Blaster Master Zero 2 – Blowing Away Expectations

BOOM! CRASH! PSKTWOOO! PEW PEW PEW! That’s the sound of a brand new game launching out of the blue. Not just any game, but Blaster Master Zero 2! Yes Zero Two or 0 2, because it’s the sequel to Blaster Master Zero, the semi-remake of the original Blaster Master! Makes perfect sense. Unable to watch the Nindie Direct at 3am local time, I woke up to this previously unannounced game being already available to buy on my Switch. I was a big fan of Blaster Master Zero at the Switch launch so jumped right into this without hesitation.

It was a foggy morning. I breathed in the mountain air and took some time to reflect on this moment in history. It’s not every day a new Blaster Master is announced and released at the same time. The sky was cloudy and imperfect but I still took it all in. This place didn’t exist at all yesterday. I gazed longingly into the distance and thought about the experience that awaited. Blaster Master Zero gave me a taste of the classic games, but this was an entirely new entry by talented developer Inti Creates. For this game, they would have to create their own scenario which was an exciting prospect. The story was brand new, the environments were foreign. It was a morning full of hope and possibilities.

Let’s get right into the juicy details of this gameplay. You control a fast tank vehicle but you can also get out of it and run into small gaps and ladders as a tiny human. The game switches up traversal quite a bit, but it’s a simple as pressing the X button to get in and out of the tank. The biggest difference is that you can fall from any height and jump around wildly with the tank, but as a human you will crumble at the mere thought of a step.

Oh well, learning is half the fun when you’re playing a new game. There are quite a few movement options that are brand new to Zero 2, both in and out of the vehicle. In vehicle the big change is the energy system where you are now rewarded from falling from a great height. If you get enough height you recharge energy by crashing to the ground, and it’s funny how you want to do the exact opposite in human form. The human (Jason) has a few upgrades too, with a brand new dash and parry. All these combine to make a nice balance in combat where you are rewarded for being as aggressive as possible since you need to actively recharge, dash and reflect to conserve your other strong weapons.

Many of the boss fights are designed around this energy balance. I found that to be the biggest difference between Zero and Zero 2. Zero is a bit easier and you could just spam bullets most of the time to take down a boss, whereas in Zero 2 you need to be a bit more patient. I probably died more times in the first planet than the entire game of the original Zero. The difficulty is on the hard side even compared to some classic games I would say, but there’s nothing that can’t be overcome by the right approach. When enemies flood the screen you are forced to try different weapons and sub-weapons to manage the chaos. It can be frustrating with the occasional off-screen enemy doing damage, but ultimately more rewarding than the first game when you come through. The enemies seem brutal sometimes but there are some cheeky things you can do as well like plant mines where they spawn.

Wait, planets? That’s right, the structure of this game is a bit different to Zero as well. Instead of your standard progression going from level 1 through to 6, you get to visit new planets on a hub world. You can fly through dimensional warpholes, visit optional mini-bosses and move to your desired planet. It’s a minor gameplay change overall but does make this sequel feel very fresh. They put some good effort into the transition sprites as well with a nice animation, and anything that adds more music to the game is a welcome addition in my books.

The music is SO GOOD and I enjoyed it much more than the music in the first game, which was still decent but ultimately forgettable. There is a lot more soul in these compositions. It’s “retro” but a little bit on the darker side, with a very low bass and melodies that are complex but catchy at the same time. It feels like its own classic soundtrack rather than an imitation. It’s the kind of soundtrack I would add to a car playlist and listen to outside the game, with absolutely fantastic music on each planet that also changes in the planets dungeons. The music keeps its high quality not just in the stages themselves, but in character intros, dialogue and transitions. Everything in the game just sounds good. Combine this with the expressive colourful artwork and very strong HD rumble, and you have a very inspired and energetic game. A tank is not gonna stop me from grooving.

Level design also sees a burst of creativity with more puzzle elements than the first game. Some of the abilities like drilling and springs are used very cleverly to interact with objects. A certain planet where you have to move seeds to grow plants blew my mind. It never really explains what to do, just shows you that the seeds can move as an enemy lifts it up. Then you just experiment with switches and different weapons until you get things where they need to be. The game design gives the player a lot of credit, and you might get stuck for a bit if you don’t use your intuition. It’s nothing too obscure, just requires some experimentation. When you combine these new forms of exploration with much more difficult combat in the human dungeons, the pacing of Blaster Master Zero 2 is continually interesting and engaging. It changes things up just enough to stay interesting the whole way through.

These enemies… are they really enemies? They don’t attack you and just stand there out of the way. You can kill them for energy or health, if you want to. But do you need to? Zero 2 steps out of the action game comfort zone a little bit with situations like this. Each planet has something weird going on as the central theme. Going to different planets allows for entirely new worlds whereas the original Blaster Master Zero was restricted to Earth.

Blaster Master Zero 2 is a very good game that doesn’t re-invent the wheel, but changes things up with an exciting new structure, a well-written scenario that continues the story, new levels and new gameplay with the added abilities and weapons. It’s a very old-school approach to a sequel, and that makes the name just perfect how it is. Just better better better! Bigger and better and more interesting. This is one of those cases where I can definitely say the sequel is better than the original. It improves on Blaster Master Zero in every way. It takes solid fundamentals and injects an enormous amount of creativity into it. Highly recommended if you like Blaster Master gameplay or just want a new 2D action experience. This came out of nowhere and I would go as far as saying this is Inti Creates best game. To me this is one of the best gaming surprises in recent memory. I rate it a 2 out of Zero.

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