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.
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.
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.