Saturn Bomberman (サターンボンバーマン Satān Bonbāman) is an action video game by Hudson Soft for the Sega Saturn. The twelfth installment in the Bomberman series, it was first released in Japan on 19 July 1996, in North America on 22 August 1997 and in Europe in 1997. It is best known for its multiplayer functionality for up to ten players.
European cover art
|Developer(s)||Hudson Soft, Eleven|
The game received mixed reviews upon release, with critics commenting that the game is enjoyable but fails to truly advance the Bomberman series beyond previous installments.
Like most Bomberman games, Saturn Bomberman features a battle mode as well as a story mode. Along with them is a master mode in which the player races to finish a series of levels after which the player is given a rank based on how much time is taken. This time is then saved to memory and kept on a scoreboard for future reference. The game also features several new powerups.
Saturn Bomberman utilises Dinosaur helpers, which are initially found as eggs released upon the destruction of a soft block. Dinosaurs come in three levels: babies (the weakest), adolescents, and adults (the strongest). Dinosaurs can only take one hit no matter how large they are. If a player is riding a dinosaur when this happens, the dinosaur takes the hit instead of the player. As powerups are collected, a special meter at the top of the screen slowly builds up. Once this meter is full, the dinosaur will grow one level, from baby to adolescent or adolescent to adult. However, in battle mode this system works differently. Whenever a player collects an egg while riding on a dinosaur, the dinosaur will grow. The player can jump off of the dinosaur at any time.
Saturn Bomberman has a story mode which can be played single player or two-player.
The story mode levels involve blowing up poles with glowing red orbs on the top (which are known as Zarfs) while avoiding (or destroying) enemies, blowing up blocks and collecting powerups. Once all the Zarfs on a level have been destroyed, an exit appears. Upon entering the exit, Bomberman will do a victory pose, then a short cut scene takes place. The cut scene shows a piece of scenery moving out of the way, then Bomberman walks through, and something closes up the way he came from. After the cut scene, the next level begins.
Saturn Bomberman supports up to ten human players on battle mode with 2 multitaps, 7 players with just one multitap, or two players without any multitaps. It is also possible to combat against CPU-controlled opponents in battle mode.
If the number of players in a game exceeds eight, the game is played on a widescreen arena, shrinking the characters and blocks to tiny proportions, making the playing field very large. This also disables many of the powerups including dinosaurs.
Critics were split over Saturn Bomberman. It received enthusiastic reviews from Saturn Power's Dean Mortlock and Sega Saturn Magazine's Matt Yeo, who were particularly impressed with the ten-player capability and the numerous modes and options. Yeo also praised the game's accessibility, remarking, "Mastering power-ups and building on that initial buzz certainly adds to the game's broad appeal but the fact that players can simply pick up a joypad and leap straight into the thick of things with the minimum of tuition is the real winning factor." However, a reviewer for Next Generation and Jeff Gerstmann of GameSpot both felt the game failed to break out from the shadow of Super Bomberman 2. Gerstmann elaborated, "Since that classic game, every subsequent Bomberman game has closely mirrored it, while tacking on a few silly features that kept the game fresh without really adding anything useful. Saturn Bomberman combines all these silly features into one game, giving you what should be the ultimate Bomberman game. But any serious Bomberman player has seen all this before." Next Generation similar opined that "the basic gameplay goodness of the series isn't tarnished, but nevertheless, the latest offering from Hudson Soft doesn't attain the classic status of SB2."
Critics were also not wholly sold on the 10-player feature, as most noted that the screen size used for ten players makes powerups and characters too small to discern on all but the largest television sets. They nonetheless concurred that the multiplayer modes overall are the highlight of the game. Mortlock ventured that it is "Probably the best multi-player game you'll ever play." GamePro's Scary Larry noted that the screen is much less confusing if there are eight players or fewer, and commented, "If you don't have a Sega multitap, Saturn Bomberman offers the perfect excuse to get one. If you don't have friends, this is a good opportunity to get some of them, too."
The Story Mode and Master Mode were criticized by Matt Yeo for the frustratingly difficult AI and unforgiving boss fights, and Scary Larry similarly described them as "more a trial of your patience than a test of your skill." However, Next Generation contended that these modes are the one area where Saturn Bomberman actually exceeds Super Bomberman 2, as they "offer a decidedly less frantic (but more cerebral) puzzle-gamelike experience".
Critics generally remarked that the graphics and music are very limited and fail to advance the Bomberman series in any way. Most also complained at the excessive length of time between the game's original release in Japan and its release in North America and Europe.
Next Generation reviewed the Saturn version of the game in 1996, rating it four stars out of five, and stated that "even a mediocre Bomberman game is still worth checking out, and a must for gregarious Saturn fans."
Electronic Gaming Monthly gave Saturn Bomberman the 1997 Game of the Year awards for "Saturn Game of the Year" (beating Street Fighter Collection and Madden NFL 98) and "Multiplayer Game of the Year" (beating GoldenEye 007 and Mario Kart 64).
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