Screenshot
Screenshot

No zeroes here. Blaster Master is back!

Main ImageBlaster Master Zero
Intial Release Date: March 3, 2017
Developers: 
Sunsoft, Inti Creates 
Publishers:  N/A
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch
Game information was freely provided by IGDB.com

I grew up with the Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64, so there are some gaps in my NES game nostalgia. Blaster Master is, unfortunately, one of these gaps. Even though I vividly remember my neighbor having the game, I don’t recall us ever playing it. As I grew up though I recall hearing about it being insanely difficult. One of the “Nintendo Hard” games along with Ninja Gaiden and the like. When I first heard about Blaster Master Zero coming to the 3DS as well as the Switch, I was excited to finally see what all the buzz was about.


I spent a good amount of time trying to make a summary of the story for Blaster Master Zero, and no matter what I wrote it didn’t flow. So I’ll straight up quote the original press release.
“One day, a young man named Jason Frudnick, known for being a genius in the field of robotic engineering, discovered a strange creature that he had never seen before. No records of this mysterious creature could be found, so Jason gave it the name “Fred” and took it to his lab to begin closely observing it.

Shortly after that, an accident occurred in the lab and Fred managed to escape. Fred jumped into a hole that seemingly appeared out of nowhere. Jason followed, and before he knew it, he found himself in a cave where the battle vehicle “SOPHIA III” awaited him.

With his curiosity in this incredibly high tech vehicle piqued, Jason hopped abroad SOPHIA III and began his adventure in the vast subterranean world in search of Fred.”
I know it sounds a bit weird, and that’s because it is. The story at times feels like an excuse for the game to exist. That isn’t to say that it isn’t interesting at times and that the characters don’t develop a bit as you progress in the story. However, the entire story feels a bit too ‘straight out of the 80s’. Although its obvious that IntiCreates took the characters designs in a more modern direction (I mean, look at that fantastic art), the story still feels rooted in a simpler time where the story wasn’t as important.

So far, I might sound a bit harsh against Blaster Master Zero, but the gameplay is where the game shines. The gameplay takes traditional 2D Metroidvania action (While inside SOPHIA III), and merges it with top-down shooter action while you control Jason. Navigating the game’s maps can be a bit of a hassle, but once you realize how the map works you’ll quickly take to “Go here, collect this, fight this, go here” pattern. Whether this is fun or not really depends on the playstyle you take but I found myself checking every nook and cranny on the map to find any hidden powerups.

One of my favorite things in Blaster Master Zero is actually the boss fights. Each one feels unique and different from each other, and with two different genre types mixing there are plenty of great fights to be had. One of my favorites was probably the very first in the game, Mother Brain. While simplistic, it provides a great way to learn how boss fights will work and the scale of the bosses. Another, pictured to the right, plays a bit like Metroid’s Mother Brain fight, having you shoot into an opening to hit the vulnerable spots. The genre-bending really helps to mix up what otherwise could be forgettable bosses. Testing the different weapons on enemies and bosses, in particular, is always somewhat exciting, especially when you have a direct hit.

One of Blaster Master Zero’s biggest hidden features unique to the Nintendo Switch version is HD Rumble. Feeling SOPHIA III’s hover thrusters actually “hum” and your laser charging and vibrating like an actual laser charging would feel really brings the immersion home. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get tired of HD Rumble, but it certainly adds a unique feeling and way to remember games, and Blaster Master Zero is no exception. However, the Switch version also provides local co-op. By sharing the Switch’s JoyCon controllers you can provide backup support for the main player. Similar to Super Mario Galaxy, your cursor hovers freely around the screen to move and provide support by firing weaker bullets or dropping health and other small powerups. I can’t help but wish that a deeper co-op mode was added, as the 2nd player can quickly grow bored and feel like they’re not actually providing help.

Blaster Master Zero might not be for everybody, and there are certainly faults, but it gives me a hint at exactly why people loved the original so much and celebrated the revival of the series. I can guarantee that if I had been given the game at a young age, it would’ve fit everything I love. Robotics, fun bosses and bright colors bring Blaster Master Zero to a “Must have” on the Switch.

Pros:
  • Fantastic pixel art & sound direction.
  • Fun, difficult gameplay.
  • HD Rumble brings the thrusters and more to life in a satisfying way.
Cons:
  • The story is a bit lackluster, but fits the 80s feel.
  • An additional way to play co-op would be appreciated.
Graphics Pixl Score 4 4
Story Pixl Score 3 3
Sound Pixl Score 4 4
Controls Pixl Score 5 5
Fun Factor Pixl Score 4 4