The Nintendo Switch could be many things as its game library grows and develops; one of these is a haven for ‘old-school’ experiences. Considering the core loyal Nintendo audience and its love of past generations, retro-styled titles have a decent shot at finding a keen audience.
Blaster Master Zero is a good example, out now on 3DS and Nintendo Switch. Inti Creates, often praised for its work in the precious art of pixels – in titles like Azure Striker Gunvolt – was handed the keys to Blaster Master by Sunsoft. The end result, as we argued in our review, is rather good.
Now the rather fun DF Retro series by Digital Foundry has taken a look at Zero, the NES original and some of the sequels. It’s a nice blast from the past and well worth a watch, though some of the summary is also below.
Controls are improved now (allowing Sophia to fire at an angle, for example) and the stages are modified in many ways. There’s even a new map system and save points here – modern sensibilities we take for granted, but simply weren’t there back in the day. When you stack it up against the NES original, it immediately becomes clear that a lot of changes have been made. Sophia now has an idle animation, grass blows in the wind and detailed backgrounds fill the environment. When you hit the ground, little plumes of smoke and dust are kicked up while weapons produce a beautiful neon shot.
The parallax scrolling added to the game is truly beautiful as well, with a huge number of layers that can overlap smoothly. Once you jump into the top down maps, things improve further with greatly enhanced sprite-work and fleshed out visuals. It certainly helps give these areas some additional character. It also runs more smoothly. The original game operates at 60fps but many scenes trigger significant slowdown. That is not the case with Blaster Master Zero, which delivers a perfectly stable frame-rate. Blaster Master Zero is also available on 3DS where we understand that it’s much the same game – albeit with a 30fps lock.
Unfortunately, there is one disappointing issue with the game on Switch – it uses non-integer scaling. We covered something similar back in the DF Retro Symphony of the Night episode where every fourth pixel was an extra pixel wide leading to distorted artwork. In this case, the resulting artefacts from this improper scale result in noticeable shimmering and distortion while scrolling. It’s distracting in docked mode but is noticeably worse when playing the Switch in portable mode. But the positives far outweight the negatives here. Take the soundtrack, for example. The main theme from the original game is retained but most of it is brand new. What’s interesting here is that all the music has been create to sound quite like audio produced by the Sunsoft 5B audio chip that was used in NES classic, Gimmick. It certainly sounds great.
Have you tried out Blaster Master Zero, or are you yet to jump into it?