The series returns yet again with Blaster Master Zero this week. It remakes the original game with new visual flourishes and gameplay, overseen by the throwback specialists at Inti Creates (Mega Man 9 and 10, Azure Striker Gunvolt). The trailer makes sure to exhibit catchy revamped music, sharp graphics, and my favorite part of Blaster Master: a mysterious woman named Eve.
To tell the truth, it’s not Eve herself that I like so much. It’s the way Sunsoft adopted her from the Worlds of Power book based on Blaster Master.
Worlds of Power was a series of slim kids’ novels based on various Nintendo games. Even children wouldn’t confuse them with grand literature, as a lot of them simply walked the reader through the paces of Mega Man 2 or Metal Gear. Some of the books went further, however. The Simon’s Quest novelization introduced a chocolate-obsessed schoolkid to jump dimensions and journey beside Simon Belmont, and Ninja Gaiden added a new ending, goofball dialogue, and an unforgettable dedication “to the ninja in everyone’s dad.”
As a kid I knew that these books were a few steps below even the Choose Your Own Adventure series in narrative proficiency, but I was glad to read something that fleshed out my favorite games and portrayed Simon Belmont more faithfully than that stupid Captain N cartoon. What's more, Worlds of Power books could pass muster when your class had sustained reading time. Comics and Nintendo Power issues were verboten, but to the unaccustomed teacher's eye a Worlds of Power novel was just as valid a choice as The Outsiders or The King's Fifth.
In adapting Blaster Master to the Worlds of Power series, author Peter Lerangis introduced a few new elements: Jason’s friend Alex (who may have inspired Blaster Master: Overdrive's hero), a backstory for the planet-devouring villain, and an alien woman named Eve. Blaster Master continued through a disappointing sequel or two, after which no one heard from the series until 2000 saw Blaster Master: Blasting Again on the PlayStation. The game uses the Worlds of Power book as its backstory and introduces a new protagonist: Roddy, the son of Jason and Eve.
It’s not that uncommon for games to borrow from their spin-offs, particularly when it comes to Japanese series; a lot of Street Fighter staples came from Masahiko Nakahira’s manga, for example. Nor is Eve all that unique in concept, since “GIVE HERO ALIEN GIRLFRIEND?” adorns the whiteboards of writers’ rooms the world over. Yet the Worlds of Power series seemed so distant from the games it adapted that I'm always amused that Sunsoft liked Eve enough to make her part of the series canon.
It may be that Eve isn’t just from the Worlds of Power books. The original Japanese version of Blaster Master, known as Meta Fight, prominently depicts Jennifer Cornet, designer of and mechanic for the Sophia III battle tank. Though she doesn’t appear during gameplay, she’s easily spotted on the cover and in the game’s ending credits. The American version excises her entirely, but it seems that Sunsoft always had a blonde companion in mind for the hero of Blaster Master. Eve just fit the role.
Blaster Master Zero was already impressive with its twists and callbacks, from the half-screen laser weapon to cutscenes that look like an MSX game. Yet the clincher for me was the fact that Sunsoft and Inti Creates cared enough to put Eve in the mix, continuing that improbable path from hokey children’s book to the canon of an indomitable B-list video game series.
Zero gives Eve a new design and an amnesiac background, apparently casting her as Jason’s navigator. I assume those cat kneepads and the rabbit-ears headdress have significant narrative meaning, and I hope that Zero will rewrite canon so Jason and Eve aren’t both dead by the time of Blasting Again. Worlds of Power books didn’t let their heroes die.
I also wouldn’t mind if Sunsoft put Blaster Master: Blasting Again on the PlayStation Network. It’s by no measure amazing, but it has a sturdy, enjoyable quality beneath its technical jolts. If it meant anything, I’d call it the best Blaster Master outside of the original game.