It’s been difficult for me to find time to write an NES article lately but I felt I needed to get something online. I decided on writing a very quick review of Sunsoft’s Blaster Master a Metroidvania action platformer released in 1988. I’ve discussed Blaster Master before and have a certain nostalgia for the game as I think it was one of the first games of its kind that I actually beat, and I was absolutely captured by the seamless melding of genres: A platformer in the overworld, a top-down shooter in the dungeons.
In the game you play a kid driving a tank around a strange world. Leaving the tank outside you are vulnerable, but you must enter dungeons to find upgrades and face each level’s boss, after which you will obtain an upgrade that allows you to traverse deeper into the world. Each level contains distinct obstacles that require new abilities to overcome and the game uses difficulty progression quite well. The player is also forced to backtrack at times, with level entrances located inside of areas from previous stages that were inaccessible without specific abilities; a core staple of the Metroidvania genre. The dungeons are short top-down action segments in which you control the hero as you collect gun upgrades to power yourself up before facing off with the level bosses.
I wouldn’t exactly call Blaster Master hard. It is a lot like other titles such as Simon’s Quest and Rygar. Once you know where to go, the game is actually quite direct and simple. What saves it from mediocrity is that it is a well-crafted action game and it easily ranks among the best titles on the NES. I believe one of the challenges a game like this faces at its age of nearly 30 years is falling into obscurity. Fortunately, Blaster Master Zero does exist for the 3DS and it is effectively a remake of the original, with a few improvements to the world to made the game longer and add some more exploration and depth and just add some necessary modernization.For collectors, Blaster Master is a pretty easy find. It typically doesn’t run more than $10 and is certainly worth adding to any NES collection. Chances are if you’re already collecting, you either have this one or it's on your list. For everyone else, the original game is definitely worth checking out on its own, even if you already have played through the remake.