Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ultra Review Roundtable: Blaster Master (NES)

Ed.: The Ultra Review Roundtable returns, with coverage of Sunsoft's classic NES game Blaster Master.


Blaster Master begins with Jason Frudnick who has a pet frog named Fred. While Jason is feeding him, Fred escapes as the Earth gets hit with a series of natural disasters. Fred hops into a radioactive chest, grows to a gigantic size, and disappears down a hole as it opens up from an earthquake. Jason follows Fred down the hole and is greeted by a woman named Eve who is from a far away planet. A group of aliens called the Lightning Beings have destroyed her planet and are led by the Plutonium Boss. She escaped in a combat machine called SOPHIA the 3rd but could not combat the aliens by herself.

The Plutonium Boss is now at the center of the Earth and Lightning Beings must be stopped as they are slowly destroying the planet from the inside. Jason enters SOPHIA the 3rd and puts on a suit of armor found inside. Together with Eve, Jason must stop the Lightning Beings and the Plutonium Boss in order to prevent the destruction of the world. This is a much deeper story than just about chasing his pet frog!


Blaster Master is a blend of accurate platforming, exploration, and run ‘n gun tactics. Levels allow you to backtrack whenever you want and you are only allowed to progress as far as your current abilities will let you. As you beat bosses you are rewarded new upgrades to your vehicle that will let you do a variety of things such as have a more powerful shot, hover, and stick to walls. There are also weapon upgrades for both your vehicle and for Jason that can be found along your journey which will come in handy when you find yourself in a jam.

As you drive around in SOPHIA the Third, you can exit at any time. As you would expect, you won’t last too long against the mutants outside your vehicle, but there are portions of the game that you must exit in order to progress. Once you enter a cave style level, you then get a zoomed in view of Jason and you traverse the depths of the cave Zelda-style to either get weapon upgrades or fight a boss.

Graphics and Sound

Blaster Master has some very distinct graphics that set a high standard for games on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Overall, the game has a very dark tone to it, but the backgrounds convey this tone while maintaining a detailed look throughout. Each level has a distinct theme that comes across well as you traverse the areas. The enemy designs lack a bit of color but there is a lot of variety between enemy types so it never gets stale. The character sprites for both Jason and SOPHIA are distinctive and memorable. The bosses are gigantic and have a presence about them that will get your adrenaline pumping. Slowdown does happen, but it’s barely noticeable and can be used as strategy during an intense battle.

The music and sound in Blaster Master is legendary! There are so many catchy tunes and you will want to backtrack to previous levels just to hear some of the themes again. The sound effects go above and beyond making things like the lightning weaponry sound truly awesome. Little things like the boss explosions and jingle for when you pick up an upgrade for SOPHIA are very unique and help give Blaster Master a different feel than other games.

“A pleasant surprise amidst the standard ho-hum fair of terrible licensed games
and overdone platformers.” -

“Thank goodness you have an energy meter that can take multiple hits, because
regardless on how you play you are going to get hit.” -

“Still holds up well after all these years and the use of abilities to traverse to new
areas is an amazing feature.” -

“Was one of those second-wave NES games that made it obvious we had moved
into a new era for video gaming.” -

Published and Developed by: Sunsoft
Released: June 1988
Platform: NES
Genre: Platformer, Run and Gun
Perspective: Side-Scrolling, Overhead


 Sushi-Xpired from

Favorite Consoles: PC Engine, Atari 2600, Playstation, XBox 360
Least Favorite Consoles: Odyssey^2, Action Max

Everybody loves Stevie Wonder. Why, when Master Blaster first hit the airwaves back in 1980, it really WAS hotter than July. I remember standing in line at old Mr. McGimpy's record store with a wad of melted vinyl in my hands, just hoping to be allowed to buy it with the sock full of pennies I had earned peddling stolen newspapers.  No, wait, that was ice cream. Why was I trying to buy ice cream at the record store? I don't remember. Wait, what? Blaster Master? No, no, no. My memory is just fine. You know as well as I do that it's called masturb... what were we talking about?

Blaster Master was one of those second-wave NES games that made it obvious we had moved into a new era for video gaming. Early NES games looked and sounded a lot like the Colecovision, but by 1988 expanded cartridge capacity and a more sophisticated approach to design were making the old consoles and the quick-play arcade sensibility obsolete. This was a massive game in its day, and the powerups acquired along the way kept offering new opportunities for exploration long before Metroidvania was a recognized genre.

Remember, kids -- keep your pet frog AWAY from the Radioactive Waste!

The music of Blaster Master rocks, the sprites are small but lovingly detailed and animated, and the switch between vehicle and pilot mode makes for plenty of variety.  Most of all, the fine-tuned control and palpable weight of the player's vehicle make this a pleasure to play through even today -- you never feel like you've inadvertently rolled into danger. The story doesn't make much sense, but the game's only serious flaw is that there's no password system -- when I set out to finish the game with a college buddy, we had to leave the NES on all day, but we pulled it off.  I've sampled the Genesis sequel, and played through the 3-D PSX update. The NES original remains the go-to Blaster
Master game in my collection.

5 SOPHIA the Thirds out of 5

 Mr.Armitage from

Favorite Consoles: Sega Saturn, SNES, Wonderswan Crystal
Least Favorite Consoles: Amiga CD32, N-Gage, Xbox

Blaster Master is one of many NES games I never played as a kid. So this is a first time play for me. I'm not too sure about the bolt on story at the start of the game. It feels like they had this game and needed something of a front story and just added on a couple of screen shots from a different game, and it feels totally out of place. I looked up the Japanese version and it contains nothing about this Frog crap. It is just about invading aliens which makes much more sense.  The music is good, actually really good for a NES game. Probably the best I have ever heard.  Blaster Master has some nice up beat tunes to go with platform shooting too. The controls are fairly good. It kind of feels a little like Metroid but with happier music and in a tank. Hell, it even has Metroid’s enemies all about the place.

I like how you can not only use your tank, but also get out and move as a smaller human allowing you to get to places your heavily armored tank can't get too. The action goes from side scrolling to top down in many sections when you leave the confines of the tank where you will do battle with bosses that fill the entire screen. As you progress you get upgrades in weapons and to your tank allowing you to get to areas you might not have been able to get to before you received the upgrade.

Blaster Master is quite hard. Thank goodness you have an energy meter that can take multiple hits, because regardless on how you play you are going to get hit. Getting health replenishment for your energy is not too hard as you can get some by simply killing enemies. The bad part of this game is there is really no clear path. It needs a map, direction to object, frog finder or something. Took me about 45 minutes of aimless wandering about to get to the first boss. I had no clue where I was going or why I was going there. You have to back track to hell and back to complete some levels. I felt lost in most levels and it was frustrating me which made me not want to play the game. This is a shame as the game play in Blaster Master is very good. Mind you I did end up playing for about 4 hours before giving up.

Also being a hard, larger game it only gives you 3 lives and 4 continues. There is no password, no level skips, no battery backup. Nice to see that when you are dead, you have to start all over again. This is what makes Blaster Master as hard as it is. I watched speed runs of this game done in under an Hour, but realistically this first time player managed to complete about a level an hour. Blaster Master could fill up your entire weekend provided you don't cheat or watch YouTube videos on how to complete it.

4 SOPHIA the Thirds out of 5

HagenDragmire from

Favorite Consoles: NES, SNES, PC Engine Duo R
Least Favorite Consoles: Jaguar, Intellivision

Blaster Master is a game that I’ve owned since I was a kid. I remember playing it day after day making little progress. The first boss would take me, what seemed like, hours to beat until I figured out that grenades killed it faster. The furthest that I ever got as a kid was level 6’s boss the ice crab. For some reason I could never get down the timing perfectly and I would die.

The Frozen Crabulous aka the Bane of my Existence

Playing Blaster Master again years later brings back some great memories. Playing through this time around wasn’t too difficult. The crab boss in level 5 was a pain in the ass, but the pattern is pretty simple. Then there is that bastard ice crab boss! I died over and over again on that f#$!er and just couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong, until I realized how to avoid those damn claws. The remaining levels, Hell and something that looks like the final level of Contra were a new experience for me. The remaining bosses were a bit of a joke! The fire frog was about the same as the original with added fire effects. The 2 end bosses you barely have to move to beat, with the final boss being unable to hit you if you hug the right wall and use grenades.

Blaster Master still holds up well after all these years and the use of abilities to traverse to new areas is an amazing feature. The back tracking was a bit annoying, but overall it isn’t overly terrible. I don’t like the progression of boss difficulty as the final 2 bosses were some of the easiest that I have played in a game. It’s kind of a downer as the rest of the game is an amazing and balanced experience. Despite this little gripe, everyone who enjoys platformers with a little bit of Metroid style exploration added in should give Blaster Master a whirl.

4 SOPHIA the Thirds out of 5

NintendoLegend from

Favorite Consoles: NES, PS1, SNES
Least Favorite Consoles: Atari 7800, PS3

Sunsoft as a developer of NES video games was hit-or-miss for me, but I would name Blaster Master as their gem. Blaster Master is a unique adventure with a distinctively appealing plot, open-exploration feel similar to Metroid or Legend of Zelda, hybrid gameplay between topdown and side-scrolling portions, and an amount of challenge that could be intimidating to new or unfamiliar gamers but would satisfy most who bothered to give it an honest chance. There is a lot that could be said for Blaster Master, but I will leave my part as this: Among all the bigbox, name-brand, first-party, mass-produced blockbuster hits that the Nintendo Entertainment System had to offer, Blaster Master is a pleasant surprise amidst the standard ho-hum fair of terrible licensed games and overdone platformers. With its uniqueness preserved as a worthwhile quest even today, I give this one a four.

4 SOPHIA the Thirds out of 5

Ultra Review Roundtable
Overall Rating

4 SOPHIA the Thirds out of 5


  1. Looks like most of the pictures didn't post, that blows.

  2. I see that! Should be fixed now, thanks.