Review: Blaster Master Zero

One of the earliest releases for the Nintendo Switch, Blaster Master Zero is a reworking by Inti Creates of Sunsoft’s 1988 NES game. Set in the relatively near future, the plot focuses on a boy named Jason as he follows a peculiar creature into a hole and stumbles upon a tank-like machine. Once underground, he must explore a labyrinthine cave system and liaise with an enigmatic girl called Eve. The story combines sci-fi, mystery and romance in a way that is highly evocative of classic Japanese anime. In fact, the game does a remarkable job of transporting you back to the late '80s/early '90s, whilst avoiding any frustrations console gaming had at the time.

Visually speaking, Blaster Master Zero employs the "12-bit" style so celebrated in the likes of Shovel Knight. It’s 8-bit, but how we always wanted it to be. The graphics are clean and detailed, with a colour palette that enhances, but never betrays, its NES origins. The synthesiser-style music does a similarly good job of evoking the era, with some simple but memorable tunes. It should also be pointed out that the game makes use of the Switch’s HD Rumble feature. Personally, I found it intense and overbearing, but Inti Creates should be congratulated for including the option.

The experience is divided into two main gameplay modes. One is a side-on view as you travel in the game's vehicle, Sophia III. This does a commendable job of satisfying the urge so many of us have for another 2D Metroid.

Blaster Master Zero

The other mode is the overhead view when Jason is delving into one of the game’s dungeons. These sections feature 8-way aiming and feel like a refreshingly unique combination of Metroid and classic Zelda. Jason has a main blaster as well as various sub-weapons, both of which can be replenished with collectibles. Indeed, the real hook of this game is in keeping your blaster fully topped up. At maximum health you can use the best weapon, but take a hit and you might be reduced to a short-range laser. As such, battles become a matter of fixing your direction with R, finding a safe spot and hoping your superlative Wave Beam doesn’t suddenly turn into a puny Flamethrower. It's a little-seen gameplay mechanism, similar to the armour system in Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts – and may even seem counter-intuitive - but it works.

Where Blaster Master Zero really excels, however, is in its pacing. Each area has a plethora of dungeons, many of which have end-of-level bosses. Defeating one of these will gain you a new item, sub-weapon or an upgrade for Sophia’s cannon or manoeuvrability. Whilst these don’t always feel essential, they do an exemplary job of keeping the sense of progression going.

The game is highly non-linear, so much so that it’s quite possible to miss out on useful upgrades. Such occasions require a small amount of backtracking, but the game world is so easy to negotiate, there is almost no punishment associated with doing so. Blaster Master Zero is particularly fast and fluid, even compared to the most acclaimed titles in the genre.

Blaster Master Zero

The only part of the game I wasn't so keen on were the bits when Jason has to leave Sophia III, but still navigate the side-on world. In these moments, Jason is only a few pixels high, thus rendering him almost powerless and defenceless. It's particularly annoying when you have to jump onto ladders.

With nine areas to explore, Blaster Master Zero keeps going long enough, but doesn't outstay its welcome. Once completed, you’ll unlock Unlimited Mode, which allows you to replay the experience equipped with all of Jason and Sophia’s upgrades. It’s a thoughtful way of extending the game’s lifespan, although you may feel you’ve seen enough first time round.

N-Europe Final Verdict

Blaster Master provides a lot of blast for your buck. With a generous length and plenty of bosses, it's a good-value addition to your Switch collection.

  • Gameplay4
  • Playability5
  • Visuals3
  • Audio3
  • Lifespan2
Final Score



Fast-paced sense of progression
Non-linear gameplay done well
Good value


"Mini Jason" sections

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