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Bomberman '94 (TurboGrafx-16) artwork

Bomberman '94 (TurboGrafx-16) review


"The final boss is a real jerk."


This is the one, baby. Ahem. I mean to say that this is the version that was ported to most major platforms of the day, and even saw release on mobile (apparently). It is the closest to ďdefinitiveĒ Bomberman youíre ever going to experience. Everything else is just a variation on this ... so ostensibly you could play this and have best time ever as a Bomberman player? That all depends.

Fundamentally this is all known territory: As Bomberman you traverse a grid-like space consisting of hard and soft blocks, the latter of which you can and must destroy in order to progress. Enemies are usually trapped in arrangements of these blocks so you have to decide when and how you want to deal with them. Keep an eye on the time and the powerups you acquire, as well, because you're going to need every advantage at your disposal. A key difference between this and other Bomberman titles is how you proceed between levels: You'll locate and destroy small metallic towers that keep the parts of the planet emblem sealed away in a glass bubble in order to continue onward.

Bomberman '94 (TurboGrafx-16) image

Bomberman 94 is a surprisingly short affair, with just eighteen stages spread across five worlds and the final boss, all told, making for a fairly cursory single player adventure. Even though it is brief, it does shine with personality. Someone has stolen Planet Bomberís planet talismans and split the world into five pieces. After youíve saved the first section of planet, shadowy enemies come along and beat up your friends protecting the remaining pieces. Theyíre shown leaning on a crutch wrapped in bandages, and thatís pretty cute. Bomberman himself throws off those same bandages when you choose to continue playing at the game over screen.

Thatís the signature personality players expect from Bomberman, and itís in full effect here. Another distinct pleasure are the stages themselves. Gone are the strictly rectangular arenas, replaced with stages that can take almost any shape the developers wish, and they really explore the studio sp--er, gamut of design. Early stages are more basic in design, but take a step beyond bridges into some truly fun and challenging territory.

Bomberman '94 (TurboGrafx-16) image

Some stages turn pitch black, leaving you with a relatively small circle of visible era to work with. That might sound counterintuitive for this type of game, but you can always see enemies eyes (in another bid toward cute factor) and I never found it frustrating. Other stages have more pecuiliar hazards, like penguins that fire stunning rockets from off stage, or large accellerator wheels that can send you hurtling. Enemy variety is also proudly on display, too, and with unique foes for each section of planet, thereís a thematic consistency that makes this a joy to experience.

It also works very well for the TurboGrafx-16 as the programmers flex some graphical muscle. This is the best heís ever going to look on NECís uber system, and markedly better than the direct ports to the SNES and Genesis/Mega Drive. It is, regrettably, the only advantage the hardware had over its competitors. The music is a mixed bag, straying from the bouncy Bomberman themed tunes into what sounds like almost traditional but generic Ė to my untrained ears - Japanese themed music. Itís not bad, and does fills the void whilst setting the tone when required, but I found it a little jarring.

Bomberman '94 (TurboGrafx-16) image

The team has rebalanced Bomberman 94 almost completely, and that is also a little jarring. Powerups drop far more frequently now, and Bombermanís explosives have greater base range. Instead of just one block, they can obliterate up to distance of three blocks away, which is nice when you run out of the short supply of lives and have to continue. The tradeoff is that you lose everything and I mean everything when you do. At least youíre given unlimited continues and a four digit numeric passcode. Saving has been omitted, but I suppose that was redundant anyway.

Most powerups make a return here, but some are missing that upset game balance and me, personally. Bomb Trigger, for instance, has been removed entirely, artificially raising game difficulty. Boss battles, while greatly improved, are a slog because you just canít trigger bombs when you want to. Itís that simple ... though it does seem the bosses were largely designed around that, so ... I guess that mitigates the complaint, to a point. Others, like a multi-bomb - I think? - donít seem to do much at all, and I wonder why they were included. At least weíre not picking up fruit, this time around.

Just to be clear about the bosses: The new sprites are large, well animated with phases that will change things up nicely and give you a fair challenge. It didnít even take that long to figure out their patterns and weak points, but if one thing got on my nerves it was the final boss. I had to remind myself to stay calm, because this jerk was really pissing me off. I suppose thatís the point, but I resorted to save states to keep my advantage. I donít see how heís supposed to be beaten when thereís no way to recover your powerups other than starting from an earlier Ė which means intentionally losing? Like I said, not the best execution of game balance Iíve ever seen in action.

Bomberman '94 (TurboGrafx-16) image

How about those timers? How about more time than you can shake a stick at? Boy is that a dumb saying. Anyway, you are given anywhere from four to ten minutes, depending on the relative size of the level, and even boss battles have timers. Theyíre short, but I never seemed to run out of time, even with the last boss where it looked like I might. Nuts to that, I died and/or beat him within a minute after my dozenth or so attempt, so thatís well implemented.

That said, Bombermanís ďOne PlayerĒ campaign is a short affair that you can beat in an afternoon. Fortunately thereís multiplayer action to be had, if youíve got a multi-controller add-on, or a way to link your consoles together. Apparently thatís a blast, or so I hear. I donít know about this version, but multiplayer is a hoot on SNES, so I can reasonably assume it would be here, too. Thereís no question that Bomberman 94, barring some minor inconsistencies in boss difficulty, is one of the best in the entire franchise.

4.5/5

hastypixels's avatar
Community review by hastypixels (March 31, 2019)

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

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pickhut posted March 31, 2019:

Have you tried Saturn Bomberman? If not, I could see you liking that if you liked Bomberman 94's single player stage layouts. A lot of it also doesn't conform to the single-screen format, and there's even neat little "secrets" tucked into some of the areas. It also has a really varied multiplayer mode with lots of stage gimmicks, characters to select, and even the option to play against CPU opponents if you can't find 9 other players to fight against.

I own the Sega Genesis version of 94, and man, there's a lot of slowdown when a bunch of enemies and explosions are on screen at once in single-player... Is there slowdown in the 94 version? Also, when you mean Bomb Trigger, do you mean a detonator that sets off the bombs when you press a button? If so, then that's definitely in the Sega Genesis version. Interesting that it's not in the original game, if that's the case.
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hastypixels posted April 01, 2019:

Mega Bomberman was a direct port of this title, and there wasn't one iota of slowdown on the TB-16. The Genesis has a much faster CPU, and should have handled it very gracefully, so I'm guessing it was just a slow port. So far Super Bomberman and its sequel for the SNES both have notable slowdown, and poor optimization has got to be for blame. If the NES can do it - and it can, Bomberman 2 is a splendid title in all respect - it shouldn't be an issue for the 16 bit platforms.

I'll look into Saturn Bomberman. I'd like that and any version for the PSX, too. It's a real rabbit hole. Bomberman 64 is on my itinerary, though I know it's quite a departure from this gameplay style.
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Masters posted April 01, 2019:

Nice review, Hasty -- I'm gonna check this one out. Incidentally, I noticed you mentioned this review in the holdover topic, but I don't think that's what that topic is for. It's just for judges who missed out on a chance to win cuz they were too busy judging that week.
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hastypixels posted April 01, 2019:

Derp. I do seem to recall that now. Thanks. :)
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Ogreatgames posted April 02, 2019:

_

The Bomberman series always had a place in my heart.

Bomberman '94's similarity to the SNES version is very close in all the best ways.

This one introduced the animal riding to me.

It's not nice to lose by a dumb mistake and having to start again.

Thank God this one addresses that.

Thanks for reminding me of this game with this wonderful review.
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hastypixels posted April 02, 2019:

Thanks for reading. I'd much rather share a gem than spend my time griping about the weak points of a game. The Bomberman titles seem to vary in quality, but I'm actually pretty impressed with their overall consistency. A dedicated fan of the franchise isn't going to be thrown for a loop jumping between platforms, and that's a rare thing.

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