Quick look, Review

Review: Blaster Master Zero

Game: Blaster Master Zero

Developer: Inti Creates

Publisher: Inti Creates

Platforms: 3DS, Switch (reviewed)

Release Date: March 3rd, 2017 (Jap) March 9th, 2017 (US EU)

Price: $9.99

Blaster Master released for the NES back in 1988. As I wasn’t even a thought in the 80’s I didn’t pick up the Sunsoft title until sometime in the late 90’s. My number one memory of Blaster Master was its difficulty. I mean, maybe I’m overplaying it, I was a kid after all. I don’t recall getting past the third or fourth area in the original. So when Blaster Master Zero came out on the Nintendo Switch, I couldn’t wait to dive in, once I was done with Zelda of course.17362773_1482790535066635_1101775072318594247_n

Blaster Master Zero keeps the more absurd parts of the original titles setup. You play as a young man named Jason, who on some future mutant infested version of earth, stumbles upon a frog he names Fred. Fred jumps down a hole leading to a massive underground facility. In said facility, Jason locates Sophia III, a tank with some impressive firepower, along with a mysterious girl named Eve. With Eve and Sophia III, Jason begins his journey to find Fred, and inevitably stop the evil mutants.

Zero has that old Metroid feel, that I love. You’ll move across a 2D plane both in and out of your tank in search of mutants to fight and upgrades for both Jason and the tank. Upgrades and maps for each area are usually found in caves that can only be entered while on foot. Once you enter these zones, you’ll shift to a top-down perspective that is, unfortunately, Blaster Master Zero’s greatest weakness.17457383_1482790215066667_1579743541823612364_n

I never thought the top-down segments of the original Blaster Master were especially fun, and that remains true in Zero.  Don’t get me wrong, the sprite and environment designs are nice but the gameplay is unchallenging and sort of dull. You gain a vast amount of weapons throughout your journey and the way weapon use is tied to your current hit points forces you to fluctuate your weapon use, but the enemies aren’t very challenging. I’d much rather play more in tank mode, and unfortunately for me, only about two out of the nine bosses are fought in Sophia III.

The early parts of Zero are essentially an exact remake of the original game as far as I can tell. As I progressed through later areas with ease, I started to wonder if later areas had been dumbed down. After some research, It seems entire areas had, in fact, been retooled. Mostly beneficial improvements were made, the map is a bit more guiding about your next objective but you have access to no mini-map, so it doesn’t feel too coddling. Checkpoints are also more abundant, fall damage is still very punishing outside of the tank, so be careful.

For anyone with familiar with the Inti Creates Megaman inspired game Gunvolt, the inspiration in the art is clear as day.17362565_1482790915066597_3499186190672335031_n

Blaster Master Zero is a fun adventure in nostalgia. It gave me an opportunity to finish a game that has evaded completion since I was in elementary school. It doesn’t feel challenging in the way the original did but it is certainly a step up from that horrid Wii version Blaster Master. For $10.00, it’s a fun game to fool around with once you’re done with Zelda, but nothing phenomenal.  If the Switch had a larger library I probably would’ve abandoned Blaster Master Zero about two hours in, I’m glad I didn’t though, and if you have any love for the original it’s worth a look.

Score: 7 out of 10

 

 

 

 

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Review: Horizon Zero Dawn

Game: Horizon Zero Dawn1

Developer: Guerilla Games

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Platform(s): PlayStation 4

Release Date: February 28th, 2017

MSRP: $59.99

With the Nintendo Switch out now that this is posted I felt a particular urgency to play Horizon. It’s a game I knew I would like and one I was determined to spend as much time with as possible prior to Zelda and the Switch. Roughly three days later I’ve put over thirty hours into Guerilla Games PS4 exclusive, and I’m so glad I made time for it. 17097308_1464375290241493_8658031887260918580_o

Our protagonist is Aloy, a female outcast of the Nora tribe and a skilled hunter. Horizon is set in what I can only describe as the post-post-apocalypse. Maybe I’m just making excuses for a game I like but how far removed  ( by thousands of years) Horizon is from the end of the world makes it infinitely more interesting than your typical post-apocalyptic game. Your task is simple, win acceptance into the Nora tribe that shunned you as a “Motherless outcast” and discover the truth about your own heritage as well as the truth behind what happened to the “metal world” and the people that came before.

The world of Horizon is populated with lots of dangers including Raiders and cultists, but the biggest by far are the wild machines. The wilds of this earth are filled with rejects from Transformers Beast Wars. The smallest of the bunch are known as Watchers, they resemble raptors and are easy enough to take down. These typically appear as guardians for herds of other machines to alert them to your presence. Beyond Watchers, you’ll encounter a whole lot of cool looking animal-themed robots from the Bison looking Long Horns to the Sawtooth which is essentially a huge Sabertooth Tiger. The deeper into the game you get, the more you’ll encounter large-scale killers like the Thunderjaw a T-rex with twin missile launchers and an attitude.

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Hey big fella

 

Combat with these beasts is one of the deepest and most enjoyable gameplay aspects of Horizon. You don’t have the power to brute force these beasts so instead you’ll rely on Aloy’s Focus an ancient device that gives her a sort of eagle vision or detective mode that is all too common in open world games these days. You can use this to locate glowing weak points on enemies and pick away at them slowly in a very, Monster Hunter like fashion. Some of the larger enemies like the Thunderjaw can even have heavy weapons knocked off and used against them. If monster slaying is your game Horizon has a whole line of hunting lodge side quests to scratch that itch.

Aside from necessary large scale encounters Horizon has a large focused on stealth. Small human enemies and small robots like the Watchers can be killed with a single strike from stealth. Horizon took a page from Assassins Creed with a whistle mechanic that had me stacking bodies in the bushes pulling my enemies one at a time.

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Be very quiet

 

As you complete main story missions and side missions you’ll accumulate experience and be able to dump skill points into upgrades abilities like increased stealth or stronger melee strikes. In addition to these abilities, Aloy will gain some exceptional skills through completing side quests. Early on Aloy gets the ability to hack small machines to fight for her. Throughout the game you’ll find robot manufacturing plants called “Cauldrons” reaching the center of one of these and hacking its core will allow you to subsquently hack the machines produced there but don’t expect to do so without a fight.

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Now we wait

 

In addition to Aloys bow, you can purchase many weapons from traders on your journey including trip wires and a sort of repeater rifle. I never used much more than my trusty bow, and a weapon called the rope caster which allows you to tie down enemies temporarily. You can also buy new armor sets for Alloy which give certain benefits like damage reduction from specific elements. You can also find and craft upgrade modules to boost weapon and armor stats.

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A look at the weapon modding screen

 

The crafting system of Horizon is incredibly deep. One rule applies always be looting. Grab plants, machine scraps everything you can, you’ll always be crafting fresh ammo and health potions and most of these materials are also used in trading with merchants, however, the metal shards you loot are the primary currency in play.

Most importantly for me, Horizon fixes a lot of the problems I have with open world games. For starters it has towers to help reveal the map in the roaming Long Necks but only four in the entire game. You mean I don’t have to climb 400 watch towers? Thanks Guerilla. The map also doesn’t feel too populated, you have plenty of side activities, but they don’t feel overwhelming. You can also buy maps to reveal more icons if you like horrible messes. Combat doesn’t feel repetitive like it often does in games like Farcry and Assassins Creed fighting behemoths that are far stronger than you keeps you on your toes.

It seems funny to say that one of Horizons biggest strengths is that it delivers on story. I have no doubt we will see a Horizon trilogy, despite this Guerilla left no real dangling threads. Horizon answers all of the big questions it answers. A sequel is basically a sure thing, but it may be something very diffrent.

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View from the top

 

Horizon Zero Dawn is a really special game. It blends an enticing story with likable characters and gorgeous environments. It has challenging and rewarding combat that makes you want to challenge robotic death machine for hours on end. Horizon Zero Dawn is a perfect open world game and Sonys new IP to watch.

Score: 10 out of 10

 

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