The 2D action genre isn’t going away; I think we can all accept that by now. What’s of note, though, is the developers are always bringing new ideas and ways to enjoy the genre through modernized updates.
Developer Inti Creates revived the Blaster Master series in 2017 with Blaster Master Zero and turned it into a new series with added features to make it their own. The upcoming Blaster Master Zero 3 acts as a conclusion to the adventure of Jason, Eve, and Fred the frog, and after playing through an early demo, the team will make this the best entry to date.
Blaster Master Zero 3 doesn’t really waste time on its plot, but it does set the stage for this new adventure. The crew has just arrived at planet Sophia to cure Eve, but they are attacked and captured. Jason wasn’t really expecting this, so he takes an opportunity to break out of his cell and find Eve. The game’s opening is linear in design as you make your way through various enemies, but there’s still room for exploration as you can find enhancements for Sophie III and Jason.
Exploration takes place in two different modes. However, in this entry, Jason really shows how much he’s grown as his over-the-head segments grant access to all his weapons at once, with possible ways to enhance the power of the shots.
During these gameplay moments, players can also interact with colored switches on the ground, which act as a light puzzle to get through the area. It isn’t necessary to explore all these areas as some are not needed to progress the narrative, but there are useful items in all of them. I might have been missing something, but some of these optional areas didn’t have a way to warp back to the beginning of the area, which slowed down the pacing a bit.
The other mode of gameplay is traveling around in Sophia III. However, this tank has been stripped down and requires a few upgrades to be as sufficient as it once was. The platforming here is a little loose. I found it hard to make some of the smaller, more precise jumps due to the tank rolling around a bit upon landing. That said, later upgrades allow you to hover a bit, which could help with these slide landings.
Enemy types are pretty straightforward but similar to the Mega Man series; they shouldn’t be underestimated. Rushing through as quickly as possible can cause unnecessary damage, and these enemies don’t always play nice. Their attack patterns are choreographed nicely, but it’s not always easy to find an opening. This adds a layer of strategy to the fights as you jump around and aim at the enemies. I did like enemy types requiring Jason to jump out of Sophia III to shoot them off as they attach themselves to the tank.
As for the narrative and intro of the game, the team went a bit hard on the lore dump as they introduce Kane from Metafight, who is the protagonist from the Super Famicom version of the original Blaster Master. It’s not clear whether he’s a friend or foe, but he does set you on your way to the next part of the adventure. I noticed a few grammar errors in the text and strange sentence structure, so I hope those are fixed for the game’s full release. Still, I liked that there’s a brief introduction to the full adventure in the beginning, to catch players up to speed on what’s going on in this entry.
Blaster Master Zero 3 is a gorgeous 2D action game that can be exceptionally difficult at times. However, the developer gives you all the tools you need to get through each encounter, so the rest comes down to skill. There’s a decent amount of fast action with a layer of strategy and exploration that highlights what makes this series, so fun to play. I’m looking forward to playing more to conclude this awesome trilogy.
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