Ah, Bomberman 64. I got this game with my N64 for Christmas in 1997, alongside the staple game Super Mario 64. I recall popping it into my console that evening just to check it out for a moment. It was then cast aside as I threw myself headlong into rescuing Princess Peach from her own castle. Meanwhile, Planet Bomber remained in imminent danger. I played Super Mario 64 for about a week, and one day I just decided that I needed to at least give Bomberman a fair go. I felt bad for ignoring the little guy. One evening after school, I resisted the urge to dive into yet another painting and turned on Bomberman 64.
I didn’t touch Super Mario 64 again until Bomberman 64 had been completed 100%.
Developer: Hudson Soft
Release Date: November 30, 1997 (NA)
Bomberman 64 is a strange game. It was unlike any other Bomberman game on the market at the time. Previous Bomberman games had focused on multiplayer combat, with the single-player mode basically being put in as an afterthought. Bomberman 64, however, gave us a fully fleshed out story mode, with boss fights, puzzles, and fully 3D environments that could be explored with the help of the various power-ups Bman could find lying around. These stages were more like a Zelda game in design than anything Bomberman fans had seen before. I was not one of these fans, so I came in fresh, but I loved the concept from the get go.
The premise is simple: Planet Bomber is under attack from the evil Altair and his henchmen. Altair plans to use the Omni Cube to drain the energy from Planet Bomber for his own nefarious needs. Of course, Bomberman can’t allow this to happen. With the help of Sirius, a mysterious new ally who claims to be against Altair as well, Bomberman raids Altair’s Black Fortress and begins the task of removing it from his planet.
Bomberman 64 is a top-down adventure game with platforming elements. The latter is what makes the game interesting, since Bomberman cannot jump in this game. Instead, Bomberman is required to place bombs strategically to allow him to bounce across gaps while not getting blown up in the process. Bomberman can pump his bombs up into a larger mega bomb that allows for a higher bounce, not to mention a much larger blast radius. Power-ups include fire icons that increase a bomb’s base power, bomb icons which increase the number of bombs Bman can drop at once, and the remote icon, which allows players to detonate bombs manually rather than waiting for them to explode. This is a crucial power-up, as bombs that are remotely detonated are far easier to use in jumping puzzles than those that operate on a timer. Bomberman can also pick up a heart, which allows him to take two hits instead of the standard one-hit kill.
The Black Fortress is divided into five parts. Each part has four levels to it. The first and third levels are adventure maps. On these maps, Bomberman needs to solve puzzles to get to the end of the course. There are also collectables in these levels, such as gold cards (Bomberman 64’s answer to Mario 64’s stars) and custom parts, which I will get into later. The second level in each part is a mini-boss fight against one of Altair’s henchmen. Cards can also be earned here for achieving certain objectives, such as knocking the boss out of the air or defeating them under a certain time limit. The fourth level in each part is a boss fight. These can range from an underwater fight on a raft against a giant angler fish to fighting a dragon high atop a castle tower. You guessed it, gold cards can be earned here as well by doing things such as blowing up body parts of the bosses.
Speaking of gold cards, these are very important. You can beat the game without them, but to unlock the sixth and final area, known as Rainbow Palace, you need all 100 gold cards from the previous areas. Rainbow Palace itself has 20 gold cards. If these are collected as well, new multiplayer maps are unlocked.
Bomberman 64 also has a very extensive multiplayer mode. There are several maps to choose from, from the get go. These maps are fully 3D areas, which was a first for Bomberman. Also different from previous games were the explosions themselves. Bomberman games had always used a grid-like explosion method that worked well with the 2D levels of the previous entries. When Bomberman went 3D, however, Hudson Soft decided to up the ante and make the explosions spherical. This makes for explosions that can be hard to avoid no matter what level of a map you happen to be standing on. The multiplayer was some of the most fun the N64 ever saw, and it still holds up today.
Also, remember those custom parts I mentioned before? Those come into play in the multiplayer mode as well. With an N64 controller pak (basically a memory card), players could use these custom parts to create their own Bomberman avatars for multiplayer purposes. They were purely cosmetic, but they gave the game a bit of needed flair.
Overall, Bomberman 64 is still one of my favorite games of all time. The single-player adventure mode is top-notch and will keep you busy for hours, and the multiplayer is a blast (pun intended). Everyone should play this game. (Also, for fun, I included the commercial for the game below. Give it a watch!)