I've never really gotten into a discussion about Blaster Master 2, but if I did, it'd probably go something like this:
"What does everyone have against Blaster Master 2? Yeah, it doesn't hold a candle to the first game and it's a total cakewalk, but it has its moments."
"But Codie, what about those overhead tank sections? Those were terrible!"
"The whats? Oh, right, those. Yeah, those did kind of suck. But still..."
Seriously, I can never remember the overhead tank levels whenever this game comes up. All I remember is the adequate if never truly challenging platforming and boss fights, and flying around with the jetpack. But just about everyone else who's played it at Flying Omelette's called it one of the worst sequels ever and one guy even put it on his bottom 10 games list, although that list - like most of its ilk - reads more like "The First Ten Lousy Games To Cross My Mind Starting... NOW." I'm not saying Trevor McFur, Back to the Future, and Muppets Chaos at the Carnival aren't garbage, but who seriously gives a shit one way or the other about those games? I also think it's cute that Blaster Master isn't even on his Top 100. But enough of that, in taking a cue from Random Hoo-Haas here's ten reasons why I think Blaster Master 2 is actually kind of rad.
1: Jason Looks Cool
If I had to nitpick the first game, I'd say it always bugged me that Jason's head was larger than the entire rest of his body. In Blaster Master 2, you get out of SOPHIA for the first time and notice, hey, Jason's actually got a body!
He also kind of looks like one of those Battlestar Galactica robots. Then you enter the boss' door and...
Okay, so his walking animation is weird. I wouldn't go as far as to say he walks like he's got a stick in his ass, but there is something off about it, kind of robotic. But he stands proud, dammit!
2: Jason's Amazing Jumping Abilities
Remember how in Blasting Again, Roddy curiously jumped just as high as SOPHIA did? Which along with his Hypersonic attack, left you wondering what he put in his corn flakes? Okay, if you never played the game of course you don't, but he did. Sorry Roddy, daddy was doing the jumping thing while you were still in diapers (or just a sparkle in his eye, if you're like me and believe Blasting Again took place more than 18 years after the first game).
I know what you're thinking. No, there's no way Jason's gonna be able to jump up there.
No, I didn't just take a fall from the upper level, that's a friggin' jump. Jason jumps just a smidgen shorter than SOPHIA, which isn't *quite* what his son's capable of, but that's still pretty damn impressive, and it's far beyond what Alexander can do.
Although as I pointed out before, the man has to weigh as much as a freaking car.
3: Jason's Death Animation
When you die in any other Blaster Master game, SOPHIA either explodes or breaks down, and Jason, Roddy, and Alexander collapse, with or without spinning first. Blaster Master 2 does things differently. SOPHIA falls apart when you die in either the side or overhead modes, and Jason...
... does too! But what I really love is that you can see the chunks of flesh where his body was connected, even when he dies in small mode. That's so deliciously morbid, and then there's the depressing demise tune.
You've also gotta love how that drill machine keeps stabbing at him when he's already dead. And that one of his arms and legs vanished.
And no, you don't have to listen to the entire demise tune every time you die, just the first five seconds, which makes me wonder why it's so friggin' long in the sound test.
4: Jason Changes Colors
Area 3 has these spots of lava that SOPHIA can drive over, but kill Jason instantly. Your second job in that area is to amend that by killing a goblin in a mech to get some fireproof armor. It also turns Jason reflective.
His small sprite will now be red and he can walk on lava. However, after you get through the fire area you no longer need to walk on lava, but that armor does do something else for the rest of the game.
When you arrive at Area 4 and get out of SOPHIA Jason's small sprite will still be red, but when you go into the first boss' room...
... now he's green and blue! He's Luigi colored!
In Area 5 he'll be various blues.
In Area 6 he's white and blue for the caterpillar, and white and purple for the bee.
In Area 7 he's looking a lot like Christmas.
And he finishes the game slate-colored.
Yeah, they're obviously pulling his palette from the background, but it's still a nice touch and makes me wonder what it'd be like to go back to Areas 1 and 2 and see what colors he'd be sporting there. Actually, if his palettes and the backgrounds for the Area 6 bosses is any indicator he'd still be white and orange for Area 1, but 2 will be the real mystery.
And if you find yourself missing his original color scheme, you might take comfort in knowing he'll still be white and orange when he runs through the tunnels.
5: Jason Gets a Jetpack
Your first boss fight in Area 6 is a rematch with the caterpillar from Area 1, only instead of a better gun he drops what looks like a Jason action figure with a flame coming out of his back. How curious!
Now how come this never appeared in another Blaster Master? Actually, I can hazard a guess; SOPHIA becomes pretty useless once you get this. She doesn't heal Jason when he gets in in this game, and Jason's a much smaller target, eventually gets to use SOPHIA's secondary weapons (and by now you have the homing missiles, and the next boss drops the eight-way lightning gun, which is all you need), can pass through small hallways, and can survive a fall from any height as long as the jetpack is active during his tumble. It was fun while it lasted, though!
6: It's a Boss-a-Thon
Let's do a boss count for all the games. Blaster Master, Blasting Again, and Overdrive all have nine, with two bosses being beefed up versions of a previous boss in Blaster Master and Overdrive, and one for Blasting Again. Counting the army of clones and both Ameoba forms as one boss each, Boy has nine and Enemy Below has eight, all of them different, although two of Enemy Below's bosses are just sluggish, cut-down versions of Blaster Master bosses (others look the same, but play completely different from the original versions). Blaster Master 2 has fifteen. Okay, they tend to be pretty easy-peasy, I'll be buggered if I can tell the non-graphic difference between the two Area 3 bosses, and the rematches with the Area 1 bugs are no different (the rematches with the Area 2 vehicles have a protrusion in the ceiling which admittedly doesn't affect the lightning boss, but it's something), but that's still a lot of boss blasting and it's done with a little more flair than Blasting Again's "let's just have the player refight bosses 1-7 in the final level for no damn reason!"
7: Some of the Music is Pretty Okay
I guess I really couldn't blame anyone who thought Blaster Master 2's soundtrack sucked. The first game's soundtrack is a pretty hard act to follow, several songs in Blaster Master 2 prominently feature the Dying Cat, and the most frequently heard song in the game, the Boss theme, is annoying. Yeah, my taste in music can be pretty questionable sometimes, but I think the Title Theme and Area 6 are okay if a bit dragged out, and that the half of Area 4 that doesn't having the annoying mewling noise is pretty cool. Area 1 alternates between "Hey, that's kind of catchy!" and "MY EARS!" (give it a little bit, it starts out the latter but gets kind of neat around :27). Most of the other songs work in-game but will annoy the ever loving crap out of you in the sound test, or are more weird than hideous. Speaking of...
8: The Scenery Can Get Pretty Weird
I've stated before that I have a soft spot for visuals that are fucked up for the sake of being fucked up, and Blaster Master 2 has its share of that.
Although most of Area 1 is a cave, the game starts with a rather intense sunset full of strange fungi, ravaged trees, AT-STs, and giant bees, and the bosses are fought in giant larvae-infested honeycombs that camoflauge Jason's thighs.
Area 2 starts out as some kind of ruined castle with skulls embedded in the stone and giant fire-breathing pumas jumping around, but towards the end it starts to look like a power plant with a hallway of trash compactors under it.
Area 3 hurts my eyes, but there's something about the fire-puking skulls and fire-breathing bull's heads that's always intrigued me. Nice touch that some of the skulls are missing their lower jaws, and that SOPHIA and Jason have warmer palettes here, too.
And then there's these falling stone slab traps that pose no threat whatsoever to you because if you keep running you'll be well on the other side when they land, but still, what the hell?
Area 4 is actually my favorite level in the game. It seems to be some kind of crypt, with funny-looking statue heads popping out of the ground and freaking marlin statues everywhere.
But what really hammers home the "crypt" thing for me is the bosses. Jeez louize, what are they supposed to be with their creepy smiles? The second one in particular looks like a torture mask.
Area 5 scares the dickens out of me. The twisted background textures and the sunken viking ship just don't sit well with me, and the music doesn't help any.
Unfortunately, the game kind of peters out after that. Area 6 is a palette swap of the Area 1 mine with a different background, and I was going to call Area 7 an unremarkable ruin before I noticed all the piles of bones laying around. Area 8 is also boring, but the game gives you one last WTF/laugh with the final boss. What the hell is this thing, exactly?
I guess it's somebody's sad attempt at a 16-bit Plutonium Boss, although the only thing I have to back that up is the horns. I guess the second leader of the lightning beings is some half-naked troll with a World War I helmet, deformed legs, and bad animation.
9: The Overhead Tank Bits Aren't TOTALLY Awful
I think these actually could have worked if they'd ironed out some bugs. Yeah, those invincible walking vehicles are a pain, especially in Area 3 where you have to slowly drive down a couple of hallways behind them, and those fuckers with the reflecting lasers that are in every damn one of these can kiss my ass, but the truth is I find them more forgettable than terrible. For starters, they're really brief, especially when you know your way around them. There's also some tricks to figure out to make them more bearable. They're just overly ambitious, and needed support for the 6-button controller and its shoulder buttons. And SOPHIA looks like a Micro Machine, which is worth some brownie points. Although even I can't defend that beeping when SOPHIA's low on health.
If you still can't bear them, you could also try emulating the game. Either I've got a bad or cracked ROM or these sections are difficult to emulate because on both GENS+ and Kega Fusion you're curiously immune to everything but direct contact with enemies, and can totally blow right through them.
10: A Bunch of Stupid Little Things That Don't Deserve Their Own Spots
Most people will probably never see this, but if you wait too long a fireball that looks a little like a shrimp forms and starts chasing you around, as if to say "Oi! How dare you not pause your game before going off the answer the phone!"
Until Blasting Again, Blaster Master 2 was the only game where you could find out Jason's name without the manual. When you get to Area 3, there's a lowered area between the area entrance and the lava field with the meteor shower. In that area you can go left or right to two tunnels that only Jason can go through. Go through the right one, down the ladder, enter the room at the end of the path, and...
I dunno, I just thought that was worth mentioning. Of course, it only displays this message if you didn't already get the goggles. And if he's "blinded by the intense light", shouldn't the background be white instead of black?
Blasting Again wins as far as dicking around with the hover is concerned, what with the the larger, more open environments and essentially giving you an infinite amount of hover power to screw around with, and one of the bosses takes place in auto/infinite-hover mode and plays like a rail shooter for cheese sake. But flying around in Blaster Master 2 is still entertaining. The movement is fast, one gas can fills the entire gauge, it depletes very slowly, and when it's down to a quarter all enemies start dropping refills. And did I mention you can even fly around with Jason?
I like how the drill item is a part from a boss, so it kind of makes sense why it's dropping it.
The ending is Jason driving to a rather comical ditty through the first stretch of Area 1, only the sun's set some more. But at the end of his drive he decides he's had enough of this "driving" stuff, remembers his tank can fly, and hovers away.
Yeah, I think I'll leave it at that.