by Joseph Walter
Bomberman 64 is easily one of the best entries in the Bomberman franchise and certainly one of the Nintendo 64's best games. Featuring a fantastic blend of 3D platforming, intense action and intriguing puzzles, Bomberman 64 stands on its own when compared to its peers, and it's a shame that it (and its clever gameplay elements) has been relatively forgotten, becoming something of a "hidden gem."
The fact that Bomberman 64 no longer enjoys the popularity and presence it once did (and continues to deserve) is likely the biggest reason why Altair and the Masked Trio's chances of getting into Smash Bros. are so slim... but that doesn't mean I won't go on an explosive rant about why they belong, nor will I stop singing their praises until Sakurai, Nintendo, Konami and Hudson hear my plea.
Who They Are And Why We Need Them:
Bomberman 64 has a surprisingly interesting plot, with memorable characters and unexpectedly dark writing (along with one hell of a plot twist, which I won't spoil here; I'll leave that to a future "Shatterpoint!")
In the game, Planet Bomber is attacked by Altair and the Masked Trio, villainous space pirates who possess an artifact called the Omni Cube, which they use to siphon energy from planets they conquer, and it's up to Bomberman to stop them.
Altair is the leader of the gang, and his three subordinates are the fire-ball throwing Artemis, the aggressive Orion, and the deathly fast Regulus.
Aside from their cool names, they all possess excellent designs that strike a perfect balance between simple and cool (something that's almost never happened again in the franchise), and they're all armed with a slew of interesting abilities and personality quirks.
Most importantly, though, all four of these villains exude a genuine coolness that, despite their limited dialogue and depth, manages to cement them as memorable and impactful adversaries who set my imagination ablaze.
Normally, I start off with general traits, but the special nature of these characters dictates that we address their unique traits first.
For starters, yes, you will actually be playing as all four of these characters simultaneously. This isn't done the same way as the Ice Climbers or Pokémon Trainer, either. Instead, you choose who your main character is (in the same fashion you'd choose their colors), and that's who directly control on the battlefield. The members you didn't choose make their appearance when delivering their unique special attacks.
That said, there's one more element to this multi-character mayhem: the character you do choose, be it Altair, Artemis, Orion or Regulus, is what determines most of your basic attacks. While that doesn't count for much in the long run, their traits are varied and specific enough that you might prefer one over the other.
For example, Regulus does fast slashing damage with his standard attacks, Artemis does middle-of-the-road fire damage, Orion has slow-but-strong clobbering moves and Altair gives off a shock with every mighty strike.
Likewise, your chosen character also dictates their weight and speed: Altair and Orion are slower and heavier, while Regulus and Artemis are lighter and faster.
Differences aside, they all share a few things in common, namely that their Smash Attacks all consist of bomb dropping/tossing/kicking and laying.
Lastly, each of these characters has less-than-stellar jumping prowess, but, in reference to the jump mechanics in their source game, their second jump drops a small, weak bomb in its wake that explodes in mid-air (and it's the little hop off the top of said bomb that propels the villains into the air a second time.)
Just to be clear, this "small, weak bomb" is exactly that: nothing more than a nuisance that likely won't even cause a victim to flinch.
... oh, and for those wondering, yes, being knocked out or having a shattered shied results in the same, infamous stars-orbiting-head unconsciousness from Bomberman 64, minus the need to rotate the control stick.
Aside from the aforementioned awkward jumps and (relatively slight) differences in speed, weight and attack variations, this quartet is generally average in all quarters.
Indeed, it's less about what makes these characters powerful and more about how they are used, especially when it comes to the timing of their mighty bomb-related Smash Attacks.
Below, you'll find each character's unique basic attacks, their shared Smash Attacks, and their varied Special Moves, all of which were plucked directly from Bomberman 64!
The entire quartet possesses categorically similar attacks, but each has their own unique animations and traits.
1) Regulus attacks with his wrist blades in series of quick slashes. Although it's unlikely Regulus will send opponents flying with these fast (but quite weak) standard attacks, there is a dangerous potential for enemies caught in his razor-filled flurries to quickly accrue damage.
2) Orion attacks enemies with his brute strength by means of punches, kicks, headbutts and tackles. Although these attacks are slow, they pack the potential to send enemies soaring.
3) Like Regulus, Artemis is quick, but her attacks have more of a punch behind them. Using kicks and punches, Artemis typically starts and finishes a combo with some burst of burning, fiery damage.
4) Altair fights with precision. His moves (a mix of martial arts and raw power) are strong but delayed (somewhat like Ike), meaning that players will need to think ahead. That said, if a move makes contact, an opponent will know it through either damage percentage or being blown away. And, naturally, as the man who possesses the Omni Cube, some of its stored cosmic power comes out in each of Altair's precise strikes, which surges through victims upon contact.
As mentioned in the "Unique Traits" section, each character's Smash Attacks are essentially identical, and basically all consist of dropping/kicking/tossing or laying bombs.
Side Smashes result in kicking bombs, Down Smashes result in planting bombs (and dropping them down if done in mid-air), and Up Smashes toss bombs into the air. These bombs always travel at the same velocity, but charging a Smash Attack results in a bigger bomb, bigger explosion, and faster detonation.
Special - Artemis Fireball
Artemis shoots three fireballs in the general direction of the nearest opponent(s.)
Though lacking in raw power and launch potential, the fiery damage of these speedy fireballs are impressive, calling to mind Ness' annoying PK Fire, and their explosive areas of effect are greater than you might think. A good hit will also send the target straight up into the air, even if there isn't much height to it.
Up Special - Vega's Flight
Vega, Altair's mechanical "pet," appears, grips the player and then takes them towards the platform while firing its beam at nearby threats. An incredible recovery, yes, but Vega isn't infallible, and is capable of missing its target, meaning that skill and timing are absolutely necessary for survival.
Side Special - Death Dash
Regulus dashes in the direction of the move's input and delivers lighting-fast slashes to the first opponent he comes into contact with. The strikes are powerful, and the final hit launches the victim upwards, but it'll take a considerable amount of damage for this move to fatal. That said, "Death Dash" can also be used as a decent recovery, though Vega is often your best option. Note: this move can be charged up. When fully-powered, Regulus will ask "ready?" as he initiates the attack.
Down Special - Shockwave
Orion produces a powerful defensive shockwave that protects him from opponents, projectiles and items, while also knocking back and damaging anyone caught in its range. While this move certainly has offensive applications, it is best suited for defense and escaping sticky situations.
Announcing that "playtime is OVER!," Altair summons Vega and the two merge. The newly-formed foe, dubbed "Super Altair," shouts "I'll finish you!" and fires out a powerful shockwave, and those caught in the beam not only take major damage but find themselves on the receiving end of a powerful death beam delivered by the transforming warrior, Sirius.
In this alternate Final Smash, Altair sucks opponents into his Omni Cube, drains their energy (damaging them and healing himself), and then has his base, Black Fortress fire a scorching laser across the map.
Thankfully, Altair and each member of his Masked Trio possess a few epic voice lines in Bomberman 64, all of which make for great taunts! (And I'd hope they use the exact sound files from the original game; nothing beats those line deliveries and intentions!)
1) Altair strikes his battle pose while posing a threatening question: "you wanna fight me?"
2) Artemis threatens her enemies in the same way she threatened Bomberman: pointing and declaring "you're mine!" (or, on occasion, saying "bye, bye!!")
3) Regulus slashes through the air like he did in his showdown with Bomberman, asking the fateful question: "ready?"
4*) Orion, a man of few words, merely roars in rage and fury: "RAAUUGGGHH!"
* = Considering that there are only three slots for taunts, and that Orion doesn't actually say anything of merit, his specific taunt is inaccessible by default, only being used when he's chosen as your main character, where it replaces Altair's "you wanna fight me?"
Each member of this bad-bomber gang has their own unique entrance, all of which are based on their entrances from Bomberman 64.
1) Altair descends from a beam of light.
2) Orion digs up and bursts forth from the ground.
3) Artemis floats down from the sky, hovers in mid-air, and lands.
4) Regulus jumps from the background and into the foreground.
Bomberman 64 has a great selection of levels, but due to the nature of Smash Bros., it was integral to pick the most "iconic" locations, or the ones that best showcase the game they hail from... and that's a problem in this case. Bomberman 64 doesn't have a famous hubworld or distinct, beloved landmark; it simply has a selection of equally great levels. Because of that, I decided to pick a level that shows off the mayhem of Bomberman, but also acts as a fitting "home field" for the Altair and his goons.
1) Black Fortress: Trap Tower
The level right before the fateful showdown with Altair, "Trap Tower" is a large, complex, puzzle-filled area with all kinds of booby traps and trouble. In the Smash version, players would fight on a large platform, with two or three elevator-styled platforms that would change elevation during the battle. The main battleground would travel up and down the multiple floors of the Trap Tower, each with their own hazards, such as Altair's security forces taking potshots at players.
However, this stage's key feature would be titular "traps." Throughout the battle, three floor panels/switches would light up, and stepping on them would trigger certain effects. For example, two sections of the main platform are made of a translucent purple material, and stepping on their adjacent panels causes the glass to disappear, which creates a brand new pitfall (at least temporarily) to worry about.
The third switch would have a variety of effects, some of which are helpful, and some that are... not quite so helpful. For example, the third switch might close the newly opened pitfalls, or open them both simultaneously. It could also produce food or an item. Or it might be a trap and make you explode.
You know, being the "Trap Tower" and all.
2) Black Fortress: Throne Room / Vs. Altair
For those that want less traps, and more of a straight-up brouhaha, there's Altair's Throne Room. This platform floats over a chasm, and is essentially a no-frills arena for in-your-face brawling. However, there is a unique trait in the form of the bridges.
On either side of the main platform, there's a bridge that extends the length of the arena right off into the kill zone. During battle, Vega swoops in and disintegrates the bridges, significantly shrinking the battle area.
3) Up and Down (Multiplayer Map):
Considering that Bomberman is a series known for its multiplayer, I'd be remiss not to include a multiplayer map, even if the aforementioned Black Fortress stages would be better choices overall.
Up and Down is one of the best multiplayer arenas in the game, and would translate well to Super Smash Bros. due to its multiple levels of small platforms.
Heck, they should probably include this level's "trap" as an Easter Egg or major mechanic, too: in Bomberman 64, if your multiplayer match lasts too long, each stage has a death trap that activates. In the case of "Up and Down," the sea level rises until there's a winner... or everyone drowns. If implemented in Ultimate, it could be one hell of a way to cause a frenzy as players all battle for the top platform, hoping to either win or at least survive until the water levels recede.
4) Blue Resort:
Okay, so there's really no purpose for me including "Blue Resort" on this list... I just love this level and, even though it wouldn't really make a great Smash Bros. stage, what can I say? Blue Resort is awesome.
5) Black Fortress:
... alright, one more. Though "Trap Tower" and "Vs. Altair" would definitely be better, cleaner stages, the entire world of Black Fortress is filled with a lot of great set pieces that'd make for a cool Smash Bros. stage. The arena could start on the streets at the entrance of the fortress, where incoming vehicles pose a hazard. Then, the arena floats up to Cerberus' lair, who unleashes his weapons at the players for a brief time before the the stage transitions upwards into a truncated version of the "Trap Tower." Finally, it makes its way to the Throne Room before finally restarting at the entrance.
Way too complicated, but still cool.
Bomberman 64 might have one of the most underrated soundtracks on the N64 (which I'll definitely get to in a review one day soon!), so there was plenty to pick from. The said, I came to my decisions based not just on quality, but appropriateness in terms of the characters in question:
1) A remix of the "Masker" theme would be highly appropriate, considering that it's the theme plays for the battles with Artemis, Orion and Regulus.
2) A remix of Black Fortress' theme would be fitting for both a Black Fortress level, and as a theme for the Altair and the Trio.
3) A remix that combines both "Altair I" and "Altair II" would be great for the character and also a tense Smash showdown.
4) "Red Mountain" is one of the best songs in Bomberman 64, and while it doesn't exactly fit with Altair, the Masked Trio or any of the theoretical stages, it's an awesome song.
This could go a few ways, all of which are weird, and one of which is terribly dark. Let's start with that one (especially because it's the most developed scenario, hah.)
1) We see standard Smash gameplay. It's a four-player match between Bowser and a few other villains. Bowser grabs an assist trophy and Bomberman pops out. Instead of fighting, he desperately tries to tell Bowser and the others something. Instead of listening, they pummel him. Especially Bowser.
We see a montage of this happening again and again, with Bomberman getting smashed into oblivion every time he tries to warn Bowser and the fighters about whatever he's worrying about.
Finally, Bomberman is unleashed from yet another Assist Trophy and now, more than ever, he is losing his mind and pointing at the sky. Bowser and the rest all look at each other and get ready to knock the poor guy out... only for a shadow to come over the arena. It's the Black Fortress.
They look at Bomberman in shock, back at the fortress, then back at Bomberman, who simply shrugs in a "I tried to tell ya" way.
The Black Fortress then opens fire on the stage, sending the main bully, Bowser, off into the distance with a flaming butt.
Altair and his Masked Trio descend onto the arena. The remaining three characters, joined by Bomberman, strike a fighting pose, to which Altair responds "you wanna fight me?"
2) Bowser and the Koopalings are causing a lot of mayhem, shredding heroes left and right before running into Altair and his Masked Trio, who proceed to show him who the baddest gang of all is.
3) A group of fighters are overwhelmed by Altair and his invading forces, so they desperately throw out Assist Trophy after Assist Trophy until Bomberman comes out, causing great joy. Rubbing his eyes, Bomberman groggily looks around and, upon seeing Altair, bugs out and runs for his life, causing the previous aura of joy to become one of dread and despair.
As for the tagline(s), here are two possibilities.... both of which are cringey:
"Altair and the Masked Trio are here to steal your energy AND the show!" (or vice versa)
"Altair and the Masked Trio explode onto the scene!"
... I apologize. These were hard, hah.
I realize the chances of anyone wanting, remembering or caring about the Masked Trio are slim, but they were well-known in their day (especially if you ever wandered the N64 aisle in Blockbuster), and their unique gameplay (plus cool designs) would really shake up the dynamics of the battlefield!
What are some of your choices for characters that should be included in Ultimate?
Let me know below!