Neo Bomberman
  • Genre:
    • Puzzle
  • System:
    • Arcade
  • Developer:
    • Hudson
  • Publisher:
    • SNK
  • Released:
    • JP 05/01/1997
Score: 75%

This review was published on 05/29/2017.

Neo Bomberman is an arcade video game developed by Hudson Soft and published by SNK in Japan on May 1, 1997. As its name implies, this is a Bomberman game made specifically for the Neo Geo arcade hardware. It's the second Bomberman game released for the Neo Geo hardware, the other being Panic Bomber, which was released in 1994. However, Panic Bomber was a Tetris-like spinoff, whereas Neo Bomberman is a more traditional Bomberman game. Not counting Panic Bomber, Neo Bomberman is the third arcade game featuring traditional Bomberman mechanics, following Atomic Punk in 1991 and its sequel, New Atomic Punk: Global Conquest in 1992. Note that this Atomic Punk is a completely different game from the one on Game Boy, although that was also a Bomberman title. At any rate, Neo Bomberman is a step up above all the Atomic Punks in most ways. However, it strangely still has nothing on most of the console incarnations of Bomberman at the time, like Super Bomberman 1 through 4 on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Famicom.

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Antagonists differ from one Bomberman game to the next, but there is one who appears in many of the titles, who's likely supposed to be the main baddie of the franchise. However, the localization teams can't come to a consensus on how his name is spelled, so it tends to differ from game to game. Depending on the game, his name fluctuates between Bagura, Bagular, Burglar, or Bugler. For the purposes of this review, I'll be referring to him as Bagura. Anyway, in this game, Bagura sets his evil sights on the home of the Bomberman people, appropriately called Planet Bomber. There, Bagura kidnaps Pretty Bomber, who's a pretty cute bomber. The two creatively named heroes, White Bomberman and Black Bomberman, then rush in to save the day. After they rescue her, Bagura sends the duo to a dangerous pocket dimension. Will they make it out alive? Play the game to find out!

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Brandishing classic Bomberman game play, Neo Bomberman has you navigating mazes from an overhead perspective while laying bombs to blow things up. Mere moments after a bomb is dropped, it'll explode into a fiery cross that destroys or damages whatever is in its path, be it friend, foe, or inanimate object. Not all things can be incinerated by these flames, however; some blocks are simply too solid for that. If the fires of one explosion touch a bomb, a premature detonation will occur, potentially resulting in a chain reaction if there are enough explosives in place. As usual, you aren't immune to the intense fires of your own explosions, so you must be wary of where you drop bombs. Typically, the flow of the game consists of you placing bombs to corner your foes, but quickly moving out of the way before the explosion occurs. It's the fundamentals of classic Bomberman, and Neo Bomberman is no different in this regard.

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This game's main story mode functions much like the story modes of older Bomberman releases. In short, you kill all the enemies in the current stage, uncover the hidden exit tile by destroying blocks, and make sure you do all of this within the time limit. Generally, every world ends with a boss battle, and there are five worlds in total. Some worlds have gimmicks to vary up the action, like underwater bubbles that pop each other when bombed, resulting in chain reactions. Similar to Super Bomberman 4, sometimes you'll find caged Bombermen who'll help you out for the remainder of the stage if you rescue them. They're controlled by the computer's dopey AI, but are invincible and have remote controlled bombs. However, they'll leave as soon as the current stage is beaten. Additionally, like many older Bomberman titles, a second player can join in on the story mode at any time, resulting in two simultaneous players playing together cooperatively. As with many classic Bomberman titles, the story mode is fun if played with a friend, but dull otherwise.

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Another similarity this game shares with Super Bomberman 4 is that it lets you ride on certain enemies. All mountable enemies are found within eggs, which come in two categories: biological eggs and mechanical eggs. Biological eggs give you furry critters, whereas mechanical eggs hatch into robots. In story mode, eggs are found by killing certain enemies, while the multiplayer mode has you find them in random destructible blocks. If you already have a mount when you find an egg, it'll tag along, waiting in reserve. Up to two eggs can be in reserve. Normally, you die in one hit, but having a mount will allow you to take an extra hit. In exchange, the mountable enemy will die in your place. On top of that, every mountable enemy has a special ability or passive attribute that you can use. For example, one mountable enemy is a bird that can flip a bomb up into the air, causing it to land on a random spot on the screen. This whole system is fine, but the problem is that the only way to figure out what each mountable enemy does is through trial and error.

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Like always, the true star of the show is Bomberman's trademarked competitive multiplayer, of which this game certainly has. The basic rules are pretty basic: up to four Bombermen attempt to blow each other up in single screen arenas within the time limit, and the last one standing is the winner. Yet again taking inspiration from Super Bomberman 4, there are multiple playable characters to choose from, and many of them have special abilities. Some examples are Rubber Bomber, who can transform into a slime that is able to pass through soft blocks, or Cat Bomber, who's able to dash into opponents to stun them. Like Super Bomberman 4, this upsets the multiplayer's balance a bit, because not all characters have special abilities. Unlike Super Bomberman 4, Neo Bomberman's battle multiplayer only allows for up to two human players; the remaining two opponents can only ever be computers. Coupled with the small number of stages and relative lack of options, Neo Bomberman's multiplayer is no match for Super Bomberman 4's.

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It's obvious from the outset that Neo Bomberman takes heavy inspiration from Super Bomberman 4, which came out a year prior on the Super Famicom. However, despite featuring better graphics due to its improved hardware, Neo Bomberman isn't quite as good as Super Bomberman 4. The reason for this is simple: Neo Bomberman is limited to just two players, plus it lacks many options and modes in its multiplayer. Neo Bomberman certainly isn't a bad Bomberman game, but it's easily bested by many of its predecessors.

Word Count: 1,119

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