Few could’ve guessed that a Blaster Master reimagining would’ve been one of the standout releases of the Switch launch window line-up, yet Blaster Master Zero proved to be a potently enjoyable take on the retro classic. Then, a couple of years later, Inti Creates opted to follow it up with an all-new sequel that built upon the ideas that were explored in the first entry. All good things must come to an end, however, as the team has now put out a final entry to close out the trilogy with a bang. Luckily for us, Blaster Master Zero 3 showcases the developers’ absolute mastery of old-school platforming design; this is one that you definitely won’t want to miss.
The story of Blaster Master Zero 3 hits the ground running, picking up shortly after the end of its predecessor. There are tough circumstances for our protagonists, and the world is seemingly falling apart at the seams as cracks are beginning to form in the fabric of reality, granting passageway into the dangerous mutant dimension. Of course, it doesn’t take long for Jason to find his way into the driver’s seat of the G-SOPHIA SV tank, which he intends to use to get to the bottom of the interdimensional chaos.
Though the narrative may be a little campy in some places, it’s rather notable how Blaster Master Zero 3 endeavors to tell a relatively ambitious tale throughout its rather short run. Character development is kept to an absolute minimum, but there’s a remarkably broad cast on offer here to instil the world with a grounded feeling that you don’t often find in a retro platformer. That being said, this is still a gameplay first experience, so don’t worry too much about being buried in cutscenes and text boxes. The extra lore and diverse cast simply acts as a nice way to wrap levels and set pieces together, you’re given compelling reasons to keep pushing forward on your adventure.
Gameplay is about as polished as it’s ever been, and Jason and SOPHIA have more tools at their disposal than ever before. Of course, you start out the adventure having conveniently lost everything from the last game, but it doesn’t take long for you to start accruing an arsenal of new upgrades and cool weaponry. The world is still laid out in a semi-linear fashion like the previous entries, though the Metroidvania design does feel ever so slightly dialed back this time around. The structure is still there, of course, but it feels like you’re corralled down a predetermined path a little more often than in the previous two games.
This isn’t a bad thing, however, as the pacing consequently feels thrilling and there are still plenty of secrets and optional objectives to pursue along the way. It feels like you can hardly go five minutes without stumbling across yet another optional dungeon, and the rewards that they have to offer are almost always worth it. Aside from the expected upgrades to health and ammo capacity, there are quite a few alternative weapons and moves that make later combat sections that much easier. And boy, will you need some sections to be made easier, as Inti Creates really doesn’t pull its punches with some boss encounters and level designs. Blaster Master Zero 3 never feels unfair, but it certainly isn’t afraid to put up a fight where it needs to.
Whether you’re in the tank or on foot, the looming threat of the mutant dimension remains central to the gameplay and introduces a fun ‘dark world’ mechanic a la A Link to the Past. Colorful portals to the next dimension appear at various sections in levels or dungeons, and puzzles often are built around you jumping in and out of these passageways to figure out a way forward. Sometimes dungeons offer up the portals as an option, too, effectively giving you two different versions of the same dungeon layout. If you keep dying on a tough enemy encounter in one world, you can try the other world’s version instead and see if that works out better.
Although there aren’t many surprising new ideas introduced with this dark world mechanic, it nonetheless allows for some impressively satisfying and complex level designs. The occasional slight differences between the two variants of a level add that much more space for you to explore and poke around, while the difference in enemy variety ensures that both worlds feel distinct from each other. An argument could be made that levels are a little bit more padded with the addition of the extra square footage, but we’d argue that the dimension hopping mechanic overall proves itself to be a positive addition to the base Blaster Master gameplay.
We feel extra emphasis must also be placed on the general tightening up of the gameplay, both in and out of the tank. For example, Jason now has a small jetpack that can slow down his falls when he’s platforming out of the tank, and this little addition helps to alleviate the issue where he felt just a bit too squishy when stepping off ledges. For SOPHIA, the addition of a separate SP gauge for the main gun (and its subsequent upgrades) helps to make your peashooter feel useful all the way through the adventure, as you’re no longer incentivized to rely heavily on sub-weapons once you start acquiring them. It’s little changes and tweaks like these that make the overall experience more satisfying moment to moment, and they show that Inti Creates has been paying attention to feedback from its previous work.
On the other hand, one could say that Blaster Master Zero 3 is beginning to show the cracks of the underlying gameplay structure. Make no mistake, this is still a top-tier retro platformer that trumps most other similar offerings on the eShop, but there’s a lingering sense that Inti Creates has taken the core concept as far as it reasonably can with this outing. The gameplay is as good as it’s ever been—better, actually—but the similarities with previous outings sometimes make this entry feel more like a juiced up DLC than a proper sequel. It’s fitting that this is the ‘ending’ chapter to the ongoing saga, then, as an additional entry would need to introduce some more radical gameplay innovations to retain the same level of quality.
As for presentation, there isn’t a whole lot here to wow you, but it all falls neatly in line with the chosen aesthetic. The pixel art and animation is exactly what you’d expect out of a modernized take on an 8-bit platformer, with the main liberties being taken with the numerous and impressively detailed boss designs. At no point does the art feel haphazard or poorly drawn, although there are some moments where the overall aesthetic feels a bit played out. Really, how many times must we fight a giant enemy crab before it becomes overdone? Luckily, the liberal usage of colors and a catchy soundtrack mix together well enough that you can’t help but appreciate the effort put in.
As the conclusion to the modern take on the Blaster Master saga, Blaster Master Zero 3 hits all the notes it needs to deliver a high octane and satisfying retro platforming experience. The dark world mechanic adds a nice extra layer to the overall design, while the familiar aspects of gameplay are as polished as they’ve ever been. Inti Creates certainly could’ve stopped with the original Blaster Master Zero and that would’ve been enough, but what it’s delivered here with its third take on the franchise is nothing short of excellent. Whenever you next get a chance, be sure to add this one to your library, although we’d say so with the caveat that you should first play the preceding two entries. Really, these games are just that good.
Having a blast with the game so far. 😄
@NESlover85 pun intended?
@Jackpaza0508 yup. Bad I know.
Both 1 and 2 are great games. I'm sure gonna pick this one up until the end of the year
I'd love to see a normal trilogy physical release in Europe and not those LRG limited shenanigans.
There's a physical Trilogy release with all three games on a single cartridge. It's a little pricey, but it actually has exclusive voice-overs for the first and second games.
I believe it only has an Asia region release, I'm not clear on the details of this, but you can get a copy from a UK seller that ships domestically.
Cheaper than ordering from the likes of Play-asia.
I agree with this 9 / 10. Perhaps even a 9.5 for me.
My only complaint is the lack of quality control with some of the typos in the dialogue in the beginning. I ran into 3-4 instances where the words weren’t correct in dialogue sections. Otherwise the gameplay, the most important piece at the end if the day, is the best of the trilogy hands down. It’s so great so far!
Worst part is you buy LRG 3 version and get Japan/english trilogy alot of money $$$$.
How much dialogue and cut scene stuff is there to skip? Is there an option to simply press a button to skip it all, or do you have to mash through long dialogue boxes? The story in the first two games was pretty much the worst writing I’ve ever seen in a game since Hong Kong ‘97.
Quickly scrolled down to the score. I'm glad it scored well and I've had it pre-ordered since it was an option. I'll read the review in full later, and I'm so stoked to dive in the game later. Right now I'm tied up with skyward sword. But it's next on my list to play. The first two were bangers, so I'm sure I'll love this.
That artwork. That's a nod to Megaman Zero 3 if ever I saw one.
Sounds like it will be as much a blast as the previous two.
This game is GOOOOOOOD! I love it! Music's great, the sprite graphics got an AWESOME upgrade, AND the game utilizes the whole 16:9 ratio of the screen! And the bosses ARE challenging!
I want Jason's haircut.
I've said it a few times already, but I'm looking forward to picking this up and finishing the trilogy. These games are a blast to play through.
I'm so mad I missed out on the pre-release sale...
Like with the 2nd game, I just don't seem to be feeling it with the third installment. I bought the game last night and already encountered a soft lock in the first area. In addition, I'm really hating how you have to shoot switches to open the doors in the first area overhead sections.
I'm hoping they patch the soft lock and I'm REALLY hoping the whole shtick of shooting switches with the correct gun to open doors isn't in the whole game. It just slows down the pacing. There's absolutely no reason for it.
Even so, it's the most reasonably priced game I've bought in a while. Between Nintendo charging full price for a Wii game and the Cotton Reboot being so expensive, I was grateful to see such a low price on this game.
EDIT: Just throwing out there that the soft locks are solved once you find Fred, which doesn't take long.
@Onion Have you gotten Fred yet? I ran into a few situations where I thought I had soft locked, but Fred can teleport you back to the tank if you select him in the menu.
@RupeeClock I stopped buying stuff from the UK after Brexit since now customs charge fees. So I really want a standard European release for the trilogy since no other option is viable without spending more than I wanted to.
It was before I got fred actually, I was going to do an edit where I mentioned that the soft lock issues end once you get Fred, but wasn't sure if that'd somehow count as a spoiler. (Fred being in a Blaster Master shouldn't be considered a spoiler, but still...)
Once I got Fred the issue didn't occur again. Thankfully you get him extremely early. Before I got Fred though I got out of the tank and jumped down this area only Jason could fit through and... was stuck.
And another Edit: After getting through the first tutorial area and grabbing Fred, I'm enjoying the game way more now. I think it was just that first part of the game that was rubbing me wrong.
Awesome. I am glad they seemed to have a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.
This series has been amazing so far so I'm glad the trend has continued.
I could never get into the original Blaster Master on NES so it's great that they made it work so well with the Zero series (without even having to deviate from the core concepts too much). It makes you wonder how many NES games just needed a bit of fine tuning to really shine.
@Splodge 100% agree. So many 8-bit games would IMMEDIATELY be enjoyed today with some extremely modest QOL additions.
Still haven't played BMZ2. Guess I should get on that, eh? The first one was awesome.
But I really can't buy anything for a while yet. Too many games to play already (the backlog, y'know). So easy to spend money on stuff you can't use. So much more satisfying to slow down, enjoy what you have...
OK, tangent over.
@Splodge @Muddy_4_Ever Zelda II is wonderful with save states (NSO app or elsewhere). That's always the first example that comes to my mind.
@Dr_Corndog Agreed. If a mapping system on the bigger mazes was added (along with a generous checkpoint system to eliminate the need to spam saves), it would be perfect.
Nice! I should be getting a ship-out notice any time now from Amazon Japan for my preorder of the BMZ Trilogy Collection. I splurged on the Collector's Edition to get the sound selection CD. I've been holding off on playing the BMZ games all this time, waiting for a physical release, so this will jump up a few spots in the backlog once it delivers.
This underrated series gets overlooked by a lot it seems. Great games.
Am I the only one, who doesn't like the NES era, or the NESish (is this even a word?) pixel art games?
16, 32 bit pixels? All day long!
@Kumite I'm over pixel graphics. To me it is just being cheap and/or lazy. Gotta think that there are a lot of talented artists who would be willing to work relatively cheaply in order to gain experience in the industry. After playing a beautiful game like Ori and the Will of the Wisps, tough to look at pixelated graphics the same.
I love Inti's games. I'll follow them to the gates of oblivion lol. I got this backlogged awaiting a sale-- I got so much I still have to knock out ayeayeaye...
I have to admit, probably my least favorite so far.
I haven't played much, but it has way too many bullet sponge enemies during on foot dungeons and the tank part enemies are just annoying...
Maybe it just rubbed me the wrong way and it just isn't my day and i'll certainly finish it, but yeah, first impression wasn't great :/
I still haven’t beaten the first one! Ugh… looks like I’ll never know who runs barter town…
I cant wait to try this. The second one was better than the first and this looks even more promising
I have really loved this series since the original in '88. Can't wait to sink my teeth into this
Have they made the respawns any faster? One thing I hated about BMZ2 was that the boss fights were very difficult, but the respawns were very slow, especially because you had to keep watching the same cutscene over and over.
The instant respawns of modern platformers like Celeste and Ori have really spoiled me, and frequent but very slow respawns now seem intolerable.
@Kumite No. I've heard lots of other people say that. The NES had clear limitations and not everyone is going to like the visuals. The most obvious thing is the limited colors available for sprites. The three-color(visible colors) sprites show their age, though developers could do a lot with them and some modern designers have done impressive things within those limitations. But a lot of people will say that the kind of graphics you describe, from the 16 and 32-bit eras, still look good today. The 15-color sprites allow for enough color and detail for some excellent art that is still visually appealing. I've been known to say that if every game looked like a CPS2 or Neo Geo game, I would be quite happy.
Beat the game this evening. Ending was pretty good. Overall I found this one a tad too easy. Still a great experience though!!
Read more like an 8 then a 9, but whatevs, let the good times roll.
So far I’m not enjoying BMZ3, which is a shame as I loved the first two. I seem to need to hammer the fire button forever to take out even basic enemies and I’m still on level 1 (I gave up yesterday after dying endlessly on one of the top down bits and having to do the whole thing over and over again).
Maybe like the first two games, certain enemies are susceptible to specific weapons and I just haven’t found the game’s rhythm yet? I remember having lots of trouble with BMZ2 until I worked out how to use the X button and which weapons worked best on which enemies.
There also seems to be a fair amount of slow down, particularly when using the spiral weapon, which seems odd for something that tries to look like a NES game.
I’ll try going back to it, hopefully I’ll end up loving it and it doesn’t end up being yet another series where the third sequel ends up being a disappointment.
I was tempted to buy it on switch, since I already have the first two on there....but I went with the pc version since it was on sale a little cheaper, and has achievements. I will probably get the switch version as well, at whatever point it goes on sale.
I'm not saying that it's not worth the price, that's just how I roll. I'm glad that this reviewer liked the game, and that's what helped me decide on getting it today.
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