Blaster Master Zero 2 (E10+, Nintendo Switch)

Back when I reviewed Blaster Master Zero, I said it accomplished two things I didn't think were possible. Well, a third popped up later; when Zero 2 came around, a Blaster Master game finally made me think "By Loki's horse-birthing balls, I do not want to play this." One night a storm knocked out the Internet and I decided to finally pull the trigger on it, and you know what? Maybe it's the rock-bottom expectations I had going in, or maybe after months of grinding the longboi in WoW any game that made me feel something besides numbness was a welcome refreshment, but it's quite a bit better than the first game... if far more embarrassing.

At the end of the first game Eve was infected by a mutant core, and while Jason rescued her the residual cells started to take over her body. Jason concludes the only cure is on her home planet, so he converts SOPHIA into a spaceship... I'm going to assume the tank already was one when it arrived on Earth, because the game just glosses over how he did that... and blasts off into space to save his waifu. I then hypothesized that the cure would turn her organic and that's how she was going to push out Roddy and Elfie.

Let's start with the good. The pacing is a lot better, as you're generally always on the move and Jason doesn't feel so painfully slow in the dungeons. There are no damn blasted fucking piece of shit stealth sections. The music is decent, but not great. Boss fights require you to do more than have a maxed out gun (for the Jason dungeons at least, a few too many of the SOPHIA bosses can be literally bulldozed with the dash move). The climax of the final boss fight is legitimately badass. And there's a cool new defensive maneuver where you press the counter button just before an enemy attacks, and Jason will go into bullet time and throw hurl darts at enemies (you acquire other counter options along the way, but I'm not sure what they actually do because I kept this one the whole way through. I imagine they throw different weapons at the countered enemy).

The tank can hover and swim from the start, but curiously you never get to drive on walls and ceilings. Instead, you acquire a wall-jump which is... well, it's different. Zero 2 also has the most expansive cast of any Blaster Master so far as Jason crosses paths with a few other Metal Attacker* pilots. Which at least gives him somebody to talk to besides Eve, because every conversation between those two amounts to "Oh, you're so strong and brave!" "No, you're so strong and brave!" "No, YOU'RE so strong and brave!"

* For clarification, in the BMZero storyline "Metal Attacker" refers to the line of combat machines, and "SOPHIA" is the name of Jason's specific unit. Also, each one comes with two support droids, one humanoid and the other animal-like.

So yeah, the pacing is better than the first game, but it's still flawed. There's a bit that keeps appearing in the Jason dungeons, where you come to a pit of spikes with platforms floating over it. You have to shoot the platforms to drop them into the spikes to form a bridge, but if your timing is even slightly off you'll have an uncrossable gap you won't be able to because the incoming platforms are too large. And nearly all your special moves and weapons pull from the same energy meter, and if either your health or energy meters are depleted it's game over. As well as picking up blue capsules, you can refill the energy meter by taking damage or falling from a great height. Guess what you have to stop to do when your special meter starts to get low.

Instead of zones in one world, you explore sectors in space that contain one main planet and a bunch of planetoids, except the planetoids usually aren't visible until you find their corresponding map. And on more than one occasion I'd go to a planetoid that contained nothing but a map to another planetoid, when then contained nothing but another map to yet another planetoid. Why not combine everything in a space sector into one world? To give you some direction when you need to backtrack?

Now, why do I say the game is more "embarrassing" than the first? A lot of it is the "edginess" it tries to exude, starting with the corrupted Eve on the game's key art looking all spooky and dark. Then I stepped into the first dungeon and saw Jason with his spikey helmet and tattered black cape and basically looking like a Mega Man Zero reject and audibly cringed. And good lord, what is with the tits in this game? Not only does the mutant infection appear to made Eve go from a B cup to a DDD, one of the other Metal Attacker pilots you run into is a ditzy plant woman with boobs the size of her head.

And sometimes the game is just completely fucking stupid, like the flower planet where this happens.

As for the other Metal Attacker pilots? The first is named Gonbei after the protagonist of Ikki, Sunsoft's first game, and his side story involves him organizing an "ikki" or "farmer revolt" on a bamboo forest planet against a governor who turned out to be a mutant. The plant woman with the giant rack's support animal is a rabbit named Yacopu which I remembered from Galaxy Fight but was itself a reference to some Game Boy game. Finally there's this brick shithouse whose droid is based on Tesse from Waku Waku 7, although I don't believe the Attacker itself is based on Politank-Z. The thing with self-references like these is they need to be scattered instances within an otherwise separate story. Basing the entire story on them makes them less cute callbacks and more a jerking session.

The last pilot has gone rogue after his droid was destroyed, and is constantly shouting insults at Jason and calling Eve an empty doll. I thought he was going to turn out to be the Kaiser, but he appears be some new asshole. By the way, you are walking a very fine line when your story is about the relationship between a human and a heavily sexualized android. Do not have another character keep calling the android a "doll," and I'm pretty sure he calls her a "toy" at one point.

Which brings me to my guess on how this would lead into Blasting Again was. Minor spoiler answer: (I was wrooooooong.) Major spoiler answer: (If you've fulfilled the requirements for the good ending, you get this surreal final level where you play as Eve after she's been separated from Jason, SOPHIA, and Fred, and finds her infection has stabilized and she can now purify the mutants. Along the way she discovers a broken gun, but notes that it isn't Jason's. Then she encounters the ghost of a dead android named... Elfie. And that broken gun belonged to her pilot, Roddy, who's also dead. So long story short, Roddy and Elfie aren't Jason and Eve's kids, and they're the ones who are dead in this canon. Unless Zero 3 reveals Eve gained a womb during their adventure, and they decide to name their kids after the two.

Curiously, there don't seem to be any references to Blaster Master Overdrive in this game. Seems like an easy one would have been to name Roddy and Elfie's Metal Attacker "Alexander" instead of "Andreia"

After a final battle that might have been halfway challenging if destroying his projectiles didn't shower the place with life refills, you get a stupid ending (they get to Eve's homeworld, but because Eve purified herself during the final boss fight, I guess they, just, turn around and go home?), a cheesecake shot of Eve and her jugs, and then a goofy bit with the rogue pilot. Way to leave me on a sour note, game. Afterwards I decided to look up the bad ending and holy shit, the bad ending wants you to know how much you fucked up.


Quest for Camelot (G, Amazon Streaming)

For the longest time, I wanted to see if this movie was really as bad as I'd always heard, but my local rental store didn't carry it and when I found a VHS copy for basically free my VCR ate it. And now that I've finally sated my curiosity, I'm struggling to even remember it.

Quest for Camelot is the tale of the daughter of one of King Arthur's knights, a blind farmboy, and a two-headed dragon on a quest to recover Excalibur by way of dicking around for three minutes, breaking out into song for five, cut to the bad guy twirling his mustache, repeat until movie end. At first I thought it was Warner Bros. trying to imitate the music numbers in Disney movies and overegging the pudding, but after watching the Richard Harris Camelot movie (which I'll get to next month) break out into song every scene, I'm half wondering if it was a callback to that. And to add insult to injury, the songs aren't even that great.

Is there anything positive I can say about this? Well, there were a few visual details that, out of context, I thought were kind of neat like the animate forest Lady meets Blind Dude in, or the rotating machinery of Bad Guy's arm when he fuses Excalibur to it. And honestly, it leans more towards forgettably bad than offensively bad.


Cats Don't Dance (G, Amazon Streaming)

Here's another animated movie for the "Nice artwork, shame about the story" bucket. The main character is a bright-eyed newcomer to Hollywood going on about his dreams of doing what he loves, clashing with a band of animals who try to inform him about things like "reality" and "a broken system that doesn't want them." But then the Debbie Downers are shown to be in the wrong at the end, and dreams do come true as long as you keep trying! At best this is overdone, and at worst it's insulting to anyone with two degrees who struggles to get a job at Petsmart.

But as if to prove it's not yet another naive "Follow your dreams!" story, it sometimes delves into early (and modern) Hollywood's racism problem, which, yeah, I think fixing that is going to take more than pwning one child actor, movie.