Review by Snesman64

Reviewed: 06/14/01 | Updated: 06/14/01

Quite possibly the best NES game ever made

Ah, Blaster Master. How I loved that game as a kid. Growing up I spent many hours playing this game; I was captivated by it for some reason, and looking back, it's not hard to see why.

Gameplay: 10.
Blaster Master is divided into two medians: In-tank mode and Out-of-take mode. During the In-tank portion of the game, which uses a side-scrolling perspective, you drive Sophia 3rd, this really bad arse tank. (Yes, that's right. Sophia “3rd.” Not “Sophia 3,” not “Sophia THE 3rd...” Sophia 3rd.) Throughout the game, you will pick up enhancements which allow the Sophia 3rd to do really cool things, such as fire “hyper beams” and drive underwater. Using these enhancements, you must eventually locate and destroy the final boss.
Out-of-tank mode is a different, but equally important feature in the game. Scattered all around the 8 levels of the game are entrances to “sub-levels” which you can only enter by getting out of the tank. Once you enter a sublevel, the game switches to an over-head perspective. In this mode your only weapons are your gun, which can become incredibly powerful if you know how, and grenades (which are mad fun to toss around ;). You must search the sublevels to try to find the bosses, which upon destruction, will grant you an ability for the tank. By collecting these abilities, you will be able to proceed to the next levels, and eventually, confront the final boss.
Now this may all sound simple enough, but don't get me wrong one of the greatest things about this game is how non-linear it is. Example: you can return to earlier levels to look for items, and in some cases, you must do so in order to proceed to the next level. (After level 3, in order to get to level 4, you must first return to level 1!) Another example: most of the sub-levels in the game are actually dead-ends which contain no bosses, but usually good supplies of ammo. It's up to YOU to locate the correct Sub-levels, which is one of the challenges of the game. So as far as basic gameplay goes, for its uniqueness and non-linear set-up, this game gets a straight 10.

Story: 6
Granted, there isn't much plot to the game. In Blaster Master, you are Jason, a high school student with a pet frog named Fred. One day, Fred escapes, and Jason pursues him. Fred runs to what I presume is a swamp and encounters a large box marked “radioactive.” Upon touching the box, Fred grows to monstrous proportions. The box sinks into the ground, creating a hole which Fred falls into. Jason, being the loyal idiot he is, follows his frog. At the bottom of the hole, Jason discovers not his frog, but a tank. Through means which *I* never could quite grasp, Jason discovers there is an underworld beneath the regular world, and this underworld is ruled by the Plutonium Boss, who Jason must stop. Jason dons the suit he finds inside the tank, and takes off to fulfill his “destiny.” That's about it...
... Okay, the story if flat out lame, and deserves more like a 3 or 4. BUT.... The game gets “brownie points” due to the fact a novelette based on the book was written, which was pretty darn good as far as 2nd grade literature goes. In the book, an additional character named Eve is created, who sheds a lot more light on the Plutonium Boss's intentions, as well as the whole story itself. After reading the book, I guarantee you'll appreciate this game a lot more. Alas, the book is well out of print (books based on games just don't sell well... *SIGH*) and finding a copy will prove very difficult indeed. However, it's one of the better game-based books I've read... Tell you what, if you e-mail me telling why I should bother, I just might send you a summary of the book. ;)

Music/sound: 10
Oh my god, how do I put this mildly... The music in the game is the BOMB! I have never heard such catchy, rhythmic, and diverse music on any game for the original NES (Ninja Gaiden 2 came pretty close, however), and few games today bring be equal listening pleasure. From the soothing, 80's style track from level 3, to the dark, murky music for level 4, to the fast, techno-rock track for level 7, you will definitely love the music in this game. The tracks are perfect for their respective levels, and there's not much more I can say.
As for sound effects, they're great, no question. The “exploding” sound effect you hear each time you destroy an enemy gets a little boring after a while, but what else can you expect. Other than that, this game has some pretty cool sound effects. Some of the more memorable ones include: the little “blop!” sound from entering an exiting the tank, the “whoosh!” sound of the homing missiles, the exploding noises the dying bosses make, and of course, the “BOOM!” sound of the grenades. (Oh, how I love those grenades!) As far as sound goes, its the easiest 10 I ever awarded.

Enemies: 8
The enemies in this game are some of the coolest this I've ever seen in a game. Most of them are robots, some of which are pretty bad arse. (Flying skulls?! Oooh, baby.) There is a lot of variety among the levels, however there should be more. (Some of the enemies from earlier levels begin to reappear as the game proceeds.)
The bosses in this game just kick arse too. (Especially the level five boss. Can you say “AAAAAAH!!!”) Major gripe: They reuse bosses... WTF?? Were the programmers short of ideas?? Could the NOT come up with original bosses for the later levels? That brings this category down a few notches. (On the on the other hand, Super Mario Bros. 2 had a similar problem with boss originality..... Birdo.... Birdo... Birdo.... Birdo....Birdo....)

Visual: 9
The graphics in Blaster Master are very good. Yes, they are kind of grainy, but so are most games for the original NES. One of the pluses; each level has a different “style” to it which adds considerable detail to the game. (There's the sewers level, the castle level, the inferno level, etc.) The backgrounds are OUTSTANDING IMO. Take a look at level one; it really gives you the feeling like you're in an underground world. As far as graphics go, I really don't see much room for improvement.

Challenge: 7.5, by my scale.
(1 being “Sesame Street games,” 10 being “too tedious to be worth playing,” and 5 being “difficult enough to keep you satisfied.”)
Keep in mind this is an old Nintendo game, which should clue you into the fact there is no way to save your game. Probably play to level 5 boss, loose all your lives, and then have to start over. If you're a good player, you might make it to the last boss and encounter a similar problem... Believe me, it's not fun having to play back through a game time after time, only to die in the exact same place, no matter how much fun the game is. In that sense, this game is slightly tedious. Additionally, if you're playing the game for the first time, you'll waste a lot of energy trying to find the sub-levels which actually contain bosses (remember, there are a lot of dead-end ones)
Is it possible to beat this game? Yes, but I'd suggest using a game genie to give yourself infinite lives. Nowadays I just play the game for the experience and not to actually beat it. I must admit, I've never actually beaten the game without the use of a game genie.

Does the box lie?: Sorry, but the box for my copy of the game is long gone, so I really can't say.

Buy or rent? Sneezes: *A-chooROM!!*
If you come across Blaster Master in a used game store for 5 bucks, by all means BUY IT! Keep in mind, though, it is an original Nintendo game, which means it'll be pretty old, and probably not in working condition by now. I really SHOULDN'T encourage the use of ROMs, but, well, SHOULD you come across a ROM for this game... do what's in your heart.

As did most Nintendo games of its time, Blaster Master has some problems... No saving, redundant enemies, tedious battles... etc. However, unlike many games of its time, Blaster Master has outstanding graphics, music, and gameplay, which includes an extremely non-linear format. Truly one of the best Nintendo games of all time, Blaster Master was always one of my favorites growing up. If you like older games, you'll love this one.
And for god's sake, if you find of copy of the novel, BUY IT!!!

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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