Monday, October 1, 2018

SAMPLE STORY - The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Vol. 2 (N–Z)

Check out this sample story from video game journalist Keith Good for my forthcoming book, The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Vol. 2 (N-Z). It's a heartfelt, literary account of growing up playing Super Bomberman with childhood friends. Below that, you can read my review of the game, along with my memories of the game and some quotes. The layout of the book will be much better than what you see here, but these are the images and text that will be used. The SNES Omnibus Vol. 2 will release April 28, 2019.

Insider Insight:
We were three: Jon, Laura, and Keith. From the day we met waiting for the school bus, our number caused nothing but consternation. Three is not a number equally divided. Three cannot play one-on-one basketball. Three will not evenly distribute the penny candy which always seemed to fill our pockets. Only the swing set behind Jon’s house, with its three plastic seats, and bike rides to the comic book shop kept any truce.

Had we grown up in the ’50s or ’60s, we could have played three-player marbles without worry. Children of the ’80s and ’90s, though, were divided into two discrete groups: Player Ones and Player Twos. The NES—and its two controllers—always left a third of us (impatiently) waiting. Our rules dictated home field advantage won Player One, leaving the two visitors to barter and cajole for the second controller. “Take turns on lives” and “Each play one game” seem like perfectly reasonable sharing systems until you’re at level 8-4 of Super Mario Bros. and the game cheats to kill Luigi. Hand over the controller when the game cheats? Not going to happen.

We all had NES decks, but Jon was the first to get a Super Nintendo. I remember thinking his parents had a sort of technological magic; games seemed to appear in his room before they’d even been released. You can imagine my surprise, in an age before internet forums and publicized release dates, walking into Jon’s room to find him and Laura playing Super Bomberman. Their little avatars toddled around a block maze, setting bombs which exploded in fantastic plumes of red and orange flame. The music bounced as they exploded the computer’s players and each other. The game felt utterly bright and new.

I remember the darkness of the room, the midnight blue carpet, the curtains drawn. Jon and Laura sat cross-legged before the TV, faces glowing bright from the game. Two extra controllers snaked over the carpet beside them. I followed the cords to a half-moon looking hunk of plastic plugged into the player two port. I did some quick math and was left dumbfounded: four controllers?

I pointed to the peripheral (thought I probably wouldn’t have known to call it a ‘peripheral’ in 1993). “What’s that?”

Neither Jon nor Laura looked away from the screen. “Super Multitap,” Jon said. He always knew everything's exact name. “Four players.”

I picked up the third controller like choosing Indiana Jones’ Holy Grail. Super Bomberman felt like a discovery, like the dawning of a new age. Game mechanics quickly learned—blow up blocks, gather power-ups, blow up more blocks (and each other)—the three of us played together. It must have been hours. All three of us playing the same game, at the same time? It felt we’d finally arrived in the future, that following three-player Super Bomberman, hovering skateboards and flying cars couldn’t be long after.

Which isn’t to say our arguments magically disappeared. Who got to be which color sprite caused heated arguments and Jon’s habit of shouting “To the victor go the spoils!” after every single win often caused friction. But we no longer needed to argue over who sat out. Now, with Super Bomberman and a Multitap, we could have the best possible video game argument: who was going to blow the crap out of whom in the next match. - Keith Good

Super Bomberman
Publisher: Hudson Soft. Developer: Produce.
Maze, 1-4 players (simultaneous). 1993.

One of the best party games for any system, Super Bomberman maintains the basic gameplay of the popular, highly addictive Bomberman for the NES, but adds something crucial that is a trademark of all the sequels and spinoffs: multi-player action. The two-player mode is great, but things get really exciting and chaotic when three or four gamers go at it. This is achievable via a multi-tap adaptor, which is available separately or packaged with the game via a special release packaged in an oversized box called the Super Bomberman Party Pak.

Gameplay is simple, but hugely entertaining, with gamers guiding their BomberMan around a non-scrolling maze (a grid of 143 squares, placed 13x11), setting bombs to kill opponents and other enemies and getting out of the way before the bombs explode. Helpful items appear as you destroy enemies, walls, and opponent Bomber Men. These include extra bomb (increases the number of bombs you can lay on the ground), accelerator (increases your running speed), explosion expander (increases range of your explosions), indestructible armor (makes you impervious to explosions), remote control (lets you detonate bombs by remote), super bomb (lets explosions pass through obstacles like enemies, skulls, and walls), kick (enables you to kick bombs away from where they are placed), power glove (lets you punch bombs away), and more.

There are 12 selectable battle stages, a.k.a. zones: Normal, Western, Bomb, Jump, Belt, Tunnel, Duel, Flower, Light, Power, Warp, and Speed. Destroying certain walls reveals level exits; exiting through there after all the enemies are destroyed clears the level. In multi-player games, the last surviving player wins. The storyline revolves around the evil Carat Diamond and his cohort, Dr. Mook, who are hosting a Robot Tournament in Diamond City in order to steal BomberMan’s advanced combat abilities. The one-player game is a little too easy this time around, and the graphics remain simplistic, but that’s okay: the multi-player action will keep you and your friends entertained indefinitely.

Memories: When my children were little and my wife and I would go visit her mother in Tyler, Texas during the late 1990s, the women and kids would go to the mall or wherever, and I would strike out on my own, haunting game stores, used book stores, thrift stores, and the like. One of my better finds during these outings was a boxed copy of Super Bomberman Party Pak with the multi-tap and manual included. I paid $10 at a pawn shop. It is now worth around $200.

Notable Quotable: “An addictive game that does not become repetitious…The graphics in Super Bomberman are good and extremely cartoony. They fit the game well, as do the sounds which benefit from the fact that they do not get annoying after a long play period. But where this game excels is in the play.” - Electronic Games (September 1993)

Notable Quotable: “This game is the bomb! Magazine and game development houses across the globe have all missed a deadline or two to Super Bomberman’s charm. Certainly, the one-player adventure has its moments, but the true way to experience Super Bomberman is with three of your friends in multiplayer Battle Mode. It may look cute and happy, but multiplayer Bomberman is nothing but brutal and bloody because, once you start talking smack, the hours just disappear.” - Game Informer #100 (August 2001), which ranked Super Bomberman the 90th greatest video game of all time.

To pre-order a signed copy of The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Vol. 2 (N-Z) direct from me, with bonus items, click HERE.

The SNES Omnibus Vol. 1 is available now, and you can order it HERE.

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