Bomberman II takes the template created by the original Bomberman and polishes it to a nice shine. Unfortunately, along with the dirt, some of the more fun aspects of the original have been removed.
The main thing Bomberman II adds to its predecessor is multiplayer. There is a two-player mode, and those with the NES Four Score (or NES Satellite) can access a three-player mode as well. As Bomberman has become synonymous with multiplayer, and especially with more-than-two-player multiplayer, Bomberman II deserves a lot of credit for starting that trend. However, this review is limited to the single-player portion of the game.
Bomberman II has a similar structure to Bomberman, in that you are tasked with clearing a number of stages in order, occasionally broken up by a bonus stage. The game has much more of a story this time, involving a second bomberman framing your character for a crime, and you progress through six areas each with their own graphics and music. The stages also differ in size, though the majority are of the same approximate size as in the original.
The graphical upgrades are significant, and make Bomberman II a far more attractive game to look at than the original. The changes in music are also quite welcome. Not only are the backgrounds and enemies much better looking, bomberman himself finally takes on his full iconic look in this game.
The flaw in Bomberman II is that they dialed back the most fun parts of Bomberman: the crazy powerful upgrades. They show up much more rarely, but are lost just as easily. The immunity to your own bombs is only temporary, preventing any possibility of becoming an unstoppable juggernaut as in the first game. Rather than being the main thing to look forward to, these power-ups are more of a novelty in this version.
With less emphasis on power-ups, Bomberman II relies instead on challenge. There are more enemies than before, and some can be quite a pain to deal with. Stages are still randomly generated, and every now and then you’ll have enemies that will make a beeline for you, right through walls, while you still have far too little room to effectively avoid them. The ultimate challenge, though, comes from the timer. Particularly in the final areas, you have very limited time to complete each stage. You’ll have to learn to drop many bombs in succession to clear these areas before bomberman keels over.
While Bomberman II is more refined in every way than Bomberman was, some of the most fun parts of Bomberman were those very unrefined bits. As a result, the sequel is a prettier and better built game, but lacks a lot of the pure joy of its predecessor. It’s also a very rare NES game that comes with a hefty price tag that isn’t worth the price.