Almost 20 years ago, Sunsoft gave the world, Blaster Master. As with many NES games of the time period, the cover art suggested absolutely nothing about the title, and, because we were 80’s kids, the weirder, the better. I grew up playing Blaster Master, but I never beat it (like 90% of the unrelenting NES games). The release of Blaster Master Zero was my chance to go back to a beloved title and complete what I started all those years ago. The premise makes the story a bit choppy; a boy chasing a cybernetic frog through various lands to save the planet. It’s a good thing the game is fun, so you don’t notice how the plot is bonkers. The dialogue is thin and the ending is overly dramatic for such a thin plot, but, again, the gameplay, music, and everything else makes up for it. Blaster Master Zero is broken up in different areas that you access once you upgrade your vehicle (and sometimes, you will need to backtrack, as is typical with Metroidvania games). Players will make their way through forests, sewers, and glacial lands to find Fred and save the world.
In Blaster Master Zero, you play as Jason, who chases Fred the frog into another world. Along the way, you will also meet Eve who acts as a sidekick and typical informant on all things about this world. What makes Blaster Master Zero special is the blend between a Metroidvania game and the ability to change the way you play the game. It seems as though this style of game may be coming back with games like Super Gun World 2 and Nier Automata. Jason will pop in and out of his intergalactic vehicle SOFIA III to switch from a 2D platformer to a top down shooter where you face a litany of mini-bosses to pick up new power-ups. Each style of gameplay positions Jason with different challenges. Until you find the proper upgrade, SOFIA III struggles in water, but popping out of SOFIA III as Jason in side-scrolling mode will pit you against a very low tolerance for heights. In other sections, Jason will be fighting his way through small dungeons in a top-down perspective. The changing environments keep the game fresh.
Lovers of the original will notice a big difference; multiplayer. With the Switch having two controllers with the joycon setup, Multiplayer is putting things loosely, as the second player will have a reticle they can shoot enemies with throughout the game. I give this feature a pass just because a 20-year-old remake to add a feature like this is trying to create new ways to garner interest.
One of my favorite aspects of the game is the music. Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but the soundtrack is epic, to say the least. There is just something about the upbeat sound that makes the adventure way more enjoyable. Hearing the blasts from your cannon or the sound of the explosion when you die harkens back to a time period before everything was 3D. This may seem obvious, as this is an update of a NES classic, but sometimes when companies update games, they take away essential pieces of the game.
To be somewhat critical, some of the changes I was not 100% sold on. I’m not sure why the creators decide to create the characters with an anime style and sensibility, but it did not seem to fit the rest of the aesthetic. Additionally, the cutesy character’s dialogue felt very basic and not well thought out. That goes hand-in-hand with the overall premise of the game, but worth noting that Blaster Master Zero thrives in the parts between short storyline injections. I wish the game was a little longer as well. I beat the game in just around 4 hours. I know this is just an update, but maybe adding another area or expanding the game further would have been nice. Hopefully, if the game sells well, they will think about expanding the franchise.
Overall, Blaster Master Zero is exactly what you remember it to be. Aside from some polished graphics, anime characters, and “multiplayer”, this is the Blaster Master you know and love from 20 years ago. If you never played Blaster Master, you can find enjoyment assuming you are a fan of retro-style Metroidvania games and side-scrollers (that mix up the formula a little). I am as big a fan today of Blaster Master as I was when I was 6 years old playing it for the first time on my NES.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo 3DS code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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