Performance improvements are commonplace when it comes to game patches but how many can claim to double the frame-rate? With the release of Super Bomberman R version 1.3, that's precisely what seems to have happened. The patch notes merely suggest an increased the frame-rate but players quickly discovered that this was far more than a small bump to performance.
When the game launched alongside the Nintendo Switch in March, many of those same players were disappointed by the decision to target 30 frames per second. With only a few exceptions, the Bomberman series has always offered 60fps gameplay and it doesn't feel quite right without the higher frame-rate. Despite this and other issues (such as input lag) the game was a success and Konami decided to continue supporting it post-release.
By default, Bomberman R's launch code operated at a full 1080p at 30fps in docked mode while dropping to 720p at 30fps when in portable mode. We updated our copy to version 1.3, jumped into a battle and quickly discovered that the game has indeed been updated to run at 60 frames per second. Between the more responsive controls and faster frame-rate, it simply feels better to play.
So how did the team manage to push a 30fps Unity game up to 60fps on the Switch? Simple - the compromise shifted from frame-rate to resolution. When docked, Super Bomberman R drops from a native 1080p in its original form to 720p with the new patch in place. That's a large drop in clarity, but in our opinion, the smoother gameplay more than makes up for it. The compromises continue in portable mode, where the older code's native 720p dips down to 960x540 instead. The loss in clarity is certainly evident but again, the extra fluidity pays dividends here.
This isn't the full story, however. When playing the game's story mode, the original 1080p output is retained but the frame-rate cap is removed. As a result, the story mode now runs with a less stable, but overall higher level of performance, averaging around 45fps now. It's not optimal but without discussing the game with its developers, it's impossible to know if the more detailed story mode could hit 60fps at 720p.
In terms of performance then, we're looking a scenario where image quality was sacrificed in the name of a higher frame-rate. While an option to toggle between the two would have been preferred, the decision to go for 60fps in battle mode is great when it comes to the quality of the gameplay, and that's what matters most.
With a constant stream of support from the game's developer, Super Bomberman R is consistently improving with each revision. Beyond the faster performance and more responsive controls, the latest patch introduces several other enhancements. For example, some arenas are adjusted to improve visibility, with walls lowered and light source placements modified. It's also possible to anchor the camera in one spot for a more traditional experience and to adjust the difficulty of the AI opponents.
Compared to arguably the best instalments in the series - Saturn Bomberman and Bomberman '94 for the PC Engine - the presentation still falls just a little short, but the overall experience is still highly worthwhile. Series purists may miss some of the extra features found in the older titles - such as dinosaur riding along with more variety in power-ups and bomb types, not to mention the ten-player mode - but clearly this new Switch title is moving in the right direction.
Although we would have preferred a more polished title at launch, Konami should be commended for taking the criticism on board and dramatically improving the game in short order. Hopefully the improvements will continue, but as things stand, as Bomberman fans ourselves, we can now comfortably recommend this release.
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