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Blaster Master 2 (Genesis) artwork

Blaster Master 2 (Genesis) review


"Blaster Master 2 exists only as a sobering example of completely missing the entire bloody point. "



Many years ago when 8-bit was cutting edge and mobile phones were the size of your head, I was a bit of a SEGA elitist. I was so far up on my high horse with my Master System and my copy of Phantasy Star that people would charter helicopters for the day to search me out amongst the clouds. And, damn it, I was happy; happy to tell anyone whoíd listen, and everyone else anyway, that I didnít need that ugly Nintendo thing, with its lack of built in game and dull grey colour. There wasnít a single exclusive on the system that I cared about.

Except, that was a malicious lie forged to rub my smugness in the populaceís face. Because I secretly adored the hell out of Blaster Master, right down to its awful name and the hilariously kid-friendly storyline Nintendo of America awkwardly shoehorned on to it. In Japan, the game was known as Metafight, and concerned an invading alien race, but that was too edgy for the youth of the West. They instead got a plot about a young ladís pet frog accidentally falling into a magical underground kingdom ruled by goofy evil. The sprightly lad would undertake an arduous journey to rescue his beloved amphibian by happening across an enchanted tank, or something, and adventure was to be had!

Nevertheless, the game was brilliant. Throughout the majority of the title, you controlled said tank, but levels were open plan and non-linear, borrowing heavily from Metriod in that obtaining power ups and new tools would let you access previous parts of the map closed off to you on first discovery. It also added a new level of exploration by allowing you to get out of the tank and explore some areas on foot, either letting you squeeze through gaps your tank wouldnít fit through in the side-scrolling sections, or letting you delve into overhead mazes on foot with nothing but a small ray gun to keep you safe. These gave way to boss battles that would fill the screen with flashing lights and a sense of real danger highlighted by the fact that you could be easily seen off in seconds. If the game has one fault, itís that itís that special kind of 8-bit game cheap. The one where developers knew they didnít have the hardware backing to make their games as seamless as perhaps theyíd like, so bolstered up the difficulty levels in order to try and inject a longer lifespan.

Blaster Master 2 had all the warnings of an awful, awful sequel, but itís fair to say my initial sense of excitement overwrote the hell out of them. Sunsoft where no longer at the helm, for one, but that wasnít a huge concern. For every great game they made, they snuck out a dozen truly awful ones (and Iíll never ever forgive them for their 2001 release of Monsterseed on the PSX). Instead, it was outsourced to Software Creations, a British company that had, until then, really been all about porting Double Dragon on to as many fledgling consoles as they could. In the end, they created a game so poor that it was to only ever receive a North American release date. Japan didnít want it, and Europe only got its port begrudgingly because the developers lived here and we felt an awful sense of obligation to take it in.

Without a pre-exiting serious plotline from the Orient to piss all over, they instead decided to strike out on their own and try to rationalise the awful mess the first Blaster Master tried so hard to work around. Devoid of pet frogs, the second game instead has the mysteriously randomised return of the underground evils, who have stolen the magical tank and, using technology gained from their heist, have dug out huge sections of the Earthís core to unbalance its orbit and crash it into the sun. Or something. Anyway, the protagonist builds a new one because the gameís instruction manual says heís nineteen now, and all teenagers could build magical tanks if they really, really wanted to.

Even with that all aside, the gameís just bad. Gone is the free-roaming exploration in favour of linear levels that offer an upgrade at the end, rather then having you search new tools down then actually use them properly to progress. Still present is the ability to leave your tank and travel on foot, but gone are the overhead mazes traversed on foot. These are replaced by the single worst example of a control scheme youíre ever likely to come across; mazes are still a part of the game, but you instead drive your tank around these, in the same overhead view, while being asked to control both the direction of your tank and its swivelling turret. How do you do this on a humble SEGA Mega Drive pad, you ask. Good question: I fear that you donít. Itís not remotely possible, so what you get is a fumbling nightmare where youíre not able to aim at anything unless you just happen to be facing that way, and you spend most of your time limping around sideward like an arthritic crab trapped on an ice rink.

Speaking of, arenít you just dying to know just what happened to that frog?!

Whatís worse, is that the game manages to be even cheaper than the first. Back on the NES, you had to excuse some level of cheapness because, right or wrong, thatís how games were in the first generation. 16-bit was the era when that mindset was just starting to become obsolete. Software Creations didnít seem to get that memo, and built a game where everything was out to kill you. You expect the usual slews of nasties to roam around the place and cause a bit of mayhem, but bits of floor or ceiling would randomly drop on you with no reason or warning. Boss fights would take place in claustrophobic arenas and throw out so many scattering attacks, you had no way to dodge them all. Even innocent water collecting on the roofs of the underground caves you explore would do as much damage as a rocket-packing drone or sub-terrainion monster if it fell on you. And it must have been a game made in Britain, because, as dripping water is collected on every available surface I can only assume itís set in a world plagued by unceasingly torrential rainstorms. Thereís no escaping it and, as such, rarely any surviving it.

The first game was an adventure foremost, and thatís what resonated with so many of the people who played it, so, of course, Blaster Master 2 strips away a lot of made the previous game unique and memorable then does its level best to turn it into just another scrolling shooter. Even here, it fails. It doesnít do anything competently enough to find any sliver of saving grace and exists only as a sobering example of completely missing the entire bloody point.

Rating: 2/10

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (April 30, 2012)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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