Despite being one of the oldest and most iconic “mascot” video game characters, Bomberman seems to have fallen by the wayside recently. The series seems to have migrated to mobile without anyone noticing and an an unnecessary gritty reboot will forever cast a shadow on the lovable character. This of course does not mean the older games don't have worth, you just have to dig deep to find the true gems. The game I'll be looking at today was one of the first games I owned for the Gameboy Advance, and it's a real treat.
Bomberman Tournament has two game-play modes: a traditional Battle mode and the much more elaborate Quest mode. Firstly I'll talk about Battle mode, as it'll be familiar to long-time gamers. On the off-chance you've never played a Bomberman game, the goal in Battle mode is to defeat your three opponents with well-placed bombs while collecting power-ups to give you various buffs. It's deceptively simple game-play that will really test your wits. “Tournament” offers several maps for this mode, each with a unique gimmick to keep matches interesting. While at first I was losing matches constantly, after a while I got the hang of it. Though this mode is naturally intended for multiplayer, it's still enjoyable (though testing) as a single player experience.
Quest mode is where “Tournament” really shines. To summarize the story, Bomberman travels to an alien planet to find his friend Max and defeat the five Dastardly Bombers. The game-play is highly inspired by the Legend of Zelda series, particularly the top-down 2D games, and also has elements of Pokemon. While the quest is mostly linear with the player moving from dungeon to dungeon, there is an element of exploration. Of course instead of swords and bows, the player's main weapons are bombs, which are used to blow up enemies and solve puzzles. The dungeons are reminiscent of the original Zelda game as well as the Bomberman games from the SNES and Megadrive, split into single-screen rooms with a different objective (deafet all the enemies, push a block, etc.). The player is also accompanied by creatures called Karabon, which are required to progress in the game by giving Bomberman unique abilities, similar to items in the Zelda games. For example, one Karabon gives Bomberman a shield while another allows him to push blocks. Like Pokemon, the Karabon can also compete in battles, though the mechanics are vastly different. In a three-round structure, the player selects a strategy of attack for each round (e.g. Attack, Defend, Special), so battles are mostly dependent on luck. However, the player can increase the stats of their Karabon by collecting tokens in the over-world.
Graphically the game is similar to the SNES/Megadrive Bomberman games, simple and functional. While not stellar, they are bright, colourful and pleasant to look at. Similarly, the 8/16-bit chiptune music isn't as memorable as Sonic Advance's soundtrack, but it has an old-school quality to it, which practically suits the game. The best way to describe “Bomberman Tournament” is that it's very Nintendo-y, with its cute graphics, retro-style soundtrack and Zelda-inspired game-play. If you're looking for a Bomberman fix, or just a throwback to the 16-bit era, this is your game. You can pick it up here.