Title: Blaster Master Zero 3
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 07/29/2021
In this climatic finale to the Blaster Master Zero trilogy, you take control of Jason once again as he sets out on the Planet Sophia to uncover the mysteries behind the return of mutants and the disappearance of his companion Eve! Continuing off a cliffhanger from the second game, this immediately takes place after that one and doesn’t hesitate to detail what happened in it, so it’s strongly recommended to play the prior two games before going into this one: nevertheless, the intro does sum it up if you have no other choice for whatever reason.
Overall, the plot here is exceptionally well done, and it goes in places that I honestly didn’t expect it to, leading to an endgame that came neck and neck with Fuga’s ending for being one of the most exciting ones I’ve played in the past few years! Like with that game, it’s best to play it for yourself, and thus I won’t go into the plot anymore.
Like with the prior two games, Zero 3 continues the 8-bit throwback given to the Zero series, offering a lot of returning touched-up sprites from the original NES game, along with plenty of new ones that feel right at home with those classic designs. The backgrounds have continued to improve to exceptional quality, the cinematic cutscenes still look excellent, and the soundtrack is still as godly as ever, with a whole bunch of great new songs to accompany the fun exploration, along with some returning tracks like a few of the best cutscene themes from Zero 2. All in all, a very worthy OST that manages to be the best in the trilogy, with Zero 1 not too far behind.
As a cool bonus exclusive to the physical versions of the game, the game even can have full voice acting. Yes, full VA. Every line of dialogue in a cutscene or side conversation is spoken, and it’s honestly some really stellar work that pushes the exceptional story to new heights, and it’s rather upsetting that it’s only a physical edition premium. Still, if you have the means to get that version or the LRG edition, it is an absolute worthy incentive.
Zero 3 follows in the vein of the prior two BMZ games, being metroidvania titles taking place across multiple areas. The first game had everything interconnected like the original NES game and the GBC sequel, while the second game went for stage-by-stage areas to explore. Here in 3, it goes back to the interconnected nature of the first game, but also adds fast travel and a bunch of other cool things to make the handy factor of the second game’s progression work for a connected world. Yes, you can now use save points to teleport between areas, which is a godsend considering how long backtracking in Zero 1 could get.
The controls and mechanics are pretty much identical to how they were before, save for a few tweaks and additions, the biggest one being the change in the weapon system. Before, each gun level was its own individual weapon, and your access to them would vary defending on if your gun level was at the right amount. This time around, you just get several fixed weapons from the getgo, and the gun level simply increases their power output, rather than transforming them into different weapons. On the plus side, this means you always have plenty of variety available to you in top-down segments, but the negative is that you pretty much have all this from the very first area of the game, and the only real additions you’ll be getting in these segments are the secondary subweapons, which aren’t nearly as cool as a new weapon would be.
Likewise for the tank sections, these are still excellent, and the general exploratory feel of these moments hold up super well, and unlike the top-down sections, you do gain new primary weapons! From simple upgraded shots to a rapid fire grenade launcher, Sophia SV offers a joyful variety, and now that SP usage has been refined to give weapons and secondary weapons their own cooldown meters, you no longer have to worry about avoiding powerful weapons due to draining your SP gauge like in the first two games, since you can keep them separate now! However, draining either of these meters will temporarily weaken Sophia in some fashion, and will make your tank fragile as glass, so you can’t go ahead and spam everything like wildfire.
Still, the tank sideview segments continue to impress, especially since now being out on foot in these segments is a lot more practical, since Jason has a handy hoverpak! Yes, rather than suffering from spelunker syndrome, (which can still happen if you don’t hover properly) Sophia’s pilot can actually do more than pop out to flip a switch or climb a ladder. Now it’s much more feasible for you to hop out as Jason and go through parts of a room and deal with enemies and platforming challenges, adding even more variety to these segments that weren’t really here before. Heck, I even found him to be useful against bosses while out of the vehicle, since it allowed for dodging powerful attacks by ducking and taking advantage of the tank’s free life refill every time you get back in, thus adding a new layer of strategy that can really help out in these challenging fights!
Yes, BMZ3 is indeed another challenging game, taking the ante up even more from the second game. While it’s still nowhere near as punishing or abusive as the GBC title, (the hardest in the franchise, I feel) the dungeon layouts are a lot trickier, and the focus on counter attacks and weapon weaknesses are emphasized even more here than in 2. No more is this more apparent than the Sophia Force dungeons, which offer plenty of helpful upgrades in mini-gauntlets, but while bombarding you with plenty of tough enemies and layouts to deal with.
Of course, if you want to make things even more tricky, you can activate the new VRV system in these areas, which turns these dungeons into weird randomized zones of sorts with stronger enemies, (including bosses as normal foes!) and plenty of hazardous obstacles that can decimate you in no time at all. The sideview VRV segments, plentiful throughout the story, are also rather tricky and consist of clever gimmicks ranging from pitch black darkness to antigravity shenanigans, so this system ends up adding a lot of challenge to the mix as well. Thankfully, like the first game, there are plenty of savepoints, and dying usually just boots you back to the one, so trial and error with something tough like a boss fight will eventually succeed.
At the end of the day, Blaster Master Zero 3 continues the trends from the first two, and further enhances and tries super hard to think of fun ways to add new spins on them, and I have to say it’s still a lot of fun, eventually leading into a final act that’s honestly so darn great of a finale that it’s worth the price of admission alone. However, there are still some bummers, the biggest one for me being that there’s nothing like Unlimited or Destroyer mode from the first game, so once you 100% this one, you’ve pretty much mastered everything and have little else to go for besides trophies and an alternate final boss. Still, that 15 hour experience was easily my favorite in the franchise, and it’s just a metroidvania that sticks to a formula and enhances it so well.
After 100%ing Blaster Master Zero 2 and watching the cliffhanger, I was so longing for the end of this epic tale, a situation that 10-year-ago me would have completely disbelieved would have happened in relation to the NES game which terrified the crap out of me! But now two and a half years later, that cliffhanger has concluded, and I have to say, it really surpassed my expectations, working great as a throwback to the rest of the series and the pinnacle of the constantly evolving level design and boss fights, leading to some of the most challenging, yet fair experiences I’ve had with a metroidvania in a very long time.
The only real bummers with Zero 3 are that like the launch of Zero 2, there’s nothing in terms of post-game content like the first game had, and thus once you 100% the game, you don’t have much else to go for besides achievements on other platforms… Which just task you with 100%ing the game, really. Still, that 100% experience is absolutely sublime, even if a bit short despite the higher price tag. While DLC has been deconfirmed to be in the works unfortunately, (a shame, since the Taranis from Fuga would make a really cool crossover…) this is still not a metroidvania to be missed, and if you enjoyed the prior two and were worried that things were getting stale, don’t be, since this is easily the ultimate high point of the Blaster Master formula, despite the one-and-done nature of it.
I give Blaster Master Zero 3 a 9 out of 10.