When Bomberman Generation was released for the GameCube back in the summer of 2001, it's fairly safe to say that the system was in need of a unique offering. The system itself hadn't even been on the market a full year, and the familiar Nintendo faces like Mario, Link, and Samus had not yet made their respective debuts on the system. Enter: Bomberman. Bomberman Generation was the first fun, non-GBA Bomberman game in quite a number of years, and it also took the series in some interesting, new directions. Furthermore, it proved to be one of the first great action platformers for the GameCube. It is for perhaps this reason most of all that Bomberman Jetters, Hudson's sequel to Bomberman Generation, is such a big disappointment. It's been almost two years since Generation hit shelves, and despite the time lapse between games, the two are identical in most every major way. The few ways in which Jetters differs from its predecessor don't improve upon the formula in any way; instead, there is a heavier focus on an insipidly lame storyline and an almost completely unnecessary second playable character.
Bomberman Jetters has two distinct modes of play: single-player and multiplayer. The single-player game is similar to the one found in Bomberman Generation, though it has a heavier emphasis on an anime-style storyline and platforming rather than having the almost entirely-puzzle based gameplay from the previous game. Essentially, the setup here is that on Planet Bomber (presumably the home of our hero), all is not well. An evil consortium of bad, bad people, known as the Hige Hige Bandits, is going to crash an artificial comet, known as Dark Star, into Planet Bomber. Of course, our vertical-line-eyed hero won't stand for such a thing, and with the aid of his wacky, yet completely irrelevant, friends, he sets out to stop Dark Star from pulling an Armageddon before time runs out.
To do this, you will have to bomb your way through four different worlds, each with six stages. Each world is representative of one of Dark Star's engines, with the ultimate goal being to get to the end of each world and shut off each engine. The four worlds all have their own distinctive theme, such as a fiery, volcano-themed world and a more underground, cave-based environment. Generally, the level designs are pretty good, with backtracking kept to a minimum, and each features a nice array of traps and pitfalls and at least a few different types of puzzles. None of the game's puzzles are exceedingly difficult, but the ones that do present some challenge are fairly well done and manage to make you carry out at least a bit of critical thinking. However, the bulk of puzzle-solving in Jetters is quite easy, and none of the game's levels should take you more than 15 to 20 minutes to complete.
When not engaging in some rudimentary puzzle-solving, you'll have to bomb the living hell out of various enemies, bosses, and power-up containers along the way. Bomberman Jetters' basic combat consists of dropping a bomb near enemies, running away, then running back after they've been obliterated. You can also throw and kick bombs to keep a bit of distance between you and certain enemies, and you can also create bigger, more-powerful bombs by picking up bombs and holding them over your head. During your adventure, you'll acquire items that you can use to create new, specialized bombs, like hurricane bombs, aqua bombs, and electric bombs. These bombs can be created at specialized locations found throughout each world and are quite effective in certain combat situations. Unfortunately, the same problem that plagued Bomberman Generation's special bombs plagues Jetters, in that it's often quite easy to overlook where a bomb creation area is, and though special bombs aren't required to progress, if you miss one, you'll have to backtrack through the world to find that missing location. It's essentially just a nuisance, but it's one that really ought to have been dealt with.
Another holdover mechanic from Generation in Bomberman Jetters is the use of "charaboms." Charaboms are similar to Pokémon, except that they don't battle one another. Instead, you collect charaboms to aid you in your quest. Each charabom has a specific ability, such as helping you move across a narrow pass, shielding you from enemy attacks, or even just boosting all of your stats. You can even level up charaboms by collecting food for them, which, like the rest of the game's power-ups, is pretty much scattered everywhere. While the charaboms as a whole are helpful, you can't help but groan at how much of a Pokémon rip-off they are. Not only are the creature designs extremely similar to Pokémon monsters, but they even go so far as to yell out their name in grand Pokémon fashion when called upon. Of course, this fact doesn't really detract from their usefulness in the game, but still, the whole thing just feels extremely tacked on and cheap.
Another aspect of Bomberman Jetters that feels rather tacked on is the game's other playable character, Max. Max's setup is pretty much nonexistent, except for a brief cutscene where you get the distinct impression that he's Bomberman's former adversary. Regardless, now he's on your team, though just barely. During the game, you can switch between Bomberman and Max on the fly using the Y button. Max has mostly the same abilities as Bomberman and can use all of the different bomb types. Unfortunately, he can't access charaboms, but he does have his own, unique electric charge attack instead. Generally speaking, though, this attack isn't necessary except occasionally during boss fights and in rare instances when a wall or otherwise immovable object in a level can only be destroyed via this attack. The bulk of your level progression will rely upon usage of charaboms, so there's rarely much need to switch to Max. Additionally, he doesn't add anything in terms of depth, and he controls and plays just like a marginally altered Bomberman. Considering he is really the one big difference between Generation and Jetters, it's extremely disappointing that he turns out to be such a superfluous addition.
Though the single-player game is certainly a disappointment, the game's multiplayer component fares significantly better. There are four different multiplayer games in Bomberman Jetters: knockout battle, where your goal is to blast your opponents off the world map; battle for balloons, in which you collect a number of balloons and attempt to get them to an open gate before your opponents can blast you and steal the balloons for themselves; battle one-two, which requires you to hit a number of switches in a successive order without getting bombed in between; and a standard battle mode, which is essentially the classic Bomberman multiplayer match but with a number of configurable rule sets and eight different levels on which to play. Each one of these games is quite addictive in its own right, and when played with the maximum of four players, they're even better.
Bomberman Generation was one of the first, if not the first, GameCube games to feature a cel-shaded look. Now, cel-shading is all the rage, and when you consider that Bomberman Jetters doesn't look much better than its predecessor, well, let's just say the game doesn't compare well with recent cel-shaded offerings. In fact, the whole look of the game isn't very good at all. Every single character design in the game looks like a rip-off of something, be it from Pokémon, Mega Man, or any generic anime you can think of. Bomberman himself has suffered the worst from this, and no longer is he the same familiar character we've come to know and love over the years. Instead, he's been transformed into a much more round-looking, anime-esque superhero--and not a good looking one at that. Bomberman Jetters also lacks visual style when it comes to its level designs. Every level looks like it's straight out of 2002, from both a technical and a stylistic perspective. On the plus side, the game does run smoothly from beginning to end, and it doesn't have any technical issues to speak of, but this alone isn't enough to make the visuals palatable.
Yet another component of Bomberman Jetters that has not improved is its audio quality. The same brand of irritating, overenthusiastic voice acting that plagued Bomberman Generation is back, and, in fact, it's even worse this time around. Every time one of the game's characters opens his or her mouth, the dialogue that is spewed forth is incredibly grating and utterly useless, making it a double whammy of obnoxiousness. The soundtrack is equally annoying, suffering from the same brand of low-rent, Casio-keyboard-like quality. At the very least, the game does feature some decent sound effects, but even these are fairly limited in scope and tend to get very repetitive as the game goes on.
Even if Bomberman Jetters had been released two years ago in place of its predecessor, it most likely would not have been received as favorably as Generation was. Now, when you consider how many similar and better games have made their way to the GameCube since then, and you put Bomberman Jetters up against them, the game simply pales in comparison in every imaginable way. The only truly positive thing the game has going for it is its addictive and fun multiplayer component, but that aspect by itself does not make the game worth a purchase. Anyone hoping for a game of equal quality to Bomberman Generation will ultimately find Bomberman Jetters to be a bitter pill to swallow. If you own Bomberman Generation, stick with it, and don't spend your money on what is, in essence, the exact same game you've already played, only nowhere near as enjoyable.