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Back in the SNES days, only one series was synonymous with four player multiplayer mayhem: Bomberman. Though there have been more sequels since the halcyon high point of the series, the series could use a push in the direction of online. Which of the myriad styles, modes and revisions the series has seen will be essential enough for the online experience? What opportunities does online open up?
Platform: DS and Revolution
Max Players: 16
The release of a Bomberman game on the Revolution wouldn't be a bad time for Nintendo to start letting their portable DS and home console start getting to know each other; they'd be able to talk and maybe even share secrets, or games. Nintendo could accomplish this by including storage cartridges shaped like GBA carts with certain DS games so that owners of both the portable and home systems could have the option of wirelessly downloading a thinner, yet fully compatible, version of a Revolution game onto one of these storage carts. Imagine being able to download a Revolution version of Bomberman onto your DS storage cart and playing it during that forty minute commute. Or, on your lunch break, taking Bomberman online at a hot spot next door to your workplace and playing against people in other parts of the globe who've already gotten home from their jobs. But not just other people on DS's. I'm also talking about people playing on their Revolutions, everyone connected through the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.
Bomberman is an ideal game for this sort of extensibility. The action is exciting, simple and easy to start. Of course, the game is also well suited for playing against large numbers of people. Those concerned by waiting an obnoxious amount of time before continuing the next round, take solace in my rusty memory: As I recall from playing this franchise on an Amiga at my best friend's house at least ten years ago, levels go by quickly and those that were burnt to death were allowed to come back to life relatively soon and play again.
On top of this communicative ability would be the ability to interact with the Revolution game through the use of the DS. Instead of manipulating the remote, DS users could just use the touch screen to direct their character's action. Also, if the owner of a Revolution only had one controller and a few DS-owning friends over, everyone would be able to hop right into the game, without having to go out and buy their own controller. Picking up and playing quickly and easily is what Nintendo is all about. That, and having fun.
Max Players: 16
I lost many a night's sleep playing Super Bomberman and Street Fighter II on the SNES back in junior high with my friends. So, when I heard there was a Bomberman coming out for the Nintendo DS, I was really excited. After playing the game, though, I feel they could have used the touch screen for some really inventive power ups.
For instance, how cool would it have been to have a touch mine, where you could just touch the screen to place a bomb next to an enemy? You wouldn't have to be anywhere near the guy. Or how about using the stylus to place a bomb and then draw where the flames will crawl? You could even have a rare powerup that would allow you to touch your character and then anywhere on the map to teleport yourself out of harm's way in a pinch.
Now, all the above powerups would have worked offline as well, so let me throw in a couple of ideas exclusive to online. How about an invisibility powerup? Where you could sneak around, only seen on your DS, but no one else could see you? Maybe along with this powerup, some sort of sticky mine, where you could sneak up to a player and attach a mine to them? To make it fair, a floor panel on the map would light up some distance from the character stuck with a mine on his back. He'd have to get to that spot within a few seconds to defuse the mine. I suppose you could argue this powerup could still be used in wireless multiplayer (not Wi-Fi), but it'd still be fun.
Max players: 64
My vision of the game is one of two things.
1. Add first person elements to it. Add the crazy quickness you saw in games like Unreal Tournament or Quake 3 Arena to the grid-based Bomberman mayhem. The game would be from a bird's eye view, but perhaps there would be certain areas or powerups where you play in a first person view. Or, it could be a strategic trade off: Do I want first person so I can have greater control? Or do I want bird's eye so I can have a full look of the battlefield? Throw in storied levels, speed boosts, jump pads and a liberal amount of power ups, and you have a fun game that puts a modern spin on the classic.
2. Turn based. The player limit would be much lower, say, 8. Making it turn based would cause it to be a thinking man's game. Tactics would play a large role. Instead of the normal Bomberman, you have these high tech spies battling it out. Of course, keep some of the style and focus it mainly on bombs, otherwise, I'm talking about a new game here. Make it chock full of spy goodness by allowing the characters to assassinate, hide in shadows, scale walls with grappling hooks, and, of course, set bombs. Make the game with a real sense of suspense. Hmm... You know, you wouldn't even have to make it turn based, that's just my turn based bias speaking.
Either way it's done, for Bomberman to be a successful online game, it should be innovated. Keep the name, throw out everything else.
Max Players: 8
It isn't online Bomberman for the Revolution that I'm frothing for--I can't wait for the series to hit Wi-Fi network on the DS. Personally, I don't think the series should be headed toward huge battles with dozens of players. Bomberman is at its best when the action fast, the rounds are short, and the levels are claustrophobic.
One thing I definitely want to see is Pictochat support in between tournaments. Talking smack is a big part of multiplayer Bomberman, so if your friends aren't sitting on the couch next to you, this feature is a necessity. Without it, the online mode would feel kind of impersonal.
The ability to charge normal bombs would be a good addition to the classic Bomberman formula. This was originally done in Bomberman 64, which had you tapping the B button to increase the blast radius. It would add some extra strategy and give you an ace up your sleeve during rounds when power-ups are scarce.
Another thing I think would be cool is the ability to diffuse opponents' bombs, which could be done by performing a stylus combo on the touch screen. This wouldn't work if both screens are being used for gameplay, but the developers can sort out the details. I'd just love to make a last-second comeback after being trapped in a corner by a bomb.
I'm pretty sure a new Bomberman for the DS hasn't been announced yet, but the way Hudson Soft cranks them out you can bet there's one in the planning stages. While I'm waiting, I think I'll call up some friends and dig out the SNES multi-tap for some Super Bomberman 3--it's been a while.
Max Players: 32
The primary benefit that online play would bring to Bomberman is a screen for each player--no more sharing one TV for multiplayer games. This was touched on in the DS version, as play took place across two screens, but in an online version that need is dismissed. Players could expect an environment anywhere from two to twelve times bigger than the grid currently available.
The grid size as it stands would be unmanageable at that size. Kicked bombs from screens away could potentially and unfairly snuff players with little regard to skill. The solution would be an optional grid highlight akin to the one seen in Bomberman Generations' survival mode. That is, blast spaces would be marked to get out of the way. The hardcore can turn it off, as most can attest the bomb that gets you is usually the one you never see.
Also, the large field size would be a detriment when it gets down to the final two or three. To solve this, outlying segments of the board could be destroyed by eliminating load blocks, which support the stage in some way. Destroying them would cause the area to collapse for the remainder of the round, making the playing field smaller.
The design outlined above does not make great use of the special features of the Revolution controller, but I feel like the design would stand on its own. It would need to be tweaked in play testing, but the enlarged playing field would be a big step forward in the Bomberman franchise.
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