Games

Pyramid Head is In ‘Super Bomberman R,’ and That’s Not Cool

We’re used to franchise crossovers these days, but this one feels like a bad-taste stretch.
June 29, 2017, 7:14pm
‘Super Bomberman R’ artwork courtesy of Konami.

Ask anyone who's played their share of games for the scariest enemy they've ever encountered in a digital realm, and chances are Pyramid Head will be a frighteningly common response. The silent but deadly nightmare, a torture device on legs, carrying—dragging—an almighty blade, is an unforgettable Big Bad of gaming history—an almost invincible terror who can take all the bullets you, as Silent Hill 2 protagonist James Sunderland, can put into it. It just. Keeps. Coming.

The character lost its fear factor to come degree with later appearances—following 2001's foggy survival horror sequel, it cameos in Silent Hill: Homecoming and shows up as an eminently beatable boss in Silent Hill: The Arcade. There was that movie, too, but sssh. All are firmly horror-themed, adults-only experiences. Super Bomberman R, on the other hand, most definitely isn't.

It's my six-year-old's second-favorite Switch game right now, after Breath of the Wild of course. He and his younger brother, playing with JoyCons detached, love the thing. And I don't have to explain the cartoon silliness of it—that's a Bomberman, and so's that, and that too, and they blow each other off the board. Last Bomberman standing, wins. Same as it ever was. And it always will be. It's totally child-friendly arcade fun, and a great local multiplayer game for Switch early adopters.

Except now, alongside some gameplay tweaks to the Team Battle mode and four new maps, Pyramid Head is in Bomberman R. The ever-stalking evil is joined by two other redrawn-to-fit avatars from Konami's catalogue—Simon Belmont from Castlevania and Vic Viper (which is/was a space ship, but whatever) from Gradius. Each has a special ability—Pyramid Head's is to instantly knock out opponents on touching them, because, well, that's what he'd do in Silent Hill. And straight-up murder you.

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I'm all for franchise crossovers—without them, we'd have no Smash Brothers, Mario Kart would be a much lonelier place, and those Nintendo-produced Olympic Games titles would have to make do with a gaggle of generic human avatars. But while Pyramid Head has flown the horror coop once before, for the DS-only New International Track and Field (bit weird, that; other Konami characters appearing included Solid Snake and Frogger), this Super Bomberman R addition has me feeling… icky. Y'know?

"Daddy, what is Pyramid Head?"

"Well, y'see son, it's sort of the physical manifestation of a someone who might be a very bad man's psyche. We don't really know. But it's not good. And if you were to run into it, it'd gut you, or worse. There was this scene, see, with these four-legged mannequin things, and they're all flailing around, and…"

You can see how that's going. And yes, for R Pyramid Head has been given a semi-chibi overhaul, albeit hardly a cheery, kawaii one—but does a character like this belong in a game with a PEGI 7 rating? (Which is a surprise to me, TBH, but I guess there are bombs in it. Three-year-olds can't handle big, comic-effect explosives, of course.) I'm on the side of: nope, no, sorry Konami, but for me it doesn't. Kids aside, I'd still feel that it was a stretch too far, to bring none-more-disparate franchises together, when they should probably never meet.

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Had this been Big Boss from Metal Gear, or Contra's Bill Rizer, I'd have had no problem with that. Those are characters from what can be terrifically violent games—but they don't come close, as playable types with a very particular baggage attached, to what Pyramid Head represents.

Which is, ICYMI, a whole heap of Really Bad Stuff. I guess I just see this as a poor taste move to attract players back to a game, or to pique attentions for a first time. And if that's good for the company, I mean, smashing, because I'd like more Bomberman games in the future. And as I said, my kids totally dig this one, in its vanilla state. But I'll not be letting them loose with a character, iconic though this one is, that stands for so many things they can't begin to understand right now. I'm not mad, Konami, I'm just disappointed.

Tell Mike he's a stuffy old killjoy on Twitter.