Bomberman Max: Blue Champion and Red Challenger
  • Genre:
    • Puzzle
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy Color
  • Developer:
    • Hudson
  • Publishers:
    • JP Hudson
    • US Vatical
  • Released:
    • JP 12/17/1999
    • US 05/14/2000
Score: 65%

This review was published on 05/27/2015.

Bomberman Max: Blue Champion and Bomberman Max: Red Challenger is a set of video games developed by Hudson Soft for the Game Boy Color. They were published by Hudson in Japan on December 17, 1999, and Vatical Entertainment in North America on May 14, 2000. A third game called Bomberman Max: Ain Version was exclusively released in Japan as a reward to a lucky draw contest that was held by a stationary company called Pentel. All three of these games are actually one in the same, but similar to Pokemon, they have minor differences, like a couple of exclusive stages. The similarities don't end there, because these are the first Bomberman games to introduce Charaboms, creatures that are obviously inspired by Pokemon. These are also the first games in the vast Bomberman series to introduce Max; a cyborg decked out in some kind of black beetle suit that looks like something out of Power Rangers. Max is basically a darker, cooler, more mysterious Bomberman. You know, because every hero needs a darker, edgier counterpart. Depending on which version you're playing, you'll be controlling a different character; Blue Champion has Bomberman, and Red Challenger is Max. The differences between the two characters are merely cosmetic, though. Aside from the arbitrary Pokemon mechanic and edgy side hero, Bomberman Max is the same as many of the older games in the series, only far less good, because the multiplayer sucks.

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At the outer reaches of the infinitely expanding universe, there are five stars. Well, the game refers to them as stars, but they're more like planets, considering some have trees and wildlife. Apparently, the game can't tell the difference between planets and stars. The central planet was called the Future Star, which was named as such due to its advanced technology. This planet harbored a mechanized civilization that protected its surrounding neighbors. A shadowy alien figure took over the central computer of the central planet and declared itself leader of the place. The entity called itself Brain and began sending all of its alien forces to attack the nearby planets. One by one, the other planets were being converted into lifeless mechanical worlds, having their forests, mountains, and wildlife transformed into metallic objects. Dr. Ein, a scientist similar to Dr. Light from the Mega Man series, notices the universal crisis and sends Bomberman and Max to save the Charaboms that inhabit each of the planets. Being the competitive cyborg that he is, Max challenges Bomberman to a duel to see who can rescue all of the Charaboms first. The two heroes board their shuttles to begin the competitive rescue mission.

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Following traditional Bomberman mechanics, the game does the overhead perspective thing and revolves around walking in four directions and dropping bombs that also explode in four directions. Similar to Bomberman GB 3 for the Game Boy, there are different objectives for each stage, and Dr. Ein will clue you in on what those are right before the stage starts. Goals include breaking Charaboms out of cages, defeating all enemies, destroying all soft blocks, and other stuff. Hidden areas with mini-games can be accessed if you stand on a special tile and point a television remote at the Game Boy Color's infrared port; strange, I know. Each world takes place on a different planet and has several themes within it. For instance, the first world is mainly jungle themed, but it also has cave areas and volcanic regions. Contrary to what the intro will have you believe, most of the planets don't have much in the way of wildlife, instead being inhabited with civilizations of varying technological levels. There's a planet inspired by feudal Japan, a war torn planet filled with tanks and helicopters, a planet with a contemporary urban city, and the aforementioned futuristic planet that the final boss resides in. Most of these themes seem to have been lifted from Super Bomberman 4 for the Super Famicom, which was about time travel. Bomberman Max isn't about time travel, but all the planets are still themed after different time periods for some reason. Either way, the stages and bosses are unexciting, and the different objectives don't do a good job of adding variety, as most of them involve killing enemies.

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Like Super Bomberman 5 for the Super Famicom, the game has a nonlinear structure. Every time you beat a stage, several exit portals of different colors will appear, each leading to different stages. Blue portals take you to new stages and red portals take you to old ones. To get the good ending, you need to beat at least 80% of the stages. This is annoying, because you'll have to repeatedly revisit old stages in order to access new ones. Additionally, the other 20% of the stages can only be unlocked if both versions of the game are linked. Even if you're okay with the bad ending, it's too easy to get lost in the portal panic. When you see nothing but red portals, you're in for an exercise in tedium as you frantically enter every portal in an attempt to find someplace new. On the bright side, revisited stages won't have to be completed more than once, as their portals will remain open. Also, there's a stage select, though it can only be accessed if you reset or die, meaning you'll have to sacrifice your power-ups to use it. However, none of that solves the underlying issue of the looping portal structure that obstructs your way forward.

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Charaboms are this game's Pokemon. Just like Pokemon, each version of the game has a different set of Charaboms, so you need both versions of the game to catch them all. Every Charabom has different stats, like attack, defense, and special attack. Their stats can be increased by picking up certain items found in the single player mode. Further ripping off Pokemon, there is a rock-papers-scissors system based on the elemental attribute of the Charaboms. For example, water beats fire, electric beats water, earth beats electric, etc. Players can link Game Boy Colors via the wireless infrared port to fuse Charaboms to create new ones and also battle them. The sole point of Charaboms is to battle them in the multiplayer mode. Instead of the traditional Bomberman battle mode, this game's multiplayer has you and a friend watching your Charaboms duke it out in a hands-off turn-based battle. Neither player is able to directly control their Charaboms during multiplayer matches, but they can set general strategies before the match begins. The strategies don't make much of a difference, though, since whoever has the highest stats and elemental advantage basically wins. The victor gets to keep the opponent's Charabom as a reward. Honestly, Charaboms are completely worthless, as they can't be used in single player and the automated multiplayer matches don't justify their existence.

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Bomberman Max is a traditional Bomberman game marred by its Pokemon pandering. Hudson no doubt saw the success of Pokemon and wanted to cash in on it, but they were a bit late to the party. Replacing the traditional Bomberman multiplayer with boring turn-based Pokemon battles was a very bad idea. All this game has going for it is the single player mode, which is severely hindered by the looping portal structure and dull design. Maybe if more was done with the Charaboms, this game would have more going for it, but as it is, it's pretty mediocre.

Word Count: 1,244

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