A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Blaster Master Zero is a retro-style, downloadable action-adventure game. The game is a reboot of the classic Blaster Master NES game. Although the controls are fairly easy to pick up, there's a surprising amount of menu navigation required to swap among weapons. Also, navigating the worlds and fighting enemies sometimes requires a challenging amount of precision. Violence is fairly constant in the game, with players shooting at robots and monsters of all shapes and sizes. But the retro visual style and the overall design don't feature any sort of blood or gore -- just lots of explosions.
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What's it about?
This is the story about a boy, his frog, and the tank that brought them together. BLASTER MASTER ZERO is a remake of the original NES classic Blaster Master. In the new game, the world has been rebuilt, literally from the ground up, after war and strife cause the onset of a new Ice Age, forcing humanity to go underground and start over. Now, several hundreds of years later, the world has returned to its previous lush state. One day, robotics expert Jason Frudnick discovers an unclassified creature (apparently a frog) he calls "Fred," which he takes to his lab to observe. Fred manages to escape the lab and dive into a mysterious portal, with Jason following close behind. On the other side of the portal, Jason finds himself in the subterranean remnants of humanity's past, next to an armored exploration vehicle dubbed "SOPHIA-III." With the aid of this vehicle and a mysterious new friend, Jason sets out to rescue Fred and possibly uncover a new threat to humanity's future in the process.
Is it any good?
Even in this day and age of HD graphics, thundering surround sound, and even a reality that's virtual, sometimes it's just lots of fun to return to the classics. Blaster Master Zero is a near-pixel-perfect 8-bit love letter to those retro days gone by, with only a few new tweaks to keep things fun for modern gamers. Some of these additions, such as the Switch exclusive multiplayer and HD rumble, can add a little extra to the gameplay, but honestly, they feel a bit tacked on more for the sake of triviality to show off a few unique hardware features. The multiplayer, in particular, isn't really a "true" multiplayer mode. Instead, a second person can jump into the mix, controlling an on-screen crosshair to provide support fire for Jason. While it can be helpful, it feels more like a glorified shooting gallery than a meaty multiplayer component.
As far as the core gameplay is concerned, Blaster Master Zero is a solid and deep adventure. The subterranean world is massive, and there's a lot of back and forth involved as SOPHIA-III gets upgraded with new abilities, making it possible to reach previously inaccessible areas of the map. The constant switching between driving SOPHIA-III and letting Jason stretch his legs for a bit in one of the cavern dungeons also works as a great way to mix up the gameplay to keep things from ever getting stale. The only real gripe here is how the game manages Jason's weapon upgrades. Players pick up weapon power-ups in the dungeons, increasing his available weapon level. But before using any of the weapons, the player needs to open a menu and manually equip whichever custom weapon he wants to use. The problem is that every time Jason takes a hit, he loses a weapon level, making certain weapons no longer available until he regains more power-ups. This ends up forcing the players to constantly switch back and forth between the gameplay and the weapons menu over and over again, causing some unwanted breaks in the action. It's a bit frustrating, especially during large boss fights, but it also provides a little extra motivation not to get hit. Even with this minor irritation, Blaster Master Zero is one of those games that manages to strike a fantastic balance that makes the overall experience feel like a true timeless classic.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about action and violence in games. Does the game's retro style help to reduce the impact of constant violence? What can more modern and realistically styled games do to reduce how violence might affect the player, and should it be done?
Talk about the evolution of video games. How have games changed over the years, and what is it about certain classic titles that makes them fun to revisit time and time again?
- Platforms: Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch
- Price: $9.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Inti Creates Co., Ltd.
- Release date: March 9, 2017
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Cars and Trucks, Adventures, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Science and Nature
- ESRB rating: E for Mild Fantasy Violence
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.