3. Bomberman 3DS

I almost didn’t include this, because there was so much hype for it and because I’d guess that most Bomberman fans have already read and seen all of the publicly available information on the game, but I suppose for that reason it is important enough to include in this list. Bomberman 3DS was slated for release on the Nintendo 3DS back in 2011. Then those bastards at Konami came along and ate Hudson Soft, silently killing its games while claiming that they hadn’t really cancelled any projects.

It’s a shame, too, because Bomberman 3DS looked pretty interesting. For the last several years of its life, Hudson Soft had been mainly pumping out Bomberman Land games and lazy rehashes of the traditional Battle Game formula in the form of games like Bomberman Blast and Bomberman Ultra, with significant additions (like Bomberman 2 for the Nintendo DS) few and far between. Don’t get me wrong – those Battle-Game-centric games are alright, it’s just that it had felt to me as though we’d lost a lot of the innovative momentum that the franchise had carried along throughout the first half of its life. We hadn’t even had a 3D level-based game since Bomberman Jetters back in 2002, and that game was truly bad. The last decent Bomberman game of that variety had come in the year 2000 in the form of Bomberman 64: The Second Attack! So we were long overdue for a fresh new take on the 3D world of Bomberman, and Bomberman 3DS seemed very hopeful.

Though it was not to be, we still do have some text, screenshots, and video footage to pick apart, which may help us understand what exactly we’ll forever be missing.

In the Battle Game, life bars and custom/selectable characters may be seen.IGN

In the Battle Game, life bars and custom/selectable characters may be seen.

According to the official Hudson Soft page (thanks, Wayback Machine), the Battle Game would have allowed up to eight players in an online match, and would have featured “all-new game mechanics” including a “Life System” (presumably some form of health bar). This could have been a lot of fluff talk, honestly, but it’s nice to imagine that maybe Hudson Soft had a few new tricks in store for us. What’s more interesting to me, though, is the single player mode, in which we would have explored a 3D city called “Central City” either alone or with a co-op partner. We hadn’t seen a co-op game since the aforementioned The Second Attack!, so who knows whether player 2 would have been playing as another Bomber or some kind of weird animal companion. Either way, co-op play is something that the series had been sorely lacking for more than a decade by that point, and I, for one, would have appreciated its return.

Elemental bombs appear in the lower-right corner. It's unclear if the tornados came from bombs or if they're a stage trap.IGN

Elemental bombs appear in the lower-right corner. It’s unclear if the tornados came from bombs or if they’re a stage trap.

As for the nature of the single player mode, we can only speculate. It appears to be yet another branch off of the Bomberman 64 (Baku Bomberman) formula, with open 3D areas. It seems highly unlikely that it would have taken cues from Bomberman Hero, given the fact that no similar games were made after that one. In the screenshots, we can notice that buttons A and B seem to be set to elements such as frost, fire, and wind (in the shape of a tornado), so elemental bombs would have almost certainly made a return. Elemental bombs felt generally underdeveloped, at least to me and some others, in most of the games in which they appeared. Whether or not Bomberman 3DS would have rectified this will likely remain unknown indefinitely. For such an anticipated game that promised to bring back all sorts of things that fans had long been missing, it’s no wonder that its cancellation was such a huge disappointment, such to the point that it’s still a sore spot for the community.

This short teaser clip is all we currently have in terms of real footage:

4. Virtual Bomberman

The Virtual Boy was a floundering failure. This should be news to nobody reading this, so I won’t elaborate. We got one Bomberman game for the Virtual Boy, and it was actually pretty good, even though the hack English localization team decided to butcher it up and make up their own stupid names and dialogue (ah, the 90’s). It was just another Panic Bomber title, but that’s okay, because those games are pretty well-designed and fun. But did you know that there was supposed to be another Bomberman game for the Virtual Boy, before the whole system got canned? Okay, well, a lot of you probably already know, but I doubt that you know much about the game. Well, neither do I, but I have some interesting information I’ve pieced together over the years.

A flyer for the game, circa 1995.Planet Virtual Boy

A flyer for the game, circa 1995.

All we’ve got to go on is an old flyer distributed at Space World ’95. You can download scans of these from Planet Virtual Boy. According to the first flyer, the game was called Virtual Bomberman (バーチャルボンバーマン), it was expected to cost 5800 yen, and it was slated for release on February 29, 1996. Story details revealed within indicate that it was meant to take place directly after Super Bomberman 3 in the canon (Professor Bagura is mentioned, and Super Bomberman 4 had yet to appear in stores). Some kind of “ultimate beast machine god” – I’ve seen this phrase in other media, and will assume it’s some reference to an old anime until otherwise informed – named God Bomber appears and challenges Bomberman, but seems more sad than angry. It’s the kind of bare bones story we’d expect from a Bomberman game, with a basic “friend or foe” sort of twist. The back of the pamphlet shows screenshots of the opening cinema, depicting God Bomber descending upon Earth (and it’s named Earth, so there’s further confirmation that Planet Bomber hadn’t yet entered the main canon) and Bomberman rising up to defend it. It’s nothing to write home about, but God Bomber is interesting, isn’t he? Look at him. He looks a lot like Great Bomber, who would later appear in Super Bomberman 4. It’s not clear as to whether Great Bomber’s design was taken from God Bomber, but there’s concrete evidence that he influenced another game. I’ll get to that in a moment.

On what is presumably the inside of the pamphlet, five “armour” characters can be seen. These are basically the same armours that later appeared in Bomberman World, from their appearances to their names to their dual special abilities. The only real difference that I could find was that Nyanjiro was originally named Nyanjirou. Other than that, we can very clearly discern what these things would have been like in the game, as they were recycled into a later release. Now that it’s out of the bag, let’s go back to God Bomber… The final boss of Bomberman World is a giant robot named God-Header. Its head, surprise surprise, looks suspiciously similar to that of God Bomber’s, even including the crazy pointy emblem on his forehead. In fact, if Japanese Wikipedia can be trusted, its second and final form is even named God Bomber. While this is certainly not the same character, and while there are some really huge changes to the design (very little of the original God Bomber’s design is even retained in the Bomberman World incarnation), it’s clear that a lot of material from Virtual Bomberman got recycled into Bomberman World.

A drastic overhaul, but still recognizable.

A drastic overhaul, but still recognizable.

One last piece of evidence that things that may have transferred over to Bomberman World is the blue crystal that Bomberman is holding in one of the drawings, which he has to collect in each area of the later game. We can also pick out little details like the jungle-esque stage in one of the screenshots, complete with similar trees, the bridge trap, and other scenery, and maybe even the fact that the exits are large stoney archways, though that’s kind of stretching it. However, Bomberman World is certainly not just Virtual Bomberman rehashed. There are things we lost with the canned Virtual Boy game.

The full inside of the flyer, pieced together from scans.Planet Virtual Boy

The full inside of the flyer, pieced together from scans.

The pages between the two flaps describing the armour give us the real meat of what the game is about, information that has, to my knowledge, not yet been translated and disseminated to the Western world. Well, here you go. The story, which I’ve already mentioned, is relayed in the upper-left corner. In the lower-left corner, a new “mixed system” combining the Normal and Battle Games is described. From what I gather, in each stage of the Normal Game, there would be hidden points that Bomberman could reach, which would take him to a special Battle Game in which he’d fight God Bomber. So, that’s kind of interesting. I don’t believe we ever saw something like that in another Bomberman game.

The lower-middle section explains how the game would have been tailored to the demands of the Virtual Boy, utilizing its stereoscopic display and providing a “3D feeling” through parallax stages and backgrounds, and even the characters moving on the screen would have looked 3D-ish. Honestly, despite how headache-inducing the Virtual Boy was to many people, I’m a little curious as to how Virtual Bomberman would have looked, between the text and the screenshots included in the pamphlet. But I digress. This section also indicates that each stage would have contained two floors, and that Bomberman would have to jump up and down between floors in order to pass things like ravines or to drop objects down (assuming that’s what is meant by “falling objects”). This, again, has never been seen in a tradtional 2D Bomberman game. As a kind of side note, it’s also stated that Bomberman himself would have been given a wide range of emotions so the player might connect more with him, instead of just moving around normally. Exactly how this would have been implemented is up for speculation, but if they mean that he’d express emotions during normal gameplay, well, that would be pretty cool, and that’s not something we really even saw in some of the actual 3D Bomberman games, so… shit.

Screens of the opening cinema. Virtual Boy games had to do whatever they could to implement the whole faux-3D gimmick.Planet Virtual Boy

Screens of the opening cinema. Virtual Boy games had to do whatever they could to implement the whole faux-3D gimmick.

The lower-right segment details a “new” mode called “Challenge Mode”, which we’ve since seen in various iterations. The goal would be to clear a specific stage within a time limit (given a choice between a 2- or 5- minute mode) while getting the highest score possible. Then, the player would be given a rank, from “idiot/monkey bomber” to “god (kami) bomber”. If this all sounds incredibly familiar, then congratulations, you’ve played Bomberman World, because what is described here – even down to the “2 or 5 minutes” mode selection – is precisely the same as what we got in that game. It sounds as though they managed to save a lot of stuff from this game and carry it into Bomberman World, which, honestly, is a great idea – why waste all that time and effort just because the system you were developing for got canceled?

Still, postulating that so much work seems to have been completed on this game and knowing that we may never get a chance to play it is really frustrating. The game mechanic of jumping back-and-forth between maps could have been really interesting if executed properly, and I’m actually a little curious as to how the story would have developed and how some of the other novelties mentioned in the pamphlet would have played out. I suppose all we can do is hope that one day, someone uncovers a playable prototype.

As a final aside, I’ll show you one last surviving piece of Virtual Bomberman that is truly strange. Over the years, there were a lot of series of Bomberman keshi – little rubbery figures that came in all different colours, for a wide variety of games and anime and the like. One set of Bomberman keshi features the four monstrous Bombermen from the Virtual Boy edition of Panic Bomber, which I mentioned earlier. Well, weirdly enough, guess who else made an appearance in physical form? God Bomber. God Bomber had a figurine made of him. My assumption, until proven wrong, is that he was released alongside those other four characters in a sort of “Virtual Boy” set, in a gachapon (capsule toy machine) series or something. Perhaps Hudson Soft had already had a figure designed and molded for him and didn’t want to waste it, or perhaps he was some kind of exclusive handed out at an event. I’ve seen a lot of them, though, and I even have one. Mine is missing his cape attachment (he was cheap and I was buying in bulk), but you can tell that this is unmistakably God Bomber, for whatever reason.

I'm addicted to these things. I'll probably tell you about it someday.

I’m addicted to these things. I’ll probably tell you about it someday.

If anything, this speaks pretty loudly as to how far along Virtual Bomberman was in development when it got canceled, which just adds further frustration…

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed taking this lengthy trip through beta mysteries in the Bomberman franchise. This article is already quite massive, so I’m just going to cut it off here. Check back in the coming weeks, and I might have another article about even more unused things in Bomberman! Seriously, I have so much stuff to talk about. Please share my passion. I’m begging you.

h/t: Images from Ragey’s Totally Bombastic Bomberman Shrine Place, Planet Virtual Boy, and IGN. Some information and images taken from Super Bomberman 2 Hudson Official Guidebook (Shogakukan, 1994) and Super Bomberman Complete Encyclopedia (Shogakukan, 1995).

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