Review: Blaster Master -Zero- (Nintendo Switch)

Blaster Master -Zero-: Member Review

Reviewed by Sonic Angel Knight, posted Mar 21, 2017 at 12:39 AM, last updated Mar 21, 2017 at 12:18 PM
After years of waiting for a follow up for what I personally thought was a dead series, Sunsoft and Inti Creates team up to make what is considered a reboot to the game released for Nintendo Entertainment System or Famicom known as Blaster Master, or Meta Fighter In Japan. Using this game as a base, the developers carefully crafted the game to be a improved version of the original, now calling it Blaster Master Zero
Blaster Master Zero is a Nintendo E-shop exclusive game for Nintendo Switch and Nintendo 3DS Systems. The game plays much like Metroid and Castlevania games, creating the trending term "Metroid-Vania" The object of this game is exploring various areas of the map to find items, upgrades to progress and get to new areas that may include backtracking and defeat the bosses. If you are familiar with Metroid series or Castlevania (games starting with Symphony of the night) Or even the original game on NES from 1988, then you shouldn't have a problem with this one.
Sonic Angel Knight
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Story

In the near future on planet Earth…

Many kinds of creatures once coexisted on this verdant planet, but after countless wars and untold environmental destruction, the planet was plunged into an ice age, and humanity was left with no choice but to migrate en masse underground.

When the ice age finally came to an end, humanity begin developing methods while they were living underground to one day restore their planet to the lush green landscape it once was. During this time, a large mysterious comet fell to the earth, but the progress of restoring their lost ecosystem was coming along well, and humanity was eventually able to live on the surface once again.

Several hundred years have passed since then.

Enter a young man named Jason Frudnick, a genius in the field of robotic engineering. One day, he came upon a creature he had never seen before. No records of this creature existed, so with his interest in this mysterious creature piqued, Jason named it “Fred” and began to observe it closely. But, after some time had passed it found a way to escape.

Jason gave chase, and before he knew it he had stumbled into the subterranean world where humanity once resided. A large vehicle awaited him there.

Almost as if this vehicle with the name “SOPHIA 3rd” on the side was inviting him in, the door the cockpit opened up. In order to bring Fred back, Jason hopped into SOPHIA 3rd and set out on his adventure.
For anyone who didn't read all of that, here is the premise of the game. You play as Jason Frudnick, a genius in robotic engineering. He was out one day exploring and found a creature that resembled a frog but there was no records of the creature. He felt interest in it, so he decided to keep it and named it Fred. Some time after, Fred managed to escape and Jason went after. He followed Fred into a subterranean world where humanity was living during a great war with mutants from the past. Inside this place, he found a large tank named SOPHIA III, Pronounced "Sophia The Third." The door to the cockpit opens as if inviting him, not wasting time he hopped inside to continue his pursuit for the escaped Fred.

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GAMEPLAY
To start, note the retro 8-bit looking graphics, yes we know that NES had 8-bit graphics but it wasn't a bad thing then, and is not now, the attention to details as you will see in the upcoming screenshots are something to behold, while I may personally be giving too much credit and sound a bit like I'm favoring the artist, yes i am. I will say that right now. For those who don't know, this game was developed by Inti Creates, known for making Mega Man games since 2001 with Mega Man Zero series, Mega Man ZX, Mega Man 9 & 10 and more recent, Azure Striker Gunvolt series. They also did artwork for Shantae & The Pirate's Curse as well. They have a impressive track record for gameplay and graphics alike. They are Ex-Capcom employees after all.

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The game has two play styles, a 2D platformer and 3D overhead view. In 2D mode, you control Sophia from inside. You can jump, and shoot as well as much more that must be unlocked through the upgrade system, the basic goal is to explore, find upgrades for both Jason and Sophia and use them to expand the areas of exploration. Look around carefully as you want to find as much stuff as possible. There are mid game cut scenes to explain the story through out the game, they are also narrative parts to express the characters' inner thoughts or feelings for each situation.

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Since this game is based on the original one from NES, you may encounter familiar things, including enemies, level design, recovery items and of course upgrades, but this game managed to expand and enhance upon those things. Instead of having limitations of ammo, you know have a special gauge. It holds up to 8 units that can be recovered the special item drops from enemies or found open in various areas. It also slowly recovers on its own if you wait long enough. You need it to use your sub weapons like the homing missile and other upgrades. There is a button to quickly change the main weapon and sub weapons which is displayed near the life gauge and energy gauge.

Improvements
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Another addition to the game is a auto save system. There are save points in various places in the game. Touching them will save your progress. This also has another feature, this can call Sophia if you get separated. Simply stand on the save point with Jason and press the call button (shown in the prompt) the game will bring Sophia where ever it is to the save point where Jason is. If for some reason you do get separated which is unlikely in my experience. But is still good to have. If you need to save the game at any time, you can do so from the pause menu as well, just remember saving that way will not save exactly where you are, only up to a checkpoint. This game has no lives, so if you die you just return to the last checkpoint. The only check points available are the save points in various locations or the doorway to dungeons. This should make the game much easier to play unlike Blaster Master Overdrive where dying once results in game over and reloading save data which is very rare to find within the path of your destination.

Advancing
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There are areas that sometimes Sophia just can't reach, so you may have to explore on your own. This makes for variety in game play, from having a safe protective tank to a more feeble and fragile human. You can swim freely under water and shoot hand gun, just don't try to fall long distances, they will hurt Jason. By the way the game looks the stages are constructed like a grid, kinda like Super Mario Bros. Sophia and Jason can jump a certain height. If Jason falls from high up, he can die in one hit, he can survive a lower fall with minor damage, but the most you want in difference of height between platforms is 4. Jason has a jump height of 3 blocks meaning he can only reach up to platforms with 2 blocks stacked up. Jason can also crawl to reach more areas, while the crawl is the slowest movement in the game you won't do it much. This is usually how the game transitions between the 2D game play to 3D game play.

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When you find a dungeon, going inside will switch to the 3D overhead view, this is where you must adapt to the new play style. Again, take note of the impressive detail here. Jason has two weapons in this mode, a upgradeable main weapon and limited use sub weapon. The main weapon has 9 different shots, each one has different effects from doing more damage, to traveling through walls. In order to use them you have to upgrade it with the upgrade power ups hidden around in "Bomberman like" soft blocks you can blast with the gun or defeating enemies will drop them. After getting some upgrades for it, you can switch between them the same way you would with Sophia's weapons using either the status menu or the quick change shortcut button. If you managed to get hit when upgraded weapon, you will lose a level and need to refill it again, try not to get hit. You also have limited sub weapons, there are other sub weapons you must find and each has limited uses specific to the weapon, they can be refilled with the sub weapon power up hidden same way as the gun power up. You can also move and aim in 8 directions. There is also a button to hold the position, so you can move and fire in one direction. I believe the gun people call this "Strafing" am I right? Once again, very useful to have and you'll be glad to use it a lot.

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If you ever feel lost, don't worry, a map exist. There is a map upgrade you can find in each area of the game, finding the map will reveal the layout of the area, including the dungeons, which one the bosses are inside of, upgrades, save points and the warp gate to another area. While the original game didn't have a map like this, you will probably be glad to have it and use it a lot not to get lost on the adventure through the mutated subterranean world, is easily accessable from the status screen and it shows the map of the overworld and each dungeon's specific map. As you can tell from the image, the areas are quite big, not to metion the dungeons also have their own sizes.

Difficulty
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If for any reason you find the game still is too difficult, consider tagging in a partner to help you. You heard me correctly, this game features a co-operative multiplayer mode for you and a friend. The way this works is the second player controls the on screen cross hairs and can be used to aim and shooting at enemies anywhere on the screen. You have two attacks, one that damages enemies, and a black hole like attack that traps enemies in one place for a few seconds. When you damage enough enemies, the cursor will change to indicate a special function is ready. It can do things like place health, special, gun power or sub item refill power up on the screen for player one to collect. This works in some useful ways to make the game easier to play kinda like using the game pad in New Super Mario Bros. U or if you just don't want a friend to be left out of the fun. This is fairly limited as from my own experience, this requires splitting the Joy-Cons into two controls for each player instead of combined method featured in one player mode. I personally don't have a switch pro controller or any extra Joy-Cons to test if this can be changed or not, but chances are you may not use this feature as often but is there if you feel the game is too hard or just wanna play with someone. Unfortunately this co-op multiplayer mode is exclusive to the Nintendo Switch game and not Nintendo 3DS.

Design
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There are many areas, which is not a lot, but is enough for a first playthrough considering it a small budget game to feel like a improved expansion of the NES game, it features more bosses to battle, including obstacles and other challenges not in the original. Each area looks unique and have its own rules. While this may be based on the original game, it does lack a few things like remixes and arranged music from the original game. So far the first area music is the only one from the NES, while others are originally composed, is not a bad thing considering the music is great. Long time music team composer of Mega Man games are known for is there, along with sound effects ripped directly from the NES game. It keeps the retro look and feel and is play as it was a long time ago.

Here comes a new character
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Along your travels you are soon to encounter a mysterious girl, after rescuing her, she will join you and provide assistance. Though if you played the original game before, you may not need her assistance but she is part of the story and will provide insight on various things. If you select her from the status menu, you can talk to her "Metal Gear" style. Again I must point out the attention to detail. When inside Sopiha, they speak directly to each other, but when Jason is not in Sophia, they communicate through codec. Feel like Snake yet? She talks to you about the current problems, and also information about your weapons that Jason's gun can use or Sophia can use. Now is more like Metal Gear right? Once again, depends on the situation, thanks to Nintendo Switch's picture function, I was easily able to add text to point out the difference in scenes during conversation between both of them when Jason is inside or outside Sophia. Is probably very minor to many people, but I appreciate this, most people will overlook this simple thing and some will find it lazy to have the same image when there is two different situations that it would make more sense to explain.

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Verdict
This game provides enough fairness for anyone to enjoy. Is not too hard but is not too easy either. If you played games like this before it should be okay. The game is fair and generous as you get save points before bosses, during boss battles, they may drop items to recover life or gun power. You are also bound to the rules of each area that host the bosses, so don't forget that the environment will also require clever use of navigation. While for me many things were easy to figure out from past experience, new players may not have to worry as much either. The game provides enough improvements over the original that gives you enough to work with and battle fairly. The game also has 2 endings, one normal common one and a better satisfying one. I won't spoil it for you but you will know the difference when you see it, is worth noting that you haven't finished the game until you witness the proper ending.
Verdict
Pros
+ Blaster Master Zero, More like Blaster Master + (or 2.0)
+ New upgrades and weapons that put Iron Man to shame
+ More bosses to battle than the original 8
+ Expanded areas and clever stage design
+ Nice presentation, music and graphic that don't disappoint
Cons
- Game is fairly short, kinda wish there is more
- Lacks lots of original memorable music
- Fairly small budget game (is not bad per say just if it had been full scale project, it might have more to offer
- Nintendo Eshop Exclusive. (One thing I would have liked is for multiplatform release, more people to experience the game)
10 Presentation
The game starts with opening cut scenes, the intro explains the game upon starting, it uses text and pictures that sometimes animate to show the story. The art style is great. Biased statement here, I have not seen any disappointing things that Inti Creates has done with past work, that being Mega man games. The way the game looks, stages, animations, cut scene illustrations, character design and even promotional artwork is all nice, I also like 2D sprite art a lot, this speaks to me a lot.
10 Gameplay
Playing this game feels great, the control feels like you expect from a over powered attack tank. When inside Sophia, there is a matter of momentum and weight added to movement which just make sense and requires adapting. When using Jason, it has tight control, walking, aiming and swimming is all executed well. The fact that 3D mode has 8 way movement and you can choose either analog stick or directional pad to move (Or in this case, Nintendo Switch's Joycon directional buttons) Execution shouldn't be a problem by the end of the game.
5 Lasting Appeal
This game like I already stated, is short. After finishing the game my total playtime was about 6 hours according to my save data. I would say if you are more skilled, it should be shorter or maybe you can extend is replay by speedrunning. While you would expect a reward for playing the game, currently the game has only one, but is only for getting the better ending. There is DLC planned for this game in the future, according to the trailer, Azure Striker Gunvolt, a character from another popular game by same developers will be playable. Until then you basically unlock a new game plus mode, having access to a new game but with all upgrades from start. Replaying it on your own is pretty much dependant how much you like it, the freshness will wear off fast with how short it is.
8
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
This game is a nice remake (I think that was the intention) of the original game. It made many improvements over every game in the series including Blaster Master Overdrive, which was met with mixed reviews, ranging from praise for reminding people of is difficulty to being a bit too hard compared to the original. This game is $10 and a fair price for the current offerings, but is done properly to be fair and not intimidating to new people, while maybe too easy to skilled people. It left me wanting more of a game than what i got and I hope more will come with next update.
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