I am a huge Bomberman fan. It feels weird saying this, but I am one of the most knowledgeable Bomberman experts outside of Japan. I’m not trying to talk myself up or anything. I’ve spent the last seven or so years finding as much information about Bomberman as possible – translating Japanese manuals, guidebooks, flyers, old official pages, etc., scavenging through Japanese sites for information on merchandise and events and whatnot, closely examining the games themselves to figure out how they work… Ask me just about anything, and I can probably answer it. As long as it’s not about B-Daman Bakugaiden or the Bomberman Land series. I know jack about that.

But every now and then, I’ll turn up things that just don’t have satisfactorily conclusive explanations – unused graphics hidden away in games, or entire games that never saw the light of day. Rather than becoming discouraged, I make a note of such things and then proceed to think about them forever. I love unsolved mysteries. They’re just so intriguing. I’ll be listing these mysteries in order from least to most interesting, by my personal opinion. So, please join me as I obsess and speculate over unused stuff in the Bomberman franchise.

4. Mr. Moai: Unused Frames

Mr. Moai is an enemy that first appeared in Super Bomberman 2 for the Super Nintendo/Super Famicom. It’s a fairly generic foe that moves slowly, has 2 HP, and uses Whim Pattern 2. In a lot of Bomberman games, there are only about four movement patterns for all enemies in the game; variations are only in appearances, speeds, HP, and occasionally some form of special ability. Whim Pattern 2 basically just means that the enemy only turns if it collides with an obstacle or if it lines up with the player and there are no obstacles between the two of them. So, it’s a pretty boring enemy, suitable for the first stage of the game.

Moai actually have fat little bodies, but most people probably don't know this anyway.Shogakukan

Real moai actually have fat little bodies, but most people probably don’t know this anyway.

First of all, I’d like to mention that I really like this enemy simply because of its background. It’s a moai, you know, from Rapa Nui (Easter Island). It’s one of two places for which I’ve long held great interest. Furthermore, its inclusion in the game is almost certainly in jest, regarding the many conspiracy theories claiming that ancient aliens must have had a hand in placing the moai there – Super Bomberman 2 takes place entirely on board an alien spacecraft, so it’s pretty amusing that one section of the ship is chock-full of moai heads.

Mr. Moai only ever even appeared in one other game that I know of, Super Panic Bomber W for the Super Famicom. It shows up as an enemy in Kenya because, uh, it looks tribal? I don’t know. This is a game in which you’re pitted against a penguin in an American desert. Don’t ask too many hard questions.

This time, it had even less of a body.Shogakukan

This time, it had even less of a body.

It seems as though there’s nothing else to really tell about Mr. Moai. Why exactly is this largely insignificant little enemy character on this list? Well, some years ago, I dumped the VRAM of Super Bomberman 2 and happened across some never-before-seen unused frames:

My face when I first saw these, probably.

If you’ll remember, the enemy doesn’t do anything except move slowly in a very basic pattern. What on earth is this shit? We can see it (quite disturbingly) opening its mouth up, and then a weirdly long tongue extends outward. I have to admit, I was a little creeped out when I first saw this. But the initial shock was quickly succeeded by intrigue.

I’m actually pretty sure that I know what these were for: eating bombs. Bomb-eating enemy characters are a staple of the series, and while they generally act by simply moving onto bombs to destroy them, there’s an enemy in the later title Super Bomberman 5 that extends its tongue out to lap up adjacent bombs. My best guess is that Mr. Moai was originally intended to eat bombs, but then perhaps the developers decided that it was too advanced of an enemy to include in the first stage of the game. This may seem weird, as the previous installment, Super Bomberman, had such enemies in its first stage,  but we have to remember that Super Bomberman 2 is largely dumbed down in terms of enemy characters. There are only ever four enemy characters in each area, and the enemies all pause before changing directions. Also, that bomb-eating enemy from Super Bomberman that I mentioned? A version of it appears in the final two stages. So, it would appear that Mr. Moai’s special feature was just cut out as part of a difficulty/design modification. However, since I have no conclusive evidence, this will have to remain as nothing more than a theory for now.

3. Neo Bomberman: Unused Characters

Here’s another story about how I was looking inside a Bomberman game and discovered some unused images. This time, it was Neo Bomberman. Now, Neo Bomberman actually has a bunch of unused graphics packed away inside it, such as some frames for a Rui (instead, Super Bomberman 4-style monsters were used for mounts in the final release) and frames of Pretty Bomber riding a Mr. Bird enemy (in the final game, this only appears as a still-frame cartoon drawing and some tiny silhouetted sprites). You can see a full list on Ragey’s website (ignore the “level complete” image; it’s actually used but it’s very rarely seen because you have to suck really bad to get such a low ranking). I don’t have much to say about those things, but I do have some things to say about what I found, which was a collection of Battle Game normal/winning/losing mugshots for the selectable characters… some of whom don’t appear in the final game!

Here’s the stuff I ripped:

The low quality will be explained shortly.

And here’s a picture of the game’s final roster, for comparison:

NeoBombermanRoster

From the cabinet artwork, posted on Ragey’s site.

First, let’s get the obvious things out of the way. None of these images were used in the final game; instead, larger head pictures were used on the scoreboard. Secondly, the colours are all screwy here, as I just picked random palettes back when I grabbed them. I don’t even know if the proper palettes exist in the game anymore. Thirdly, you can clearly see that the characters of Atomic Bomber, Hayate Bomber, and Rubber Bomber underwent some serious design changes. Atomic Bomber had pure white eyes at one time, Rubber Bomber’s face didn’t seem to have its “visor”, and Hayate Bomber’s face was very ordinary. It also looks like they were fooling around with a couple variations on Cat Bomber’s face.

The characters that really stand out, though, are the ones that aren’t selectable in the final game. These include Pretty Bomber (who, in the final release, only appears in cutscenes), some kind of samurai Bomberman, and what I had originally thought to possibly be Hero Bomber from Bomberman Wars/Bomberman World. These are actually reasonably explainable, to be honest. In the final game, these characters are replaced by Honey, Kotetsu, and Golden Bomber. This actually, finally provided a clear-cut explanation as to why Honey had Pretty Bomber’s power from Super Bomberman 2, the Heart Bomb – because she was a graphical replacement for Pretty Bomber. Likewise, it looks like Kotetsu replaced this nameless samurai Bomberman. Perhaps the developers just figured that they ought to include Hudson Soft’s mascots in the game, who knows. It is pretty weird and coincidental that they’d have two characters in the roster already, though, who would be such close matches that they probably didn’t even need to be restructured. It’s rather odd.

As for the character dubbed “Hero Bomber” for so many years… on further inspection, it actually just appears to be Gold Bomber. Look closely, and you can see that the “shoulder pads” are just the puffy white portions of the collar of his red cape, and you can see the big round buckle of his “title belt”. In the final game, he doesn’t actually appear with his red cape, even though it’s depicted on the cabinet artwork. So that’s the only change there.

For one final note, since I’m already here, I may as well point out just how truly bizarre Atomic Bomber looked at an early stage:

NeoBombermanAtomic

Sorry, I just can’t take any villain seriously if they have a phallus sticking out of their forehead.

I’ve talked a little about some instances of unused graphics in Bomberman games, but what about entire games that went unused? Well…

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