Over the years, Sunsoft's NES Blaster Master release has become a favourite among fans of the console. Not only has it gone on to become a true cult classic for the system, it's also been called one of the most innovative gameplay experiences of the 8-bit era. Now Sunsoft is back and after having recently releasing the original Blaster Master on the Virtual Console, they've now given fans of the game something to really sink their teeth into with a brand new version of the game for the WiiWare service aptly titled Blaster Master: Overdrive. And in truth, they couldn't have chosen a better word to describe the game, as it's everything the original was and more.
Fans of the original Blaster Master will feel right at home from the start with this title. Not only is the core gameplay exactly the same, but Sunsoft even managed to toss in some very useful control tweaks to make the game even more playable. Now you can shoot diagonally in both S.O.P.H.I.A. mode and on foot in the overhead view. This makes not only taking standard enemies out much easier and more intuitive, but also gives you a bit of an edge when it comes to taking down some of the game's mammoth mutant bosses.
Your ultimate goal in Blaster Master: Overdrive is to locate the lairs of the boss mutants and destroy them. Beating a boss will win you a special upgrade kit for your assault vehicle that will allow you access to previously inaccessible areas of the game. So while there's a linear atmosphere to the flow of the game, there's still plenty of freedom in your exploration throughout .
Exploration on the outside world is mainly done inside your assault vehicle. Luckily it comes complete with the ability to jump as well as fire its cannon. As you add upgrades to your vehicle, you'll soon have access to various special powers like a grappling hook and even a hover ability. As you explore each area you'll come to caves that require you to disembark your vehicle and set out on foot in the overhead mode. It's here that you have a wide variety of weapons at your disposal, with everything from your standard cannon, which can be powered up, to grenades and homing missiles. Many caves have plenty of weapon and health upgrades to be found, but some turn out to be boss lairs so it's always a good idea to save as often as you can. The game even offers you a map of the entire area, useful for finding unexplored areas.
The game's basic controls are very intuitive and easy to use, and the decision to make the Wii Remote held NES-style the controller of choice makes coming to grips with these controls quite easy. Even cycling through the various weapons and assault vehicle abilities is easy to do on the fly. There is a slight pause when you press the jump button while inside the assault vehicle, but it's something you'll get used to after awhile. There's also a gradual increase in difficulty that keeps the game from becoming overwhelming too suddenly. And while the boss fights are absolutely amazing, they all feature distinct attack and movement patterns that requires you to figure them out in order to destroy them rather than toss you into a redundant button-mashing experience. As smooth as the play control was in the original, Sunsoft have managed to improve upon it with this WiiWare release, and with eight different areas to explore you're going to get your money's worth out of this one.
Blaster Master: Overdrive leaves behind the simple 8-bit visuals of the original in favour of a more flashy graphical presentation. Everything from the parallax-scrolling backdrops to the extremely detailed characters and enemies give the game a very refreshing modern coat of paint. There's also plenty of variety between the various areas to keep things fresh and interesting, but if there's one area of the game that truly shines, it's the gigantic bosses you'll have to square off against. Each one is absolutely gorgeous in terms of visual flash and their movements are as smooth as silk. It's nice to see this type of attention to detail in a WiiWare retro release.
Not to be outdone by the striking visuals, the game's soundtrack is equally impressive. The remixed Blaster Master tunes sound better than ever, and the sound effects shine as well. There's honestly not a bad track in the entire game and if you have a nice surround sound system, you'd better crank this one up because it has some amazing bass and some very impressive separation between speakers. Many WiiWare soundtracks tend to sound muffled and washed out at times due to compression, but there's not a hint of that in this fantastic audio package.
The unique blend of platforming and shooting, not to mention two different perspectives, give Blaster Master: Overdrive everything fans of the original game could possibly want. Toss in some amazing gameplay tweaks and give the game a smoother difficulty curve and what you have is easily one of the best WiiWare games on the service and a fitting update to one of the all-time NES classics. If you can appreciate a truly unique and engaging retro gaming experience, not to mention what is one of the best games available on WiiWare, look no further because you've just found it.