Publisher: Majesco Games
Release Date: March 9, 2004
Hudson’s popular Bomberman series has been seeing releases since the late eighties, with at least one game bearing the title releasing on almost every popular platform with the ability to play games. Many gamers, including myself, consider the Bomberman games to be some of the greatest multiplayer experiences to be had. I hold these games close to my heart, and while the series hasn’t advanced much at all over the years, I still make sure to grab at least one of the Bomberman games released for each console I own. These experiences range from amazing (Super Bomberman for the Super Nintendo, Bomberman Online for the Dreamcast and the more recent PC version), to good (Bomberman 64, Saturn Bomberman), to downright crap (Bomberman Hero for the Nintendo 64, Bomberman GB).
The Gamecube has already seen one Bomberman release with Bomberman Generations, an extremely mediocre effort that was bogged down not only with the usual curse of a terrible single player mode, but carried a substandard multiplayer mode along with it – a big no-no for this series. At least it had a multiplayer component unlike the terrible Bomberman Hero, right? I had hoped for the chance to get my hands on a truly great experience with Bomberman and co. for the Gamecube, but after one disappointment, I couldn’t help but have a little doubt in regards to Bomberman Jetters, a Gamecube-exclusive budget release, being the game I was waiting for. Unsurprisingly, it isn’t. Developer Hudson and publisher Majesco make it very clear that Bomberman Jetters is worth the twenty dollar price tag and not much else, leaving us with a mediocre multiplayer experience (for a Bomberman game) and one of the worst single player experiences this series has let loose upon gamers to date.
Bomberman Jetters, unlike its brethren, has a slightly fleshed out storyline. Being based on the animated series that shares its namesake, this is not a surprise. Planet Bomber, where our hero Bomberman lives, is in danger. The Hige Hige bandits have devised an evil plan titled “Obliterate Planet Bomber”, which entails causing an artificial comet called the Dark Star to collide with Planet Bomber, thus “obliterating” the planet. This plan is so insidious that even Bomberman’s nemesis Max has agreed to help out. The pair must to all they can to save Planet Bomber by sneaking into the Dark Star and destroy its propulsion systems. Yeah, yeah, it’s a bit trite, but it’s more than the usual “uh… blow stuff up” that we’ve received in past Bomberman games.
Now that your emotions have been completely supercharged by the latest righteous cause for adventure for Bomberman and Max, you’re hyped to the “max” to get into the single player mode and kick butt, right? Well… we can get back to that thought a bit later. For now, let’s dive into the basics of the game. For those of you who’ve been living out of a cave with no power (or internet access, for that matter), almost every Bomberman game has followed this basic formula: players controls Bomberman, a man who drops bombs. Pressing a button causes a bomb to pop up right under our bombin’ buddy (tasteless alliteration, I know). After a few moments, it explodes, usually instantly killing whomever finds themselves within the path of the ensuing destruction. It sounds simple and it really is, but this single mechanic has spawned some of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in all my time as a gamer. Now, to get back to Jetters. Very few new ideas have been added to the mix over games like Bomberman 64 or Online besides the ability to switch between Bomberman and Max on the fly. The movement engine is tight enough, but as soon as you come across the first enemy, things go awry. There is no way to lock on to enemies, so you’ll have to kick and throw bombs towards your enemies to your best ability. You get better at this with time, but it is still nowhere near intuitive. The best option is to charge up a bomb by holding the A button when you pick it up and trying to toss it on top of your opponent. It still isn’t very accurate, but if you do manage to bop your enemy on the head with the bomb it will knock them out cold for just long enough for the bomb to explode. Even blowing up item containers is annoying; maybe I’m just impatient, but I don’t feel like waiting for my bomb to explode just to get to the item inside. These two factors make playing through each of the four themed worlds much more tedious than they need to be.
The level design is better than in Bomberman Hero, but it doesn’t touch Generations, though that doesn’t say much for either game. You’ll spend a lot of time attempting to blow up everything in sight just to figure out what is destructible and what isn’t. Some items that you have known to be destructible for your entire time with the game so far will go sometimes go unscathed through even the most powerful explosion Bomberman or Max can dish out. These kinds of things make me want to rap the knuckles of the developer with a ruler. Almost nothing disrupts the flow of an action/adventure romp like design incongruence.
The character swapping feature is pretty much useless from a playability standpoint. Bomberman can ride on charaboms, large animals that have various abilities and can gain experience. Max can use the Hyper Plasma Bomb, a charged blast activated by holding down the B button, which can be used to break down certain obstacles that normal bombs cannot damage. These abilities are very different from each other, but it would have made more sense to give them to a single character. All it does is allow our eyes to be relieved from whichever character we have been staring at for however long. It is fairly clear that the only reason this feature was implemented into Jetters was so that it could better mirror the anime from which it is based. As a matter of fact, the whole single player mode feels like a string of cheap references to the Jetters T.V. show.
Just like pretty much every other Bomberman game to feature an adventure-style single player mode, the multiplayer mode still proves itself to be the number one reason to own Bomberman Jetters. Unlike Bomberman 64, which drastically changed the formula we all knew and loved (and I, unlike most Bomberman fans, was completely fine with this), Jetters sticks with the grid-based deathmatches that made the original games the classics they are. The problem is, under the shadows of the Saturn Bomberman and Bomberman Online, Jetters ends up almost right back where Generations left us a couple years ago – except now we have to deal with hearing an annoyingly high-pitched voice exclaiming just about everything that happens in the game with the exception of extremely obvious activities – so you can rest easy in knowing that you won’t have to hear a childish “left foot, right foot!” every time you want to play some Bomberman with your friends.
There are a few modes to choose from. There are a few new levels to play around with. There simply aren’t enough of them! Bomberman games have been following this sad pattern for a long time now. The Super Bomberman series, Saturn Bomberman, and Bomberman Online all have unique features that separate them from the rest of the series. There just isn’t any single game that brings all of these great ideas together! There’s always something missing. Jetters has more left out than left in. My biggest disappointment is the lack of the ingenious Paint Mode from Bomberman Online, where the squares on the grid touched by the explosions turn to the color of the player who set the bomb, and at the end of the match whoever has the most points wins. The one major addition is really interesting, though. As players drop bombs, their skill gauge increases. Once the gauge reaches its limit, the player has access to the Killer Shot of their given character. By pressing the R and L buttons simultaneously, the character will unleash his or her Killer Shot. These range from powered up bombs to forcing all opposing players to be stuck in place doing the Hige Hige Bandit Dance! This is a great addition, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that I would rather dig out the Dreamcast for a round of Bomberman Online than give Jetters a go. The other major addition isn’t much fun – Dig ‘Em Bomber, a minigame that takes places after matches where players dig frantically for items, trying to get them before the winner of the set does. It’s more of a distraction than anything remotely fun, and I found myself turning it off most of the time.
There isn’t much to say about the graphics besides the fact that they are about as plain as can be. The cel-shaded characters look okay, but their animations are a bit stiff, and don’t do justice to the art-style. The textures are usually a bit too flat and boring. This is especially noticeable during the more open stages that make up the single player mode. The geometry is also bleedingly simple; I use the word “bleedingly” because it’s so angular that I wouldn’t be surprised to end up with an open wound if I get too close to my television screen. The multiplayer stages are a huge improvement, though. They are as colorful and exciting as always – though they are still just as angular as the rest of the game. The smooth framerate does help things along quite a bit.
The music is plain and boring for most of the single player mode, and while some of the multiplayer tunes are of a higher caliber, they aren’t anything special. Past Bomberman games have gotten this right – Bomberman 64’s battle theme still comes to my mind at unexpected times – but others haven’t, so this isn’t the first time a game from this series has under delivered in this regard. My biggest issue with the sound is the aforementioned high-pitched voiceover during the multiplayer mode that announces almost everything that happens during the game. I’ve put the game on mute a few times, but the other sound effects really do add to the ambiance of the game, so I’ve never been able to keep the action silent for long. If the voice was just a little less annoying, or could be simply turned off, the multiplayer experience would be greatly improved. If you don’t mind this sort of thing, then you’ll have no problem getting right into Jetters. For me, not only was I annoyed by it, but all of the people I played the game with were, too.
Bomberman Jetters presents a lot of disappointment with few surprises wrapped up in the middle. The single player mode is one of the worst attempts at a Bomberman adventure yet, and the multiplayer mode is fun but still sits below the bar set by multiple Bomberman titles that have released over the years. If you don’t have any Bomberman games of your own, I would go as far as to say you must get this game. There’s nothing like a good marathon session of four-player standard battle with your friends. If you’ve already got a Bomberman game – any of them, with the exception of Hero – skip this one. The twenty dollar price tag is good, but not worth it when you can dive into the bargain bin or download for free (Bomberman Online for the PC) a better version. I guess I’ll have to cross my fingers for the next release in this series.
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