Real Talk By: Zombie Zac
Blaster Master was one of my favorite games on the NES. Originally released by SunSoft Inc. in 1988, Blaster Master was unique because it contained two different styles of gameplay that you would seamlessly switch between: Side-scrolling, platforming action while in your armored tank SOPHIA and an isometric top down exploration mode similar to dungeons in Zelda. Developed by Inti Creates, Blaster Master Zero keeps this dynamic intact, and it still feels fresh. As one of the first games available on the eShop for Nintendo Switch, Blaster Master Zero is a flawed, but worthy nostalgic tribute to the original classic.
Set in the future, the player assumes the role of a man named Jason, who chases after a frog named Fred who fell deep into a hole in the ground. Yes, that’s really the plot, as it was for the original, and yes it’s very 80’s. While nobody will play Blaster Master Zero for it’s story, it is brief and entertaining enough, with pockets of good-natured silliness and humor. The meat and potatoes is the action and exploration. While in SOPHIA, it feels like Samus on roller skates, sliding, hovering, and charging blast shots at enemies while avoiding their bullets. While out of the tank on foot, it feels more methodical, with a slower movement speed and even some minor stealth elements. This is also where you fight many of the game’s bosses, and find world maps and upgrades for SOPHIA.
Throughout the 8-12 hour-long campaign, you’ll occasionally be puzzled, but never challenged like the original. There are some modernized elements that help make things convenient, like a save anytime feature, and a map screen that shows explored areas. The problems lie simply with how easily you can charge up your weapons. When you take damage, the game smartly restricts what weapons you can use until you can power back up— but power ups can be found everywhere, and leaves this mechanic feeling unbalanced. There’s something satisfying about managing to dodge bullets and keep your best guns, and when you mess up, there’s no real punishment. Everything just feels inconsequential.
Boss fights are also unbalanced and overly simple. It’s a shame, too, because with the right tweak to player damage, or power up availability, bosses would have had the right level of intimidation and player reward. Instead, it feels paint-by-numbers, just blast it as it moves, dodge, blast it as it moves again, and then before you know it the boss has exploded. In fact, I died less than 10 times through my play through, while lying around in bed playing Switch in handheld mode barely trying. Blaster Master Zero isn’t looking to infuriate you like Dark Souls, it’s meant to be a pleasant time killer in between having to do things. Most damning though, is the hypersensitivity of the analog stick, which led to many of my mistakes instead of actual challenging gameplay.
All in all, it’s a fun, albeit simple and easy throwback to an NES classic, at a good price point ($9.99) and works as a launch window title. From the music, to the visuals, this feels like an HD NES sequel. It also helps fill the massive void of the lack of a proper Metroid game on a Nintendo system. I found it difficult to sit down and play for long stretches, but rather really enjoyed popping in and playing until I found the next world or SOPHIA upgrade. In the world where AAA games seem to come out monthly, it’s difficult to review something like Blaster Master Zero on the same scale. But, Blaster Master Zero doesn’t require much commitment, it’s cheap, and it’s good lazy gaming. While way too easy, Blaster Master Zero does have heart, and at least until the Virtual Console appears on Switch, provides some much-needed retro action.
Blaster Master Zero Gets
2.5 out of 5
+Faithful retro graphics and sound
+Switching between gameplay modes is still fresh
+Exploring worlds is fun
+Lots of shooting action
-Far too easy
-Analog stick doesn’t control as you’d hope