Back in 1988, a phenomenal Metroidvania game released for NES. Now, gamers can enjoy Blaster Master in an updated iteration that's much more accessible than the original. So, let's chase that frog and see how Jason's holding up almost 30 years later.
I reviewed the original Blaster Master a couple of years ago. Before then, I owned it on NES but never had the patience to finish it. Upon playing through the entirety of its complex yet ultimately satisfying campaign, I definitely understood why it's considered such a classic 8-bit experience.
After booting up Blaster Master Zero on my brand new Switch, I was delighted to see the familiar yet updated visuals and hear the incredible reinterpreted music. On top of that, Zero features character dialogue and a more fleshed out story. The original premise of a boy named Jason who chases his pet frog Fred into a strange portal and discovers an agile tank known as Sophia III is still present. However, Zero has a more science fiction atmosphere as the story unfolds. Jason even rescues a girl named Eve and the two of them join forces in order to snuff out the mutant uprising together. It's awesome stuff that gives the gameplay more purpose.
Speaking of gameplay, Blaster Master Zero is generally played the same as the original game. This time around, the controls are fine-tuned to perfection which makes accidental deaths far less common. In fact, the only time I perished accidentally is when I fell from too high up. Anyway, the streamlined controls allow you to switch weapons on the fly and seamlessly strafe while you shoot. This extra attention to detail makes gameplay much more refined as you traverse tricky situations and blast away alien forces.
Believe it or not, the original Blaster Master didn't allow you to save at all. Thankfully, Blaster Master Zero features save points and even allows you to summon Sophia III whenever you're on one in case you lose track of her. This system of checkpoints definitely takes loads of the frustration away. That being said, having to replay portions between checkpoints can feel tedious at times.
Blaster Master Zero includes far more content than its NES counterpart in that you'll discover many goodies scattered around the world. Of course, the mandatory upgrades remain such as a cannon that can destroy certain walls, thrusters that allow you to hover, wheels that can climb walls, and a mechanism that lets the tank move underwater easier. In addition to that, you may find health upgrades, various sub-weapons (like bombs with a detonator and a light that freezes enemies), and enhancements such as one that prevents your weapon from being downgraded. All of these treasures are very rewarding to add to your collection.
To help you find these items, Blaster Master Zero features a map system. Being able to pause the action and scan your surroundings for undiscovered treasures is a welcome inclusion indeed. Keep in mind, my main problems with the NES game were: the controls can be delicate, you can't save, and there's no map. Blaster Master Zero surprisingly remedies all of these issues. It's fantastic that Inti Creates put so much thought into removing all of the annoying components of the original as it makes Zero far more accessible.
My main complaint with Blaster Master Zero is that it isn't quite old-school enough. Whereas the original was extremely challenging, I found this iteration to be too easy. I completed the entire campaign in one sitting and it took me four hours to do so. Throughout the campaign, I only bit the dust a handful of times and was kind of disappointed with its lack of difficulty by the end. The checkpoint system and additional upgrades are the biggest contributors to this. Also, you can have a second player join in on the fun who controls an aiming reticle to shoot at enemies. In the end, if you want more of a challenge then you should play the NES original.
Finally, Blaster Master Zero doesn't have much replay value. As far as I know, there will be downloadable content in the future. However, within the core game, there simply isn't anything to do after you beat the campaign. You could travel the world and try to find all of the items that you've missed but what's the point when you already finished it?
Blaster Master Zero is the definition of a retro remake done right. Inti Creates did a phenomenal job of improving every aspect of the original to make it an enjoyable experience for existing fans and newcomers alike so hop in your tank and start having a blast!
- + Masterfully recreates an 8-bit Metroidvania classic with perfectly tuned gameplay
- + Top-notch soundtrack and retro visuals
- + Tons of secrets to discover
- - The new content makes it a bit too easy
- - Lacks replay value after you complete it