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Bomberman II (NES) artwork

Bomberman II (NES) review

"The best NES Bomberman you've never played."

The sequel to everyoneís favourite little demolitionist arrived just four years after its progenitor on the Nintendo Entertainment System, and it represents more than a catapult toward what fans and players would come to expect from the franchise, in both mechanics and presentation. Technologically the game is markedly superior, while retaining the quick thinking reflexes for which the series is known.

ďSeriesĒ is a bit of a stretch, mayhap, since the first time there was any kind of storyline in Bomberman actually starts right here. In my review of Bomberman I mentioned that there was a ďdarkĒ storyline about the little fella smashing his way out of prison, right? This time there are ... ahem ... cutscenes ... to portray just those events.

Bomberman II (NES) image

It turns out our hero has a rival who frames him for a bank robbery which lands him in jail and sends you through seventy-two levels of wall destroying mayhem in order to find him and... ah bother it makes as little sense as the first having no visible storyline, so letís move on. Whatís significant is that the visuals have had a serious overhaul: Bomberman himself is more detailed and sports the same look as he would on the NEC PC Engine, albeit with fewer colours.

The levels are broken down into six segments of eight stages, each presenting a part of Bombermanís journey through jail, a volcano, mountains, a forest and more. It must have been quite a treat for players in the day, and I was rather pleased with the revamped graphics. On that note, the same enemies are on the hunt and their tactics havenít changed in the slightest.

Bomberman II (NES) image

Enemy introduction has been scaled back somewhat to be less aggressive, but later levels introduce some sneaky new greeblies that do their best to catch you off guard. In addition to the usual orange balloon, water onion, grinning cat head and coin, a number of brand new monsters make an appearance. Thereís a dragon-like enemy that can pass through walls, and a top-like enemy that moves quickly enough to escape a bomb at point blank range. Iíll leave the rest for you to discover, but one that looks like a ghost - and isnít - will rush at you, so be ready to duck and dodge quickly.

Bomberman IIís mechanics havenít changed one iota compared to the first game, which is a good sign that everything works as intended, except for a couple of points. Extra lives arenít doled out, but are included in the lineup of revamped powerups. However, the version I played didnít seem to increase my count when I picked it up, so Iím not sure if it was a bug or what. Bomberman Ď93 on the PC Engine uses the same lives mechanic and it works just fine. When you run out of lives, though, you not only get a passcode, but infinite continues, so frustration can be hard to come by.

Thereís even a secret code for completion, but shhh I didnít tell you that.

Bomberman II (NES) image

That review is forthcoming, so... thereís another niggle Iíd like to address. Among Bombermanís available powerups is a fireproof vest, but now it operates on a countdown timer that lasts about 30 seconds. I have to guess because the only onscreen indicator is Bomberman flashing until a beep warns you itís about to expire. It seems like a waste of a powerup, and itís a little confusing that the music doesnít change back to the stage theme when its over.

I suppose itís a minor gripe, and necessary since many of the stages are only one screen large. Speaking of shrinkage, the timer grants you less time to complete stages as you progress, and when you run out of time, Bomberman doesnít get the grace period of having enemies chase him down. He explodes outright. It seems a little harsh, and on a couple of occasions I had to skip the powerup because I was scrambling for the exit. More than once I couldnít find the door on account of that as well.

Bomberman II (NES) image

Iíd consider that a lesser complaint as well, but why donít we talk about one of the gameís strongest points: The music. The composer has taken the main theme and fleshed it out into what youíll hear on the PC Engine and Super Nintendo. Whatís more are four new stage themes that are literally progressive in their composition. I swear they reminded me of Yoko Kanno while scoring Macross Plus, specifically of Sharon Appleís style of music. Theyíre still pretty short, but I never found them to be wearying.

Bombermanís tried and true sharp reflex mechanics will test the skills of new players, but may not do much to satisfy returning players looking for something new. However, while I didnít try multiplayer, it is a feature of this release, and thatís a major step up, since it is now a franchise staple. How can you go wrong with a game that took notes from its players and improved its gameplay? The developers were paying attention, and the result is a fun diversion that will raise your tension without testing your patience.

hastypixels's avatar
Community review by hastypixels (March 20, 2019)

At some point you stop justifying what you play and begin to realize what you're learning by playing.

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qxz posted March 21, 2019:

Strange as this may sound, Bomberman 2 is the first Bomberman game I remember playing.
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hastypixels posted March 21, 2019:

I was very impressed with the quality of it, particularly because of my experience with the first one. There's a massive difference between them.

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