Bomberman Wars is a Japan-only title released in 1998 for the Saturn and original Playstation, and one of Hudson’s earlier attempts at branching the Bomberman series out beyond A Man, Bombing into what they hoped would be new and profitable territory.
So Wars takes the regular Bomberman character design and turns it into an SRPG complete with multiple introductory FMV sequences, customisable battle parties and an item shop. Now there’s nothing wrong with this in principle – Bomberman can be a pretty tactical game if you’re taking it seriously (as seriously as you can take a series that occasionally features a dancing pink kangaroo, anyway) but in practise… there’s really no getting away from the fact that this is just plain awful.
You know you’re in for a rough time when a game can’t even get basic movement right – all battle characters can only move in straight lines, meaning something as simple as moving around an obstruction while pressing forward towards the enemy becomes a multi-turn lesson in frustration as you move once to the side, wait a turn, move forward, wait another turn, then move to the side again to complete this apparently monumental task. This is further exacerbated by three out of your initial five Bomber (Wo)Men only being able to move a single square in any direction, making item chasing and basic positioning utterly tedious.
Battling takes place on the same field as movement, and as you may expect involves placing bombs in strategic locations in an effort to blow the opposing team into itty-bitty pieces while attempting to avoid the same fate yourself. The hideous movement system manages to mess this up too, as setting up any kind of trap or clever chain reaction becomes a lot of hard work that’s often ruined by the CPU simply moving out of the way. Oh and let’s not forget that by default your characters can only have a single bomb active at a time, and they all have a pathetic range of just two squares – and they all take a minimum of five turns to detonate unless they’re caught in the explosive range of another bomb. The only good news here is that if – if – you are lucky enough to hit someone with an explosion then they die instantly, the camera zooming in on them as they’re engulfed in flames and cry out in pain in a deeply unsettling way. Should you get lucky enough to destroy the opposing king the battle’s automatically won, briefly freeing you from the torment of having to play more Bomberman Wars.
Maybe it gets better. Maybe it becomes genuinely tactical later on. Maybe Square-Enix will finally stop churning out ports of Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD and make Final Fantasy XII: Glorious 4K Edition Now With Extra Sky Pirate. *coughs* Anyway! The game is an SRPG with featureless pancake-flat arenas that requires your opponents to remain within arm’s reach of your attack for five turns and gives everyone a movement range akin to a sloth wading through cement mix wearing full plate mail. Bomberman Wars doesn’t reach the tactical level of the original Shining Force, never mind something more complex like Tactics Ogre, and it’s certainly not about fast-paced explosive destruction the way real Bomberman games are either, leaving Hudson with the dubious honour of managing to disappoint both old and potential new fans in a single game.