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Blaster Master Virtual Console: Save the Frog, Save the World

by Carmine Red - December 28, 2011, 4:41 pm
Total comments: 3

How well do the cult classic's re-releases hold up on the Wii and 3DS Virtual Consoles?

"Sophia."

It was years after I had played Blaster Master when I first heard that name and realized I had no idea how it related to the NES game at all. At that moment, Blaster Master took on a bit of a Citizen Kane-"Rosebud" mystery for me, especially since, once I discovered the name's meaning, I realized it had relatively little bearing on the game itself.

That's because the Blaster Master series isn't really known for its backstory, but instead for gameplay that fused vehicular exploration with on-foot combat as well as combined side-scrolling platforming with top-down run-and-gun action. None of this had anything to do with the game's American-market backstory of one boy's quest to save his 20-foot pet frog. (Ahhh, the eighties. I miss them so.)

The nostalgia and good will for the franchise lead to a revamped take on the gameplay with Blaster Master: Overdrive for WiiWare more than two decades later. That sort of longevity is good reason for gamers new and old to get curious about the roots of this cult classic game series as well as, not that it really matters, who "Sophia" really is.

Spoiler: S.O.P.H.I.A. is the tank.


Blaster Master

SystemVirtual Console - Nintendo Entertainment System

Cost500 Points
Players1
ControllersWii Remote,Wii Classic,GameCube
ESRB RatingEveryone
ReleasedNov 1988

Blaster Master is a surprising and delightful blend of several different flavors of gameplay. A lot of your time is spent in an amazingly versatile tank that can blast enemies, leap from platform to platform, and earn upgrades and special weapons. The tank is perhaps the most iconic character of the deliciously 8-bit Blaster Master, since it's your main avatar as you fight through large labyrinthine levels that suggest a hint of Metroid-style exploration. However, the point of exploring these levels is to find doors and entrances into areas featuring the game's second mode of play: top-down "dungeons" where your main character leaves the tank to find more power-ups and enemies, as well as to take down each world's boss.

The two gameplay modes really set Blaster Master apart from many of its contemporaries, but also means you have to grow competent at both if you wish to beat the game. And Blaster Master is a game that will reward that competence with a healthy dose of old-school challenge. When you're on foot, getting hit by enemies reduces not just your life, but also your weapon's power-up level. Woe to you if you reach the boss with the lowest level gun and grenades!

Blaster Master successfully melds its different gameplay elements together into a coherent whole and challenges players to rise to the occasion. Lifelong fans can rejoice at the game's availability on Virtual Console, and there's a reason for everyone else to give the game a try and find out just what exactly all the hullabaloo is about.

Recommended for Everyone

- Carmine Red



Blaster Master: Enemy Below

SystemVirtual Console - Game Boy Color

Cost$4.99
Players1
ControllersNULL
ESRB RatingEveryone
ReleasedSep 30, 2000

Originally released in 2000, Blaster Master: Enemy Below on Game Boy Color is split between a side scrolling/platforming areas and a top-down adventuring areas. This run-and-gun game is as brilliant as it is challenging. The visuals are crisp and the game itself is absorbing.

After players get a handle on the controls the game can become engrossing. It is hard to go wrong with Blaster Master: Enemy Below. What's not to love about driving around in a tank and shooting down enemies? The parts where players can take control of Jason (the main character) are just as entertaining, being able to shoot down all who come across you as you venture further and further into the game. This game is a classic run-and-gun and if you haven't tried it, you should give it a shot.

Recommended for Everyone

- Josh Max


Talkback

NinSageDecember 28, 2011

Excellent write-up.

I have not played Enemy Below but the NES game was awesome back in the day and Overdrive is one of the best WiiWare games I've played.  Now that I have a 3DS maybe I'll give EB a look.

There was a (terrible) Blaster Master sequel on Genesis and another one on PS1 that I heard was also not worth playing.

Also, the American backstory might be "cute" and funny for the era but.... yea... pretty silly =P
The Japanese one is (as usual) better.

SundoulosDecember 29, 2011

I loved the original NES game, but I've never tried Enemy Below.  I hear that it has a password system, so it might be a little more accessible to those who get frustrated with the original's lack of the same.

The "pause-while-a-grenade-is-blowing-up-on-the-first-boss-trick" in the first Blaster Master is one of my most cherished childhood gaming memories.

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