Originally released in 1988 on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Blaster Master was one of two games that I frequently rented as a kid, but could never finish. A semi-sequel, Blaster Master Zero expands on the original experience with new areas, bosses, sub-weapons and more. Following suite of the 8-bit classic, your journey begins as you follow a frog through an interdimensional portal. Reaching the other side, you'll explore new worlds with your battle tank Sophia in traditional side-scrolling platforming sequences, while the game switched to a top-down perspective when you find an entrance to a dungeon. One thing for certain, Blaster Master Zero is a more accessible game than the original.
What makes Blaster Master Zero unique, is the ability to hop out of your tank at any point. While out in the world, you are extremely vulnerable. Jason is tiny in comparison to the creatures you battle with the tank, and his weapon is virtually useless. However, it does allow Jason, our protagonist, to crawl through areas that you wouldn’t normally be able to reach. Head inside a dungeon and his expansive blaster weaponry and sub-weapons chews through foes with relative ease.
The game’s central area are broken up by different themed zones. The industrial area, for example, has conveyer belts that will impede your progress, requiring you to use your tank to power the doors to advance. Just be cautious not to land in a pit. Each area contains secrets and parts that require you to return at a later point after acquiring an upgrade. The first few power-ups for your tank allow you to fire a more powerful shot, shoot lasers or even hover in the air. These updates to oyur tank are required to reach previously blocked off areas of the map. You’ll also encounter upgrades that can increase both your health and special weapon meter.
The dungeon locales can only be accessed by Jason, after hopping out of the tank. While some lead to a boss that unlocks a new weapon for you, others will be shorter in length and only provide health pickups. As I previously mentioned, his arsenal includes almost ten different blasters and a slew of different sub weapons. His different blasters allow him to shoot through walls, fire a full spread shotgun type weapon and even fire continuously. All of the different blasters feel balanced enough that you’ll flip through them depending on the situation. Be cautious not to take too many hits, as your weapons weaken the more damage you absorb. While in the dungeons, Jason can move and shoot in eight directions, but more importantly, you can aim without moving. This is in stark contrast to your tank controls, as shooting at an angle requires you to move at the same time.
Helping to make the game feel more modern, Inti Creates has added checkpoints to the game. There are no lives either, so you don’t have to worry about seeing a game over screen. Although the game resembles an old-school platformer, it certainly doesn’t feel like it due to the lack of challenge. While there are those that may miss the difficulty of an 8-bit title, I think it is important that these modernized mechanics exist in a game released in 2017.
Blaster Master Zero features a two-player mode, as the second player acts as an on-screen reticule. While weak, the second player can help whittle down the health of bosses, easily take care of annoying foes and even drop health items at any time. At launch, Blaster Master Zero didn’t support the Pro Controller, but it didn't take too long for Inti Creates to patch the game. Hopefully the trend of digital games on the Nintendo eShop not having support for the Pro Controller when launched will quickly end. Blaster Master Zero is also one of the few launch games that incorporated HD Rumble into the game, altering the amount of feedback you’ll feel based on the gameplay.
Blaster Master Zero is certainly one of the better games to purchase on the Nintendo Switch. If you are like me and never finished the original game, Zero is a much easier, and refined experience. You can easily spend eight to ten hours to play through the entire campaign, but there doesn’t appear to be any New Game + or additional difficulty settings once completed.Note: Blaster Master Zero was reviewed on Switch. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.