Review by Celtic Forest

"This game could have been so much more..."

Blaster of the most popular games among us young boys back in those old days. We all loved it (me as well), and we all played it...but did we really think twice about what we were playing? As we all know, some of the games you played when you were young turn up to be not as good as you remember them to be when you play them again today. Still, it is surprising how much credit this game gets even nowadays. The reviews at gaming sites are often still very high. If we venture down into the retro ocean again, and replay this old diamond, what do we find? We are about to see...

I usually start reviews with telling the background story of the game, but in this case, I will have a pass. The reason for this is that I've heard so many versions of this game's background. If you look at the intro scene to the game, it looks like some dumb superhero tale of a boy whose frog runs away, and then as he tries to find it, he falls down into a hidden pit and finds a super-advanced armed vehicle, which he shortly afterwards use to ride away into a new world. However, according to other gamers' research, there is a much more epic story behind it all, which was included completely in the Japanese version, but was cut out in the western version. As the game never bothers with the story after the intro sequence has been played out, I won't waste too much space in this review to discuss it.

What first strikes us when we enter the world of Blaster Master, is that the concept of the game is very interesting. The main objective in the game is to ride around in a special-designed tank, armed with various weapons and extra equipment to search through the landscape. You can leave your tank anytime and walk around on foot, but this is mostly very dangerous, and is only needed in certain situations, such as entering small passages. When walking around like this, you only have your standard sidearm and your small jumps to aid you, but if you re-enter the tank again, you get a full power meter again (but the tank's power is always the same). Each time you reach a boss, you must walk out of the tank and enter the boss's lair on foot, defeating it with only your standard shots. This idea makes the game very original and very balanced. It also hands out some surprises to the player. I still remember the shock I got when I crashed into the big water pit in area 5, and the vehicle started to malfunction, and I had to leave it behind and swim into a gigantic water cave just as a little human, to find new spare parts so I could escape the place.

The world of Blaster Master isn't exactly split into different levels, although the game tells you whenever you enter area 1, 2 etc. The whole game is basically one big world, with different passages everywhere, but some are blocked until you acquire the correct item. You receive this item by defeating the correct boss. For example, directly at area 1, there is a tall tree leading up into the sky, which seems impossible to reach. Later on, you get your hands on some hover mechanisms, which allow you to fly up in the air. Aha! Going back to the first area tree now allows us to climb it and find a new world! Sounds familiar, eh? Those of you who have played Metroid or Rygar know the deal. Some people has named this game "Metroid with a tank", and it's a pretty good description of it. I would like to have some more development of this though. Maybe some sidequest? And maybe we would have to find small gadgets to raise our energy meter and our maximum limit of the sub-weapons? That would have been nice.

Speaking of the world itself, let's take a look at the graphics and sounds. Most of the design and graphics aren't too interesting. They do their work very well, but overall, we just find a standard fantasy mutant world, with forests, fire lairs and underwater caverns. However, the music really stands out! Each one of the tunes of the game is unbelievable! From the upbeat tunes of area 1 and 2, until the creepy songs of areas 4 and 8, you will be hooked up with the TV's volume turned up. The music adds a lot of atmosphere in the game, and it manages to get the special feel of an own and unique gaming universe, despite the average graphics.

This far, I have talked about the good parts of the game, now we will advance to some of the worse parts...

Blaster Master, while having a lot of advantages, has unfortunately some serious flaws, which pulls down all the good atmosphere the good parts create. Some of them are not too dangerous. The basic controls in the beginning of the game being one of them. They are okay, but very weird. Controlling the vehicle is not very easy the first time you play, and you will often end up crashing down into a pit and die. After a few tries however, you will get a hang of it, and eventually, the steering will be very smooth. Another annoying thing is that there is absolutely no maps or hints in the game. Sometimes you have no idea of where to proceed after you have obtained a new spare part and gained a new ability. However, most of the game's areas are quite one-way, and mostly, you won't get lost. Also, if you are on the lookout while playing, you will notice the special passages that can't be reached unless you have the specific part.

But then there are some aspects that are unforgivable. The biggest one of these are the insanely high challenge of the game. Most of the games from this time are difficult, but Blaster Master is really one of the most annoying. The game is quite big (8 areas and 9 bosses in total), and you get absolutely NO password and NO save function during playing! This means you HAVE to finish the game at one round. Fair? Not really. Especially since some of the bosses of the game are way too difficult. I consider myself to be a quite good player. I have beaten games like Zelda II, The Addams Family and Metroid for real without cheats. Still, Blaster Master proves to be too difficult for its own good. With my best efforts, I have managed to get to the fifth boss, but then it is impossible. That boss wipes me away like I was a spot of dirty water on a glass table. Even WITH cheats, I just barely passed him. Yes, we have to go a little easier on those old games, but there is a limit. Blaster Master crosses this limit with a giant leap.

The sad thing is that Sunsoft could have fixed this if they had put in just a password system or something similar. Now you have to do it all again every time you turn off your console. Show me the people who have beaten this game without cheats, and I guarantee that they can't be too many.

Then there are some other annoying aspects I might as well bring up. The frame rate of the game is awful. If an opponent leaves the screen, his simply ceases to exist, until you approach the spot he disappeared on, then he suddenly appears again and attacks. Same goes for shots. Sometimes when you cruise around, enemies just appear above you or before you damaging you. If a mutant jumps up in the air and goes off the screen, he will stay there in the air until you jump up and make him get visible again. Such things shouldn't be. Like in many Sunsoft games, the samples are also reused from other games. Most of the sounds I could tell which games they also appear in. That was a really lazy move from the company, and could have been handled better.

Finally, the more spare parts you gain to your vehicle, the more confusing the controller goes. Blaster Master was apparently not built for a console with only two action buttons, because the system often goes haywire with desperate solutions on how to handle all your abilities and weapons. For example, you hold down and press B and you fire a sub-weapon. You hold up and press B and you shoot upwards. If you press A, you jump, but if you press A again in the air, you start to hover. This often results in many accidental hoverings and firings of the sub-weapons. It gets even more awkward when you get your hands on the "wall"-mechanisms, which allow you to ride the walls and the roofs. From now on, whenever you touch a wall or drive over an edge, your vehicle will suddenly start to ride on that specific wall/roof, which is an insane solution. This means you will often dribble around on all the walls and roofs when you really just wanted to drop down from the platform to a lower level. What is worse, is that the controls get reversed when you hang in the roof or are on a wall. And with the already confusing buttons for the sub-weapons and for aiming upwards, you will often feel tangled while playing. In difficult areas, with many attacking enemies, it is easy to make a mistake, and get killed very quickly. Very frustrating.

Let's conclude the pros and cons:

- Great music
- Interesting ideas and concept
- Quite atmospheric and "cool"

- Way too difficult, close to impossible
- No password or save feature
- Recycled samples from other games
- Worthless framerate
- Confusing controls

Final word:
I would like to love this game, but it is difficult. I played it when I was young, just like you, and I loved it. But did we really see the true picture? When I played it again, I first felt like the old happy memories came back to me, but then I started to advance into the game, and realized all its horrible low-downs. To tell the truth, Blaster Master hasn't much to give us today. It is easy to fall in love with it at first, because of the concept, the coolness with the tank vehicle, and the excellent music. But you won't hold on to it for too long. You will never complete it without cheats (I am quite positive), the framerate and the controls later on will drive you insane, and after restarting a number of times, you won't enjoy having to kill the first boss again for the 312th time. Blaster Master could have been so much more if the lazy developers at Sunsoft had just polished some of the worse parts. But now we are stuck with a product just above average, that will hopefully be put to rest to never awaken again.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 02/08/06

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