RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Jan 8th 2020 at 08:00:00 AM by (MetalFRO)
Posted under Blaster Master Zero, Inti Creates, Nintendo Switch, indie game, platformer, overhead

Image shamelessly linked from Amazon.

I started a tradition a few years back, where I pick a "new to me" indie game, and play it on New Year's Day, in an attempt to either beat it on day one, or see how far I can get, then continue with that game, until I can beat it. New Year's Day 2015, I played through Shovel Knight, and ended up beating the game in a single day, which I was very pleased with. The following January 1st, I played Freedom Planet, which was a much longer game, and also fairly difficult in spots, so I didn't manage to take it down that day. The following year, I sunk my teeth into Axiom Verge, and while I sort of knew it wouldn't be a one day game, my first time through, I managed to knock it out in just 4 days, and it has since become one of my favorite games of the last decade. Unfortunately, due to moving for a job, I was unable to keep this tradition going in 2018, but January 1st, 2019 heralded the return, with me taking on The Messenger and really enjoying that experience, despite some frustration with the precision platforming, and my own  meager skills.

New Year's Day 2020, I was finally able to say I'd played Blaster Master Zero. I was aware of this game from before its release, and while I planned to get it and dig in shortly thereafter, I was wholly consumed, for months, with a little game called The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. After that, it was a crapshoot, in terms of which games I had purchased would be played. I had only briefly messed around with the original Blaster Master as a kid, but in the same way as I didn't really experience The Legend of Zelda properly as a kid, it wasn't an action game that my friends and I could just pick up and play, like Double Dragon or Super Mario Bros., so it wasn't one I got to spend any time with. Given the Sunsoft pedigree, and how well remembered it is, plus the good things we've seen from Inti Creates so far, I figured that the spiritual sequel would at least be worth a look.

Image shamelessly linked from Destructoid.
Right away, anyone who has seen, or played, the original game, can see that Inti Creates has nailed the look.

The game starts up in similar fashion to the original, with you as Jason, out looking for Fred. However, instead of being a kid looking for his pet frog, you're a genius engineer, and Fred, as a frog, is a species you haven't seen in the wild, on the post-apocalyptic Earth you reside. While chasing after Fred, you stumble upon a giant armored vehicle, the Sophia III, and feel pulled toward it, as if it's waiting there for you. Upon entering the tank, you realize that you can use it to search for Fred, and feel compelled to do so. Off you go, for adventure, and for science!

Right from the get-go, the game looks and feels familiar. Inti Creates not only channels the original game's look and feel here, but the control is as tight as you might expect from a game based on its NES and Famicom forbear. With minimal tutorial and intrusion, you're thrust into the first segment of the game, controlling the Sophia III in a side-scrolling fashion, as with the NES original. As you dispatch the various mutants that dot the landscape, some leave behind power-ups. Green bars will restore health, and blue bars will add to your Special meter. Various special weapons and techniques use up Special meter power, which can slowly refill on its own, but blue pickups will give you instant access to those. As you search for Fred, you'll find various ladders and doorways that can only be traversed on foot, requiring you to shed the tank, and brave the world outside.

Image shamelessly linked from Gematsu.
This boss fight is a very interesting one, and can be one of the more difficult encounters, until you learn the pattern and safe spots.

Some of these doors take you to another area of the map in the area you're on, and you stay in a side-scrolling perspective. Like the original, however, some doors will take you to overhead areas where you can move around in 8 directions, and shoot various mutants, as well as blocks, rocks, and other things, to uncover power-ups. In some of these areas, you'll fight a boss mutant. Doing so will yield a "chip" that you can use to upgrade Sophia III with new abilities. You will find upgrades to your own suit along the way as well, by picking up pink + sign icons, which give you access to better weaponry, and occasionally find upgrades to your secondary weapons as well, to allow you to throw grenades, throw flash grenades, and more. Keep in mind, though, that when your health dips down below a certain level, you lose weapon power for each hit taken, so you will lose access to the better weapons when you get low on health. This should be good incentive to stay healthy, and tread lightly.

During your travels, you'll also find life upgrades, that extend your life bar, and that of Sophia III, by 1 hit for each one collected. You also come upon Eve, a girl who is passed out on the floor, that you find after beating an early boss. She ends up joining you in your search for Fred, as a thank you for rescuing her. As the game progresses, you and Eve use teamwork to solve problems, and rely on one another in various ways. Eve's introduction also helps progress the story, beyond the basic, "Look for Fred" narrative, and gives the story a bit more dimension than the original. Ultimately, you discover that finding Fred is only the beginning, but that leads to a much more serious task, namely, saving the world from the destructive force that created all the mutants in the first place.

Image shamelessly linked from Nintendo World Report.
Lots of the bosses look very cool, and have excellent designs. Unfortunately, most of them are pushovers.

Some of the upgrades for Sophia III are a lot of fun, like the ability to hover/fly for brief periods, or the ability to climb up walls. The former takes power from the Special meter, so it must be used sparingly, but climbing can be done at any point, as long as you can drive up to the adjacent wall you want to traverse. You also get the ability to fire a charge laser, that will go through walls, perform a dash move that can be used offensively, and more. Some of the on-foot weapon upgrades are lots of fun as well, like the piercing shot that goes the length of the screen, the machine gun fire that has some random spread capabilities, or the flame thrower that waves back and forth, and can melt ice on the floor. There's a really cool electric shock that only fires one energy ball at a time, but as soon as it hits an enemy, it arcs to all other foes in proximity, even some that are on the other side of the screen, and deals damage to everything. The highest level weapon, the Helix cannon, is super effective, and can often be used to take out foes across the screen, before they can ever be a threat to  you.

Unfortunately, the weapon upgrades are also a double-edged sword, because some of them make you too powerful, and you can subsequently take out some of the bosses with almost no effort. There are exceptions, such as the gear boss you fight, while piloting Sophia III, or the laser grid boss pictured above. It's still satisfying to use the weaponry on them, but it would be nice if the bosses put up some resistance, or were spongy enough to require you to at least learn some patterns before you so easily put them down. My other big complaint is the reverse: like the original, there's almost no recovery time after you take damage. If you fail to take out an enemy as it approaches, and it starts walking into you, your health is going to deplete quickly, and you either need to get out of there quick, or regroup and take it out before it kills you. The jumps also feel a little floatier than I'd like, though that's a smaller complaint.

Image shamelessly linked from Video Chums.
The bits of dialogue in the game are generally good, though keep in mind, the story gets a little PG with language.
Oh, and those flying bugs, like the pink one you see on the left? They can all go die in a fire.

Ultimately, I think it's a worthy follow-up to the NES original, and certainly seems to fare better than any of the "official" sequels have. It looks and sounds good, is fun to play, and aside from some balance issues, is generally fun to play. There's incentive to play more than once as well, with both a "bad" ending, as well as a "good" ending that is the canonical one, given that the game already got a sequel. There are also alternate characters to play through the game with, via DLC. I could see myself playing through this again to get full map completion, all power-ups, and all bosses defeated, to get the good ending. I would also totally play through it again as Shantae, or as Shovel Knight, to see how much differently they play, and how it changes the experience. If Inti Creates threw this game, and its sequel, onto a physical release with included DLC, that would be an easy buy for me. Limited Run Games was supposed to do a physical release for BMZ, but as far as I'm aware, it hasn't materialized yet. As it is, it was worth the $9.99 (as of this writing) to play through, and I'm curious to play the sequel, to see if they've balanced the difficulty at all, or given any mercy as to the nonexistent grace period after taking a hit. If this sounds up your alley, you can grab this on the Nintendo Switch, 3DS eShop, or even on PC via Steam. Recommended.

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Great review! I liked this one a lot when I first played it. It seemed to deviate from the original NES version more and more the further into the game I got, but it still looked great, and the music is still bangin in that amazing Sunsoft way. Glad you enjoyed it!
@zophar53: Thanks for reading the review! Yes, I can see that the game would have to deviate from the original as it went on, just due to the technical limitations of the NES, and some of what this game was doing, but also the way the story played out. I'm definitely going to have to look into the sequel.
Thanks for the review! I watched your playthrough on Youtube (not live, though) and it was very enjoyable and entertaining.

The original Blaster Master is one of my favorite NES games. I mapped it completely out. Great game, great level design, fantastic usage of the acquired weapons, wonderful reward system. The only aspect which prevented it from becoming a true classic was the lack of a battery save or save passwords. This made it tedious. If you know every nook and cranny of the game and take the shortest routes (no speedrun! Smiley  ) it took me 2 hours to complete. It had to be done in one sitting.

The remake is a masterpiece. It is on par with the two Metroid remakes on the GBA. The developer did it exactly right: Expand on the strenghts and cut down the flaws. The numerous save points in particular right before the Boss fights took care of the major flaw of the game. The atmosphere of the game is kept, the intricate weapon system is expanded and an invitation to explore in particular in boss fights. The acquired weapons make a lot of sense in order to proceed through the game, old level layouts are kept and more and more new ones added as the game progresses. The remake shows what made 8bit-gaming so much fun. I finished the game three times and loved very minute of it.

One advice: Go back and get every item sou you get the true ending after playing through an entire new level 9. It is worthwhile.

Thanks for bringing the attention to such a great remake and great game, and keep up the good youtube-work!
@lendelin: Thanks for the feedback, lendelin! I do plan on doing a second run through the game, to try and 100% it, since it's so short, and relatively easy. I suspect I'll be able to knock that out in a couple evenings, so once I finish the other game I'm knocking off the backlog, I just might do that Smiley
i really loved this game. I near 100% it on my 3ds and re bought on my switch with the extra characters you can play as, shovel knight, and Shantae
I have yet to play the sequel but plan on getting it

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