Year of Release: 1989
Date Reviewed: 2-21-98 ("Old Era")
In what I term the "NES Preservation Era" (currently perpetuated by pages like mine), several games have earned recognition among the proprieters of the era's pages that were passed-over during their original release. For various reasons, these games were ignored during their first advents on the NES (though it was typically because they were produced by obscure companies, or released at the same time as stellarly popular games.) There are two games in particular that have achieved this belated recognition. Blaster Master is one of them (the other is Crystalis, which will be reviewed at a later date.) Now, while I can certainly see the logic behind the arguments of those who have praised this game, I cannot simultaneously join them. I have no aversion to Blaster Master. It is a good game. However, this is a game with which I tend to accentuate the negative.
Blaster Master is one of those games in which the plot exists only to be ignored once play begins, and, in the case of this particular plot, that is probably best. Now, I know that I have ranted and raved about stupid plots on many occasions now. However, if you ask any NES aficianado, they will concur with my debasement of this game's plot. The game begins with Jason, a common American teenager (does it seem to you that a lot of these became heroes in NES games?), tending to his frog (Fred), whereupon Fred leaps out of his little cellarium, with Jason reaching distantly behind. Fred then hops out of Jason's house (God knows how he got the door open), and into the back yard, with Jason trudging along slowly behind (apparently Fred is one of those well-conditioned Jumping Contest frogs.) Moving forth, Fred hops on top of a radioactive generator that seems to be quite at home in Jason's yard, and (rather than contracting cancer, which would be the logical result) grows to the size of roughly three men. After that, the generator disappears, and Fred hops down the hole that is left. Jason follows, and discovers a protective suit and giant otherworldly tank. Seeing no sign of Fred, Jason puts on the suit, hops in the tank, and sets out to find his pet.
The world before Jason is bizarre, populated primarily by what are either robotic monsters or humans in suits much like Jason's. It is upon entry into this world that the plot is forgotten, and the action takes center stage. The action in this game is interesting, divided into two interfaces throughout play. The first of these interfaces is the side-scrolling action (which one might call the overworld.) It is here that the player navigates throughout the world, trying to figure out where to go next. In this interface, it is adivsed that the player STAY IN THE TANK as much as possible, letting Jason out only to enter into the caverns, or destroy an obstacle that is set too low for the tank to hit. The enemies in this world are much more powerful than those in the caves, and cannot be easily destroyed with Jason's feeble gun.
The second interface, as alluded to, is what I call the "cave interface." Throughout the "overworld", the player will notice several doors that are too small for the tank to enter. Jason can only enter these doors alone. Here, Jason's inventory is extended beyond the relatively useless gun to contain the much needed grenades. Aside from being notedly more powerful than the gun, these grenades possess a strange power afforded them by a glitch in the program. That is, once they have exploded, the grenades continue to cause damage to certain bosses when the game is paused. This does not work in all cases, but it is a fallibility best taken advantage of. Most of the caverns behind these doors are merely havens containing powerups for Jason. However, one of these caverns per level contains the "boss". Now, one might be wondering why a young kid looking for his frog would want to waste his time on a side trip to kill some otherworldly creature. Well, each of the bosses guards an attachment for Jason's tank that is needed to advance to the next level.
Most of the music of this game is noticeably similar to the game's other songs. The synthesized instruments are all pretty much the same. However, the original paradigm after which the songs are modeled is quite good. Thus, the game's entire soundtrack is equally entertaining.
I have never advanced even as far as the fourth level, and so cannot comment on the majority of the game. However, what I have seen of the game is, in truth, pretty repetitive. The action is somewhat fun, but, because the majority of the enemies are robotic, nearly all of them are gray. I am a lover of earthtones in clothing, but, in video games, they tend to be quite dulling, particularly when used to the degree that they are in this game. Also, the caverns containing the bosses tend to be winding and labyrinthian. While this has been proven to work in some games (Zelda, Crystalis, e.g.), it is not as effective in the already arduous outer world of Blaster Master. In this game with no save option, and a huge, side-scrolling world, taking forty minutes to figure out where the hell you're supposed to go in one of a smattering of caverns is nothing more than excessive and frustrating. By the third level, I began to wonder how much longer I would have to play, and the game unbecame fun.
My Score: 6
If Jason had just written his congressman and had the radioactive box hauled away, none of this would have happened.
Why is there a sky? Isn't this supposed to be underground?
I wish my brain could do that.
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