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CONSOLE: Super Famicom DEVELOPER: Hudson Soft PUBLISHER: Hudson Soft
RELEASE DATE (JP): February 28, 1997 GENRE: Action
// review by SoyBomb

Oh great, a cheesy clip show.

Bomberman is a pretty decent hero. He gets things done. If there's any enemy threatening lives in his vicinity, he will use his powerful bombs to bring explosive justice to the galaxy. So when every major villain he's ever defeated is suddenly revived by Terrorin, a giant half-robot, half-clock with the ability to meddle with time itself, appears in Bomberman's planet, you can bet that he's probably very annoyed by having all of his fine work annulled. But that's the plate that's lain in front of him. So Bomberman has some cleaning up to do!

If you've played any of the previous four Super Bomberman games, then nothing new will arise from this, the fifth and final Super Famicom iteration of the series. Bomberman still wanders around various grid-based fields, using his infinite supply of bombs to blast away blocky obstacles and zany enemies alike in order to progress further. This gameplay has remained relatively stable since the earliest Bomberman games, so nothing here will surprise most players. Along the way, he can snag some power-up tiles to improve his on-screen bomb count, extend his blast range, or modify his bombs. (The remote detonation bomb is, and always will be, a personal favourite.) And, should he find an egg, Bomberman can ride Louies, kangaroo-type creatures with their own unique abilities, though to me, they serve mostly as an extra hitpoint in case I get myself caught between a rock and a propellant of doom.

And the game is very much aware of the lack of freshness. Super Bomberman 5 is, essentially, a "best of" game, amalgamating the first four games into an all-out compilation. The game is divided into five separate zones; Zones 1 through 4 are all based on their respective Super Bomberman game, pulling enemies, environments, graphics, and even music (albeit in somewhat remixed form) and making Bomberman revisit old times, probably giving him a sense of anxious nostalgia in the process.

Only Zone 5, the last world of the game, is actually new, stocked with a time theme, complete with weird clock towers that need to have its legs destroyed in order to stop weird orange remotes with legs from spawning. Yes, you read that correctly. Only by reaching this zone can you finally stop the terror of Terrorin and end this saga so Bomberman can finally migrate to a more powerful console.

What HAS been implemented is a bit more freedom. Level progression isn't linear. Once you clear out all the enemies in a stage, multiple pillars of light will appear (unless you haven't blown up the block that was once overtop of it), and you can select one to exit through. It's not clear which pillar will take you to which level, although ones you've already taken will turn blue in subsequent trips. There are, as a result, many ways to get to the end, and only by going through the right path will you ever "100%" the game. Likely, it'll take multiple playthroughs to achieve that. You can even keep going a second time to achieve the coveted "200%" complete! You're a super player! This branching path system is perhaps the most compelling of the single-player Bomberman excursions seen on the console. The path also has another purpose: depending on which way you go in the final zone, you'll fight Terrorin in one of two places, and this will determine whether you get a great ending or a "bad" ending. An ending is an ending, I say.

Boom-Boom-Boom-Boom, Bomberman's in my room...

But like I said, this is retreading of old ground. "When the gameplay is this solid, why reinvent the wheel?" said a Hudson Soft employee. To an extent, that's true. Mega Man tweaked the formula a bit but never changed with sudden severity during its long-running hexalogy of NES games. They DID, however, find time to program in one new and downright irritating feature: Bomberman can topple over and fall off the edges of many arenas; this is unwelcome.

There's also a weird bowling mini-game in here that's out of place. Hmmm.

Multiplayer frenzy makes a return as well. Thanks to the power of the Hudson Multitap accessory, up to five players at a time can taunt their friends with the power of spherical explosives as they see who can survive the longest in an all-out blasting melee in one of ten arenas, each with its own theme and set of hazards. Wild blasting with friends has become the gold standard for the series, and it still rings true here.

Speaking of gold...

Though Super Bomberman 5 was available at all fine retailers throughout Japan (as well as, likely, a few unreputable hovels), it was also offered for purchase through CoroCoro Comic, one of Japan's leading monthly manga magazines. If you bought Super Bomberman 5 through that magazine, you'd get the highly-craved Gold Cartridge, featuring additional battle arenas and...well, a golden cartridge, much like the early Zelda games! It's shiny! It's great! You want it! It's...shiny! (Actually, if you have Hudson's Super Joy Controller, you can unlock the extra battle stages in the regular version, so... really, you're just buying it for the faux halcyon finish.)

Super Bomberman 5 serves as the culmination of all that the pentalogy of games on the SNES/Super Famicom has to offer. If you want a helping of all the games combined, this is the place to be. It's really no better or worse than any of the other games, considering they hardly change much. Whether you look at it as lazy, just pulling most of its material from other games, or as a fitting end to the long-running series, there's no denying that, for Bomberman fans, this is mana from Bomber Heaven.

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