The game’s complexity increases when you consider the various Bomberman characters. The base game comes with eight basic Bombers — White, Black, Blue, Pink and so forth — that have slightly different attributes. Black starts with level five movement speed, for instance, that can be upgraded mid-match to level eight. He can only lay a single bomb at the start of the game, though, and his maximum bomb-laying capacity is two. Red, meanwhile, starts at fire level five and can reach level eight by picking up fireball items throughout the game. On the flip-side, his movement speed starts at zero and tops out at two.
The Premium Edition, meanwhile, adds 14 characters that are loosely categorized as Attack, Speed and Unique types. They’re inspired by classic Konami properties and have unique abilities that drastically change how you should approach each match. Castlevania hero Simon Belmont, for instance, has a whip that can pull in bombs and characters. Silent Hill’s Pyramid Head, meanwhile, can trigger a ‘Judgement’ effect that kills anyone he comes into contact with. My favorites, though, were Symphony of the Night star Alucard, who can turn into mist and safely pass through bombs, and Gradius’ Vic Viper, which can dash forward at high speed.
These abilities should put the classic bombers at an unfair disadvantage. Every Premium Edition character has a notable flaw, though. Pyramid Head, for instance, can’t pick up five of the game’s six power-ups. His movement speed is stuck at zero and he can’t raise his bomb capacity or blast radius above level one. Every special ability has a cooldown, too, which stops you from spamming it throughout the match. I had to save Vic Viper’s dash, therefore, for when I was about to take damage or recognized that someone else had just dropped all of their power-ups.
Experience points feed into the clearly Fortnite-inspired Bomber Pass.
At the end of each match, the game will give you some experience points based on how long you survived for, the number of blocks you destroyed, the items you collected, and how many players were eliminated before you. These affect your grade — an in-game rank that will periodically reset, similar to Overwatch and Valorant — and general player level. Experience points also feed into the clearly Fortnite-inspired Bomber Pass. For now, it’s free to go through the Start Pass, which slowly unlocks new outfits, accessories, entrance and victory poses for your characters. Other digital goodies include background music, profile icons, and a selection of taunts and text-based quips that you can trigger mid-match.
Thankfully, there’s nothing in the Start Pass that affects gameplay. Super Bomberman R Online does have a Shop, though, that will presumably stock items that require some kind of premium or real-world currency. Konami hasn’t revealed its post-launch plans, though, and for now the Shop simply states that there are “no items available for purchase.”
I’ve enjoyed my first few days with Super Bomberman R Online. The battle royale format is addictive and, surprisingly, feels like a natural evolution for the decades-old franchise. For now, I’m driven to get better and develop more sophisticated strategies that take advantage of the premium characters’ special abilities. Will that excitement wane? Perhaps. Like every battle royale game, it’s dependent on the developer adding new cosmetics, stages and mechanics at a steady clip. If Konami keeps releasing characters and outfits inspired by its classic franchises, there’s a good chance that I’ll keep popping in for the occasional match.
The big question, really, is whether anyone else will give it a shot. Stadia has struggled to capture the public’s attention, despite Google’s best efforts. The Stadia Store is expanding, but its selection of games feels woefully limited compared to Steam, the Epic Games Store, and everything available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Switch. There isn’t much of a price incentive, either. You can buy titles a la carte but they’re rarely discounted to the point that it’s worth switching ecosystems. Stadia doesn’t require a console, but if you want to play on a TV you’ll need a Chromecast Ultra and Google’s own controller, which aren’t cheap.
It doesn’t help that Stadia is still missing some basic features, too, like parties on mobile and the ability to search inside the Store. These omissions make Stadia Pro a tougher sell against NVIDIA’s GeForce Now, which recently expanded to Chromebooks, and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which lets you stream numerous titles on Android hardware.
Stadia needs many, many more experiences like this.
Super Bomberman R Online is a blast. It’s also one of the first games to support Crowd Play, a live-streaming feature that lets viewers jump in and play with their favorite internet celebrity. If the experience takes off, Bomberman could be Google’s answer to Fall Guys, or — a more realistic comparison, perhaps — Tetris 99, which pulled off a similar battle royale reinvention on Switch. It’s more likely, though, that the game will be forgotten about within a week. Not because it isn’t compelling or thoughtfully designed. But because it will take something monumental — or a deluge of small but exceptional exclusives — to make the average person pick up a Stadia controller.
Battle royale Bomberman is fun, but Google needs many, many more experiences like this to make people care about its streaming service.