Blaster Master is an action-adventure game developed by Tokai Engineering and published by Sunsoft for the NES in 1988-06-17. In the game, the player pilots a tank-like vehicle that can be upgraded with various power-ups like homing missiles, a hover drive, and the ability to drive along the walls.
The original Japanese version has a military science-fiction theme where the prosperous planet, Sophia the 3rd, is attacked by a barbaric race who wiped out the inhabitants leaving only an overlooked science outpost. The outpost builds a fighting machine called the "Metal Attacker" piloted by Kane Gardner who uses it to fight the evil tyrant Goez and his minions. In the American version, the pet frog of a boy named Jason escapes his terrarium and jumps on a radioactive box causing it to mutate into a large monster which sinks into the ground. Jason chases after his frog and finds an underground abandoned tank named Sophia the 3rd, along with a suit of armor that fits him perfectly. He dons the suit in search of his lost mutant frog. Just slightly different!
Even before I played the game Blaster Master, I read the pre-teen Worlds of Power novelization loosely based on the game. As a child around 10 years old, I thought the book was pretty good, but as an adult, there's not much to like. It was more than enough to get me interested in the game, and a friend of mine from school had it, and I played it at his house. I enjoyed the game, but didn't get very far. Later, I remember playing it again at home with my brother and getting much further (maybe to area 3?). Using cheats I have seen the entire game, but, having seen how difficult it is, I have little desire to try and beat it properly.
I own the game, but I have not beaten it.
Best Version: NES
— This section contains spoilers! —
- Yoshiaki Iwata created unbelievable background art, some of the best on the entire platform. Each stage has a unique feel and his art has a great sense of separation between foreground and background, and employs a wonderful illusion of depth and perspective. He also uses large multi-tiled seamless backgrounds despite the limitation of only 256 8x8 pixel tiles.
- Naoki Kodaka created a really great soundtrack for this game. The songs complement the game nicely, but several tracks standout well by themselves.
- The idea of hopping in and out of your tank to go into rooms is a nice mechanic. I like how there are certain parts in the side-view areas where you're forced to navigate enemies without your tank.
- The multitude of power-ups that you get throughout the game are pretty cool.
- It's nice to see large boss sprites being used.
- I like how the game map is not linear, but requires backtracking to progress, and how the various power-ups you find allow you to take shortcuts through old areas.
- The game has well-drawn full-screen art for the beginning and ending. The American intro is well-drawn and utterly ridiculous (in a good way) while the Japanese title screen is quite nice as well. The tank-in-the-tunnel game start animation is really great, and the ending is quite satisfying.
- The indoor portions of the game are a low point:
- The player's character moves a bit clunky, but the enemies move pretty quickly, so you take a lot of hits.
- The gun is awful (see Ugly).
- It seems like the player shouldn't have unlimited grenades, but since the gun is so bad, it certainly helps.
- Most of the sections are pointless and only serve to supply the player with a couple secondary weapons which aren't that beneficial anyway.
- Because the player's hit box is so large, it's difficult to maneuver through the narrow passages between spikes and pits.
- By looking at some of the layouts of the indoor sections, it kind of seems like the designers originally intended for the player to be able to jump, and then removed the ability without adjusting all the levels. There are rooms where it's impossible to progress without taking spike damage, and occasionally power-ups are completely unreachable. I think I would rather have a jump over the grenade (if the gun were improved).
- I don't like how enemies cease moving the moment they leave the screen, and begin moving again when to move toward them again. Also, taller enemies become hidden when their lower half is off-screen which not only looks weird, but also makes them appear more suddenly when moving down.
- A lot of the enemies are pretty obnoxious either because they take too many hits to kill, or are too hard to hit (like the gray worms). This requires the player to slowly ease their way through areas which is not fun.
- The game doesn't limit sprites very well, which often leads to noticeable slowdowns.
- For a game this long, and with levels so winding, a save slot, password system, or, at the very least, unlimited continues should have been made available.
- It becomes very difficult to control Sophia when you get the walking on walls and ceiling power-ups. It would be nice if the game let you temporarily disable the power-ups when they're not helpful. In area 8, they even work against you, causing you to drive into spikes inadvertently.
- There isn't as much variety in enemies and bosses as I would like. Too much of the enemies use the same or very similar AI, only with a slightly different sprite. They're also very monochromatic.
- It probably would have been better design to space out the tank weapon upgrades rather than making them the first two upgrades you get.
- Area 8 is a bit of a letdown. It relies mostly on spike damage inflicted due to poor controls, the graphics aren't as impressive as the previous stages, and I don't much care for the music.
- The box reveals the final boss, and the manual seems like it was meant to hide its identity, but instead hides the first boss.
- The gun system for the indoor game portion is wretched. The idea of powering up your weapon and losing power as you take hits is a good mechanic, but most of the gun upgrades are very erratic and hard to aim. Even at full power, it's common to watch enemies walk through your barrage of bullets unharmed to collide with you. A similar mechanic was used in Fester's Quest, and it's just as awful there too.
- In the later levels, the game becomes insanely difficult. Expecting the player to beat the game on only a 3 lives and continues is unfair. Even if you have the maps memorized, a few mistakes can end a two-hour run.
The American and European box art contains a cutout from a screenshot of the final boss (spoiler alert?) atop a strange blue gradient box with a cross-hair atop a screenshot from Area 2. It has a decent layout, I especially like the lettering, but the boss is so abstract, it doesn't explain the game at all.
Nintendo Power, 1988-06, blurb.
- spriters-resource.com/nes/blastermaster - Graphic sheets.
|Japanese||超惑星戦記メタファイト||Cho Wakusei Senki: Metafight||Super Planetary War Records: Metafight|
|Directors||Hiroaki Higashiya, Koichi Kitazumi|
|Game Designer, Character Designer||Yoshiaki Iwata, and Others|
|Programmers||Kenji Sada, Kenji Kajita|
|Music Composer||Naoki Kodaka|
|Sound Programmer||Naohisa Morota|
|European Director||Akito Takeuchi|
|American Designer||Richard Robbins|
|Special Thanks||Kenji Mori|