After the decidedly sci-fi look of Blaster Master Zero II’s first planet, Flosante, it was surprising to see Inti Creates drop Jason and Eve into what seemed to be rural ancient Japan, with bamboo everywhere that can damage G-Sophia. But what was even more surprising was how, as it turns out, this entire planet is a reference to Sunsoft’s other titles that are more obscure.
The overhead view stages are actually a direct callback to Sunsoft’s Ikki, for example. Ikki was an arcade game by Sunsoft that had you play as a farmer who had to fight off ninjas with a bamboo spear. Ikki was also ported to the Famicom, where it became infamous for its difficulty.
In fact, I was surprised and delighted to find that Inti Creates not only put in visual references to Ikki, but also its main character, Gonbei! In the world of Blaster Master Zero, Gonbei is a fellow Metal Attacker tank pilot, and due to mistaking Jason for a mutant, Jason ends up needing to defend himself against Gonbei. Gonbei is quick, light-footed, and attacks with his signature bamboo spear. It’s only fair that the protagonist of such a hard game gets tough enough to be a boss as well.
This would be a fun touch, except that this isn’t the only reference to Sunsoft titles in the game. The Boss Mutant of the world is named Zavira, which is in fact based on the final boss of another Sunsoft title, Zavila from Atlantis no Nazo.
In this incarnation, Zavira is the mutated form of Gonbei’s governor, who had been oppressing them all along. True to the original game, it turns out there are multiple of Zavira, and Gonbei and Jason have to work together to take this baddie down.
It’s a truly epic fight, with multiple phases, and Gonbei assisting from the foreground. It’s a great way to show how the scale of Blaster Master Zero II has grown after shedding the chains of being a remake, while giving references to the series’ origins as well.
Blaster Master Zero II is available on Nintendo Switch.