FutureFive NZ - Blaster master

Warning: This story was published more than a year ago.

Blaster master

It still haunts me to this day. Blaster Master is widely considered to be one of the most difficult games of all time, and it’s the only Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) game in my collection that I never completed. But I got agonisingly close…
Like many NES titles from back then (1988 in this case), Blaster Master is a side-scrolling action platformer, but with a scope that is light years ahead of its peers. The story is completely ridiculous: you play a young boy named Jason, whose pet frog makes a break for freedom and leaps from your hands. Giving chase down a tunnel, you just happen to stumble across a futuristic battle tank called SOPHIA THE 3RD. Yeah…
In search of your pet, you roam the underworld in your newly acquired tank, leaping over chasms and shooting mutants (multi-directionally!). Certain sections will require Jason to dismount the tank and proceed on foot. Once Jason passes through small doorways, the gameplay switches to a top-down labyrinthine shooter, where you collect power-ups that dramatically increase your firepower. At the end of the maze awaits an end-of-level boss that, when defeated, coughs up an extremely useful upgrade for SOPHIA. These range from the ability to drive up walls to the ability to hover to the ability to drive underwater. Each upgrade not only makes you more powerful, but it allows you to reach previously inaccessible areas and, subsequently, the next levels.
So Blaster Master took the ’Metroidvania’ (non-linear side-scroller) approach that was rising in popularity at the time as its core. But for my money, it was perhaps the best implementation of the style that I’ve seen from the 8-bit era. And it combined two well-executed, fun and distinctly different gameplay styles in a way that provided considerable depth.
So, how come I never finished it? Well, I just could not find the entrance to the final level. Bear in mind that I couldn’t just hit up GameFAQs for a walkthrough back then. Making matters worse, there was no save-game function, no password function and only a small number of ‘continues’, meaning you had to play through in one sitting.
I don’t think I could face it again in its original format, but I’d love to revisit a re-release one day – one that permits game saves – to finally knock it on the head once and for all. But perhaps not without a visit to GameFAQs, first…

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