Blaster Master is a super-cool, oft-overlooked game, manufactured by SunSoft, for the original 8-bit Nintendo. The game revolves around a boy, Jason, and his pet frog, Fred. The basic concept is that Fred runs away one day, gets mutated by some radioactive sludge, and falls into an underground cavern. Jason has to find him with the help of a tank-like vehicle called the S.O.P.H.I.A. that can jump, hover, dive, and shoot missiles, assuming you've picked up the power-ups.

The game is split into two parts. The first part involves driving the vehicle around some well-designed 2D worlds, blasting enemies and picking up power-ups. The tank itself has a pretty powerful weapon, but you can also pick up three different kinds of weapons - homing missiles, multi-warheads, and thunderbreaks. The first two should be self-explanatory. Thunderbreaks send a bolt of lightning into any enemy on the screen. The S.O.P.H.I.A. can only take so much damage before it is destroyed.

The second part involves these little doors scattered around the levels. Since they're too small for the tank, Jason has to jump out and explore them himself. These areas are presented in a kind of bird's-eye view 3D aspect, and the bosses reside here. Once Jason beats a boss, the door to the next level opens up. Jason can power up his gun by picking up powerups along the way, but he, too, can only take a certain amount of damage before staging an elaborate death scene.

The cool part about the game is that it is somewhat non-linear. You can face the bosses in any order you wanted, with some restrictions. For example, you need hover to reach the gate to Level 4, and you can only get hover from the Level 3 boss. Also, there's no rest period between levels - when you beat a boss, you have to get back in the S.O.P.H.I.A. and drive to the next level. And sometimes the gate to the next level isn't even in the level you're in. Level 1 has the door to gates 2, 4 and 9. Level 2 has the gates to 1, 3, and 8. And so on. Finding the level gates is part of the challenge.

Blaster Master features above-average graphics and sound, and, of course, a quick game-defeating glitch. For several of the bosses, all one needs to do is connect with a single grenade, then hit pause, and wait for the pitch of the explosion's sound to change. Unpause, and the boss is toast. It works on just about every boss but the first one.

All in all, though, a very cool game. And apparently, they made several sequels, none of which were for the Nintendo.

Corrections to the original Blaster Master post:

1) There is no level 9. (The final level in the game is level 8, unless there is a bonus / secret level not mentioned on GameFAQs.)

2) No, you can't face the bosses in any particular order. This is because the entrance to each new level is guarded by something which you need from the last level's boss.

3) Blaster Master was still in a sense linear, only that you had to go back through old levels in order to find the entrances to new ones.

Here are list of the devices that you get from each boss:

Level 1 Boss: "Hyper" - Makes your tank's bullets larger. Allows you to defeat the wall object blocking the entrance to level 2.
Level 2 Boss: "Crusher" - Certain wall blocks can be destroyed only when you have this weapon. Incidentally, the door to level 3 is blocked by one of these. Also, a shortcut between level 1 and 3 exists when destroying these blocks.
Level 3 Boss: "Hover" - Allows your tank to fly for short periods of time. In order to get to level 4, you must go all the way back to Level 1, where you first start out, and fly upward until you reach the top of the level.
Level 4 Boss: "Key" - The least inventive of all the items. The wall blocking level 5 is guarded by a key on both sides. Open the first lock, climb out of your tank, climb the ladder, and descend downwards, and open the lock from the other end.
Level 5 Boss: "Dive" - Lets your tank hover within water. Without it, your tank is useless after descending to the bottom of level 5.
Level 6 Boss: "Wall 1" - Lets you walk up walls. The entrance to level 7 is within level 2, which means you must go from Level 6 back to 5, through 4, back to 1, then forward to level 2. You will not be able to use Hover to reach level 7. This is because the wall you must ascend is much higher than what hover will allow you to travel.
Level 7 Boss: "Wall 2" - Lets you walk on ceilings. The entrance to level 8 is in level 3, so you must go from Level 7, to 2, and then to 3.
Level 8 Boss: Game over.

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