Blast from the past.
Blaster Master is a name I had never heard of until earlier this year. Released for the NES back in the early Nineties, it was a side-scrolling platformer in the Metroidvania style. Fast forward 26 years and it’s back, as Blaster Master Zero for the Nintendo Switch.
The story centres around Jason, a scientist who is living in a world that has been ravaged by an ice-age. After losing a frog named Fred (yes, really), Jason must explore the ruins of the world in search of him. The world outside however is full of mutated creatures and dangerous situations that would prove too deadly if it wasn’t for SOPHIE, an armoured vehicle that protects Jason as he searches the wastelands.
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Price I’d pay: $9.99
At its heart Blaster Master Zero is a standard metroidvania game, in the fact that the map is made up of rooms, some of which cannot be entered until SOPHIE has been upgraded. What makes this game stand out is that there are two styles of gameplay at work here. In addition to the side-scrolling areas, Jason can leave the safety of the vehicle and enter areas on his own. At that point the game switches to a isometric shooter and it is in these areas that the boss battles take place. Beat a boss and it will unlock an upgrade for SOPHIE that opens up more of the map. I found the two different styles helped the pace of the game and mixed things up a little, even if the side-scrolling parts were more fun. I also had a few control issues when taking control of Jason, where his aiming would default to an up/diagonal/right direction when the left stick was in the dead zone. It meant that I always had to be pushing the controller in the direction I wanted to shoot, even if I didn’t want to move. It didn’t happen every time, but enough for me to notice. The game also uses B as its select button, which goes against nearly everything else on a Nintendo console, so that was a bit weird.
When driving, the combat is more straightforward and responsive, and even though it may not be as difficult as those types of games were in the nineties, it still felt challenging enough, without getting me too angry. More upgrades to SOHPIE also means better fire power, and going back to earlier areas proved easier because of the increased firepower. I like it when a game does that, as it makes me feel a sense of progression, as well as making it less of a chore to retrace your steps. The game also offers a local 2-player mode, in which a second player can take control of the shooting for you. It may not be that exciting, but does a little bonus to the package, one that it already reasonable priced.
Where the game does really shine is in its presentation. At no point did I feel like I was playing anything other than a classic 8-bit game. The look, the sounds, and even the crazy storyline about a boy and his frog, the game is steeped in nostalgia, and remains faithful to the games of that era, but I cannot comment on how this stacks up as a remake of the original, having never played it. But that is where one of my problems I had with the game surfaced. Due to it being so retro in its style, the game story and dialogue just felt daft. At no point was I invested in the story of Jason and Fred, and had no interest in reading all of the text that was presented to me. Some people may actually take that as being true to the original, but for me it felt like a disconnect. But at the end of the day, as long as the gameplay is enjoyable, that is all that matters.
Blaster Master Zero is just one more feather in the Switch’s cap and one that sits nicely on the eShop at a very welcoming price point. It shows that there is more to the console than just Zelda and Mario, and that Nintendo are serious about filling their digital storefront with quality titles that would otherwise get looked over if they appeared on Steam or PSN.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.