As one of the Switch's launch titles, Blaster Master Zero was a top-notch reinterpretation of a classic NES game. Now that we have a surprise sequel, let's see if Jason and his trusty tank Sophia are still masters of blasting.
Thankfully, Blaster Master Zero 2 continues its predecessor's incredible gameplay that mixes top-down dungeon crawling and side-scrolling 2D action within expansive environments. This time around, the game world is broken up into 7 areas that are set within outer space. Most of these areas contain a massive primary location as well as a few bite-sized side planets known as planetoids. Of course, this is a huge change from the first game which had one gigantic world to explore. The core gameplay has changed substantially, too. Jason can now perform extremely useful counter moves whenever targets appear over his enemies in top-down mode which has him deplete the corresponding meter as he goes crazy with either long-range or melee attacks. Sophia III (Jason's tank) has also been upgraded and is now known as Gaia-Sophia which recharges its energy whenever you fall from high up and smash into the ground.
Blaster Master Zero 2's story is a direct continuation of the first game's plot. Basically, Eve is now infected with a mutant virus so she and Jason travel the galaxy in search of a cure which is presumably located at her home planet. Along their journey, they'll actually meet a handful of friendly and nefarious chums including Gonbei, Stein, and Kanna who each have their own tank (referred to as Metal Attackers) and respective support droid. The cast of characters is great and each one offers something special to the overall narrative. Additionally, the pixel-perfect visuals and retro chiptunes make playing through it a delight. In the end, this is how you make a retro sequel.
Working your way through the large environments one after the other is a great deal of fun, especially when you factor in all of the rewarding upgrades that you'll unlock as you play. G-Sophia will acquire a vast assortment of main and sub weapons that are very handy to switch between while dealing with different enemies and bosses. You'll also gain the ability to fly for a short period of time, jump between walls as if you're Ryu Hayabusa, shoot mini-trampolines that let you soar into the air, dash through weak walls, and many more. As Jason in the top-down areas, you'll be able to switch between plenty of weapons upon collecting power-ups just like you did in the first game and you'll even learn a few devastating counter moves and gain access to a large variety of bomb-like weapons.
Each environment poses plenty of memorable scenarios. Between dodging bamboo that shoots out of walls, avoiding dimensional rifts that kill you instantly, navigating G-Sophia through suspended water, and even solving a few tricky puzzles; you'll never get bored from start to finish. There are a bunch of super-challenging bosses as well and many of them took me multiple attempts to figure out how to topple them effectively. However, a few of the bosses are repeated throughout which can feel tedious, especially when you have to face all of the bosses again before being able to reach the final area. Other than that, it's one consistently exciting campaign.
I don't want to spoil any surprises but when I defeated the last boss, I got a bad ending and was mildly disappointed. After diving back in and figuring out what I had to do in order to get the good ending, I ended up having a ton of fun revisiting areas and reacquainting myself with my fellow Metal Attacker pilots. After defeating the boss again, I thought the ending would show but instead, a new large area commenced featuring a few bosses and some incredibly challenging scenarios. Once I finally worked through this area and defeated the true last boss, I was in disbelief just how enormous this game is. It's at least 3 times longer than Blaster Master Zero.
My only substantial complaint about Blaster Master Zero 2 is that some parts can be brutally frustrating to the point where it can really make you mad. Although I personally loved its steep degree of challenge, I imagine that many gamers will lack the patience to persevere. This is especially true when you consider the fact that many segments are downright confusing and you're rarely explicitly told what to do. For example, one of the final bosses requires you to freeze a certain projectile then use a specific move to launch them into the boss which resides in the background. It took me about 5 attempts to learn that this is what you're supposed to do which just isn't fun. Another time, you must revisit the NPCs but they're not marked on the map so you'll have to remember where they are.
Blaster Master Zero was a phenomenal remake of an 8-bit classic so being able to finally enjoy a true sequel is an absolute treat. If you're up for a challenging and rewarding retro experience then playing Blaster Master Zero 2 is a must.
- + Awesome challenging classic Blaster Master gameplay with plenty of twists
- + Huge campaign that spans 7 areas
- + Fantastic music, visuals, and characters
- - Some segments are very frustrating and could be more self-explanatory
- - A few repeat boss fights