Tuesday, April 2

Review: Blaster Master Zero 2 [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Right around the time of the Switch launch retro gaming fans were thrilled with the release of Blaster Master Zero, a modernization of an NES classic that took many elements of the original and juiced it up in a variety of areas. Not having played a ton of the original back the day I think my reaction to Zero was a bit more reserved, as I found it had too many lapses in the action and too often reminded me of old gameplay filler I didn’t miss. Now, with their shadow-dropped sequel, the folks at inti Creates have come to the table with even more refinements and the balance and quality of side-scrolling exploration and top-down action feels far better overall this time around.


Starting with the side-scrolling fun you’ll be piloting your brand new G-Sophia tank to explore multiple planets and associated areas. Peppered with enemies, you’ll be running, jumping (well, maybe more floating), and gunning your way around. Being observant and checking on anything that looks unusual tends to be rewarded with clever jumping puzzles and typically a spot where you can jump out of your tank and take control of your hero Jason to army crawl through small spots, cautiously approach anyplay you may fall (he’s a bit fragile), and perhaps a cave. It’s here where the game shifts into its other signature mode, becoming a sort of top-down shooter.


Focused primarily on action, with a bit of simple puzzling thrown in for good measure, I’d consider this mode to be the more varied of the two, and often far more challenging as well. The flow of things can take some getting used to, and various enemies you’ll encounter on the different planets will each require some refinements in your tactics, but since you’ll also steadily add to your arsenal as you defeat the game’s bosses you’ll also consistently have new ways to defeat them. Experimentation and mastery of your weapons and a command of the game’s new and somewhat dramatic counter-attack mechanic are often necessary to defeat the game’s diverse bosses, so in general if you’re finding yourself stuck in a battle the key is to keep trying something different until you lock in on its weakness.


While not all of the new planets and challenges you encounter may be to your liking, to the game’s credit they change things up with enough regularity that any disappointments aren’t likely to last long and you’ll likely feel better about what’s around the corner. Determined not to let itself get in a rut and become too predictable, Zero 2 is a rewarding walk through nostalgia while not being content to limit itself to dated design and mechanics. If you’ve got a soft spot in your heart for the original, or have just been looking for a diverse and well-crafted retro-style challenge, it is a satisfying adventure.


Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • A great mix of exploration and often challenging combat
  • Experimentation and understanding the use of each new weapon you acquire is vital to your success and keeps the combat fresh
  • Not afraid to crank up the challenge at times, but usually with checkpoints at a reasonable distance

Cons:
  • As vital as the new countering mechanic can be, mastery of it can be tricky
  • With the game throwing so much variety at you not all planets and their respective challenges will be winners with everyone