Sometimes, video games aren’t all misery and controversy. Good stuff happens and game developers/publishers do cool things! Unbelievable, right? Granted, some of these things only follow the not-so-greats, as is the case with today’s subject. See, as we all know, Konami spent the better part of 2016 burning up all of its remaining goodwill and flushing it down the proverbial toilet. But Konami finally did something that won’t be the butt-joke of a Jim Sterling video, and it’s all thanks to that little guy called Bomberman. Wait, what?
It’s true! Remember Super Bomberman R? Unless you’ve paid close attention to the Nintendo Switch, you may not have. It was the closest thing to a high-profile third-party game at the console’s launch, but it hit with a rocky landing. Technical issues dampened the experience, which was still fun despite its issues. Still, thanks to a muddy frame rate, ludicrously difficult AI and some weird… “features,” Super Bomberman R had a hard time living up to its given name. The Super Bomberman series was the pinnacle of 16-bit multiplayer, after all.
So what happened? Well, out of nowhere, Konami launched a big patch for the game, wiping most of the technical issues off the face of the planet. The AI was scaled way back, and even the rage-inducing penalties for Game Overs have been lessened. Konami heard all the folks upset at how miserable this game treated its less-skilled players and straight-up adjusted the game’s mechanics to fix it. Optomization has been improved. Now in Super Bomberman R’s trademark battle mode, the frame rate has doubled to a smooth and consistent 60 frames per second. Story mode doesn’t quite hit 60 still, but it’s more complex visually. That said, the weird, angled camera can now be adjusted.
But that’s not all. New levels and little customization trinkets were added to Super Bomberman R, for free! Free DLC from Konami? Perish the thought. But. That’s. Not. All. Konami also announced that new characters are coming to the game soon, also free of charge! They’re adorable and/or hilarious versions of classic Konami characters! There are representatives from Gradius with Vic Viper Bomber, Silent Hill with Pyramid Head Bomber (yikes), and the best one, Castlevania with Belmont Bomber. The graphics accompanying these announcements are hilarious and representative of the tangible effort Konami’s team did put into making sure this new Bomberman game had personality, even if it was rushed out the door too soon.
That wasn’t the only Konami news of the week, either. The company also announced some content for the continuing Xbox One Backwards Compatibility rollouts. This time, Xbox 360 Live Arcade ports of Contra and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night were added to the list. Contra is what it is, but the Symphony of the Night port was one of the best parts of Xbox Live Arcade, so it’s great to see it continue to be available. It’s an all-timer, and it’s good to see Konami continuing to at least recognize the classics.
What could this mean, in the current era where Konami is more evil than even EA? News broke out not long ago of Konami job openings in Japan advertised, perhaps uncharacteristically, with a bunch of old-school Konami characters. Could Konami have found inspiration, as it violently exited the AAA market, in revisiting its roots? Such endeavors would certainly be less expensive upfront than trying to pump out unsustainable Metal Gear sequels and a good way to drum up small bursts of positive PR. After all, people have been lamenting the apparent deaths of all those old Hudson properties for years, and the recent fate of Castlevania was no less of a tragedy.
Are we seeing hints of a new future, one of a Konami reborn and rebranded, away from the AAA, but also the shameless pachinko cabinets and what have you? Well, there’s no way the pachinko is going anywhere, but we could be seeing new iterations of long-lost IP or a healthy flow of ports. Konami has been doing weird stuff, but at least it isn’t stupid enough to let its history die out entirely. We’ll see what happens.