The second installment of Monday’s Game brings us to one of the first, and best games I’ve ever owned for the Nintendo Entertainment System:  Blaster Master.

Oh, the 8-Bit goodness!

Blaster Master was released in1988 by Sunsoft.  It was the first in a chain of, thus far, 5 games with 1 re imaging of the game released to Wii-ware.  There was also a book written by Peter Lerangis for the Worlds of Power series (a series of video-game inspired books) released by Scholastic.  Interestingly, it was the only book of the series to ever be canonized.  In fact the plot of the book is used heavily in the most recent release, Blaster Master: Blasting Again (for the PS1, so yeah, recent is relative).  And yes, I own the book and have read it many times.  It’s not bad; you can read it in about an hour.

Pew Pew Pew!

At it’s core, Blaster Master is your typical side scrolling shooter.  Much in the same way that Metroid or Contra is.  This time, however, you’re controlling S.O.P.H.I.A., an upgradeable, all-terrain, jumping tank.  Through the 8 levels that make up the game, SOPHIA gets such upgrades as more powerful weapons, hover jets, underwater propeller, etc.  Many (all) of these upgrades are specifically required to reach the next level, much like how Metroid requires certain items to reach certain doors to proceed.

One of the interesting parts of the game, is that the tank is really just your means to reach these little doors sprinkled about each level.  Once you get to one of said doors, you hop out of your nice, big, secure tank, and go after the boss.  However, as there are many, MANY doors in each level, you often have to do some exploring to find the door you need.  Or, if you’re me, you played the game so many times in your youth that you to this day remember where all the doors are.  Whatever. (I played it again while writing this post, and yup I still know where the boss doors are).

Once again: Pew Pew Pew!

Once you go through the door, you end up in a top-down style shooter.  You can run around blasting badguys and collecting weapon enhancements for your little guy.  You can also pick up some of the extra armaments for SOPHIA in these areas as well, which are handy when you need that odd homing missile for those %*@#ing hard to hit caterpillars in the second, third, and fourth levels.  You also have grenades in this mode, which are pretty much the weapon of choice for 6 of the 8 bosses.

If you’ve ever played Fester’s Quest, you may notice a similarity of this mode.  Sunsoft pretty much ripped off their own game in this regard.  This very same system was indeed used for Fester’s Quest.  Though somehow, between Blaster Master’s release and Fester’s Quest’s release one year later, they managed to totally screw a good system up.  Literally, play Blaster Master and then play Fester’s Quest right after.  They managed to entirely ruin a pretty well rounded mechanics system in only 1 year. Good on ya, Sunsoft.  Amazingly the company does still exist, though they publish about 1 game a year these days… most of them Majong games for the PC that never leave Japan.

Once you find the correct door that actually has the boss in it, you kill the boss and collect an upgrade for SOPHIA (or, as in level 4, a flipping KEY!  GRARGH!).  You then move on to the next level, which may be straight forward or you may have to backtrack through a few other levels to get there.  Sounds like Metroid again, no?

Even though I’ve compared it to Metroid a number of times, the comparison is favorable.  In many ways I think Blaster Master may have been the superior game of the two, though it garnered less attention.  It’s entirely worth a play or 20.  Right now you can snag it for Wii-Ware for 500 points ($5) under the name  Blaster Master: Overdrive.  It’s a re-imaging of the original, so milage may vary compared to the original.  Or, if you’ve still got your NES hooked up (and I know I do) you can find it for anywhere between $0.50 and $82 online.  Generally though, I see it in the $3 case at my local Mega Media Xchange , a place I buy more NES carts from than anything else.  Seriously, I picked up Cobra Triangle from them for $2.  How awesome is that?!

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?