Retro Game of the Day! Blaster Master
Sigh. Another game near-and-dear to my heart, one of the reasons I have started up this little blog - bow down before the majesty that is Sunsoft's 1988 NES release, Blaster Master. Here you go - it's the game that out-Metroided Metroid!
This game first caught my eye, I believe, in issue #2 of Nintendo Power magazine. they custom-built a scale model of the game's star (a jumping tank) and did a nice spread showing off the size of this game (it was huge!) One of the first open-world-ish games, as far as an NES title could pull it off anyway, the game put you in command of a powerful tank which could jump and shoot - and with each boss you defeated, you'd obtain one of several powerups. Swim, power-shot, fly (!), ride upside-down, and so forth. Each enhancement you obtained made you feel like your character's control was truly evolving, it really as something!
You'd absolutely need to obtain these enhancements as well, otherwise your progress to successive levels would be blocked (as in Metroid). There were many gimmicks in this game, other than the tank itself - you could hit "Select" at any time to pop out of your tank and run around on foot, of course the world was too dangerous for you to get very far. However it became necessary as each level had a "dungeon" which would require you to temporarily leave your machine behind and go it alone, in Zelda-Overworld fashion. This segment of the game used a different engine, and was far less enjoyable than the main game - still, it was quite impressive how they crammed two distinct game-styles in there.
A few things Blaster Master is fondly remembered for, other than it's cheesy (but forgivable) name, hey it was the 80s alright? The game featured gorgeous, lovingly detailed graphics - Sunsoft was absolutely at the top of their game. They were often able to push the NES PPU far better than most of their rivals. The soundtrack, beepity-boppity though it was, absolutely incredible and still a treat to listen to. Each world was wonderfully rendered graphically, and matched with its own great background tune. Everything looked and sounded wonderful - and the giant maze-like world layouts were absolutely immersive.
BM was no slouch in the challenge department either, mind you - this game was tough. Not impossible, but quite easy to get lost, and the bosses were all quite formidable (though most of them could be fairly easily dispatched by cheating - keep pausing/unpausing!) Still, I would wager few people saw this game through to the end - it was a long, treacherous journey, not helped by lack of a save battery or password - and if memory serves, there were not unlimited continues. (Cue Old Man Mode) "And that's how it was back in my dayyyyy, and we liked it that way!" Personally, I made it to the final boss only a couple of times, and he showed me what for each time. Damn it.
It is disappointing to note that Blaster Master's legacy is not a strong one. Those of us who were there will always know and love the game, but considering it came from a pantheon that included the likes of the original Ninja Gaiden, Metroid, Bionic Commando, and other such classics, it's quite a shame to see that this game was truly a one-hit wonder. A 16-Bit sequel was released, but a completely different team developed it, and it was not very memorable. Sunsoft themselves tried to upgrade the game when PlayStation came into vogue, with (somewhat) interesting results - but it was too little, too late (and not particularly enjoyable).
That all being said, Blaster Master remains right where it belongs, frozen forever in the past during a time when NES games were king and it stood head and shoulders with the best of them. Still a "blast" (ahem) to pick up and play today, and still quite an undertaking to see through to completion, Blaster Master separates the men from the wusses. See what you are made of, and shoot some Thunder Breaks at some Plutonium Monsters!