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CONSOLE: Super Famicom DEVELOPER: Produce PUBLISHER: Hudson Soft
RELEASE DATE (EU): April 26, 1996 GENRE: Action
// review by Jeff

Fourth time's a charm, except if you repeat yourself.

Y'know what the Super Famicom needed? More Bomberman. Three games just weren't enough! And y'know what North America and Europe apparently DIDN'T need on their slowly-yellowing Super Nintendo systems? More Bomberman. Like the changing seasons and the fall TV lineup, Bomberman reared his head yet again for another installment on the Super Famicom in Super Bomberman 4. Not much has really changed for our bombastic hero, but there's still a solid game tucked away in that smooth gray cartridge of joy.

If we think WAYYY back to Super Bomberman 3, we recall that Professor Bugler (now referred to as "Bagular" in Japanese games) had been a thorn in Bomberman's side for a while, what with his interest in reviving the Five Dastardly Bombers and trying to conquer the universe. Well, Bomberman assuredly put a stop to that threat... or so he thought. While taking a peaceful space shuttle flight back home, the vessel is struck by a group of lights, thus creating a giant hole in the time-space continuum that sends Bomberman and his pals back to the prehistoric age! This is all part of Bagular's revenge... well, actually, just the brain of Bagular, intimately preserved in a giant mechanical containment unit. Can't keep a tough brain down! So Bomberman must drop a few signature explosives millions of years in the past to get rid of Bagular's minions and figure out a way to return home!

Oh, Bomberman — you always get into such mischief. Surprisingly, the game's manual told this story in a 2-page comic book style. It's very cute.

Super Bomberman 4 is very much a result of all the previous games put together, though it doesn't exactly leave any room for major surprises. The core gameplay remains fully intact. Bomberman is sent to a series of worlds themed after different eras in time: Prehistoric, Edo (because it's Japan, mind you), Modern, Super Future, and Hyperspace. Okay, the last one doesn't even sound like a point in time, and "Super Future" is really pushing the limits. Bomberman will be sent through six levels in each world where he'll be required to navigate his way through more grid-like areas filled with blocks, rocks, or other random debris that will need to be destroyed courtesy of Bomberman's infamous explosives. Like the first two games (but surprisingly, not the third), Bomberman can only exit the level if he has defeated all the enemies, thus making a warp portal appear.

In certain stages, there are also additional warp pads that are noticeably different, but they can only be reached if 2 players are participating in Normal Mode. One Bomberman will need to pick up and toss the other onto the pad, which leads to additional bonus levels. It's a shame a lone ranger can't access them. That's very shameful to single people.

As per usual, blasting your surroundings can reveal special panels that Bomberman can pick up to improve his abilities. All the classics are here, including extra bombs to drop, increased firepower, and different types of bombs. Though the spiked one that blasts through multiple objects/enemies at once is useful, my personal favourite remains the remote detonation bomb. Can't help but love the feeling of blasting when it feels right, not when some arbitrary timer goes off. Sadly, the mighty Louies, those hopping kangaroos with a heart of gold, were killed off. Instead, you literally ride the backs of your enemies like Braveheart on a bender. Defeating some enemies will turn them into eggs; touching them immediately turns you into a professional equestrian, riding them like there's no tomorrow. You can even grab additional eggs of the same creature and string them along as backups in case your creature gets toasted. There are two types of enemies that you can ride: organic and mechanical, all of whom have special abilities to help you out. But mostly, I use them to take an extra hit for me.

They say Bomberman has anger issues. Well, he DOES have a pretty short fuse...

Oh, need even more help? Sometimes, extra Bombermen have been stuffed in cages you can blast open. Upon releasing them from captivity, they'll willingly help you out by blasting away some of the other blocks in the stage. Mostly, though, they just walk around randomly, looking like oafs.

The multiplayer mode fails to disappoint with multiple ways to play. Your standard Battle Royale Mode is in full effect, pitting you against either a group of computer players or personal friends (up to five, using the Hudson Soft-built Super Multitap adapter) with the ultimate goal of blowing each other up. Good, clean, potassium nitric fun. Also up for grabs is the Maniac Mode, giving you the power to set characters' HP levels and number of items available, while the Champion Mode pits one or two players against the computer, progressively battling the boss Bomber Kings from the story mode.

Super Bomberman 4's presentation style has taken a step forward. The graphics are more refined and updated to reflect the fact that it IS a later Super Famicom title, having to compete with the likes of Super Mario RPG, Terranigma, or Kirby Super Star. Graphics don't (or shouldn't) make a game, but I could understand why some might have been put off by the oversimplification route taken by Super Bomberman 3 (which could partially be explained by Hudson Soft themselves making that iteration, rather than outsourcing it to developer Produce!, as they did here). This game makes up for it somewhat with crisper, somewhat more detailed spritework. The bosses also seem a bit more inspired, being very heedful to detail. And I love all the gorgeous hand-drawn artwork in the instruction manual; it's a step above the others of the series. Too bad the audio didn't up the ante as well. Though the music is both spunky and kooky at the same time, it relies far too heavily on previous soundtracks, such as Bomberman '93 and Super Bomberman 3 to fill the space.

Super Bomberman 4 is still a solid entry and it feels a little more polished than the last one. But Bomberman is still the same old Bomberman, and aside from a few little quirks here and there (having to blow up a castle filled with blue hairy M&Ms to beat a level comes to mind), it's just more of the same old Bomberman you know and love, and while that's not a bad thing, a little extra spice would've done wonders.

Everything looks normarl here.

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