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Blaster Master is a platformer and "run and gun" video game released by Sunsoft for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It is a localized version of a Japanese Famicom game titled Chô Wakusei Senki Metafight (超惑星戦記メタファイト?, which loosely translates to "Super Planetary War Records: Metafight") (also simply called MetaFight or Meta Fight), which was released on June 17, 1988. The game was released in North America in November 1988 and in Europe on April 25, 1991. The game is the first in the Blaster Master series, and it spawned two spin-off titles as well as two sequels.
The game features a character named Jason whose frog Fred leaps out of his fish bowl one day, grows enormously after touching a radioactive chest, and falls into a hole in the earth. Jason follows Fred down the hole to find an armored vehicle designed to battle radioactive mutants inside the Earth. The player controls Jason and the tank SOPHIA THE 3RD through eight levels of gameplay to find the whereabouts of Fred and to defeat the mutants and their leader, the Plutonium Boss. The game was praised for its smooth play control and level designs, detailed and clean graphics, and music, and it was criticized for its high difficulty level and lack of passwords or save points. The game was novelized by Peter Lerangis, as part of the Worlds of Power series published by Scholastic Books.
The plot in Blaster Master is shown at the beginning in a cinematic slideshow as "ominous" music plays in the background. The game starts with a person named Jason who has a pet frog named Fred who, one day, decides to leap out of his fish bowl and out the door. Fred then touches a radioactive chest and, he grows to an emormous size; Fred and the chest then fall into a hole in the earth. Jason chases Fred down the hole which leads to a large underground cavern. There, he finds an armored tank named SOPHIA THE 3RD—a vehicle designed to battle radioactive mutants that live inside the earth. Jason mounts SOPHIA to find the whereabouts of Fred and to destroy the mutants and their leader—the Plutonium Boss. The opening sequence has been described as "one of the great scenes in all of video games".
Gameplay in Blaster Master depends on the situation and location of the player. The game has two modes of gameplay. The first mode is where the player controls SOPHIA in a two–dimensional platform mode; the second mode is where the player controls Jason while outside SOPHIA in either the same 2D platform mode or in a top-down perspective. Gameplay in the top-down perspective consists of a series of labyrinths in which players navigate and defeat enemies along the way. Gameplay is non-linear, meaning that players must return to previous levels in order to advance to higher levels in the game. The objective is to complete all eight levels and destroy the mutants and their bosses with various weaponry such as guns, grenades, and special weapons.
While Jason is inside SOPHIA in the 2D platforming mode, the player can attack the mutants with guns (which shoot in three directions) or with one of three special weapons. Special weapons can be accumulated by collecting certain objects scattered throughout the game. They have limited ammunition and include the following: homing missiles; "Thunder Break", which fires a lightning bolt at enemies below; and "Multi Warhead Missiles", which fires a set of three missiles at enemies. Players can select their special weapon and monitor how much of a certain special weapon remains by accessing the Menu Screen by pressing the Start button. The player switches between the 2D platforming mode and the top-down perspective by leaving the tank and entering small doorways located throughout the game.
While outside SOPHIA in the top-down perspective, players can destroy mutants from any direction with their gun or with hand grenades. In this mode, players upgrade their gun by collecting gun capsules; their gun degrades when they sustain damage by mutants. Here players obtain additional vehicle functions by destroying bosses. These functions include weapon upgrades as well as abilities to swim freely underwater, walk on walls and ceilings, and hover above the ground. Players monitor the amount of thrust in the vehicle via a "hover gauge" located on the left side of the screen; they can obtain additional thrust by collecting hover capsules. The game has a glitch—colloquially known as the "grenade glitch"—to easily defeat some bosses. To exploit this glitch, the player damages the boss with a grenade. While the grenade is exploding on the boss, the player pauses the game; while the remainder of the action on the screen freezes, the grenade remains active, continuing to damage the boss. After fifteen seconds, the player unpauses the game to find that the boss is destroyed.
Jason and SOPHIA have separate power meters, and they decrease whenever they sustain damage by an enemy or any other hazardous object or whenever Jason falls from a high place. They lose a life if their power meter runs out, and the game ends when they lose all of their lives. They are given five continues which allow them to restart the game at the same level in which they have lost all their lives. They can restore their power meter by collecting power capsules that appear in various places.
The game was released by Sunsoft in Japan as Chô Wakusei Senki Metafight (also simply called MetaFight or Meta Fight) on June 17, 1988 (1988-06-17). It was released in North America under the title Blaster Master in November 1988. It was released in Europe on April 25, 1991 (1991-04-25). Chô Wakusei Senki Metafight, along with Ripple Island, was re-released for the PlayStation in Volume 4 of Sunsoft's Memorial Series. The game was released for the Wii's Virtual Console service in North America on December 14, 2009 (2009-12-14). The game's Virtual Console release marked Sunsoft's first North American release since deciding to return to developing video games for the Western market through its partnership with Gaijinworks. Sunsoft announced that they will release the game to the Wii Virtual Console worldwide with their assistance.
Blaster Master received praise from reviewers for its gameplay. In a 1988 Electronic Game Player (later known as Electronic Gaming Monthly) review, Steve Ryno lauded the concept of combining two "radically different" video game genres into one continuous game. He adds that the top-down portion contributes further to the depth of gameplay. He says that "everything works well without the game becoming crowded or unbalanced". Brad Hicks from SwankWorld calls the game "one of the most underrated games to have ever come out on the NES", praising the "seamlessly integrated" gameplay. Julian Rignall, in a 1992 issue of Mean Machines magazine, praised the overall gameplay and the tank's control and movements; Matt Regan, in the same issue, enjoyed the game's fast-paced gameplay and abundance of rooms and bonus areas to explore. Jeremy Parish from 1UP.com praises the game in that the player is able to explore the underground "Metroidvania style" in a large, responsive tank, occasionally having to leave the tank to explore on foot—which he compares to the Warthog sequences in the original Halo video game. Nintendo Life's Corbie Dillard praised the game's responsive controls and for its non-linearity.
The game received positive reviews for its graphics. Ryno praised the attention to detail in the graphics; he adds that they transition well between levels as new and diverse environments are introduced. He also praised the fluid animation and movement of creatures in the top-down perspective. Hicks lauded the visuals, referring to the game's detail in the main levels and in the caverns; he appreciated the game's graphical variety and the animations of the tank and the enemies. Dillard praises the game's impressive graphics, saying that the graphics are varied, distinctive, and well-drawn; he adds that Sunsoft "did their homework" in this regard.
Reviewers enjoyed the game's sound effects and music. Ryno found the music "pleasing", noting that different tracks were scored for each separate level. Hicks praised the game's music, comparing the track for the first level to the Super Mario Bros. theme. IGN's Mark Syan Sallee describes the music "as memorable as anything from Nintendo". Regan says that the game's sound effects and music bolster the gameplay and graphical atmosphere. He calls the music in the game as one of the best chiptune sounds in the 8-bit era, noting the up-tempo tracks and high-quality sound effects.
One of the main criticisms of Blaster Master has been its difficulty. Hicks and IGN's Levi Buchanan criticized the game for its overall difficulty. They mention that the game lacks passwords or save features as used in Metroid; the game had to be completed in one sitting. IGN's Lucas Thomas also agreed, saying that because of the difficulty of the game, dying near the end of the game and having to restart the game all over again without passwords or save points has been frustrating for players. Buchanan criticized the game for its difficulty in the on-foot portions. He says that the bosses are too difficult to beat, the enemies regenerate upon re-entering a screen, and players can lose a life from falling too far while on foot in the 2D mode. Hicks and Buchanan said that some players need to exploit the "grenade glitch" to beat some bosses. Parish criticized the game for having a limited number of continues. He also slightly criticized the graphics in the top-down perspective, saying that the display is "incredibly cutesy compared to the tank sections, with the protagonist's head providing about 50% of his total body mass".
Other reviewers have found some criticisms in the gameplay itself. Buchanan mentions that the character holds his gun in his right hand, requiring the player to compensate by moving left before shooting enemies (if the player can move left on the screen). Thomas echoed Buchanan's concerns in a later review, adding that this requires players to mentally adjust and to target enemies off-center. Thomas criticizes the control of the tank; he notes a lack of traction, which may cause players to roll off a platform or cliff. Parish criticized the gameplay in the top-down perspective, saying that the gun the players uses is too weak. He goes on to say that there are too few upgrades for the gun, and the gun downgrades whenever the player takes damage from what Parish says "high-powered beam of death" to "a stupid unreliable peashooter of mild discomfort".
The game has received notable recognitions in gaming magazines. Electronic Gaming Monthly, in their premiere issue, listed the game at #1 on their "Top Ten Games" list. Nintendo Power listed it as #63 in its "100 Best Games of All Time" list, and Electronic Gaming Monthly listed it as #184 in its "Top 200 Games of Their Time" list. IGN listed it as #22 in its "Top 100 NES Games" list.
Software Creations developed the North American-exclusive sequel Blaster Master 2 for the Sega Genesis. Later releases include Blaster Master Boy for the Game Boy, Blaster Master: Enemy Below (released in Japan as MetaFight EX) for the Game Boy Color, and Blaster Master: Blasting Again for the PlayStation. A "re-imaging" of the first game, Blaster Master: Overdrive, is scheduled for release on Nintendo's WiiWare service in North America on February 8, 2010.
Scholastic Books published a novelization of Blaster Master, written by Peter Lerangis under the pen name "A.L. Singer". The book was part of the Worlds of Power series, consisting of loose novelizations of various NES games. He wrote similar novelizations for Ninja Gaiden, Infiltrator, and Bases Loaded II: Second Season. As with the other books in the series, all acts of violence portrayed in the games, including any death scenes, were removed. As a result, the bosses were portrayed in the book as "holographic projections placed over formless blobs". Shawn Struck and Shawn Sharkey from 1UP.com said that Blaster Master was the hardest book for Lerangis to write because of the lack of a middle plot. Lerangis had to come up with details that were not in the game to connect the game's actual opening and conclusion. This led Sunsoft to adopt Lerangis' novel as the backstory for the game's sequel, Blaster Master: Blasting Again. This was the only novel in the Worlds of Power series to be canonized in a video game series.
- Blaster Master at MobyGames
- Blaster Master at GameFAQs
- Blaster Master guide at StrategyWiki
- Hardcore Gaming 101's In-Depth Article on the series
- Blaster Master Underground (BMUG) - A complete record of all games in the series, including external media and background development history on each game
- Unofficial arrangements (ReMixes) of Blaster Master's soundtrack at OverClocked ReMix