Blaster Master Zero 2 is a hybrid 2D platformer and top-down action game by Inti Creates. Blaster Master Zero released in 2017 on the Nintendo Switch and 3DS, but the Blaster Master series has been around since the NES. I don’t have much experience with the series before Zero, but when Zero came out I had played it and loved it deeply. Blaster Master Zero 2 was announced and released on the same day as a Nintendo Nindies presentation. I don’t typically enjoy shadow-drops, but this was a really nice surprise. I had seen the true ending of Blaster Master Zero, so how do I compare it with it’s sequel? This review will feature lots of gameplay and story spoilers, so here’s your warning.
You play as Jason Frudnick, pilot of the MA unit G-Sophia. When your support droid Eve comes down with a mutant virus, you set off into space for Eve’s home planet “Sophia” and a cure. Along the way you will travel to multiple planets, fight many battles, and meet other MA pilots. Blaster Master Zero 2’s story starts quite simple, yet the further along you go the more complicated your journey becomes. A game like this doesn’t need a story or characters to care about, yet it has one. I really enjoyed the story and wanted to see Jason succeed.
With the hybrid style of Blaster Master Zero 2, discussing it is going to be a lot harder. I’ll try my best to make my points and the type of gameplay I’m discussing clear. With that being said, there is a lot of variation within Blaster Master Zero 2. The main style Blaster Master Zero 2 has you experience is 2D platforming, so it is where I’ll begin.
Most of the time platforming in Blaster Master Zero 2 is spent inside G-Sophia. G-Sophia is fast, easy to control, and has a fluidity that I’d compare to the Mega Man X games. The main difference between the original and BMZ2 is G-Sophia. Sophia’s Gaia system is brand new, and pretty unique among platformers I’ve played. There is a meter that you can use on different attacks and abilities that refills when you fall from large heights or take damage. You can also refill it with an item dropped by enemies. G-Sophia can shoot in 5 directions, which is my biggest issue with Blaster Master Zero 2. To aim, you must be holding that direction on either the d-pad or analogue stick. Because of that, most people when attempting to shoot diagonally will typically still use the d-pad or analogue stick which means they’ll always move forwards, which makes lining up a shot very difficult. However, there is a way around it the left and right bumpers allow you to aim diagonally without moving, though this may not be intuitive to most people.
At any point in you can eject from G-Sophia and go on the ground. The biggest advantage to this is your small size, that is also your only advantage. When you are outside of G-Sophia you take more damage, have a weaker weapon, are much slower, have a much poorer jump, and take extreme fall damage. When you begin the game there are enemies you cannot kill with G-Sophia’s basic blaster, killing those enemies are among the only times I exited G-Sophia.
While playing on foot something just feels off between the slower run speed and terrible jump. There are times the game expects you to platform as just Jason. I hated these sections and wished them over immediately. Luckily, they usually lasted less than 5 minutes, but there were times later where the time spent on foot was way too much. These forced sections did nothing but bog down my experience and I wish they were excluded entirely. Jason himself can also go into caves and other rooms, which is where the top-down gameplay comes in.
How does Blaster Master Zero 2 work as a top-down action game? Amazingly. Movement speed is fine, control is mostly fluid, and you have many more options than inside G-Sophia. In these top-down sections you can use explosives, counter enemy attacks, and have access to the weapon level system. The game never tells you what it is or does, but the pink bar next to your health is your weapon level. This allows you to use many different types of weapons, but I found most useless [Editor’s Note: Like in the first game, each boss has a weakness. The weakness are based on the weapons, so certain weapons can do more damage or stun bosses, which might be useful if you’re having trouble with a boss]. When you get hit, you lose a weapon level. This rewards skill in good players and I generally found it fair.
My biggest issue with Blaster Master Zero 2’s controls is something a bit out of its own hands. 2D Games should not be played with an analogue stick, yet the Nintendo Switch’s d-pads are horrible. It created issues for me aiming in G-Sophia and moving around in the top-down section. I cannot fault the game too much for it, but it’s something anyone looking into playing should be aware of.
I’d place Blaster Master Zero 2 more along with a game like Metroid. There are many upgrades for you to find, including health, SP levels, and new weapons. My favorite collectable in Blaster Master Zero 2 are the maps, they reveal a new planet for you to find even more challenges on. These planets were usually small challenges in either platforming, puzzle solving, or a boss fight. Sometimes the rewards for completing these planets are boring with just a new map, but most of the time the worst thing you’ll get from one is a health upgrade. Even when I would only get a map, I enjoyed having more distinct gameplay areas to tackle.
When you run out of SP G-Sophia will turn grey and your cannon will become much weaker. You must wait for your SP to refill itself before continuing. Sometimes I found it easier to purposefully die or waste SP than refilling with items or continuously jumping up and falling down. Yet when you have SP upgrades you have to wait until it fills to that maximum. In later parts of the game, it soon became 45 seconds to a minute of down-time when you run out of SP. Definitely something I didn’t enjoy, but more a nitpick than anything.
Blaster Master Zero 2 loves its boss-fights. With a few exceptions they are challenging and fun tests of skill. Usually beating a boss is required to leave a story planet and head for the next sector. I enjoyed the bosses done in top-down areas the most. You have access to so many more weapons and options, making for usually more creative fights. That’s not attempting to downplay battles inside G-Sophia, but they never reached the same level of enjoyment for me.
To achieve the true ending of Blaster Master Zero 2, you must gather every MA pilot emblem. To get a pilot emblem, you must first beat the main story of a planet with an MA pilot and then go do some sort of a fetch-quest. When I started the first I had feared these would be horrible. The usually small size of the places you’re exploring for the items alongside an in-depth map made these fun revisits to planets I had enjoyed. The best part of the backtracking was using upgrades I had since received to blast through the opposition and the planets terrain.
In the final area of the game, you take control of Eve who was separated from Jason, G-Sophia, and the support animal Fred. When I had first gotten to this section of the game I had found it really amazing to play as Eve, but you spent 99% of the time playing as if you were Jason alone in the 2D platforming. Eve alone has no gun, her only weapon of defense is a small attack that does almost no damage to enemies and reaches barely 10 pixels away from you. This attack had very large start-up and locked you into place. There were a few sections I had to step away from due to frustration.
Eve also has her own top-down sections which use the same attack. In these sections she is a lot slower than Jason, which was annoying. I found them a lot more interesting than the platforming and even fun. I spent about an hour as Eve and I don’t think this was the smartest decision to end the game.
After wandering awhile, Eve comes across a MA unit to use for herself. This unit controls much more like Blaster Master Zero’s Sophia-III and lacks the Gaia system. Yet it also has its own weapons and abilities that create unique and interesting puzzles, which I enjoyed figuring out. Unfortunately, you don’t spend a lot of time in this unit before being thrown back as Jason inside G-Sophia. I wish you’d spent at least as much time like this as you did by yourself.
Eve has a couple of boss-fights to her name. They were terrible, especially a boss that saw you platforming up without a MA unit to drop blocks on a bouncing mutant. It is hard to avoid, you take tons of damage, and it is possible to fall just one platform down and die outright. I hated almost every boss with Eve, the only exception being the boss before rescuing Jason. Playing as Eve was horrible and it might keep me from revisiting sooner than later.
Blaster Master Zero 2’s presentation is great. It feels like a SNES game on steroids, and that feels great. Sound effects are satisfying, graphics are pretty, and the game is very vibrant. The music while more action heavy than something like Metroid, was great and I found myself stopping just to listen to it sometimes.
It took me just over 10 hours to complete Blaster Master Zero 2 including the true ending. I definitely enjoyed my time with it, even if this review pointed out all the negatives in Blaster Master Zero 2, I still absolutely loved it. It has become one of my new favorite Switch games and I’ll always recommend it to those looking for a game to play. Do I recommend Blaster Master Zero 2 to those who haven’t played the original or a Blaster Master game before? I very much do. Blaster Master Zero 2 gains the IGT seal of approval in a heartbeat. [Editor’s Note: The first game received a lot of indie characters as DLC, this one will likely get similar fanfare.]
A review copy was bought by the reviewer
supiroguy has awarded Blaster Master Zero 2 The Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval