Boy cartridge where it can't be smoothly implemented! This same issue goes for Bomberman's armor as well: he can only have one, which thus requires a decision. Do I need protective armor? Or a helmet? Or scuba gear? Or steel shoes? (Not as exciting as Ocarina of Time's Iron Boots, I'll say that.) Only one at a time. (Yup, he can't wear a helmet AND shoes at the same time; that would be pandemonium.)

Graphically, it's a Zelda game with a Bomberman re-skin. It's as simple as that. The game looks nice for a little Game Boy Color title, don't get me wrong. But its style is so similar to Zelda's (down to the greenery of the overworld to the contrasting dungeons and fortresses) that it would not surprise me to find a little bit of Nintendo's coding nestled in that cartridge. I wish they had spent a bit more time on minute details, specifically the fact that all bombs look the same when you lay them down. I guess having different sprites for each would be too difficult, even though they clearly have separate icons in your menu. Meanwhile, the music's pretty upbeat for the most part and will give you that burst of motivation necessary for taking out those unfriendly criminal ruffians hopping around.

Bomberman Quest is short. With a little ingenuity and a bit of patience, you can whip through this game in about four hours. And that's great because the formula of just hunting down monsters with little else to do starts to wear thin after a while. The only thing that would make anyone want to play through this a second time is either a) if they left behind a few monsters during the first playthrough (which will lead to the superior ending), or b) if they want to utilize the always-present Battle Mode, either against the CPU or with a friend by linking two Game Boys together. Overall, it's a fun little game, but you'll be through with it more quickly than expected, and back on the shelf it will go.


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