• Blaster Master Zero 2 Review - Nintendo Switch

    The first Blaster Master landed in 1988 on the NES. It gave control over a nimble tank in sidescrolling stages and the tank's pilot in overhead stages, providing players with two distinct playstyles that mixed of exploration, platforming, and enemy killing, something that would be described as Metroidvania today. Blaster Master proved popular enough to receive multiple sequels, the last being re-imagining of the first game on the Wii in 2010.
    Fast forward to 2017 and Inti Creates released Blaster Master Zero on the Switch, a remake of the first game, using NES-like colour palettes and several plot points of the original.
    Blaster Master Zero 2 was surprisingly announced and immediately released in 2019, posing itself as a direct sequel to Zero.

    Blaster Master Zero 2 expands on almost everything Blaster Master Zero had. The story blasts off the main protagonist, Jason, into space, in search for a cure for Eve, a support droid now suffering a mutant infection.
    Jason's vehicle, the G-Sophia, is now able to fly through space, with big and small planets serving as background for levels. Small planets often have only a boss and a couple of screens with self-contained challenges, while big planets offer more sprawling labyrinths with multiple bosses and bonuses. As levels are now divided between different locations, none is as complex or interconnected as in the previous title, with the exception of two planets. Dungeons are also a little bit more linear, both when piloting the G-Sophia or controlling Jason directly. Every planet, however, has its own gimmick and while environmental hazards never feel really dangerous, this does create a lot of variety and every single stage is fun to go through.

    Even if stages feel more linear, they still offer a good degree of exploration and problem solving, although the game focuses on health and energy expansions, and for a game called "Blaster Master" the number of weapons isn't particularly high. G-Sophia can equip three main weapons and several subweapons, but of those subweapons a handful are used to solve environmental puzzles.
    The game is closer to its monicker when Jason exits G-Sophia to explore overhead levels on foot. Here you have a good selection of weapons at your disposal, but only if you have enough energy for them. Getting damaged will reduce your energy and therefore block more powerful weapons. The game is kind enough to give you an energy guard powerup quite early, although you can bypass the dungeon holding that item. However, as all powerups appear on the map as blinking icons, getting to them isn't particularly tough, at least in normal mode.
    In overhead stages all enemies, bosses included, have a weakness to a particular weapon, and part of the fun is finding out which weapon works best against enemies. The answer is to always use the spread shot, not all enemies might be weak to it but it's the most versatile and powerful weapon Jason can wield. Only one boss is particularly difficult if you don't use the correct weapon, and once discovered, it makes the fight a cakewalk.

    There are three hidden, optional items, required for the perfect ending. Just like every other powerup, they aren't particularly hard to get a hold of (the game only gives hints about the planet they are on, but if you are on the right one, they are shown on the map) and are mostly kinda boring fetch quests.
    The game never feels too difficult in normal mode despite not being afraid of killing players if they get too careless during exploration or boss fights. Blaster Master Zero 2 gets easier towards the end after collecting all health an energy powerups, and the later bosses feel less threatening than the first encounters, despite the larger repertoire of attacks.
    The only difficult part is the final portion of the game, but it might end being more tedious than challenging. This final portion is a good twist to the game structure and it features the most complex stage yet, and despite all the gripes this section causes, it's fun to go around and explore it.

    Blaster Master Zero 2 is a fun game, more or less on the same level as the first game. But as with all of Inti Creates' sidescrollers, it lacks that "something" to make it shine. I think Blaster Master Zero 2's fault in this case is that it's not as expansive as it appears to be during the first hours, and the challenge level, at least in normal mode, isn't particularly high. It's still a well put together sidescroller that doesn't overstay its welcome (slightly less than 10 hours from start to finish with 100% items), but it's not the greatest either.