Year of N64 – August – Bomberman 64

Bomberman 64 took me the entire month to finish, despite the fact that the game clock only reads about two hours of playtime. I can’t explain this phenomenon in any other way than a simple “I had no desire to play it.”

Where did that lack of interest come from? It could be because I had filled my plate well over its edges in August, and simply was so busy with other, more relevant video games that I couldn’t be bothered to make time for Bomberman. Or it could just have something to do with Bomberman 64 not being all that fun. Spoiler: It’s both of those reasons.

I used to love Bomberman. Like, you have no idea. I bought Bomberman Generations for a whopping $100 when it first came out (though I can’t tell you why it was so ridiculously overpriced). I couldn’t help it, I was a stupid teenager at the time. As time moves on though, I find myself less and less enchanted with the franchise. Playing the classic multiplayer mode is still probably the most fun you can have with video games, but single-player Bomberman doesn’t really interest me at all any more.

So it really doesn’t help that Bomberman 64 is fairly lackluster. First of all, it’s a short game. A really, really short game. There are five worlds, and each world is made up of four stages. Two of those stages are action/puzzle levels, where you explore, blow stuff up, and make your way to the exit. The other two stages are a duel with an evil bomber-person, and the world boss. so really you’re only looking at ten stages total. Well, twelve, but more on that later.

The action stages are fairly fun. For the most part, they put you in a big open level, and then leave you to your business of finding the exit. They all have some sort of puzzle element, like chasing down an enemy who has stolen the exit (???) or closing a series of dams so that you can traverse previously waterlogged areas. Not all of them are very inspired though. One level simply has three levers right next to the exit that you have to trigger by throwing bombs at them.

Throwing bombs is a big deal though, and ends up being one of the major gimmicks of Bomberman 64’s gameplay. In the 2D games, Bomberman needs a special item to pick up and throw bombs, but here it’s an innate ability. Not only can you pick up and toss bombs, but you can also pump them up to make big bombs, which are necessary in pretty much every stage, as they can destroy things that normal bombs can’t (usually scenery). You’ve also got to be good at throwing bombs to injure most of the bosses, but it’s a little more annoying there. See, you don’t just press a button after laying a bomb to pick it up. You need to step away, turn around, and then pick it up. Bomberman can be a little finnicky about this. If you get too close, he’ll just kick it, and if you’re on uneven ground, there’s a very good chance that he just won’t do anything. In a regular stage, it’s not a dealbreaker, but during hectic boss fights, it can be a real pain in the patoot.

Bomber duels are still the most annoying part of the game though. Imagine if you will, a one-on-one Bomberman game against an AI player in a wide open arena. They’re faster than you, and they can use a special projectile attack in addition to their bombs. It’s not a good time. Fortunately, the evil bombers in this one are a little stupider than in later games. On more than one occasion I witnessed an enemy bomber try to walk through a bomb, and simply keep rubbing up against it until it blew up. The actual bosses are somewhat less difficult, as they’re big monsters with defined attack patterns, and at least one is susceptible to a one-hit kill. That or the game glitched in my favour. That’s not to say that they’re easy, but they’re less frustrating than the bombers.

The game pads itself out a little by offering a small selection of collectibles for you to find. First are the costume pieces, which I’ll talk about in a bit. Then there are the Gold Cards. There are five of these in each stage. They show up in later Bomberman games as well (as “Lightning Cards”), and have been a source of many a headache for me. Some of them are just tucked away in corners, one is a reward for beating a stage under a certain time. I assume that some are earned by completing a special requirement and possibly for killing so many foes in a stage, but I mostly just ignored them so I can’t say that for sure The problem with that is that the real final world unlocks after you earn all 100 Gold Cards. I decided that it wasn’t really worth the time or effort.

The multiplayer in Bomberman 64 is exactly what you’d expect, and I don’t feel that I have to really say anything about it. Who isn’t familiar with multiplayer Bomberman? The one note that I need to make is that the costume parts that you collect in the single-player mode and use to dress up your Bomberman are only usable in multiplayer. It’s kind of silly that you can’t use your custom Bomberman in the story mode, but what can you do?

It’s important to note that Bomberman 64 was the very first 3D Bomberman, so that goes a way in explaining why the game is rough around the edges. The later games did get better, so the issues with Bomberman 64 are definitely more growing pains than anything else. And it’s not like there’s even anything explicity wrong with the game; it just doesn’t do anything overly interesting with that extra dimension. f you’ve got to play a Nintendo 64 Bomberman, play Bomberman 64: The Second Attack. It’s a little more meaty, and has a cooperative story mode. I probably should have played that instead, now that I think about it…

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