It seems like the concept of character cross-overs, the process of throwing together characters from disparate series to make something wonderful, is best expressed by Nintendo’s Smash Bros. games (although, if we reach a little further back in time, the 2D Marvel and Capcom cross-over games are certainly close). But did you know that before Bomberman was dropping explosives all over the place to dispatch Wario in the latest smash hit Smash Bros. title, the two were battling it out on the good old Game Boy?
Releasing in 1994 in Japan and the U.S.A, and 1995 in the European region, Wario Blast: Featuring Bomberman is a Bomberman game. I know that it says Wario Blast, but it really is just a Bomberman game that features Wario as a guest character. So if you’ve ever played a Bomberman game you’ll know what to expect here.
The story for Blast goes like this. Wario is off wandering, looking for treasure as well as trouble he can cause when he stumbles upon a portal to Bomberman’s world. With this discovery Wario thinks his found a new land to conquer, as well as a new servant in the Madbombers, a group that inhabits Bomberman’s world. It turns out the Madbombers aren’t too keen on the idea of becoming Wario’s lackeys, so he’ll have to change their minds.
The story doesn’t go beyond that, and it’s really just an excuse to explain why Wario is in a Bomberman game. Not that there’s anything really wrong with that, after all, Bomberman games rely on their gameplay.
When it comes to playing you can choose to control either Wario or Bomberman, and while that does change the pictures displayed when you win or lose, as well as passwords, everything else is the same. The familiar style of a Bomberman title is here. You’ll be battling it out against computer-opponents on a square arena that’s littered with with blockading material of one type or another. From an almost bird’s-eye perspective you will need to move around the arena planting bombs. Use your explosives to take out the enemy, as well as destroying the blockade material for power-ups.
These power-ups come in the form of panels that will either increase the number of bombs you can place at a time, or increase the blast radius of your bombs.
Your bombs’ capabilities will reset each round, so you’ll need to recollect power-ups each time, but since each round is so fast paced that’s not a bad thing. You’d better watch out for the skull panel though. This power-up can different negative effects that will have a character’s sprite flashing if afflicted, but even if you don’t pick it up the effect can be passed on by making contact with a character that is already flashing.
Each match plays out in a best-of-three format, so win two rounds and you’ll move to the next stage that will see you face more opponents at a time (starting at one and moving up to three). Once you’ve gone through three matches it’s time to face the stage’s particular boss.
Here is where the challenge starts to really starts to come in. Some bosses are easier than others, and none of the bosses, with one exception, will have you pulling your hair out, but compared to the regular matches some of the later bosses will have you retrying one than once.
The difficulty itself is something of a problem for Wario Blast though. Often times it seems that the non-boss enemies are not the brightest bulbs. This is no more obvious then when facing three at once, where it is not uncommon to find your opponents blowing themselves up before you even reach them. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen more than it should.
Then there are the permanent power-ups that you get after beating each boss, like the ability to kick bombs and barge enemies immobilize them for a time. These skills are welcome additions to the gameplay, but it doesn’t take long (particularly with the ‘trouncer’ ability) that you’re character is overpowered, at which point the battles in between the boss fights become more of a chore than anything else. The good news is that again, since the action in Wario Blast is so fast moving you don’t have to spend too much time bashing hapless foes before see who the next boss is you need to dispatch.
That’s were rating Wario Blast becomes more difficult. Bomberman gameplay (and to be clear, this is in practical terms a Bomberman game with Wario added) is great fun, but the repetitiveness of Wario Blast, mainly due to the poor intelligence of the com-enemies, means things get boring quickly. Every new boss and ability spike the interest again, but unless you have a Super Game Boy and SNES multi-player adapter to enjoy a match with friends (and let’s be honest, how many friends do you know that are waiting for a chance to try some Game Boy multi-player fun?) then there’s not much to Wario Blast after a one time completion, and with unlimited continues you’ll probably finish the game on the first attempt. Even with the choice of Wario or Bomberman, when there’s so little character specific content, playing as whoever you didn’t the first time round holds little appeal.
Wario Blast isn’t a bad game, it’s just not got enough there to bring most people back to it again. Not only that, but the time you do spend with it will be a breeze of easy-to-beat baddies, especially later in the game.
You can pick up a copy of Wario Blast for as little as £3, and complete, in good condition for under £25 (both as of writing), so it’s not going to break the bank. It’s a game you can have some fun with, but only some.
I give Wario Blast 6.5 out of 10.
For Stage – Select, this has been Ed, signing off.