There was a period right before the Kickstarter fad took off in earnest when pixel art was the big thing in indie games. It makes sense – these guys didn’t really understand what made the old classics great, so they assumed it was the graphics and went to town. Needless to say, while there were some games that made this work, there was plenty of crap to go around as well. What we really wanted were games like Blaster Master Zero 2, games that understood why the NES was a great console and sought to embrace that old-school feel while bringing it into the new age.
After our heroes rescued Fred the frog (?) and defeated the mutants in the original Blaster Master Zero, everything seemed to have been worked out. Turns out that’s a little premature, though. Android assistant Eve was infected with mutant cells during the final battle, causing a terminal corruption. It’s up to hero Jason (and Fred, of course!) to hop in the mobile tank Sophia and scour the galaxy to find a cure.
This leads to a more episodic take on the Blaster Master formula than the previous game. Jason and pals will travel from planet to planet in Sophia, discovering new items and the charts that will lead them even further into unknown territory. You’ve got various sections containing main planets to explore as well as sidequests typically containing shorter segments that lead directly to items. The latter need to be unlocked via exploration; it’s a great way to ensure that scouring each planet feels rewarding.
The gameplay here is largely similar to the previous game, which in turn owed a lot to the original Blaster Master. Sophia is pretty nimble for a tank, so it can jump, fire in multiple directions and unleash numerous weapons. New to this title is an energy-restoration system revolving around crashing Sophia down from great heights. This allows you to use your subweapons much more often than the original Blaster Master Zero, so you end up feeling a lot more powerful.
You can also hop out of the tank and control Jason on foot, as always. In the regular side-scrolling sections this is a significant liability – don’t try that “crashing down from great heights” thing on foot. However, you can also take Jason into top-down dungeon areas where he can obtain a variety of powerful weapons and take on bosses. Not only are there new weapons available, but Jason has a sweet new counter-shot ability that looks fantastic and adds a little more twitch action to the mix. You’ll need it, too, since Blaster Master Zero 2 feels a little tougher on the whole than the previous game.
As with the previous title, Blaster Master Zero 2 looks and sounds great. It’s the kind of game I expected games to look like back when I was an NES-fiending kid; it’s got fantastic pixel art combined with modern special effects. Even the sound effects and music are both nostalgic and fresh at the same time. It’s a beautiful game that looks and feels right at home on the Switch.
All things considered, there’s not a lot to complain about with Blaster Master Zero 2. It’s a slice of nostalgia for the modern era, the kind of game that all those me-too indie pixel art games have tried to be for years now. Even if you’ve never touched the original Blaster Master Zero (which means you’d be missing out!) there’s another here to keep you blasting away into the wee hours of the night. Combine that with an agreeable price tag and you’ve got an easy recommendation.