There sure are a lot of great retro game collections out there these days, but Sunsoft's pioneering action platforming classic series Blaster Master hasn't found itself among them. With a number of fascinating entries that many fans have never heard of, let alone played, the time is more than right for someone to get the Blaster Master series collected for modern audiences.
Transcript of the video:
Hi everyone! Kris from Stone Age Gamer here, and welcome back to The Gratuitous Rainbow Spectrum. I love Blaster Master. It’s one of my all time favorite NES games. Its followups have been of varying degrees of quality, but I would argue that none of them have been “bad.” Over the past few years, Blaster Master has seen a bit of a resurgence thanks to IntiCreates excellent Blaster Master Zero trilogy, but with the exception of the original NES game and exactly one time for the Game Boy Color game, none of the original series games have reappeared on any modern consoles. No ports, no remasters, no collections. So my question is, where the heck is my Blaster Master Collection?
Retro collections have been running on full steam lately, and they’ve never been of better quality than they are now. From the excellent efforts from Digital Eclipse like the Cowabunga Collection and SNK 40th Anniversary Collection to in-house stuff like Konami’s Castlevania Collection, and even stuff that I would call of questionable nature like the stuff coming out of ININ Games and Strictly Limited has been pretty solid, like the recently released Turrican Anthology releases. Retro compilations are riding high, and there’s never been a better time for whatever is left of Sunsoft to get players in front of the entire Blaster Master saga in its original form.
Blaster Master was released for NES in 1988, and is a pretty interesting localisation of a Famicom title called Chō Wakusei Senki Metafight. Metafight was a pretty straightforward sci-fi story about space and planets and blowing stuff up, but when Sunsoft brought it to the US, they added a legendarily bizarre story. Blaster Master is about a boy named Jason whose pet frog Fred found a gigantic crate of radioactive waste in their backyard. The frog mutated to enormous size, fell down a hole, and naturally Jason threw all caution to the wind and jumped down after him. At the bottom was a tank and a battle suit, and Jason decided to goon a murderous rampage to find and save his pet frog. It’s completely insane, but it was quite memorable.
As was the rest of the game, playing out like an early search action game. It looked and sounded leagues above most of what else was on the NES at the time, and became a pretty decent success. At least in the US. Metafight didn’t do much of anything in Japan, which was pretty unfortunate because Blaster MAster is a true classic, and shows off what Sunsoft was truly capable of doing with the platform.
This first game has been re-released dozens of times, and is currently available as part of Nintendo Switch Online, but other modern platforms aren’t so lucky. As one of the best games of its generation, it deserves to be played by everyone.
The next game in the series was Blaster Master Boy, or Blaster Master Jr. This one’s weird because it’s kind of only a Blaster Master game in name only. This is actually a localisation of Bomber King: Scenario 2, which itself is a spinoff from the Bomberrman franchise. Bomberman wasn’t exactly an unknown quantity in the US so it kind of boggles the mind as to why exactly they decided it needed a Blaster Master makeover, but hey, stranger things have happened.
As for the game itself, it really only resembles half of what made Blaster Master special. The original game was made extra cool because of the player’s ability to jump out of their tank and play as Jason on foot at any time. Doin this allowed access to entire areas of the game that your tank can’t fit in, which also changed up the way the game is played entirely. The perspective shifts to a top view, and you can run and gun and drop grenades while searching for the area boss.
Bomber King sort of resembles these overhead segments, and as such Blaster Master Boy plays out like an entire game of Blaster MAster without the tank. Not sure where the rights on this ultimately land, but I can’t imagine if someone were to make a Blaster Master collection that this one would be hard to acquire. As you may have guessed, this one has never been re-released in any form on any platform. It’s not amazing, but it’s pretty cool, and carries on the Blaster Master tradition of truly excellent music.
Then in 1993, Blaster Master got its first true sequel in the form of Blaster Master 2. Oddly enough, after the first two games being exclusive to Nintendo platforms, Blaster Master 2 showed up as a Sega Genesis exclusive, and what’s more, it only ever released in North America.
Blaster Master 2 is an interesting game. It was developed by Software Creations instead of Sunsoft themselves, and it’s really quite an ambitious game. It tried to take everything the original game did up to the next level, and it did an admirable job, if not a completely successful one. The overworld now features inclines and the ability to lock your tank’s gun in place. Instead of shifting to an overhead perspective in the Jason segments, these now play out as boss areas with a side scrolling perspective. That doesn’t mean the overhead segments are gone entirely though. Now, these areas are played through as your tank. They’re pretty neat, except for the fact that the controls are completely bananas, making these sections troublingly unwieldy.
Overall, Blaster Master 2 fails to live up to the first game’s legacy, but it doesn’t fail outright as a game. It’s still exploratory, you still upgrade your tank, and the music still rules, even if it can be a little abrasive. As of today, Blaster Master 2 has never been re-released in any form on any platforms, which is a darn shame if you ask me.
It was about 7 years before we saw blaster Master again, but when we did, we were spoiled for choice. 2000 saw the release of Blaster Master: Enemy Below for Game Boy Color and Blaster Master: Blasting Again for PlayStation less than a year later.
Enemy Below is more or less a retread of the first game. Almost all of its assets are pulled directly from the original NES game, which all of its areas are based on as well. Jason’s sprite in the overhead segments has been overhauled though, as was the way his weapons worked, especially the grenades. It does feature all new bosses and a handful of new enemies, but it feels like a hollow imitation of its NES counterpart in a lot of ways. The physics of your tank are off, and movement in the overhead segments feels sluggish, even by Game Boy Color standards. It’s not a bad game by any stretch, but its lack of originality holds it back. The music is pretty hollow sounding too. This game was released on the 3DS Virtual Console, but since that’s closing soon, that release isn’t exactly of a whole lot of value today.
Meanwhile, similar to Blaster Master 2, Blaster Master: Blasting Again was a bit more ambitious than the developers could properly pull off, but darn if this game doesn’t try its best. This was developed in-house at Sunsoft, and saw the company try to make a proper 3D Blaster Master game. And they nearly succeeded too! Blasting Again tried to make the visuals appear a bit more realistically proportioned and detailed, which helped lend to making the transition to 3D a little more believable. Your tank coils still jump, but everything seemed more mechanical this time around. There was voice acting, a story that didn’t involve a frog, and ties to the entire series mythology uip to that point, including the FX Nine Blaster Master Worlds of Power novelization.
Unfortunately, this game’s ambition was probably a little high for the humble PlayStation, and while it’s kind of fun and features even more excellent music, it ultimately doesn’t really work. Controlling the tank never feels as good as you want it to, and the same goes for Jason. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad game though, quite the contrary. There’s a lot to enjoy here, and it deserves to be played by more people. The original release, at least here in the US, went straight into bargain bins as a value title, and never got much press, so it really just came and went with little to no fanfare. It’s also never been re-released on any platforms to my knowledge.
Another decade passed without any new Blaster Master content until 2010 when Sunsoft released out of absolutely nowhere Blaster Master: Overdrive for WiiWare. And when I say out of nowhere, I mean that. There was a trailer released, and then a few days later the game dropped on WiiWare. Now, WiiWare wasn’t exactly a platform known for its huge sales numbers, but even by WiiWare standards I’m pretty sure this game flopped hard. Which is again a bit of a shame because there’s some pretty cool stuff in there.
Unlike the other games here, Overdrive is positioned as a reboot with an all new story. The music is almost entirely pulled from the NES game though, and has been redone to varying degrees of quality. Some of it’s cool, while other songs are a notable step down. The game itself does some really cool things. There’s a new grapple wire powerup that makes traversing more interesting, and your vehicle’s weight has been altered to feel more tank-like. It’s still pretty agile, but it feels heavier than previous entries.
The overhead segments also play pretty well with some neat weapons and a refined ability to strafe. The biggest problem is that the environments are all really samey. While the original games all took you through incredibly diverse locations, this game is just a series of different caves. It’s not ugly per se, but it’s not exactly impressive.
Not only has this game never been re-released in any form, the Wii Shop channel has been closed for quite some time now, meaning that there is currently no legal way to buy this game.