Bomberman: Act Zero Import Hands-On

Bomberman gets a new coat of paint and makes his way to the Xbox 360.

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The Bomberman series has appeared on a huge variety of consoles, dating all the way to the NES, and its glory days on the TurboGrafx-16 and Sega Saturn. The multiplayer focus of the series only grew over time, and it cemented its status as one of the all-time group greats with the release of Saturn Bomberman in 1997. But that was a long time ago, and really, the formula hasn't been improved upon since. Hudson is back with more Bomberman, this time on the Xbox 360 with Bomberman: Act Zero, a game that attempts to maintain the same Bomberman gameplay; however, a questionable graphical makeover makes the whole thing seem sort of lame.

If you're just joining us, the Bomberman games have traditionally been multiplayer-focused, with cute little anime guys running around a block-filled arena. Dropping bombs and attempting to blow up the other players is your goal. Along the way you collect power-ups that let you drop more bombs, make your bombs more powerful, walk through some of the blocks, and so on. The gameplay in Act Zero looks like classic Bomberman on paper, but in practice, it definitely feels different. Movement is looser, the timing on bomb explosions is different, and generally speaking, it all feels just a bit off. Of course, if you've never played a Bomberman game before, you probably won't notice.

There are two gameplay modes in Act Zero. Standard mode gives you a view of the whole arena and you die after one hit, unless you are holding a specific power-up. That's the way old Bomberman games worked. But the new option is called FPB, or as the back of the Japanese game's box hilariously calls it, "first person bommer. To make things even crazier, this mode isn't anything what it sounds like. It's not a first-person perspective mode. Instead, it's roughly identical to standard mode, but the view point is zoomed in, so you can't see the entire playing field. The right analog stick becomes your camera control. Additionally, you have a life meter, so you can withstand a few glancing blasts from bombs before dying. You can also duck, which braces your character for the blast of a bomb, reducing the amount of damage you take.

Yeah, this is definitely not the Bomberman you remember.
Yeah, this is definitely not the Bomberman you remember.

The game's menu defaults to online play, where those same two gameplay modes are available for up to eight players over Xbox Live. The same ranked and player match options that populate all Xbox 360 online games are present, and you're able to configure a few things about each match if you're hosting. Hosting a game earns you five achievement points, and the rest of the game's points are spread around in a fairly time-consuming way. If you want them all, you'll need to clear a hundred stages in the single-player mode, for starters.

The big deal about this game is its visual style--or, if you're willing to get snobby with us for a bit, its utter lack of visual style. The cartoony and cute anime fun of past games has been replaced by a bland post-apocalyptic cyberpunk look that is about as generic as you can get. The whole game just looks dingy and uninspired.

At least Act Zero is a very import-friendly game, provided you've already taken the plunge and picked up a Japanese Xbox 360. The game's menus, voice, and text are all entirely in English. Bomberman: Act Zero is of course out now in Japan, and a US version is scheduled for release at the end of August, if you can wait that long.

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