Bomberman 94... on a CD?!

Well, yes and no. This Super CD-ROM really is an official Bomberman ‘94 release, but rather than the full game it’s a short demo that according to this fabulous Japanese website was given out at Hudson’s ‘Caravan’ events in Japan – basically gaming meetings for fans with a dash of corporate advertising thrown in for good measure. Whether these demos were considered prizes for competition participants or left in a ‘Please take one’ sort of pile appears to be anyone’s guess, the only thing we can say for sure is that they weren’t available for general sale. As an aside ‘PC Engine CD Rom Capsule 4’ magazine also included a disc containing a Bomberman ‘94 demo, although whether it’s the same as the onw shown here is currently unknown.

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Now then, onto the screenshots! As with my previous dive into the world of comparison screenshots images from the trial version are on the left, and the finals are on the right.

Actually, we need to take a quick look at something else before we get to the comparison screens – before the title appears this set of mysterious messages pops up:

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It seems to me like a rather odd thing to bring up before play, but I must admit to being completely ignorant of how desperate Japanese PC Engine fans were for the game at the time. Whether internal cock-ups or external shenanigans were responsible for this almost-apology there doesn’t appear to be any comment (that I’ve found) about it online, leaving the reason for its inclusion left to speculation.

Right, now we’re onto the comparison screens! The title’s rather lovely, and I had to admit I prefer it to the one used in the final game. I do like bomb in ‘Bomberman’, although the overall effect with the gradient on the text and the colour cycling on the ‘94 make it look a little too busy.

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A bit of amateurish poking around some save states didn’t unearth anything that suggested the demo was a cornucopia of alpha-grade unused material, but I did at least find this very interesting bit of title screen text -

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The Japanese text reads ‘キャラバン用限定非売品’which translates to something along the lines of  ‘Restricted Caravan use, not for sale’ – tying up neatly with the ‘Given away at Caravan events’ information in the link at the top. I was feeling quite pleased with myself for this little bit of behind-the-curtain peeking, then I found out that to get that text to show all anyone needs to do is hold left on the d-pad before the title screen pops up. One small mystery solved almost as soon as it was discovered, and all it cost was one slightly deflated gamer ego.

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Onto the most important part now – battling! There’s only one level, no CPU option, and no character select. The good news is up to five humans can play together in standard or team matches, so while it’s hugely cut down the core experience is still there. Eagle eyed readers might have spotted the different font for ‘MAN’ and the lack of ‘Please select a stage’ text in the demo screenshot.

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As you can see the stage itself is identical across both the trial and the final Hucard release, right down to the border animations. The only significant difference is the pause graphic, which was change d from ‘generic bouncing text’ to Best Pause Image Ever when the game finally went on sale.

(The following five are all trial images)

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All the usual power ups are present and work as intended, including multiple Louies (I have seen and used blue/pink/yellow/purple - a green one hasn’t popped up yet but it’s safe to assume it’s in there) and the skull power-downs. As expected when the final sixty seconds comes around the ‘Hurry up!’ text flashes across the screen and unbreakable blocks fall down around the edges in a clockwise manner, same as always. The only thing missing is the little victory animation you get for blowing everybody up.

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After your inevitable victory comes the tally and celebratory screens and these are clearly in a more preliminary state than the rest of the game; the victory marker looks more like a token or coin in the trial and the stage itself is missing a lot of detail. After this the trial loops back to the stage select menu.

While the demo shipped on a CD this was probably just to save costs as the audio is all generated internally – no fancy 90’s era redbook audio here! It’s all different from the final tracks too and probably placeholder music lifted from Bomberman ‘93, although as I’ve always stuck with ‘94 that’s a guess rather than a fact.

In my hunt for information on this disc I’ve seen a few websites quoting different production numbers – some claim only 10,000 were made, others say 20,000. The important thing to note is that none of them link back to a source and as I couldn’t find one either it’s best to leave the figures well alone and simply say ‘probably not a lot’ instead.

As a game there’s no reason to play this – it’s just battle-mode Bomberman ‘94 with far fewer options. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be a fascinating piece of gaming history, for being both a tiny glimpse into the development behind a wonderful game as well as a reminder of a long-gone era when getting a demo out to fans meant actually going out and pressing a disc straight into their hands.