Title: Blaster Master Zero 2
Developer: Inti Creates
Release Date: March 20, 2019
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Inti Creates
Genre: 2D Action
It’s easy to say that no studio does 2D retro action games better than Inti Creates. The developer has refused to adopt the 2.5D graphics that seem to be more popular with modern releases in the genre and instead stick with the pixel graphical style that fans of the genre appreciate. Their newest surprise release, Blaster Master Zero 2 is no different and shows how the developer can take an IP and not only make it their own, but also make it the best it’s ever been.
Blaster Master Zero 2 is a direct sequel to Blaster Master Zero, which was a reboot of the Blaster Master series. With Blaster Master Zero, the developer focused on delivering a true remastered version of the series and didn’t take too many liberties with the game’s features outside of adding a few new systems here and there. Blaster Master Zero 2 begins almost directly after the events of its predecessor as Jason searches for a cure for Eve who has been infected with a deadly virus. Together with Fred, the frog, he upgrades Sophia III to a new G-Sophia which has the capabilities to travel into space.
The story is a little more detailed than what fans might remember from Blaster Master Zero, but the determination that Jason shows to save his friend is displayed in short story scenes. Now, just because Eve is infected doesn’t mean that she doesn’t play a role in the game. Both Eve and Fred will guide Jason and help in tough situations such as Fred being able to transport Jason back to the G-Sophia which keeps the pacing fast and allows for very little reason to backtrack as Jason when he gets out of his ship. Also, Jason encounters new friendly characters throughout the game who will lend assistance to the team as much as they can.
Gameplay has Jason traveling to different planets as he looks for upgrades for G-Sophia and maps to unlock new levels. While some of the levels play out similar to the classic Blaster Master, where you control G-Sophia to various doors for Jason to explore on foot, some stages are simply only a few screens or just a boss. There are also stages that require a certain upgrade in order to progress, but I wouldn’t consider this to be full-blown Metroidvania. Everything is kept pretty straight forward in terms of story progression and stage unlocks, but exploring maps to completion yields rewards and even new attack upgrades for G-Sophia that will come in handy.
While I enjoyed the level designs, I didn’t really like being in levels for a boss fight or only to collect something and then leave. Similarly, there are moments when you collect a map piece and then hit a wall unable to progress in the stage. This requires the player to leave the stage to see if any new planets were unlocked, however, it would have been helpful if Eve or Jason made a comment that stated they needed something in order to progress. Regardless, I found more enjoyment in the larger levels which featured a great variety of enemies and platforming challenges that put my skills to the test.
The game is split into two different modes, controlling G-Sophia and then controlling Jason. G-Sophia offers defensive and offensive skills that are great for getting through a group of enemies. However, the car can’t go everywhere so it’s up to Jason to sometimes leave the ship and go out on his own. As Jason, a jump off of a high edge can kill the poor defenseless adventurer, but he still knows how to hold his own in combat. During missions, Jason will explore dungeons and take out enemies until getting to the boss of the level. In his arsenal, Jason has a variety of different gun types but must avoid damage if he wants to use them.
One of the newest features in Blaster Master Zero 2 is Jason’s aiming ability that lets him target multiple enemies and attack them simultaneously. While this attack is amazing to use during bosses and in the dungeons, it’s pretty overpowered and the skill is used as the must use action for nearly every boss encounter. However, even though this is a powerful new tool, it doesn’t really make the game any easier thanks to the consistently difficult maps and areas that await Jason and the crew on this adventure.
Level design in Blaster Master Zero 2 gets rather creative after the first few warp zones have been unlocked. Each planet has a theme that creates some unique ways of getting through some sections. Things like traps and secret passages find their way into a level which makes them worth exploring. Some levels even have a nice puzzle design to them that require a little bit of thought and skill to get past some sections.
I’d also like to say that the music is freaking awesome. Every track is beautifully orchestrated with the retro goodness that fans will love. Blaster Master Zero 2 truly understands what it takes to be a retro action game and it shows predominantly through its graphics and music.
I became extremely frustrated during Blaster Master Zero 2, but that was because of my own skill level with the game. I went in confident after playing through Blaster Master Zero several times, but I was not prepared for the creative and unique challenges that this game brings to the series. This game not only feels like a true sequel, but it also stands out as raising the bar for the series as a whole. Sure, this is a tough game at times, but there is enough awarded to players to get them through any situations.
Inti creates undoubtedly found a way to present this classic IP as their own. Instead of simply giving players the retro Blaster Master experience that they did with the first title, it’s as if they thought, “Okay, now check out how Inti Creates does Blaster Master” and they did it in a way that respects the series as a whole, but also shows how creative they can be. This also shows with the game’s soundtrack that screams retro greatness and heightens the playing experience to amazing new levels.
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