March 25, 2016

Over & Under: Bomberman Hero

Over and Under is a series where I highlight my favorite video game soundtracks that are overlooked or underrated. In this installment, I’ll be looking at the one-of-a-kind soundtrack of Bomberman Hero.

The soundtrack for Bomberman Hero feels like the culmination of Jun Chikuma’s body of work. She had been composing music for Bomerman since the original game’s NES release in 1985, and Bomberman Hero would be one of her final games before she moved on to other projects. Released in 1998, Bomberman Hero was a radical departure for the series and was obviously developed as a response to the boom in 3D platformers that was brought about by Super Mario 64. Bomberman could jump in this game, for one, and the game had no multiplayer component whatsoever.

Despite axing the mode that made Bomberman famous in the first place, I always thought Bomberman Hero was pretty good. But the one part that stood out to me the most was the music. I’d never heard anything like it in a video game before, and I really haven’t since. It was entirely drum and bass. Or, at least that’s what I always called. It probably falls into some stupid made up genre like “post apocalyptic slipspace elbow jazz” but it appears Jun Chikuma agrees
with me.

Although drum & bass may seem completely out of left field for Bomberman, it seems like Jun was leading up to it for a while. Being one of her final games and being pretty experimental, it seems like she just said “Screw it, I’m going to go for it!” and made whatever the hell she wanted.

As early as Bomberman ‘93, you could hear her trying to fight both Hudson and the hardware. In single player modes, she was forced to compose specific area themes like desert, volcano, or snow. And with the battle theme, it was obvious the hardware just couldn’t support her vision. But by the time Super Bomberman 3 rolled around in 1995, you could hear that d&b influence begin to finally manifest. The battle theme remix for this game doesn’t sound too far removed from Hero:

PlayStation’s Bomberman World, released in Japan just three months before Hero, contained a few tracks that would sound right at home in Bomberman Hero. In fact, the battle theme sounds almost like it was composed for Hero, which makes me wonder if that game had a cut multiplayer component:

Then came Bomberman Hero, the game with so many fantastic classic songs, where none of the tracks followed a particular theme and they all stand on their own. Taken together, the game’s soundtrack is a great little drum & bass album that I often listen to just because. I find that, a lot of the time, I need to be “in the mood” to listen to a video game score, but I could listen to Bomberman Hero just about any time for any reason. Working out? Bomberman Hero. Out for a drive? Bomberman Hero. Time to poop? Bomberman Hero. But I have to say that the music is probably most complimentary to what the scientific community would call “late night chilling”. It’s great night driving music, or background tunes for when you’re loafing around with some friends in the evening hours. Hell, why not play it during your fancy dinner party? Need pleasent yet unobtrusive background music for your YouTube video or podcast? Bomberman Hero has you covered.

It really is a soundtrack that puts a smile on my face and reminds me of simpler times. I don’t even really associate it with the game itself but more the memories I had surrounding the game, like sleeping over at my friend’s house and playing Bomberman Hero into the night. Actually, I don’t even own it! It was one of those games I played at a friend’s house or rented constantly but never bought.

So, here are some of my favorite tracks. The music is easily free to stream on Jun (June) Chikuma’s Soundcloud, which means that any time can now be chill time. There also exists a CD soundtrack, and it’s my life’s work to hunt one down. I almost bought it off an Austrailian dude on eBay, but it turned out he didn’t have it after all and had to give me a refund. I blame the kangaroos.

“Redial” is probably the game’s most famous track:

“Supplement” is what I imagine elevator music sounds like at the world’s most epic office:

“Wok” sounds like something they’d use in a Toonami bump:

“Dessert”, conversely, sounds like an Adult Swim bump:

“Milky”, a jam so chill that you’ll get frostbite:

“Monogenic” reminds me of strolling down the sidewalk at night with ice cream for some reason:

“Fatidic” is a great song that I always read as “fat dick”:

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