Konami producer Tatsunori Matsuo talks Amazing Bomberman, lo-fi aesthetics, and what’s next
A few weeks ago, Konami announced that its newest Apple Arcade-exclusive title, Amazing Bomberman, would drop a mere 24 hours later. The latest in the nearly 40-year-old franchise, Amazing Bomberman takes the classic Bomberman gameplay and drops it onto iOS devices with explosive visuals, quick online matchmaking, and an aesthetic that feels much aligned with fan art you may have seen on platforms like Deviant Art, Tumblr, and Twitter.
But of course, the biggest pull of Amazing Bomberman is its soundtrack. The game takes the core idea of Bomberman and mixes it with boom-heavy music, with plenty of original tracks that span from chiptune to dubstep to idol pop. Online, players face off to the tune of vibrant bangers that pump stages with heavy visual effects and drop power-ups to the beat — my favorite of which being, Bomb, Bomb! Blow’em All.
Despite the lack of a storyline, Amazing Bomberman still has some context to understand that gives the game a fuller feel to its quickplay multi-player extravaganza. To unwrap some of the ideas behind Amazing Bomberman, we emailed Tatsunori Matsuo, assistant producer at Konami Japan, and asked him about the game’s inspiration, lo-fi aesthetics, and conception.
Station to station gameplay
Kevin Cortez, iMore: It’s been a few years since the last proper Bomberman title was released, Super Bomberman R. That game spawned a free-to-play spin-off that garnered some attention from players wanting to battle it out with others online, and it’s just a few years old. Amazing Bomberman seems to share that same online-only multiplayer component. Was the initial idea for Amazing Bomberman always centered around an online battle arena?
Tatsunori Matsuo: The project started with the idea of having a Bomberman game that would be easy to play online, taking advantage of an Apple device’s ability to easily connect online anytime, anywhere. With “Station to Station” as the key concept, once the game starts, you can revive and play as many times as you want until the time limit is up. However, when the time limit is up, the game ends exactly when the time is up, so we’re developing Amazing Bomberman as a new type of Bomberman that can be played quickly in your spare time before reaching the next station.
KC: Was Amazing Bomberman ever intended to be a rhythm game in which you tap or drop bombs to the beat?
TM: No, we did not. We wanted to approach Bomberman with a different concept in mind but decided we wanted to follow the same basic battle structure as before because we wanted players to enjoy the traditional intuitive battles.
In considering the time-limited rules, we thought it would be interesting to link game time with the playing time of the music and incorporate elements of a rhythm game, which led to the creation of Amazing Bomberman’s gameplay.
The stages are linked to the music and change, and the user is encouraged to play through each stage as if he or she were memorizing the score of a rhythm game.
KC: I noticed a bulk of the songs on Amazing Bomberman are original tracks made for the game. How did the music selection for the game come about? Were artists and musicians given a theme to follow when writing music?
TM: All songs are original transcriptions.
First, the team came up with ideas for the overall structure and theme of each song and then searched for the best artists to create songs in accordance with each theme. The overall composition of the songs was based on the premise that the songs should be easy to keep up with the rhythm of the game, and they ranged from “rock” to “idol songs” without being restricted by genre.
In order to provide diversity, each song was produced by a director and two members of the sound team, each of whom was responsible for a particular song.
On lo-fi aesthetics
KC: Let’s talk about the distinct style of Amazing Bomberman. How did that all come about? The aesthetics remind me a lot of fan art around Bomberman I’ve seen online.
TM: We’re aware of the revival boom in retro culture, and the director himself is a big fan of ChilledCow, so I wanted to create an art style that would make people want to keep the game running even when they are not playing it. The art director drew up the illustrations, which were designed to bring out the “lo-fi taste” and “new retro” elements of the game.
KC: I think it’s pretty funny that the title screen kind of serves as the polar opposite of the gameplay. The main menu features lo-fi music that’s very similar to relaxing coffee shop instrumentals, and it uses plenty of calm blues. But the gameplay is fairly chaotic, with so many spastic visuals and explosions appearing on screen at once. Was this intentional?
TM: The worldview of Amazing Bomberman is that Bomberman, drifting through space in a world where civilization has died out, collects VHS music videos left behind by mankind and uses them to communicate with another Bomberman somewhere in the universe. The contrast of watching a lively VHS in a lonely space creates Amazing Bomberman’s unique worldview.
KC: I’m already seeing early comments around the game by fans yearning for more updates and additional content support. Are there any plans for significant updates in the future?
TM: Unfortunately, we cannot speak to that at this time, but we are monitoring what our fans are saying and will try to incorporate any asks in ways that are fair and balanced.
KC: Next year marks the 40th anniversary of the Bomberman franchise. This feels sort of like a tease leading up to that event. How do you feel Amazing Bomberman stands out in the legacy of the series? What makes it stand out compared to other entries in the franchise?
TM: Obviously, the musical component and how those rhythms guide the battles will be what makes the game stand out, but also the art direction of Bomberman characters interacting with retro tech. As you may know, we announced Super Bomberman R 2 earlier this year, and so we wanted to add another game to the franchise that is visually distinct from our upcoming project.
Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Amazing Bomberman isn’t the perfect Bomberman title, but it’s a welcome addition to Apple Arcade (made even better with the best Apple TV gaming controllers). Though Matsuo couldn’t officially confirm updates, it’s tough to not imagine a stronger title with a smarter control scheme, visuals that don’t cloud the player’s line of sight, and maybe even customizable levels.
But if there’s anything to learn from Matsuo’s words about Amazing Bomberman, it’s that Konami is still offering visually distinct titles in the Bomberman franchise. Here’s to looking toward the series’ 40th year in 2023.