|Publisher & Designer:||Sunsoft|
|Release Date:||November 1988|
Without a doubt, Blaster Master remains one of my favorite games not only for the NES but for any console period! With its powerful graphics, sensational soundtrack, solid play control, and formidable challenge, this game is a rare gem indeed. Although several sequels have since been released, none can even hope to touch the original in terms of atmosphere and nostalgia.
Overview: Whenever I discuss some of my fondest video game memories with friends and family, Blaster Master always finds its way into the conversation. Words cannot even begin to describe the wonderful memories I have of playing this game over at my friend Wesley Messer's house back in late 1988. I remember Wesley, his older brother Denny Jr., and myself jamming away at Blaster Master for countless hours back in those days. We were simply enthralled with the incredible atmosphere and unique gameplay found in Sunsoft's newest game pak. Besides, you can't beat playing a great game surrounded by friends! I will never forget hearing the Stage 1 music for the first time or the incredible feeling of beating the Stage 1 boss and successfully making it to Stage 2. And when Denny Jr. made it to Stage 4 one day, I thought that he was the cat's pajamas man. The cat's pajamas! Hey, back in 1988, before the internet was even available, only the very best gamers could make it that far man. ;)
Although Blaster Master was a blast to play, it was also noteworthy for being one of the more challenging games on the market. For one thing, Blaster Master has got to be one of the largest games ever released for the NES. With eight huge levels and countless bases to explore, even avid adventurers will have trouble finding everything in this game. I remember playing this game virtually non-stop for roughly 9 months or so (Wesley and Denny Jr. were so awesome for allowing me to borrow it!) and I still couldn't find everything! However, when I finally managed to find and defeat the Master Boss, I was the most excited eight-year old that night. That I can promise you! :)
Regarding the gameplay itself, Blaster Master came across as a very original and inspired video game. While the main overworld scenes involved you jumping and blasting mutants in your super-cool rover vehicle (dubbed Sophia the 3rd), there were times when you would have to exit your vehicle (by pressing the Select button) and explore the large bases/labyrinths that lay scattered throughout each level. Since each stage contains approximately five bases and the mutant boss can be found in only one of them, you will want to put on your "Explorer's Hat" for this game. This is not necessarily a bad thing though; many of the bases are filled with special weapons for your vehicle along with gun power for yourself. As an added bonus, it makes finding the location of the boss all that more rewarding. However, just because you locate a boss, don't expect an easy fight. Some of the bosses (notably the Stage 6 and 7 master bosses) are incredibly tough!
Another Blaster Master nuance worth mentioning is that, whenever you defeat a boss, you acquire some new item or ability! You might be able to fire the dazzling Crusher, literally fly in the air, move quickly underwater, or even scale the walls! Not only are these abilities a lot of fun to use but they are essential to making it to the next level. You might be able to blast away blocks that you couldn't touch before or unlock an area that was previously blockaded.
On top of that, even finding the next stage can be tricky in this game. Blaster Master had to be one of the first non-linear games released for the NES. I have always loved the irony of the Stage 4 entrance being found at the very beginning of the game. On the other hand, I remember trekking through Stage 7 for hours trying to find the elusive Stage 8. It wasn't until later that I figured out that the entrance to Stage 8 was actually way back in Stage 3! The level layout definitely made the game much more interesting.
Graphics: As far as graphics go, Blaster Master simply blew away the rest of the field...especially for a 1988 release. The attention to detail and impressive animations (e.g. mutant frog boss lashing its tongue at you) brought this game to life. And although the graphics are very crisp and colorful, they seem to have dark undertones which results in a mysterious, almost eerie feel at times. Some of the background graphics are very impressive as well. The dark blue sky at the beginning of the game is simply marvelous while the final stage feels very creepy with its psychedelic backgrounds.
Even the special weapons are fun to watch in Blaster Master! The Crusher (blaster you receive after defeating Boss #2) has a beautiful rainbow effect while the lightning attack which blows away enemies below you just looks awesome. However, the most impressive graphics have to be when you fight the main bosses. And believe you me...when the back of the game's box says that the bosses are large enough to fill the entire screen, they were using neither exaggeration nor hyperbole (that one is for you Eric Bailey!)
The animation in Blaster Master is a mixed bag. While your vehicle moves very fluidly and the various enemies/bosses look spectacular, there can be a lot of image breakup during some of the crazier boss battles (especially boss #6...oh boy). Other than that minor gripe, the graphics in this game are simply superb.
Music: As if the stunning visuals weren't enough, Sunsoft just had to go and give Blaster Master a powerful, adrenaline-pumping soundtrack as well. The music in Blaster Master is, well... music! You don't have to put up with little tunes that go nowhere and grate on your nerves; Blaster Master's soundtrack is nothing but solid, action-packed music! It does a fantastic job of helping to create the perfect atmosphere and just gives Blaster Master a deliciously unique feel.
As I touched on earlier, the Stage 1 track is exceptional. It is upbeat, extremely catchy, and does a great job of setting the tone for this game. The Stage 2 track is a nice contrast to the opening level with its somewhat dark, mysterious theme which fits the whole underground ancient castle mood nicely. The Stage 5 tune is another personal favorite of mine with its soft, serene melody. It creates the perfect atmosphere for the game's underwater level. The Stage 6 tune is once again the perfect contrast too with its fantastic, way-cool sounds.
Even some of the more "average" music gets the job done in Blaster Master. Granted, the Stage 8 track would be a lousy stand alone track. It is definitely not CD material but within the game, does it ever do the job! I remember getting really nervous late in the game thanks to this tune. It is not upbeat or anything; just really quiet and eerie.
I should note that another great thing about the Blaster Master soundtrack has to be its staying power. After some 25+ years, I still find myself humming tunes from this game every now and then. I can't say that about very many games.
The sound effects are also very impressive for an NES game. Little things from blowing an enemy away or hearing the warning sound of a land mine to the weapons and special abilities (such as hover) sound just right. I love the sound when you hit a big boss as well. Very cool!
Play Control: In all my years of video game experience, I have unfortunately come across a handful of games that deliver high quality graphics and music but get tripped up in the controls/gameplay department. Thankfully, Blaster Master is not one of those games. Within minutes, you'll be jumping and blasting with the best of 'em! I like that you can fire in several directions when controlling Sophia the 3rd and using special weapons like homing missiles was executed well (just hold down and press B!) And as good as the controls are in vehicle mode, it's even easier to control Jason in the overhead mode. You can move in eight directions (yes, even diagonally!) and everything just feels very smooth. Believe me; in a game this tough, responsive play control is a must!
Challenge: It isn't quite as insane as Battletoads or as ridiculous as the first Adventure Island game but Blaster Master remains one of the more challenging NES games nonetheless. The sheer depth of this game is quite intimidating at first and the lack of a save feature makes it difficult to get very far without a lot of practice (and/or marathon sessions). However, I do feel that the challenge level is just right. This is one of those games that will bend the heck out of you without quite breaking you (we'll let Battletoads do that). Once you begin playing this game and really getting into it, you will find yourself having to defeat a boss or make it just a little bit further each time. It took me over 9 months to finish Blaster Master yet I never got tired of it or frustrated to the point of quitting. It takes a very special game to keep me involved for such a long time and you have to remember that I was only eight/nine years old when I first played the game. Perhaps I was simply a very patient child but I have to at least give Sunsoft some of the credit. :)
Storyline: Okay, if Blaster Master does have a weakness, you are looking at a great big bulls-eye in this particular category. It truly is laughable when you find out why Jason (the hero) is risking life and limb and is willing to fight terrifying mutants in the underworld. It does not involve a girlfriend, a wife, or a damsel in distress. It isn't for glory or for respect either. It is for...a frog. That's it! No pun intended...no jokes implied...nothing. He...wants...to...save...his...pet...FROG!! Even for a 1988 game pak, a story of this nature seems to suggest that someone was on some serious acid trip! What in the world?!
Oh well...Blaster Master is such a fantastic video game that even a story like this is forgivable I suppose. And you have to at least give Sunsoft some kudos for the brief cut scene that takes place before you start the game. There was at least some thought involved despite the absurd nature of events that occur. How did a massive crate of plutonium wind up in Jason's front yard? How did that gaping chasm appear? Where in the heck did Sophia the 3rd come from? The good old 80's. That's where! ;)
The one saving grace is this...while Jason does chase after his frog (the frog's name is Fred by the way), there is an underlying purpose to Jason's quest other than rescuing his amphibious friend. It turns out that there are mutants underground...hideous mutants that have the strength to destroy the world if left unchecked. I will admit that Blaster Master has one of the cheesiest, most ludicrous storylines ever. However, you have to admit that it is at least creative. After all, it isn't every day that you find yourself fighting mutant frogs, crabs, scorpions, and the menacing underworld Master Boss.
Funfactor: When all is said and done, the most important aspect of any game is its funfactor: the overall gameplay and the fun (or lack thereof) that lies within. Is the game an enjoyable experience or does it become stale quickly? You can have all the eye and ear candy you want but if the game doesn't have original, engrossing gameplay, it will fall into the ranks of mediocrity more quickly than Sqoon did.
It is probably a foregone conclusion at this point but yes; Blaster Master comes out a big, big winner because it is an extremely fun, rewarding gameplay experience. It probably fits somewhere in my Top 25 games of all-time list and that is saying a lot! There just aren't many games that keep me coming back like Blaster Master and yes...nostalgia is one of those reasons. This game never seems to get old and that is a credit to the wonderful people at Sunsoft who made this game happen. They really pulled out all the stops with this game and although they have been known for a lot of other great games (Batman and Super Spy Hunter come to mind), Blaster Master was their one shining moment. If Sunsoft had only released an NES sequel instead of that Sega Genesis abomination...
Negatives: What makes Blaster Master so great is its lack of any real weakness. I really can't say that about many games. Sure, there is some image breakup and slowdown during some boss battles but that's a rather minor problem. And while the story is not exactly Chrono Trigger material, it doesn't distract from the game at all.
Not related to the gameplay itself, Blaster Master really could have used a save feature of some kind. As a result, you have to beat the game in one long marathon session. Since the game is so huge, it takes around two and a half hours to beat if you know where to go. If you explore thoroughly, it will take a lot longer than that.
Ratings: Graphics: 4.8 Music: 4.9 Play Control: 4.5 Challenge: 4.7 Storyline: 3.7 Funfactor: 4.9 Overall Score: 27.5 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Golden Classic!!
Back to NES NostalgiaLast Updated: March 3, 2015