Like every other Bomberman game in existence, the goal of the game is pretty simple: lay down bombs and blow up all the opponents real good to be the last man standing. It sounds pretty simple but there’s a few rules mixed into the gameplay; you cannot move a bomb once it’s been placed (unless you’ve collected a certain power-up, more on that later) and the blast area of any bomb explodes vertically and horizontally only. Additionally, every level features indestructible obstacles that you can hide behind to avoid the blast effects of bombs. Of course, every opponent is doing the same thing, so what you have to do is chain bomb blasts together – by laying a bomb within another bomb’s explosive blast, you’ll be able to extend the blast area. By correctly positioning bombs with accurate spacing and timing, you can trap enemies within your extended bomb blast. THEN, add in the multiple items you can use to throw bombs, kick bombs across the path, punch them over objects, as well as items that increase the length of your bomb’s blast, and you might begin to see why Bomberman has always remained a favorite multi-player game due to its panic-inducing intensity, easy play mechanics, and addicting gameplay. With Bomberman Online, add in excellent visuals, a wealth of extra play modes, and a single player game that you’ll actually enjoy playing, and it’s arguably the best version of Bomberman yet.
Using what we like to call the “it” visual technique of cel-shading allows both hardcore and casual players to enjoy the graphics from different perspectives: long time Bomberman fans will appreciate that the game still keeps it’s colorful 2D roots while casual players will admire the 3D-styled nature of the game. I have to admit that the CG cut sequences aren’t great and are pretty cheesy; I would’ve liked it if they kept with cartoony 2D-styled movie sequences, keeping the game some rooted in it’s 2D anime roots. But there’s a lot of style in this game, and I enjoy each of the stage themes ranging from football fields to construction yards. What’s really unique is how each of the stages incorporates each of the new Bomberman rulesets, making every stage a different Bomberman game.
Bomberman Online features five different play modes: survival, hyper bomberman, submarine, panel paint, and ring mode. Survival is the traditional Bomberman play where the goal is to simply blast everyone else off the map and will probably the most popular play mode. Of all the new play modes, hyper bomberman and ring mode are my favorite. Hyper bomberman is essentially like capture the flag; there are numerous hidden target objects to blow up randomly determined and once you blow these up, a little atom icon will appear hovering around you character. Collect three of these and get to the center gate to win the round and to blow up everyone with a very satisfyingly HUGE explosion. If an opponent has one of the atoms you need, blow him up and grab it from him. Ring match is a truly intensive play mode where you’re given a tiny level with no power-ups. The point is to blow up your opponents as many times as you can within the time limit. It’s tough when playing against one opponent but it becomes a hair-pulling battle of nerves with three opponents trying to do you in. Pain panel is pretty neat – paint as much of a level as you with your bomb’s explosion – but nothing matters until the last 30 seconds of this game. Submarine is not as fast-paced and much more tactical, but this mode can only be played in a Team match mode. As with every Bomberman game, you can collect items that can help you deliver explosive death upon your foes but you also have to worry about items that can harmfully affect your Bomberman. This is indicated by the Skull icon and should you pick it up, various effects – dropping bombs automatically, reverses control, bombs explode as soon as you set them down – will take place. Of course, you can use this to your own benefit; once you become infected, you’ll sport a extremely large purple skull. So long as your character adorns this headpiece, you can infect other players by simply running into them. The only thing that I miss in Bomberman Online were the Kangaroos/Dinosaurs that allowed your Bomberman to ride them. Of course, the greater majority of Bomberman fanatics will be relieved to hear this. This small omission hardly effects the overall solid gameplay, enhanced by the new modes, of Bomberman Online, especially online play.
If you didn’t get it from the title, Bomberman Online sports a conglomeration of all the best Dreamcast online game features. The online lobby and chat system isn’t too different from Daytona USA 2001‘s but there is one big addition to Bomberman Online and it’s a nice one. Eight players can join in an online game! A tip to the hat of the good old Saturn Bomberman days, eight player multi-player games are a blast… as long as a player doesn’t get disconnected. So far, I’ve had very few lag or disconnection problems with four player online games, but once you start going more than four players, you may start to see a few online problems. Sega’s still tweaking the servers so hopefully games with more than four players will have less online problems. Of course, playing against different colored versions of yourself gets a tad boring and thankfully, Bomberman Online allows you to create your very own Bomberman! Although you start off with a few different parts to edit the face, upper and lower body of your Bomberman, there are over 100 different parts to unlock and use. To do this, each time you play the normal single player game, at the area select screen, there’s some directions next to four gray boxes. Each level has a hidden “collection” panel item and in order to reveal it, you have to follow the directions given at the stage select screen. Some requirements may be as simple as bombing a specific area in 20 seconds or taking out a specific enemy but if you fulfill the requirements the collection item will be revealed. Collect the item and win the round, and you’ll unlock one of several pieces in the collection box panel. Each panel unlocks many very cool parts to edit your personalized Bomberman and the challenges get pretty tough for each level. This collection panel feature is an excellent way to give more life to the single player game, making Bomberman Online one of the most complete Dreamcast game packages I’ve seen in a very long time.
Other than the removal of Kangaroos/Dinosaurs, which is more of a personal gripe than anything else, there’s a couple of other hang-ups I have. Like I said above, online play is pretty darn solid with four players but not quite as good with more than four. There is this weird duration period where you can’t use a power up you picked up for a couple of seconds; when you pick up an item, a chain will appear between your character and the item icon. The item icon will then “reel” itself to your Bomberman but until it does, you won’t be able to use the power-up. While I’m guessing this was done to compensate for the lag issues when playing online, they didn’t have to do this for offline games. Finally, collection items can appear at the worst times and in the worst places; I’ve had the collection item appear right between two bombs and when they explode, so does that collection item. These are small annoyances in an overall game that is probably the best incarnation of Bomberman. Considering we might not see another online Bomberman game on a next generation console for a long time, Bomberman Online saves its best explosive gameplay for Dremcast’s last.
—Anthony Chau, IGNDC