Blaster Master Zero Review

Super Mario Bros. may be the de facto NES platformer of choice, as well as mainstays such as Metroid and The Legend of Zelda, but others such as Castlevania and Mega Man are regarded as key franchises. In the US, Sunsoft’s Blaster Master also falls into this category, but less so in PAL territories because of a 3 year delay. It’s not seen much success since, but Inti Creates acquired the licence from Sunsoft and is aiming to put the series back on the map with Blaster Master Zero for both 3DS and Switch

Despite its Japanese origins, it’s quite surprising to see how similar it is to the popular English speaking version. A young boy named Jason still needs to take the controls of SOPHIA the 3rd in order to find his missing frog Fred. Along the way, he finds an unconscious girl with no recollection of who she is, as well as masses of mutants to blow up. It’s not exactly ground breaking, but serves its purpose as a good excuse to explore strange lands.

Going for a more detailed yet retro look, Inti Creates has certainly captured the essence of Blaster Master while at the same time modernising it somewhat. Music is a particular high-note as there are classic tracks remixed, as well as some catchy new ones.

Gameplay is also familiar, with the idea of primarily driving SOPHIA the 3rd until you reach a place where the tank can’t access. None of the platforming is especially challenging, but the emphasis on exploring caves to obtain power ups for the tank breaks up the gameplay a little.

I’d never personally played Blaster Master, but the cave sections felt insultingly easy. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great gimmicks in the latter stages, such as poisonous pools that appear/disappear or waves crashing through the stage that force Jason in one direction, but building up the weapon to the Wave Beam that destroys everything was ridiculously easy.

That isn’t to say that Jason on foot doesn’t have other weapons, but these felt situational in comparison to the Wave Beam. I think I only used two of the other weapons throughout, as the Wave Beam has a hit stun that renders enemies utterly useless. In fact, in the entire time I played the game, the only things that hurt me were the level hazards rather than the sporadically placed enemies.

Things do get more interesting, with different weapon combinations being used for each world. There’s a little bit of backtracking to contend with which isn’t particularly enthralling, but the game isn’t terribly long so that isn’t as major an issue as it could have been. Enemy design is somewhat basic, harkening back to the NES days, but they’re serviceable.

Bosses this time aren’t just found in the Jason stages with their solid black backgrounds. Here there is not only a lot more detail to be found, but there are occasions where bosses are fought using SOPHIA the 3rd. It’s just too bad that they’re all way too easy to destroy within seconds when on foot.

Exploring the entire game to get all the power ups is perhaps the real challenge of the game, and thankfully Blaster Master Zero does reward you somewhat in this department. They don’t make things much better, but at the very least it’s a more interesting if somewhat linear example of a Metroidvania.

What’s Good:

  • A fitting tribute to the NES original
  • Fantastic music
  • Some great gameplay ideas

What’s Bad:

  • Way too easy thanks to overpowered weapons
  • Story is filler
  • Bosses are mostly pushovers
  • Short

Structurally, Blaster Master Zero is a significant step forward for the franchise, but provided you are actively avoiding getting hit, the game is just too easy. Mildly more interesting when driving around in a tank than gunning down mutants on foot, it’s probably a great entry point to the series for more inexperienced gamers. It’s just a shame that this reintroduction doesn’t provide much of a challenge.

Score: 6/10

Version Tested: Nintendo 3DS

1 Comment

  1. It’d be great to see a direct sequel or remake of the PS1 Blaster Master title, ‘Blaster Master – Blasting Again’. That was a really cool game. I loved how the vehicle had a feel to it like an RC car –one that’s armed to the teeth! :)

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