Bomberman first appeared in the mid-'80s on consoles such as the Nintendo Entertainment System, and through numerous guises and off-shoots the series has continued to this day. The explosive-obsessed titular character has already appeared on the DS in Bomberman and Bomberman Land Touch, neither of which mess with the original formula too much--though the latter did include a number of additional minigames. Bomberman Story DS, though, is a departure for the series as it places Bomberman into his very own role-playing game. While the RPG component of Bomberman Story DS attempts to try something new with the series, it's ultimately let down by the fact that the story itself is weak and hard to follow. Oodles of lame dialogue and largely forgettable characters result in an experience that is neither compelling nor engrossing.
You fill the shoes of Justice Department special agent Cheerful White, who is sent on a mission to recover valuable stolen research. You are accompanied by five other agents on an intergalactic journey, and it's your job to uncover clues and help solve the crime along the way. Throughout your quest you'll be supported by the department's resident uberscientist Dr. Ein, who will give you advice when there is danger ahead (which is inevitably resolved through a minigame), or when you discover new weapons. The other agents who accompany you on your quest prove to be more of a hindrance than a help and will need to be rescued on more than one occasion. Thankfully, in doing so you'll bump into bosses, thereby advancing the story and providing information on who's behind the stolen data.
While Bomberman Story DS largely relies on buttons to deploy your trusty bombs and dispose of the various enemies, every so often you'll encounter a minigame requiring your stylus skills. Once passed, you'll be able to replay each game at any time via the main menu, though to get there from the story mode you'll have to reset your DS. Some minigames fit into the context of the story, such as "Log Bridge," which requires you to throw bombs at logs floating down a river. Landing a bomb successfully causes the log to spin sideways--spin them all and you'll be able to cross the river and move on. Another minigame uses bombs to propel a boat through water, allowing White to get from one area to the next.
While these particular games are fun, other minigames prove to be more arbitrary and completely unrelated to the ongoing story. One such game requires you to throw bombs into a basket while balancing on a spinning platform. Another requires you to throw bombs into a slot machine, thereby revealing three hidden numbers on the rollers that comprise the combination you need to pass the game. By doing this you'll open a path to the next area, but quite why anyone would use a slot machine as a security measure in the middle of a desert is a mystery.
The controls work reasonably well and, when you're not playing the minigames, rely exclusively on the D pad and buttons. You can drop, throw, or kick a variety of bombs to defeat enemies or remove obstacles, and along the way you acquire eight different types of bombs with different characteristics. At times these bombs come in handy, but they're limited in number and rarely of any significant benefit. Using standard bombs--of which you have an infinite supply--will be easier on most occasions.
Bomberman Story DS's adventure mode isn't too challenging for the most part, although there were a few situations and battles that we had to repeat several times before being successful. Enemies are generally pretty easy to dispose of with a well-placed bomb, but sometimes their behaviour can be a bit unpredictable and erratic. The game also doesn't always give you enough clues about how to proceed to the next part of your quest, though through trial and error you'll be able to figure out some of the more cryptic parts. Generally it involves talking to townsfolk who'll send you on a side quest that must be performed before gaining access to a new area, although some of these aren't explained very well.
The battle mode comes off as the stronger experience of the two modes. This tried-and-tested game has been featured in the previous Bomberman DS games, so its inclusion isn't a great surprise. But if you're thinking of buying Bomberman Story DS on the strength of this alone, it's probably better to buy one of the previous titles that already include it as a core component.
Battle mode lets you duke it out with up to seven other competitors in 20 unique arenas. Bomberman Story DS supports four-player online play and eight-player local games, with single-card download play giving you access to all of the options, so you'll only need one copy. The artificial intelligence competitors are prone to doing slightly illogical things on occasion, such as standing around idly in a corner, so it's best to find real competitors if possible.
In the multiplayer game, arenas are populated by soft blocks. By blasting these blocks apart you'll be able to move around as well as uncover a number of items that will increase--or decrease--your speed, firepower, and number of bombs you can set. The old-school death-match-style Bomberman stage makes a comeback, and the other arenas are essentially just variations of this. Some have pipes to hide in, conveyor belts, spiked floors, or trapdoors to warp through. Others change the goal of the game and require you to collect the most stars, claim territory using your bombs' explosions, find a key and door hidden under bricks, or collect the crown jewels to win the match.
The graphics in Bomberman Story DS look a bit rough around the edges but still match the game's cartoony style with bright, cheery colours. The music is generally well-placed and suits the overall mood of the game, though at times it can get a bit repetitive. Sound effects consist mostly of bomb explosions or other noises here and there when attacking or being attacked.
Bomberman Story DS is marred by a weak and mostly uninteresting RPG experience. The multiplayer battle mode is fun, but similar offerings have already appeared in previous Bomberman games on the DS. There are certainly better adventures available on the handheld, and fans of the series will likely feel let down by the unrewarding experience.