Bomberman Tournament
  • Genre:
    • Action Adventure
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy Advance
  • Developer:
    • Hudson
  • Publishers:
    • JP Hudson
    • US UK Activision
  • Released:
    • JP 04/27/2001
    • US 06/29/2001
    • UK 10/08/2001
Score: 75%

This review was published on 05/31/2015.

Bomberman Tournament is a video game developed by Hudson Soft for the Game Boy Advance. It was released in Japan on April 27, 2001, North America on June 29, 2001, and Europe on October 8, 2001. The game was published by Hudson in Japan and Activision in North America and Europe. In Japan, the game is known as Bomberman Story. This is sort of a spiritual successor or sequel to Bomberman Quest for the Game Boy Color, as both games play similarly. The highly prolific Bomberman series is mostly comprised of overhead puzzlers with linear design, but like Bomberman Quest, Bomberman Tournament is a nonlinear action adventure along the lines of The Legend of Zelda. There are also some minor RPG elements in the form of friendly Pokemon-like monsters. Also, many of the locations and enemies are oddly taken from another Hudson action adventure game for the TurboGrafx-16 called Neutopia II. Bomberman Tournament combines Zelda, Pokemon, and Bomberman to form a cocktail of intense flavor. It doesn't provide the same amount of depth as Zelda or Pokemon, but Bomberman Tournament still holds its own as an entertaining adventure. The multiplayer's pretty good, too.

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In deep space, on the rim of Bomber Galaxy, there was a planet called Phantarion. Five meteors suddenly swooped in and pelted the planet's surface. A mysterious fortress appears at the meteors' landing site and begins freezing the surrounding area. The planet then broadcasted an S.O.S signal that made Dr. Ein, a good professor not unlike Dr. Light from Mega Man, aware of the situation. He decides to send Max, the edgy cyborg side hero from Bomberman Max, to inspect the frozen fortress. Upon entering the chilly tower, Max is caught by surprise as a gigantic beast begins to attack him. The moody cyborg is promptly taken out and then taken hostage. A week of radio silence later, Dr. Ein calls Bomberman, protagonist of this game and series hero, to investigate Max's disappearance. The bombastic Bomberman quickly makes his way to Phantarion aboard his shuttle to start another one of his explosive adventures. What I don't get is why the game is called Bomberman Tournament. As far as I know, the story never mentions a tournament. I demand an explanation! It doesn't look like I'm going to get one.

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Quest Mode is the main single player adventure, featuring Zelda styled overhead exploration. During this mode, Bomberman can walk around, diagonals and all. Exploration is divided between towns, the areas surrounding towns, and dungeons. Towns are where Bomberman can talk to townies to gather information, use gold at shops to buy things like medicines, and do other handy stuff. The real action happens outside of towns, however. For the most part, the outdoor environments no longer adhere to the grid-like designs of traditional Bomberman, making for much more varied landscapes. Everything is also a lot more open now, with multiple pathways, some of which could lead to secret caves and the like. The screen smoothly scrolls in all directions, though there are still transitions dividing major areas. A world map is accessible via the L button, but it's sadly not as accurate as the one in Bomberman Quest. In addition to the numerous monsters, there are occasionally environmental objects Bomberman can interact with, like moving vines that curl up when bombed, or trees that can be toppled over lakes for the purposes of crossing. As a result of all that, the planet of Phantarion is a nice place to explore.

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Plenty of gear is available for Bomberman to use on his quest. As should be obvious, Bomberman's main method of attack is bombs. Bomberman is unable to use his bombs within towns, but he's able to use them in dangerous locales, where they will explode in the signature cross shape, blasting enemies and disintegrating certain objects. He starts off with normal bombs, but is able to use materials found on his quest at bomb shops to fuse new ones. Different bombs include stuff like landmines that enemies can't see, a bomb that can be moved around like an RC car, and more. The quantity of bombs Bomberman can have on screen and the range of his cross explosions can be improved by finding FireUp and BombUp items, which were temporary power-ups in previous games, but are permanent upgrades here. Speaking of upgrades, he's also able to find permanent armor upgrades, such as boots that allow him to walk faster and armor that increases his defensive power. A lot of this stuff was in Bomberman Quest, too, but it's been significantly streamlined here.

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Karabons are friendly monsters you get on your team that are obviously inspired by Pokemon. They were first introduced in Bomberman Max: Blue Champion and Red Challenger for the Game Boy Color, but they were called Charaboms there. Unlike in Bomberman Max, Karabons actually serve a purpose here. The first main thing Karabons do is grant Bomberman special abilities, like being able to teleport to previously visited towns, erect shields that defend against projectiles, letting him engage in undersea exploration, and so on. Only one Karabon may be equipped at a time, but you can swap them whenever. Some Karabons provide passive effects that are active even when not equipped, as well, like the one that enables you to push certain blocks. In a way, the Karabons replace the items from Bomberman Quest and power-ups from older Bomberman games, effectively replicating their functionality. These creatures are pretty instrumental to Bomberman's adventure, as he'll often require a Karabon's special ability in order to proceed in certain areas of the game. Mandatory Karabons are found throughout Bomberman's journey, sometimes from winning simple mini-games, but the optional ones are typically hidden. The Pokemon motif may be annoying, but the abilities are cool.

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The other major thing Karabons do is battle against other Karabons, which is where the RPG mechanics kick in. All Karabons have stats like attack, defense, and special attack, plus elemental attributes like fire and water. Stats are raised by picking up food items found inside destroyable blocks, and along with elements, they greatly affect the outcome of a Karabon battle. Special attacks do damage based on the Karabon's element, and since some elements are weak to others, exploiting that fact leads to significant advantages. Battles involving Karabons are one-on-one and turn-based, but all the commands are inputted before the fight even begins, so you don't have much control over them. It's also possible to fuse two Karabons together to create a more powerful creature, similar to the Shin Megami Tensei series. You'll sometimes have to win Karabon battles to make progress in the game. There's also a coliseum where you can engage in optional Karabon battles to win prizes. Karabons don't have nearly as much depth as Pokemon, but the abilities they give Bomberman are neat enough to justify their inclusion.

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Not long after beginning his quest, Bomberman discovers that the five mysterious meteors were actually the Five Dastardly Bombers, villainous cyborgs that return from Super Bomberman 2 and 3 for the Super Nintendo. Each Bomber resides within a base that functions similar to a Zelda dungeon and Bomberman must beat them all. The bases revert to the more grid-like structure of classic Bomberman, but there are many rooms and sometimes multiple floors, most of which are filled to the brim with enemies, traps, and puzzles. Just like Zelda, you'll sometimes be locked inside a room, forced to solve a simple block pushing puzzle or kill all enemies. There are even cracked walls that can be destroyed with bombs and treasure chests that contain items, too. The layout of the base is easily visible on the map, which fills out as Bomberman progresses through it. At the end of the base, there will be a boss fight against one of the Dastardly Bombers, who will transform into a big monster. Beating a Dastardly Bomber will permanently increase Bomberman's life energy, though this can also be done by finding secrets on the overworld. The melding of classic Bomberman mechanics and Zelda dungeon design is an unusual combination, but it works.

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While the single player mode focuses on adventuring, the multiplayer returns to the classic battle mode formula of older Bomberman games. Up to four Game Boy Advances can be linked with multiple Game Boy Advance Game Link Cables for multiplayer purposes. Only a single person needs to have a game cartridge, allowing them to conveniently host the game for everyone else. As for the mode itself, it's the usual stuff; players attempt to bomb each other in a grid-like arena and the last person standing wins the match. The rules revert back to traditional Bomberman, in that players die in one hit, everyone is restricted to walking in only four directions, and power-up tiles can be picked up to temporarily augment player abilities. There are eight different arenas in all, each one with different power-ups and environmental hazards. Most of the multiplayer options from Super Bomberman 5 for the Super Famicom make a return here, like the super revenge mode that lets defeated players rejoin the match if they're able to kill someone while flying around the arena's perimeter. It's not as fully featured as Super Bomberman 5's, but the multiplayer in Bomberman Tournament has enough options to provide that familiar frantic fun the series is known for.

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Bomberman Tournament may lack actual tournaments, but it's still a really good game. Unlike most Bomberman games, Bomberman Tournament actually has a decent single player backing its awesome multiplayer. It's a complete package if there ever was one. That alone puts it a cut above the rest, though that doesn't necessarily make it the best. The only problem it has is that it's not quite as good as the many games it imitates; the Karabons are poor substitutes for Pokemon and the Zelda elements are oversimplified to a fault. Even so, the game is remarkably fun, and worth a try if you like any of those other games. And if the single player doesn't cut it for you, then there's always the incredible multiplayer to fall back on. Bomberman Tournament has won the tournament.

Word Count: 1,705

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