Blaster Master Preview

SunSoft will soon release Blaster Master: Blasting Again, a PlayStation update that contains all the tank-laden goodness of the original Blaster Master, only bigger, badder, and better.

A long time ago, a young boy's pet frog leapt out of its enclosure and made a break for freedom. The boy, Jason, gave chase. The frog quickly encountered a radioactive canister and mutated, changing history forever. The frog grew into a giant creature, causing a sinkhole that enveloped it and the boy. When he awoke, Jason found himself in a strange subterranean land. Nearby was a vehicle he'd never seen before, a spiffy-looking tank. The rest, as they say, is classic gaming history. Blaster Master was born, and visions of hopping tanks danced like sugar plumbs in young gamers' heads.

Gamers wanted more. "More!" they begged. Genesis and Game Boy sequels followed. Still, gamers cried out: "More! More Blaster Master!" It seems SunSoft has been listening, as the next chapter in the Blaster Master series will soon make its way stateside. Taking place 20 years in the future, Blaster Master: Blasting Again will offer a new adventure. For several years, large-scale disruptions in ocean currents and other geological abnormalities have been reported throughout the world. Only two people know the cause of these anomalies: Roddy and Ellfie, who happen to be Jason's children. Roddy takes the latest-model Sophia tank deep underground and confirms their suspicions. The half-flesh, half-machine mutants are back, and only Roddy and the Sophia can stop them.

Unlike the previous NES, GB, and Genesis releases, the upcoming Blaster Master is a 3D arcade-style tank shooter. You can drive in all directions, strafe, and even perform varying degrees of jumping. Unlike the sluggish military tank vehicles we're familiar with, the Sophia is a lean, mean pummeling machine. Cross a tank with a Ferrari and arm it to the teeth, and you have some idea of what Blaster Master: Blasting Again entails. Is an enemy insectoid in your way? Machine-gun or missile it. Even better, ram into the sucker and hit it with your cannon. With a plethora of limited-use weapons and assorted power-ups, the game gives you a lot of freedom in dispatching enemies. In terms of gameplay, SunSoft seems to be striving for an experience akin to the PS Ghost in the Shell game, albeit with more weapons and less difficulty. You'll even be able to leave the tank at times, usually to solve a puzzle or reach out-of-the-way items. Exploration is an integral part of all nine of Blaster Master: Blasting Again's levels.

Visually, the game is good looking - but it's obvious SunSoft decided to make a trade-off, diminishing lush environments in order to provide more onscreen enemies. Still, if you're the type of person who'd rather have tons of things to shoot at you're probably not going to notice the repetitious textures. Spiders, snails, worms, and other assorted uglies stand against you, and they're packing some visually pleasing heat, replete with spiffy plasma and smoke effects. A few of the game's tunes are even reminiscent of the original music, although most are techno-style, pseudo-orchestral beats.

It may not be the boat from the NES Jaws game, but what it all boils down to is this: SunSoft has given gamers what they asked for - a 3D Blaster Master sequel that's faithful to the original while providing updated visuals and gameplay. Fans of the series will rejoice, while newcomers will find an alternative to Ghost in the Shell or Battletanx. While it lacks a firm date, Blaster Master: Blasting Again is slated for a fall release in the States. SunSoft has a free poster offer going on now as well. You can visit www.sunsoft-games.com for details.

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