AI: The Somnium Files and Super Bomberman R

AI title screen with the main character standing as oncoming lights flash in the distance

It’s time for another dive into our backlog as Sean and Collin dip into a few not-too-old, but not-all-that-recent games. It’s another episode of We’re Just Playing.

Sean Coughlan

This week I decided to revisit some games I’d unintentionally abandoned. Back in the good old days, I’d often cycle through my collection of games, revisiting old favourites, and giving lesser played titles another chance. It was a style of gaming that I’d hoped to return to with the Nintendo Switch—rather than the more disposable tendency I’d fallen into. Something about the small cartridges made me think I’d feel encouraged to swap games in and out, but alas that hasn’t really happened. I’d always feel guilty when I’d open my Switch case to see rows of games I’d excitedly bought, played for a couple of weeks and then moved on from. With that in mind, I decided to dust off, and give some attention to one such game: Super Bomberman R.

Being a launch title, Super Bomberman R was one of the first games I’d picked up for my Switch. I’ve been a fan of the series since the Game Boy games and I was pretty excited about this new entry at the time. With the Switch’s knack for spontaneous multiplayer sessions, it seemed like a perfect fit for the system too. For a while, it certainly proved to be a great way of showing off the new system to friends. One of the great things about Bomberman games is how easy they are to get into—even non-gamers can join in and have a good time. With only a control stick and two-buttons being needed to control each bomber, it’s gaming at its simplest. Nevertheless, trying to take out opponents with carefully (or haphazardly) placed bombs is endlessly enjoyable.

Thankfully Super Bomberman R doesn’t attempt to meddle with the classic formula too much. A typical match begins chess-like and deliberate with each player placing bombs to clear a path whilst retreating to safety from the ensuing small, orthogonal blasts. This period of relative calm doesn’t last however—the breakable blocks reveal power-ups which soon begin to stack up. Before long, bombs are being dropped in quick succession with blasts that stretch the length of the grid-like arenas. Some players will have gained the ability to kick bombs along the ground, or even punch them over obstacles to increase the carnage. At this point there are no safe spaces—at least not for more than a split second. It’s a glorious crescendo of fiery carnage—each player trying to out-wit, out-react, and out-luck their opponents. Should the action reach a stalemate, the stage begins to shrink as blocks fall from the sky until, at last, only one bomber stands victorious.

Super Bomberman R’s multiplayer isn’t the best in series (most would give that acclaim to the Sega Saturn entry) but it’s certainly good enough for a laugh. There’s plenty of customisability to increase or decrease the chaos, and a few additional modes to play with. Sadly, the game is slightly stingy with the amount of stages on offer—at least at first. Extra stages can be unlocked with in-game currency, but they take an age to save up for. Also available to buy, are some neat Konami themed bombers, including characters from Mystical NinjaMetal Gear Solid, and Castlevania. Thankfully, these are a lot cheaper.

Also included is a short adventure mode, complete with fully voiced-acted, animated cutscenes. I’d got fairly far into it first time around but left it unfinished, deciding it was more frustrating than fun. Having now completed it, I think my initial assessment was about right. There’s fun to be had in some of the missions, but others feel poorly designed. Some are only completed as a result of attrition more than skill, with endlessly spawning enemies often overwhelming the small maps. The boss fights, though an enjoyable spectacle, also feel similarly lacking in game design with plenty of seemingly unavoidable attacks. Tellingly, the game gives you unlimited continues (at the cost of a small amount of currency) which allows you to instantly respawn and carry on where you left off. It doesn’t feel particularly satisfying to pay your way through a mission, or a boss fight, but I found myself doing it anyway to get the experience over with.

The classic top down Bomberman footage.

Overall, Super Bomberman R is a decent game to dip into every now and then, and I plan to do just that from now on. I was just about able to find opponents in the online mode whenever I tried but failing that, battling against the A.I. is still good fun. Hopefully, the series will return in future with an even better entry, but in the meantime it’s a game I’m glad to have in my collection. Here’s hoping they bring some of the 16-bit games to Nintendo Switch Online though.

Collin Henderson

This week, I’ve been alternating through two different games. The first one, of course, is Dragon Quest XI. I’ve been plugging away at it a few hours at a time, and I’m a few less than 30 hours in. Even though I’ve beaten every main installment besides 2, 3, and 10 (although the latter never got a proper Western release, so… yeah), 11 still manages to suck me in. Granted, it’s been a few years since I last played a game, but I think that’s how the series is best enjoyed—the fact that there are so many similar elements between installments means that marathoning them can feel tedious. But, since it’s been a while, I’ve really enjoyed my time thus far. Even though the game is extremely long winded and slow paced, it doesn’t really feel like it. Exploring towns and chatting it up with the locals is a lot of fun thanks to the great localization and voice acting, and the progression system means there’s constantly a carrot being dangled in front of the player’s nose. The storytelling is pretty good, too, even though the overarching plot is standard stuff, and the party members are livelier than ever.

In other words, even though nothing much has changed since the last time I played a DQ title, it still manages to be enjoyable and fun.

The other game I’ve been playing is one I received as a birthday gift from my sister. AI: The Somnium Files is the adventure game released last year, and it was made by Kotaro Uchikosi, the absolute madman behind the Zero Escape series. Whereas that series deals with psychic time travelers, AI: The Somnium Files is about solving murders by investigating peoples’ dreams. That’s the basic setup, anyway. The nitty gritty is that you play as a man named Kaname Date, a man who can’t remember anything from before 6 years ago and has a super cool cybernetic eye that lets him see through objects, or zoom in on them like a camera. He is tasked with solving the murder of Shoko Nadami, a woman he knew who was brutally killed with an ice pick and put on display at an abandoned theme park.

The investigative parts are pretty standard point and click/visual novel stuff. You move a cursor around and investigate different areas of interest, as well as speak with people related to the case. It’s pretty classic stuff done in a stylized way, but the so-far-strong writing means you’re never bored. Meanwhile, there are dream sequences where you must remove someone’s “mental lock” in order to make them cough up information. You explore an abstract dream space and solve bizarre puzzles that can include stopping a giant panda head from spinning in order to gain access to a carousel. It’s here where you control Aiba, the titular AI that lives in Date’s left eye, and giver her commands. Her misunderstanding of humans leads to some genuinely funny and unexpected moments, like early on where you’re given the option to talk with a skeleton in an earnest attempt at conversation.

I’m only a few hours in, but AI has me hooked so far. I’m trying to brace myself for what’s to come, because if the game has twists even half as wacky as those found in Zero Escape, then it’s going to be almost impossible to predict what’s going on.

Written by TV Obsessive

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