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Bomberman Tournament

Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Hudson Soft
Media: Cart/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Action

Graphics & Sound:

Bomberman Tournament looks like nothing so much as one of the SNES-era iterations of the long-standing series, and as such the graphical simplicity and vibrant colours work very well on the Gameboy Advance. The various environments that you adventure through, either in the single player Quest Mode or the multiplayer Battle Mode (okay, 'adventure through' is a bit of a stretch for that one) are as detailed as cute tile-mapped graphics get, and you'll never strain to figure out just what it is you're looking at. Each of the battle arenas is instantly recognizable, which is a good thing if you're a series veteran; most of the popular arenas make a comeback here, making for a nice 'oooh' experience the first time you flip through the list. The anime cutscenes are also very well done, with the same simple and clean look as the rest of the games in the series. (Well, the ones that didn't try to pretend that 3D was a good thing.)

Sound is very similar to the graphics--clean, crisp, and instantly recognizable to any fan of the series. I found myself humming the main Bomberman theme within seconds of booting the game, and sure enough, when I went to do the Battle Mode I was greeted by nothing less than the very same song. It's one of those tunes that's ingrained into a generation of geek's minds just as much as the Star Wars theme, and it's good to hear it again. The sound effects are simplistic, but they get the job done, and you'll never mistake the boom of a bomb for anything other than what it is. It works for what it needs to do.


And Bomberman Tournament is a pleasant addition to a long-standing series. Veterans will be impressed with the Battle Mode, which made it over almost entirely intact, and even more impressed by the single-player Quest Mode, which for once is actually playable. Newcomers to the series will find two games in this cartridge, and while one is overridingly better than the other, they both offer plenty of fun. Sure, the series is getting tired--how many times can you do this before you get sick of it?--but I keep coming back to the darn thing, which must be a good sign of the series' longevity for the next twenty years.

The Quest mode is the real newcomer to the Bomberman world, and Bomberman Tournament's implementation of a single-player game is surprisingly robust. It plays like a sort of slow-paced cross between Zelda and the 'normal' Bomberman game; you have to adventure around the world of Phantarion, finding powerups and blowing up things like any good bomberman. Along the way, though, you gain new abilities that let you explore areas you couldn't before, like any good adventure game.

The main 'addition,' if you will, to the single-player experience is a bunch of Poke, er, Karabons. They're basically your warriors-in-arms, and you use them in a special battle mode against other people's Karabons. Not only can you use them to beat your opponents and get more Karabons (gotta get them all!), they give you powers if you have them equipped. It works out quite well, actually, and while the single-player game won't win any awards for depth of play or originality, it's certainly a pleasant little diversion.

The real meat of the game, however, is the Battle Mode. It supports up to four players, and each player can be either another human or the computer. In a good use of gaming ability, the game doesn't require your friends to have a copy of the game, although it'll have to download data to their GBA for them to be able to play without a cart. This is a decided improvement from the very stripped-down mutliplayer modes that games like F-Zero offer when you play them without multiple carts. Of course, if you have multiple carts, you don't have to fight the load-time, so it works out even better.

Battle Mode takes place on a single-screen environment, where you lay bombs in an attempt to blow up the other players. There are powerups here too, which lengthen your flame and increase the number of bombs you can lay at once and even let you punch or kick the bombs away from you. It's fun, it's frenzied, and it even sports some excellent computer AI so you don't have to have your friends over when you want to play it.


The single-player Quest mode isn't difficult in the least, although it's a lot longer than you'd expect for a Bomberman game. Any halfway decent action/adventure gamer should be able to beat it without any trouble. The Battle mode, on the other hand, can be fiendishly hard if you play against experienced humans, or the higher difficulty levels of the computer AI. Be forewarned--while the computer may not cheat, it definitely knows what it's doing better than you do.

Game Mechanics:

You don't get much simpler than Bomberman mechanics--lay the bomb, occasionally kick or punch the bomb. That's it. The Gameboy Advance's controls are eminently suited to a simple control scheme like the one in Bomberman Tournament. Sure, in the Quest, you actually have an inventory to deal with, but that's as complex as it gets. The Battle mode sports a number of different configuration options, with arenas ranging from the simple to the diabolical and the ability to adjust whether people can attack 'from the grave' or even come back from a loss. It's not as configurable as some of the SNES titles were, but it's still quite robust.

Yes, chances are good that you've played this game before, on a number of different systems. But the sharp graphics and the extreme portability of Bomberman Tournament make it a great pickup for anyone who has a few friends with Gameboy Advances and who like to take out some aggression on each other in healthier ways than physical violence. And with the addition of a semi-serious single-player mode and the strong enemy AI, Bomberman Tournament is even a good title for those who don't have anyone to play with. It may be a little tired, but it's also tried and true.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Windows Feedn' Chloe Nintendo GameBoy Advance Earthworm Jim

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated