8-bit reimaginings, or why I wish they all could be Blaster Master Zero (Switch)

I hope everyone is having a lovely Christmas break and finding time to relax and game. It’s a much-needed reprieve at the end of a hectic year for me, that’s for sure! Among others, one of my go-to games recently has been Blaster Master Zero on Switch, a Metroidvania remake whose source material, Blaster Master for the NES, predates the -vania part of that neologism.

For someone like me who only played on NES a mere handful of times, most of my experience with the system’s library comes from the Wii-era and the Virtual Console. At the time Nintendo graced us with many NES classics which I played and loved, but sadly the original Blaster Master was not featured on the service.

Many great times had with the Wii’s Virtual Console lineup, but that service was an utterly unpredictable beast

That means that Blaster Master Zero on the Switch is my first encounter with this acclaimed NES game. As far as I know (and I haven’t looked deeply into this), Zero is a mostly faithful recreation of the NES game with some minor adjustments/updates. Assuming that’s accurate and nothing has been majorly changed, I’ve gathered from my playthrough is that Blaster Master was an extremely ambitious NES title! Playing as the SOPHIA tank or on-foot in a sidescroller, only to enter caves for a Zelda-style dungeon – it’s well done for the era.

Entering the unknown with Zero

It’s a very good game, and Zero is a solid update from a developer who clearly know their stuff. I would love to see more old games updated in a similar vein; but what games would be best suited to such a treatment?

For me, an obvious pick would be Kid Icarus. Kid Icarus is a tough, ambitious 8-bit platformer with its share of oddities and quirks. It also happens to be one of my all-time favourite games.

Like Blaster Master, Kid Icarus has several distinct types of stage. The majority of stages are traditional platforming stages, that scroll either vertically or horizontally. Every fourth stage is a labyrinth with a boss waiting for you at the end, and the very final level is a scrolling shooter. The labyrinths are especially challenging since Kid Icarus doesn’t have an internal map. A hand drawn map or an image online got me through these ones.

The labyrinths contain one of Kid Icarus’s most iconic enemies: the Eggplant Wizard. As his title suggests, the Wizard’s attack if it lands turns our hero into an aubergine. This unfortunate curse can be removed from Pitt, but only after backtracking to an earlier location and paying a significant price. Encounters with the Wizards are anxiety-inducing to say the least. As exciting it is when you make it past a Wizard unscathed, this would be a prime candidate for toning down the punishment in a modern update.

As a big fan of Kid Icarus, it’s disappointing that the series never really developed any further. There was a direct Gameboy sequel, and a complete reboot for the 3DS, Kid Icarus Uprising, that had little to do with the original. I would love to see a reimagining that brought the first game back with some of those rough edges smoothed.

Kid Icarus Zero anyone?

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2 comments

  1. moresleepneeded

    I have not played this game, or any NES games. I have not played the NES, so I was considering using the Wii to download some NES games so I could enjoy them, but the service was stopped before I used it. Both Master Blaster and Kid Icarus seem like interesting games that would benefit from being remade, however, I would nominate some Sega games as I am more used to them. I would enjoy playing remakes of some Mega Drive games (particularly the Sonic, Ecco the Dolphin and Paperboy games), but I would be interested to see remakes of some Game Gear games. After playing some of the Sonic Game Gear games as part of a PC game, I felt that these games used some very interesting ideas that could have been more entertaining if they were made using improved graphic capabilities and sound systems. Because the Game Gear was portable, it would also be interesting how developers could expand on these ideas in a game designed for a home console.
    Were the aspects of Master Blaster Zero praised in the article present in the original? How are the labyrinth levels of Kid Icarus played? Are they still a 2-dimensional scroller? What games would you recommend for the NES?

    • veryverygaming

      That’s a shame, the Wii shop only closed relatively recently after many years of service but it’s unfortunate because there was an absolute treasure trove of stuff there. I agree that there are plenty of Megadrive games that would benefit from a similar remake treatment, and yeah I’m sure Game Gear too although I’ve barely played any games on that.

      Ecco is a good suggestion on the Megadrive, that game could really benefit from a map for instance. Another one is Comix Zone – it’s fun but way too tough. One upcoming re-release on Switch I’m *very* excited for is the Sega Ages version of Gain Ground. The Sega Ages developer M2 put a lot of work in, so while not exactly a full remake I know there’ll be at least some new options and modes that weren’t in the original.

      As for NES games, I’d recommend Kid Icarus, Megaman 2, Castlevania, the original Super Mario Bros, and Kirby’s Adventure. Can’t go wrong with any of those, although KI is not really a popular choice. Regarding your other questions, I still don’t know how closely Blaster Master Zero resembles the original. The labyrinth levels in KI have the same perspective as the platformer levels, but they don’t scroll. More like a 2D Zelda game – single rooms with multiple exits.

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