Kieran Harris’s introduction to gaming was a literal trial by fire, but Bomberman 64 helped him transform from a newcomer to a little champion.
Way back in 1997, I was a curious three-year-old who often heard loud noises coming from the spare room at around 9pm on some nights. I was born with various health conditions, so sleeping was never something that came easy to me anyway – but with all the ruckus, it made it even more difficult, so I couldn’t help but go on a little journey to discover what was going on.
The door didn’t shut to this room but I wasn’t allowed in, due to there being “lots of stuff that can be easily broken”. After learning what was happening across the house, it became an obsession of mine to get out of bed at that time, doing my best Solid Snake impression to sneak and not get caught – and told off.
I would peek my head around the door and watch as my dad hosted his friends, playing various games on his Nintendo 64. They were shouting, betting, and laughing all through the night, twice a week. First, I saw them fighting each other with angry-looking people with lots of gore (Killer Instinct Gold), which wasn’t my thing. However, one really grabbed my attention: the colourful Bomberman 64.
One day, after a telling-off from my mom for my late evening exploration, I feared my nights of adventure were over. Thankfully, these nights of wonder were just beginning.
Planting the video game bomb
In reaction to my night wanders, my dad took another route: he proceeded to show me his consoles and collection up close. This room was a haven for my dad’s gaming collectibles, merchandise and, indeed, games. There were years of passionate curation in this room and I began to understand why I wasn’t allowed in: both financial and sentimental value. However, I still wasn’t sure why he was so obsessed with games until he let me play them myself.
I was sat alongside my dad when he loaded up Bomberman 64, trying to get some practice in before his next group session at the end of the week. I was transfixed. There was so much going on and I had no idea what to do at all, but I picked up a controller and played with him. Well, I thought I did – I later learned it wasn’t even plugged in; my dad just let me hold the pad, and I thought the AI was being controlled by me.
Seeing something I thought I was controlling, seemingly responding to my inputs, was both empowering and exciting. This was the best toy I’d ever played with! I watched in awe as my dad blew up other Bomberman characters over and over again, thinking he must be some kind of expert. I wanted to be this good!
One of the days when my dad was at work and my mom was in bed, I did a bad thing and went into my dad’s room alone. I was ill with chickenpox and wasn’t allowed to be near my brother or go to nursery. I had to entertain myself.
I’d remembered the steps needed to turn on the N64 and load up the game, and so I started to play Bomberman 64 for the first time. I had no idea what I was doing and failed miserably, but I was addicted. I loved every second of being blown up, trapping myself, or surviving long enough to be killed by the environment closing in.
However, every loss was a lesson; every pressed button was a hit of pure joy. I started to understand why my dad loved games so much – and this was the best one, even if my dad’s pile was huge! Video games had been officially revealed to me, and this first-ever meeting was life-changing.
For a few weeks, I’d sneak into his room and play until again, I was caught – this time by my brother, who was ill and wasn’t at school. He grassed me up and I awaited the wrath of my dad and a lecture about the expensive stuff inside his man cave. Instead, what followed was pride: my dad invited me to play with him.
To his surprise – and especially my own – I beat him.
“That’s it, just you wait until Friday,” he said to me. What he meant didn’t click until the day itself. I got a call from my dad upstairs at around 8pm and he explained the plan to me: I had to stay awake – against my mom’s wishes – and wait to be invited in. The time arrived and I heard him declare: “Everyone, I’ve got a surprise. Please welcome the little champion!”
I walked into applause and whistling from all of his friends, who looked both amused and a little confused. My dad, fresh from a loss, handed me the controller and winked. His friends were laughing, winding me up like surrogate uncles.
I won the game against his fiercest rivals. The look of pride on his face said it all.
Lessons to be learned
Bomberman 64 was the first video game I played, and I still treasure it to this day for so many reasons. The game is just brilliant fun, and a must-play if you’ve never tried it: an old-school, everyone-round-the-TV experience that anyone can try – even three-year-old me. While it’s super accessible, it’s also very deep and strategic; it’s possible to win by just being lucky, making it a tense and funny affair every time you play.
What’s more, the way Bomberman 64 introduced me to multiplayer was huge for my gaming future. Seeing everyone smiling and laughing around a game showed me what they’re all about: being competitive but also having fun, proving you’re the best but making memories at the same time. I haven’t forgotten the game’s role in my own story to this day.
My time with Bomberman 64 also taught me to have a desire to better myself – gradually getting better at games showed me that with time and practice, you can be good or even great at anything. When I watched my dad play, I thought he was a video game god. Now, there’s probably no game in the world he could beat me at, simply because of the sheer amount of time and practice I’ve put into games. It’s all his fault!
I’m grateful to my dad, and also to Hudson Soft, for making such a wonderfully simple yet excellent game. Through this experience, I’ve played so many amazing titles and had so many brilliant memories, but they’ve provided an escape when I’ve needed it; as I live with mental health issues, they’ve bailed me out time and time again, and this important support wouldn’t be without Bomberman 64, which truly lit up my world.
- A four-player mode that makes it the perfect local party game
- Easily accessible but surprisingly deep gameplay
- Addictive and highly replayable
- Not much variety in terms of game modes
- Don’t take it too seriously or it can be rage-inducing!
Bomberman 64 is, for me, an early showcase of what makes gaming great: friendly competition, accessible for anyone, that gives just hours and hours of daft fun. I’ll play this game for nostalgia for as long as I can hold a controller.