How many of you enjoy a game that is fast-paced and yet casual at the same time? Released in 1988 for the NES (Sunsoft), Blaster Master provides that combined style of play. Although run-and-gun in the beginning, a couple of the later levels seem like they're meant to be taken at a slower pace. It is one game considered to be an underrated classic by a small clique in the gaming world on a level under Mario Bros. and Metroid; and in a similar manner as the movie "The Fifth Element" was in it's day, it is either really liked by people or not understood why people find it so great. You will know after the first 2 or 3 levels whether or not you'd find the game enjoyable. The later levels are fun, but it won't matter if you've lost interest in the beginning.
Let's get to the scoring of this borderline of a game...
What story? Well, you're not going to find much of one here. The rating for the story for Blaster Master is on par with the rating for the storylines in the Armored Core series- Crappy. But, like the Armored Core series the gameplay is what is supposed to be focused on. The developers seemed to have just thrown something in in order to give the players a reason why the character is undertaking his quest.
The story- You play as Jason, who appears to live on a farm. He has a pet frog, Fred, who one day suddenly jumps out of his glass bowl, out of the house, into a yard and onto a radioative container slightly embedded in the dirt. Upon hopping up there, Fred grows to an enormous size and the weight of his body forces himself and the container down into a sinkhole that suddenly appears beneath them. Jason, desperate to save his pet, reaches for Fred, and ends up either falling in or jumping down with him. When he lands he is standing in front the battle tank- Sophia the 3rd. He dons the gear, hops in and takes off.
You don't know why he just puts the gear on and takes off with the tank and there are some pretty big holes in the plot. That was never really explained. However, sometime after the game was made a short novel was released, which explained everything that was missing from the story. Turns out, an alien woman named Eve was also down there (who Jason later marries), and Jason was told about the Plutonium Boss and its threat to Earth. This is why he really embarked on his quest. Not because of Fred. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't go through all that hell just for one measely frog....
The story was given a Price-is-Right losing horn "3" for this review becuase of the lack of one, but you should note that Blaster Master is just part of a much larger saga that expands several Blaster Master games over different systems throughout the years. The whole storyline would probably score a 6 if rated.
This is probably the best feature in the game. While the sound effects aren't all so hot, the strength lies in the different music the game has. Each level has it's own unique score that is themed pretty well in relation to the type of level you are playing in- featuring themes that include adventurous, creepy, very fast paced and calm and mellow. And each of the music tracks are good in their own right. Go to a game music remix site such as Overclocked and you will find that plenty of people have done remixes for Blaster Master. As noted earlier above, the sound effects aren't all that praise-worthy compared to other games for the NES, but they are not bad by any means. They could have added in splashing sounds when jumping into water or falling into lava. And a few enemies share the same attack sounds (and the same attack for that matter). The gun on the tank changes sounds when it fires as you upgrade it, which is cool. Mainly for the music, the sound for this game gets a very loud "9".
The graphics for Blaster Master was given a very good-looking "8" for this review, not because of the detail of the backgrounds and such, but more so of the wide range of themes that the game had for each level. You would play through one level, then find that the next level is completely different with absolutely no similarities. It almost makes one wonder if Jason is traveling to different parts of the world for each stage. In it's time, Blaster Master had some pretty decent graphics compared to other NES games. A lot of tile sets were probably used for the game and it really shows in a couple levels- level 4 by far being the most detailed. I don't know if Sunsoft was aiming to make a sewer level that detailed or if they just got carried away, but any more work on that one and it would have been on par with SNES graphics. As for sprites, you don't see enemy duplicates until level 5 and 6, with the exception of a couple enemies, so the variety there is decent.
The depth of Blaster Master can vary depending on how fast you get through each level. There is only one door to go into on foot that gets you to the boss for a stage, but there are also many other doors that Jason can go into which in most cases only lead to power ups (while going through other doors make you realize you just wasted 5 minutes of your life). There are a few levels that are short and can be beaten within 10 minutes or so, but the majority are fairly expansive, allowing free roam everywhere, and if you are playing for the first time you'll likely be spending 30 minutes while in the tank simply trying to find the correct door for Jason to go through that leads to the boss. On top of that, once you hop out of the tank and go inside the correct door you still have to find and fight your way to the boss. Luckily, just about every instance is a straight path to the level's boss. Adding to this you will notice in certain levels there there are specific areas you can not access. For instance, the ledge right above the tank at the very beginning of the game The reason being is you need special items get to them, items that can only be acquired in later levels. This means that the game has you backtracking to previous levels just to get to the next. No doubt that at times frustration will occur, but once you've been in the to the wrong door you'll remember it for the next time you play the game. Once you know where to go in each level to find the door that leads to the boss getting through the game goes much faster. One can only guess Sunsoft put in all those multiple pathways to veer the player of course and in turn make for longer game play. This dimension of the rating scheme for Blaster Master finds it way to an expansive "8"
It should be said that the majority of Blaster Master is fairly easy, but it is at the later levels when you begin wondering if the game has a difficulty setting. You are tricked into thinking it's an easy game as you're going through it only to be surprised later on at the frequency of enemies and potentially deadly pit fall. And that's not including several of the bosses you fight that seemed to have gotten combat boosts when compared to the earlier bosses. And the last boss itself can be a bit of hassle with his attack being long-ranged and a bit devastating. Fortunately there is a big glitch in the game when fighting the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 7th level bosses. Simply tossing a grenade to hurt them with a well-timed pause when they blink will result in unlimited hit until you un-pause it, effectively killing them in 7-8 seconds. Traversing the levels isn't so bad. More frustrating than deadly, at least. The last level seems to be the most hectic, with spikes littered everywhere and seemingly two enemies or more on the screen at any given second. The game really challenges your playing ability, especially when you have only a couple lives left with no continues. In addition to this, one of the abilities you get for the tank towards the end of the game can be a bit of hassle using when maneuvering around obstacles, as it activates automatically. So if you're not careful you could end up falling into a pit of spikes, and have fun getting out... The difficulty for this game gets a hard-mode "8"
Replayability- does Blaster Master have it? Certain aspects are pointing to yes. Getting through the game is a feat itself, and after one playthrough, knowing exactly where to go in the game, you may find yourself wondering if you can beat it much faster. On top of that, there are tons of areas to explore on foot, as mentioned a few times earlier. Blaster Master is one of those games that you'll come back for some random fun with fast gameplay after a while and also for the purpose of doing a quick playthrough to beat something fast, IF you know where to go. One wouldn't find him/herself being too addicted to it, however, the game is one of those less-than-stellar classics and people do find themselves going back to it once in a while and even for nostalgic purposes- and to maybe hear the music once more. Blaster Master receives a come-back-to-me "6" for addictiveness.
There are, of course, other games that are a little more fun to play, but Blaster Master is definitely up there compared to the majority of the games for the NES. Unique style, concepts, music and fast game play make Blaster Master a fun experience, and one you'll remember for a while. Give it try if nothing else and you won't be disappointed. Blaster Master really is a game well worth playing. After all, it did span 5 or 6 sequels. Dive in and see for yourself why that is.
Without being biased, because this is one of my favorites games even today, I've rated Blaster Master a high and mighty overall score of "8" when compared to other NES games.