Bomberman GB 3

Bomberman GB 3 - Game Boy, 3DS (1996)

This entry is part 21 of 22 in the series Bomberman

For the finale of the GB trilogy, Hudson Soft pulled out all the stops and delivered a truly proper send-off. Taking everything they learned from the first two GB games, sprinkling in some elements from the Game Boy Atomic Punk, and building upon those things with new ideas results in a game that can proudly stand alongside the series’ console entries. GB 3 is a huge improvement compared to its predecessors, offering impressive variety, better pacing, and more interesting challenges. Though it is an iterative sequel, it’s not an entirely safe sequel, either. Despite multiplayer being a large part of Bomberman’s identity, it’s nowhere to be found this time around, making GB 3 the first mainline entry since the NES to dare to be a purely single player experience. Unlike the first two GB games, GB 3 never made it outside of Japan (even when it was re-released via the 3DS Virtual Console), but an unofficial translation is available courtesy of David Mullen and Duke Serkol for the story and menus.

The story of GB 3 takes place on a planet in the Bomber Nebula called Owen, which houses a not-so-hidden secret: the dangerous Devil Bomber (also known as Evil Bomber) was sealed underground within the planet’s crust and has now broken loose! With the assistance of characters like Honey and newcomer Cutie Bomber, Bomberman has to once again save the day as he’s prone to doing and reclaim the stolen Bomber Capsules while he’s at it. Despite being a single player game (Black Bomberman appears, but only in cutscenes), GB 3 implements Bomberman’s allies by having them run a shop that offers upgrades in exchange for the Bomber Capsules earned from the bosses. These powers consist of what was seen in the previous two games alongside four different Motobomber bikes, further emphasizing them as a core part of the GB trilogy’s identity. Each Motobomber offers different perks as well; for example, the Mk. 4 can move the fastest and take two hits before breaking, but loses out on the Mk. 2’s ability to jump and the Mk. 3’s ability to break blocks while dashing. Owning all four Motobombers is never redundant since you’re offered an opportunity to bring out a new one each time you die or after moving to the second part of a given level. Motobombers destroyed during a level aren’t usable again until you clear said level, which makes having a backup roster to rely on extremely helpful. Though there is always enough currency to afford everything by the end, players do have a degree of choice in how they upgrade Bomberman throughout. Upgrading Bomberman bit by bit after every area is perfectly viable as is saving up across several areas to afford the strongest stuff sooner.

GB 3 brings back the semi-open design of the Game Boy Atomic Punk by allowing you a degree of choice in the order that you tackle each area. The areas themselves are plenty diverse as well, offering challenges that don’t necessarily scale in difficulty in a linear fashion. The first two levels of each area are typically more straightforward, only requiring that you defeat all foes, destroy enemy generators, or activate switches to open the exit. Even these can have creative wrenches thrown into the mix at times, though; in the snowy area, avalanches will occur after a few bombs are used, requiring you to pace your attacks in such a way so that you aren’t overzealous and get yourself killed by a sudden natural disaster. Some levels even bring back the block pushing puzzles from Super Bomberman 2 and expect you to focus on making matches, pushing tornadoes so you can move past them, or sealing up volcanoes instead of blasting everything in sight.

Stage 3 always involves fighting against foes that are much larger than basic enemies, but not quite on the level of bosses. These enemies take multiple hits and shoot projectiles at you the way bosses would, so the Motobombers are doubly useful for taking hits and/or dodging them ahead of time. The Motobombers felt somewhat overpowered in the previous games, so it’s nice to have opponents that justify their strength. Stage 4 is where things get extra interesting – the challenges here are (mostly) unique to each area and offer scenarios not yet seen in any Bomberman game. Stage 1-4 requires you to provoke an invincible monster to chase you so it can eat otherwise indestructible mushrooms. Stage 2-4 makes you disable large stationary UFOs that shoot projectiles in a zigzag formation. Stage 4-4 (and 6-4) litter the field with deadly bombs that’ll instantly kill Bomberman if they get set off by any of his bombs, so you need to map out the safest path to take around them. The added surprises here do so much to mitigate the tedium present in the previous GB games, but it is unfortunate that the game is once again limited to a very small batch of power-ups that are easy to max out on.

Boss fights are essentially unchanged compared to prior games, but the way they’re integrated with your performance on stage five adds a tiny bit of spice to the proceedings. The fifth stage of each area challenges you to collect lapis balls hidden in treasure chests while also collecting as many crystals as possible. The crystals aren’t mandatory, but collecting enough of them along with the bell power-up that appears afterwards will provide you bonuses for the boss fight such as free power-ups, 1-ups, and a preemptive strike on the boss to make it go down a bit faster. These levels are made interesting each time due to a variety of tricks like randomized chest contents (some of which can contain indestructible enemies), layouts that might cause you to blow up some crystals by accident, and levels in which the screen scrolls around automatically, forcing you to play at the designated pace lest you get left behind and crushed.

Replacing the multiplayer is the new Challenge Mode, which tasks you with getting through one of two short levels and defeating a simplified version of Devil Bomber’s first form within 2 or 5 minutes. Winning isn’t the only thing that matters here; your second goal is to score as many points as possible by defeating enemies, collecting items, and finishing as quickly as possible. The levels on offer are unique to the mode and the latter of the two even has an enemy type exclusive to it. The “Harahara stage” pressures you to clear soft blocks quickly and the “Dokidoki stage” features three different paths you can take to the boss, giving you incentive to retry the level and find the one that works best for you. Instead of starting with a fresh Bomberman, you get one of three loadouts to choose from, each of which has its own specialty. The first option is the only one that doesn’t get a Motobomber, but it can dash and has both Bomb Kick and Line Bomb, granting it the most precise control of the trio. The second option gives you the Mk. 3, allowing you to tear through the soft blocks of the Harahara stage faster than any other option, as long as you don’t mind missing out on any items contained within them. Lastly, the third option gives you the Mk. 4, which is the safest defensively but doesn’t offer any perks that make for faster clears of the stages. Though earning the highest rank in both levels is quite easy and the mode only takes minutes to fully explore, it’s a great idea that encourages quick bursts of optimized play and teaches players the value of each tool in their arsenal. Bomberman World on the PlayStation brings this mode back with ten ranks to aim for instead of four in exchange for only having one stage to choose from.

Like with Saturn Bomberman and Super Bomberman 5 on consoles, GB 3 feels like a celebration of everything that came before it on the Game Boy, serving as the end of a very specific era for the series before a new one began with Pocket Bomberman in 1997. Despite its weird timing, being a 1996 Game Boy game sandwiched between bigger console releases that people were likely more interested in, the development team gave it their all on this one, so it’s a shame it was never in a position to get the recognition it deserves. There would be plenty of Bomberman games on future Nintendo handhelds, but they go in radically different directions or neglect to implement GB 3’s good ideas. Though GB 3‘s story is complete and its legacy short-lived, fans of it would at least get a surprise treat in Bomberman Hero if they’re able to master its levels…

Links – Link to the translation

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