Bomberman Tournament


   While few would deny that Bomberman is a good game, it's a good game that has remained largely unchanged through a dozen or so appearances on various consoles. That fact combined with the notoriety of handheld systems as a dumping ground for quick and easy ports would lead one to write off Bomberman Tournament, but it may just be the best version of the game since the 10-player Saturn version.

 I'd set your love on fire
Burn, don't freeze!

   The surprising quality starts with the one-player game: for once, it feels like a real effort, and not merely an afterthought designed to give the player something to trudge through when there's no one else around to challenge. It begins when the Five Dastardly Bombers land on the planet Phantarion and wreak havoc, causing the series irregular Max to hunt them down. When Max disappears, however, it's up to Bomberman to search Phantarion and rescue his comrade.

   Not much of a story, but it's worth watching the introduction at least once--if not to get up to speed on the plot, then to see Bomberman Tournament's cutscenes in action. The game has the overall appearance of a clean, bright 16-bit game. There aren't as many subtle details or eye candy as in some other GBA titles, but sprites are well-animated and smooth.

   The Quest mode plays like a simplified version of a 2D Zelda game, with Bomberman traveling the world, talking to NPCs, and uncovering secrets on the Phantarion world map. Unlike the Zelda series, however, Bomberman is armed solely with bombs. It's tedious at the outset, armed with only two weak bombs at a time, but the further Bomberman gets, the more powerful he'll become.

Collectible monsters.  Whee.
By the time you're level twenty-five

   Power-ups come in two varieties. The first are simple, familiar Flame or Bomb icons found in the Dastardly Bombers' fortresses, which permanently increase either Bomberman's fire radius or the amount of bombs he can lay at a time. Other permanent enhancements include boots, which let Bomberman walk faster, and armor, which causes enemies to do less damage. The other type of power-up comes in the form of Karabons, animal sidekicks which aid Bomberman's quest to save Phantarion. The more exotic powers such as the bomb kicking ability, the punching glove, and the line bombs, come from Karabons. And while it might not seem that a single weapon can be stretched out over the course of an entire overworld and five dungeons, Hudson does a surprisingly good job of coming up with creative uses for each successive power-up.

   The other thing Karabons are good for is participating in the Colosseum battles. As is now de rigeur for all games featuring cute animal pets, Bomberman Tournament gives you the ability to set them loose on each other and watch the fur fly. In all fairness, this aspect has a minimal effect on the game and is fortunately only mandatory at two points--bombing every destructible object in sight to raise your Karabons' statistics can get tedious.

 You have no idea of the Battle Game
I'm a time bomb / I'm a fuse

   The other side of the game, Battle mode, is familiar to everyone who's ever played a Bomberman game, although there are a few new wrinkles here. The weirdest of these is the fishing minigame in between matches, wherein the winner gets to fish in a lake full of power-ups; when the next match begins, the lucky fisherman will begin with whatever item he or she caught. More interesting, with a greater effect on gameplay, are the Revenge and Super Revenge modes. When either of these are turned on, defeated players roam the sidelines of the arena and get to toss bombs into the playing field. Plain Revenge mode is purely vindictive, giving deceased players a chance to destroy gamers still in the ring, but in Super Revenge mode the downed Bomberman gets a second chance in the arena if his or her bomb destroys a player.

   But the best feature of Bomberman Tournament's Battle mode, and the one that makes it a must-own, is the ability to hold four-player matches using only one copy of the cartridge and some link cables. If your friends are too shortsighted to understand the glory of Bomberman multiplayer, this feature makes for quick and easy Bomberman converts. The load times involved in transferring the data over to other cartridges are a little long, but it's a small price to pay for such a useful feature. Bomberman Tournament may not be terribly innovative, but it's a tightly polished, superb implementation of the series' core concepts, which is all the recommendation any Bomberman title should need.

Review by Nich Maragos, GIA.
Bomberman Tournament
Developer Hudson Soft
Publisher Activision
Genre Puzzle action
Medium Cartridge
Platform Game Boy Advance
Release Date  4.27.01
Bomberman Tournament for Game Boy Advance finds US publisher
2 screenshots
2 character designs / 8 helper designs
American and Japanese box art