Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Blaster Master

I remember discovering Blaster Master at a friend’s birthday party. It starts out with a goofy story about a guy whose frog escapes, finds some radioactive material and grows, then disappears into a mysterious cave. The guy follows the frog and discovers this cool-looking vehicle (sort of a tank with wheels.) This stirring music starts up as you blast out of a tunnel in the vehicle, and you encounter some bad guys and ledges and stuff, so you try jumping, and it works! You can even aim straight up. And then I came across a ladder that the vehicle obviously couldn’t use, so I was like, what if I can get out? And sure enough, pressing select has this teeny guy jump out. You climb down the ladder and enter a room, and then the whole thing switches to top view as you explore and search for power-ups. The whole mixed-view thing was pretty novel, as was the idea of a platform game where your character is a vehicle. And the game is full of really good music. It’s still one of my favorite NES games.

The game is also insanely hard. There’s no saving feature, and you have limited continues. Also the controls in the overhead view can be tough, since you have to hold the grenade button to face the same direction while moving, so you can fire at the bosses while waling sideways. Also, most of the overhead areas are useless. So while the game does give you a feel for exploration, there isn’t much of a reward for exploring if you know where the boss room is.

My other complaint is that, while you get permanent upgrades for the vehicle when you beat bosses, some of those upgrades are lame. The first level gives you a stronger weapon, but so does the second, and the second level has stronger enemies. So the advantage of the first upgrade only lasts a very short time. And the level 4 upgrade is just a key to get to level 5.

Oh, and your gun in overhead mode – it starts out with limited range, and although you can power it up, getting hit weakens the gun. So if you get damaged too much in a boss battle, you can find yourself unable to damage it. (You can use grenades, but they detonate a specific distance from you, and it’s hard to get into position while the boss is moving around and firing at you.)

Recently I was thinking of some improvements that could be made to the original game – mainly some additional power-ups that could be stuck into the now-useless cave areas. Here’s what I was thinking:

  1. Increase the distance you can fall when outside your tank
  2. Increase the minimum level of your gun, so that it always has unlimited range
  3. Maybe increase your health or hover meters
  4. Maybe add a new type of special weapon, although there’s nothing obviously lacking there.

Well imagine my surprise when I found that they have recently released a new sequel for the WiiWare, called Blaster Master: Overdrive. And against all odds, it looks cool! I say this is against all odds because the Blaster Master series is full of lame sequels:

  1. Blaster Master 2 for the Genesis – I’ve heard it’s overly linear and just plan bad.
  2. Blaster Master Boy for the Game Boy – no vehicle, just clearing obstacles in overhead mode.
  3. Blaster Master: Blasting Again for the PlayStation – a 3D-view game that I’ve also heard was bad.
  4. Blaster Master: Enemy Below for the Game Boy Color. I actually got this one, since it seemed to be back to the original theme. The problem was that it had the same graphics, just different maps, and it had the same songs but with inferior quality. So while it was enjoyable enough for the low price I paid, I sold it when I was done.

This new one seems to have delighted most Blaster Master fans that reviewed it. It seems to have some polish issues, but then again it’s only $10. So maybe.