Bomberman II (not to be confused with Super Bomberman 2, Bomberman Max 2, Bomberman Land 2, Bomberman Land Touch! 2, or Bomberman Touch 2) was a game for the NES developed and published by the late Hudson Soft (may it rest in peace) back in 1991. We didn't get it in the U.S. until two years later. But both Japan and Europe's box art is superior to our own (which really isn't anything new).
|Way too much skin showing for the U.S., apparently.|
Bomberman has been a gaming icon for decades, and one of Hudson's greatest assets. He is spread over 50 main games and generations of consoles. It's funny to note that on this box it has the "Celebrating 20 Years" seal on it. Even though Hudson was mostly involved in computer hardware back before video game console days, it's impressive that they made it through all the mishaps and pitfalls that hit so many other companies in the industry through the 70's, 80's, 90's, and 00's. In early 2012, they fully merged with Konami (although many key players left to join others, namely Nintendo).
This game holds distinction for me as being one of the earliest video games I ever played. My uncle had an NES with a few games, most deemed "inappropriate for my age" (but man oh man, did that Super C cover art look insanely awesome). My choices were narrowed down to Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2, and Bomberman II. I played them all, but Bomberman was special because two people could play at the same time! And you were trying to blow each other up! With bombs! Holy crap!
|A VERITABLE BLOODBATH! AHHHHHH!!!|
We would play Vs. Mode (pictured above) a lot. As time went on, my hand/eye coordination and pre-planning skills got better, and I noticed there was a direct correlation in how much I won and how much he was willing to play. Eventually he didn't feel like playing (aka losing) anymore, so I was left to explore the single-player mode.
The first Bomberman got the gameplay mechanics down, and was fun in its own right. But there wasn't a ton to it, it was very simplistic. Part of the popularity of the character/game has to be attributed to the initial spread it received across a myriad of platforms. Bomberman was originally released on the MSX, NEC PC-8801, NEC PC-6001, SHARP MZ-700, FM-7, and the ZX Spectrum. It was later ported to the Famicom/NES and Game Boy. The Famicom port was in turn re-ported back to the MSX with updated visuals. That's a lot of Bomberman right off the bat, and it was hard to not be aware of its existence. It had the standard powerups (e.g. Bomb, Flame, Wall Pass, etc.), but all stages looked like the picture above (everything green and gray). This Hudson practice of milking a series for everything it's worth is present in other games as well, most notably the Mario Party series.
|"We will use these symbols forever."|
Bomberman II had a storyline presented in-game. Right at the start, Black Bomberman (Kurobon in Japan) robs a bank and drops the money in front of White Bomberman (Shirobon) and runs away. The police show up and arrest Shirobon. Then his quest begins, to escape and prove that he is innocent by catching Kurobon.
The first Bomberman also had a story, but it was only present in the U.S. manual and hasn't been addressed since. It involved Shirobon being a robot slave making bombs underground for evil forces. Hearing rumors that robots that make it to the surface become human, he decides to risk the journey. It was really a poor attempt to link the game to Lode Runner, another Hudson-developed game for the NES. This is made even more apparent by the ending screen.
Realizing the narrative was probably plagiarized from a Philip K. Dick story somewhere, they decided to abandon the robot/human spiel and have Shirobon be the first robot created by Dr. Mitsumori to protect the innocent and defend justice. In later games, he joins an intergalactic police force and defends the whole galaxy or something. But for now, he just gets framed for robbing a bank. So he gets carted off to Jail:
But he escapes to the Forest:
After which he climbs over the Mountains:
And traverses through the Swamp:
Then clambers through the Caves:
And finally digs his way up to...the Jail again.
The change of scenery and music helps a lot considering the simple fact that you're just bombing your way through stage after stage. But then again, that's really what most of the series is, and people like it, so no complaints.
The goal of each stage is to eliminate all enemies and reveal the exit door. Lather, rinse, repeat. You have a bunch of powerups. Some that increase your explosion range, some that allow you set down more bombs at a time, some that allow you to set when your bombs explode, etc. Also, if you can find it, there's an item that unlocks a Bonus Stage, in which you are invincible and there are endless respawning enemies.
|If only real balloons died with such shocked expressions.|
The music was composed by Jun Chikuma, who has done most all of the classic Bomberman games' music, including the SNES-era (which are my favorites). The music in Bomberman II is a huge step up from the first installment. It really utilizes the power of the NES' sound capabilities, and I find myself grooving along more often than not. It's a pretty slick soundtrack overall. The first game had the now-iconic theme during gameplay, but it really just looped over and over and over and over again. Never changing, always present.
The password system isn't too terribly taxing. It's just eight characters and takes about ten seconds to input. There is also a Sound Test that can be accessed, as well as the Bonus Round if you want it. The password system is unique in that it doesn't just send you to whatever level, but the amount of bombs you can set and the explosive range are also encoded. So your password for Area 4-6 will most likely be different from a friend's. It's cool that way, because it sucks to make it so far in a game, but then have to lose everything except your location at a later period. Hudson was aware of this, which is why "INPUT PASSWORD!" is exclamatory.
The hidden items in Bomberman are not present in Bomberman II, which is kind of a shame, but all the other improvements make up for it. Many people don't even know that there are hidden items anyway, because you have to know to do very specific things ahead of time in order to get them. Most of them require performing odd actions, like eliminating all enemies, then walking a full lap around the stage. Or setting off a chain of 248 explosions in a row. So it's not a huge loss that they're not in this game.
Bomberman II also has Battle Mode, in which three players can duke it out for domination. A multi-tap (Four Score, etc.) was needed, but it was still pretty cool to have three people playing at once. Only around twenty games supported the peripheral, so it depended on how vital three-player mayhem was to you. Super Bomberman for the SNES was initially bundled along with a Super MultiTap, which was a great move, because Super Bomberman is one of the best titles in the series, and playing with four people is just awesome. I highly recommend it. Plus about 100 other games support it on the SNES, making it a more sensible buy.
The enemies come in four varieties, conveniently color-coded. For the most part, pink enemies can't go through walls, blue ones can, and green ones have special abilities (like blowing up walls themselves).
At the end of the whole thing, Shirobon corners Kurobon, who tries to run away. The intense chase goes on for a while until Shiro finally triumphs.
|"I could have outrun that police car if I had felt like it."|