Blaster Master Zero is a remake and reimagining of the classic NES game Blaster Master, which was incredibly popular in North America specifically. There were a few sequels released on the Game Boy, Sega Genesis, and a few other systems but none of these reached the same level of popularity or experienced the same kind of response from critics and gamers. There was a time where this was one of the most popular games on the NES in North America, though I never had the pleasure of playing it. I played a lot of great games on that system like Super Mario Bros. 3, The Legend of Zelda, and Excitebike but I clearly missed out on one of the best games on the system. The good news though is that I’ve fallen in love with a game that’s both retro and modern in all the best ways and it’s all a new experience for me.
If you’re a fan of retro games I cannot recommend Blaster Master Zero enough. This rings particularly true if you hold classics like Mega Man and Metroid close to your heart because that’s exactly what this game feels like. It looks retro in the same way that Shovel Knight does. The NES was never capable of looking like this but by removing limitations and extrapolating the charm, you get a graphical style that looks as beautiful as it does nostalgic. The colors and effects pop across the screen as you engage in combat with smaller enemies but when you’re facing a boss, they light the screen up in ways that you could only imagine. This game looks astounding and combined with it, Shovel Knight, and many other games like them, I’m looking forward to the 8-bit/16-bit inspired future that lies undoubtedly ahead for years yet to come.
The story and gameplay have been expanded off the original in so many different ways. A major way the story’s been expanded is with additional dialogue and cut scenes so not only is it more in-depth but you can also know what the hell is going on. There were so many stories on NES games that if they attempted anything beyond something like Metroid or Super Mario Bros., you couldn’t really discern what was happening. Wars and environmental damage have ravaged the planet and forced humanity to live underground because no one listens to people who speak out against war or in support of climate change. While this is a shame, at least Sunsoft saw it coming and made this great game as a warning to us all. Jason has a frog named Fred who jumps down into a hole. Jason runs off to find him and along the way finds a tank called the SOPHIA III. Then you’re off to battle mutants while you search for Fred. There’s a lot more stuff in between and throughout the game thanks to the new developer who acquired the license from Sunsoft in late 2017. Inti Creates expanded the story to let us know more of what was going on and I’m really happy because when I was watching some Let’s Plays of the original NES classic, I couldn’t really tell what was happening. While it isn’t required or entirely necessary, it’s nice to have a connection to the characters and the world around you. The added context throughout the game is nice but luckily Inti Creates added much more than updated graphics and an expanded story.
One of the biggest issues with the original Blaster Master is the lack of passwords or save points and with it having that classic Nintendo-hard difficulty this made it much more difficult to progress through the game. The gameplay is much more satisfying this time around and there’s a lot less pressure now as there are a steady stream of save points throughout the game. This is so helpful because in Blaster Master Zero you’ll be running and gunning in the SOPHIA III tank, on foot, and battling crazy and creatively designed creatures in epic boss battles. As you travel and defeat bosses, you’ll earn new abilities for the SOPHIA III tank. You’ll also earn permanent upgrades for Jason, as well as temporary power-ups for his gun that run out after a certain amount of usage. These power-ups can be chosen on the equip screen though so if you want to save it for when you need it you don’t have to equip it right away. The upgrades, exploration and epic boss fights really give it a Metroid feeling, which is nice since Nintendo apparently hates making new Metroid games. The platforming gameplay and a large portion of the gameplay will normally be done in the SOPHIA III so it’ll feel like Mega Man in these sections but if he was a tank. It’s incredibly satisfying despite being pretty difficult at times.
You’ll be on foot in many areas too, though. You’ll feel a lot more vulnerable but you’re still more than equipped to do battle against enemies and the large mutant bosses. Jason has some powerful weapon abilities and plenty of health and power-ups so as long as you play smart, you can conquer anything. Don’t get me wrong–some of these boss battles gave me a hard time. Remember, though, there’s save points in this remake and there’s always one near the boss battle. This game can be controlled with the Nintendo Switch D-Pad or the joystick but Inti Creates tweaked it enough to where it controls correctly and comfortably with a joystick. I was surprised by this as with it being a remake of an NES game I thought it’d only feel right with a D-Pad.
The music in Blaster Master Zero is amazing. Let me just say that our surround sound was cranked pretty high and I played through this game, especially during the boss battles. Seriously, this music is energetic and atmospheric while also possessing the perfect retro feel. Few soundtracks for retro style games capture the spirit this well. Sound effects are satisfying as well. I felt powerful as launched homing missiles, charge beams, and rapidly fired bullets at my enemies.
The length is perfect for Blaster Master Zero and it’s especially nice for the price. I got about eight hours out of the game but I know I’m going to be replaying it. It was such a fun time and the exploration and satisfying combat make it so easy to lose track of time. It’s available on both the 3DS and Nintendo Switch but I see no reason to get this on the 3DS. It’s the same price on both systems and it can be played on the go, on bigger speakers, on the TV, and in HD on the Nintendo Switch. I guess if you don’t have a Switch and can’t wait you could always buy it on the 3DS. But that’s crazy talk–go buy a Switch and then buy this game the same day. It’s the perfect game for your weekend and I can guarantee that you’ll end up replaying at least a few times.
Blaster Master Zero
- Exploration is normally pretty fun
- Upgrading SOPHIA III and Jason is extremely satisfying
- Changing out your abilities based on the enemy you're facing is fun and makes you feel more powerful
- Graphics are an absolute delight. It still feels like an NES game despite displaying far more than it was capable of
- I cannot praise its music enough, especially boss battles
- Backtracking isn't always fun