Monday, April 7, 2014

Weird Entries: Bomberman Act Zero

Any series has characteristics and features that make it immediately recognizable. Shinobi is distinguished by being about an awesome ninja; Uncharted is distinguished by its everyman, light hearted protagonist. However, when a series has been around for a while, the developers and publishers will want to shake things up. Sometimes this works wonderfully (Resident Evil 4), but other times it doesn’t go so well. In these latter times we get sequels, reboots, or offshoots that are only remembered by how much they deviated from what the series was really all about. This feature will cover 2 this month, so let’s jump into one of the weirdest ever: Bomberman: Act Zero.

Bomberman is a series characterized by colorful characters, happy music, and cartoony visuals. The series is a lighthearted one with no real story to speak of. It’s a party game about blowing up your friends (in a kid friendly way), getting power ups, and jumping out of your seat when you get the game winning point at the last second. These elements defined the series from its inception in 1983 until the fateful year of 2006 when Konami decided to attempt a revamp to the series and release Bomberman: Act Zero.

This guy...

...and this guy are the same dude.

It’s easy to tell why Act Zero upset so many fans. The carefree Bomberman from days of yore was replaced by a…cyborg…thing? It made very little sense to change a character so drastically for a game whose story was always so inconsequential to begin with. Apparently, Konami wanted the series to appeal more to a western audience (because, you know, we just like gritty shooters here, right?). However, Konami failed to deliver a substantially interesting game with Act Zero to go along with the little guy's extensive augmentation (he never asked for this). Multiplayer was limited to online play, a shame considering the series gained popularity by allowing for friendly competition between players in the same room. Additionally, the single player modes (including a perplexing over-the-shoulder option) were limited to a 99 round endurance match that wasn't much fun since the player was only battling AI opponents.

To Act Zero's credit, the actual gameplay was largely unchanged.

That's more like it.

The 3rd person view was as dumb as it sounds.

Neither audiences nor critics took to Act Zero, and Konami mercifully backpedaled and released a number of classic Bomberman games for the Wii, PS3, and Xbox 360 in the 4 years that followed. Thankfully, Bomberman has never dipped his excessively glossy toe back into the gritty, metallic waters of Act Zero since 2006; let’s hope it stays that way.

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