When I see images like these, I remember my childhood love for comic books and that old 1960’s Batman TV series I watched in syndication. Who would of thought playing a Super NES game in the present would conjure up those long forgotten memories once again. Sonic Blastman reminds me of a simpler time when every kid on the block thought it was a good idea to slap together an ill put together super hero costume and parade around like an actual vigilante. I was particularly fond of dressing up as the Red Ninja!
Similarly, we have a guy in Sonic Blastman that crudely dresses himself as a super hero as he cleans up the metropolitan area of crime. When he strikes the bad guys, a random SMASH!! or BAGDOM!! will pop up like in a comic book. And from there it gets stranger and stranger …
DUDE FROM ANOTHER PLANET
The appearance of Sonic Blastman is a trip. This guy looks like a total 90’s dork. He looks okay here:
But translate that into real life and you’d probably get something close to this:
Despite his goofy costume, this hero is bursting with power. He has the ability to deliver 100 Megaton punches! We aren’t told much about the storyline. All we know is that Sonic Blastman comes from another planet and dedicates a lot of his time to fighting crime. He also has a knack for saving beautiful damsels in distress. The similarities to Superman are quite striking really. I wonder if this game was originally intended to be a Superman game, but a deal couldn’t be worked out?
In any case, this beat-em up gives you 5 stages to complete before it’s all said and done. Now let’s see if Blastman has any hopes of competing with the champ, Streets of Rage 2.
Gameplay & Controls
Sonic Blastman was originally a unconventional arcade game. You donned a boxing glove and tried to punch the living daylights out of various objects such as a thug, truck, building, crab and meteor. There wasn’t any beat-em up action in it. They did incorporate the arcade iteration into the SNES version as special bonus stages after you complete a level. You use the control pad to power up your punches on the console variant. That isn’t quite as fun as putting on a glove and punching a designated hit pad would be, I imagine. My hand got fatigued quickly playing with these bonus stages. I wish they developed a better way of executing the controls of the bonus stages or just left them out altogether.
When you step onto the first stage, the first thing you’ll notice is how sluggish Blastman moves. There’s no run button, you can’t press the control pad in two rapid successions to dash or anything. When you press the control pad left of right, all you get is Blastman walking as if he’s just taking a leisurely scroll in the park! Nevermind the lingering danger all around him! It’ll take some time, but you’ll get used to the lethargic gait of your character.
Now this game requires a little bit of strategy if you want to make it all the way to the end. The stages are set in a sort of three dimensional plane. You simply can’t walk in a straight line. No, your adversaries won’t let you get away with that. Depending on enemy placement, you will constantly have to move up and down, left and right to maximize damage to the bad guys and minimize attacks to yourself. The action can get pretty intense at times, so it pays to have proper position so you can have the upper hand in these skirmishes. Luckily, Blastman has a lot to work with in the offensive department.
What good is a super hero if he doesn’t have cool moves? Blastman has a bevy of neat tricks that makes him satisfying to play with (after you get used to how slowly he moves). The most basic move is the punch. By pressing Y, Blastman will start punching. Once you hit someone three times consecutively, you have the option of sonic uppercutting, judo throwing or wind-up punching your target into oblivion. Here is where a crucial piece of strategy comes into play. Let’s say you’re beating up a baddie with your punches. When you go for that 4th punch, you will have the option of using one of the special moves mentioned earlier. It would behoove you to use the judo throw if foes are coming up behind you. When you utilize the judo throw, you hurl your victim to your rear which will also cause any enemies in the way to get hit and take damage as well! If you can line up the enemies in a straight line in front of you, take advantage of the sonic uppercut or wind-up punch to not only damage your primary target, but the baddies behind him! Our hero will also often cause his victims to become dizzy and vulnerable after hitting them a few times. You can use that opportunity to grab and hurl your incapacitated foe off-screen hitting other enemies along the way if you time it right!
Blastman has some hops too. Pressing B makes your protagonist jump straight up. Use B in conjunction with the control pad to jump towards the left or right. You can kick while in the air by jumping first then pressing the Y button.
Sonic Blastman also has a couple of power moves you can use sparingly. The first is the Dynamite Punch. Pressing L then Y unleashes a ferocious ground pound that damages all enemies on screen. You only get three of them per life. I usually like to save them for the bosses. The other power move is the Screw Bomb. Pushing A will make your character spin wildly in one place and damage any enemies that happen to be in the way. The downside to this is once the move is complete, you will be dizzy and unable to move for about 5 seconds or so.
To round out his repertoire, Blastman has a knack for automatically grabbing opponents when he gets close to them. When you do that you can press Y to one hand throw them, or power punch them into submission. Once you master his moves, you can get into a flow and dispatch enemies as if you were performing some kind of dance. It’s quite addicting and fun once you get into a rhythm.
In the first and second stages, Blastman is fighting against street thugs who have different color palette doppelgangers like any other beat-em up. Pretty standard fare. Then when you get to the 3rd stage, things get weird. Much to my surprise I encountered alien lifeforms of various colors who could shift into puddles at will. Huh? When I reached the end of this strange sewer stage, the boss looked liked the Alien Queen from Ridley Scott’s famed movie series. Say what now?? The weirdness doesn’t end there. In stage 4, Blastman is introduced to a futuristic-looking factory. Here I encountered mech suits and robots that seemed other-worldly. Then in the final stage, I’m on board a space ship fighting guys in hazmat suits who transform into hulking alien beasts. Whoa! Talk about doing a complete 180 on enemy differentiation!
I appreciate the wide array of enemies in the game, but a reason of why we go from street gangs to alien monsters would’ve been nice. It’s a beat-em up, so I won’t take many points off for lack of storyline. Didn’t Streets of Rage 2 do the same thing with the aliens mid-game?
The game’s options are pretty sparse. You can choose how many lives you have from either 1, 3 or 5, a sound effect test, control modification, option of difficulty: easy, normal, or hard and choice between stereo or mono sound. There’s also a stage select code you can use, but it sucks because when you use it you won’t be able to fight the boss or move on to the next level. Once you finish a stage you’ll go back to the game’s opening credits. This is one of those games that you have to complete in one sitting and you only get 3 continues! No password or battery back up for you!
Graphics & Sound
The highlight of the graphics department are the large sprites the game employs. They aren’t Neo-Geo huge, but they are definitely well proportioned as far as SNES games go. I also like the use of colors in the game, specifically the blue in Sonic Blastman’s suit.
The backgrounds are nothing special in the first three stages. What you expect to see in a background on a city neighborhood, factory, and sewer is there. There isn’t anything that stands out. However once we get to the laboratory and spaceship stages, the backgrounds become more high quality and interesting. The lab exhibits a shiny newness to it that pleases the eye. There’s also opening and closing doors where mech suits will come out that make you want to see what’s happening in the backdrop. In the first portion of the spaceship level, you’re treated to wide windows where you can see outerspace, but more importantly you can view what you are fighting for: Earth!
Music is a real letdown in this game. The only tunes in the game that are at least average occur on the sewer and laboratory levels. The rest of the music is sub-par and won’t be remembered after you finish playing it. The developers chose to use what sounds like mostly jazz & elevator music to populate the game with. A strange choice indeed given the genre. The only ensemble that gets you pumped for action is the lab stage, actually. Sound effects are ok. Some of the stuff Blastman says like “Take that!” sound kinda pornish. The women’s screams for help in the bonus stages are rather annoying as well. The sound effects for the fighting are on target though. That’s what matters most.
Sonic Blastman is a decent, but not a good nor great beat-em up. It’s certainly enjoyable, but lacks certain characteristics that make a video game stand out.
Your protagonist moves slow as molasses.The majority of the music isn’t good. The graphics as a whole aren’t spectacular by any means. There is some really terrible slowdown in stage 4, which is also present to a lesser degree in other stages. There’s no storyline to speak of. The voice acting is cornball. The box art scares little children away.
But despite my grievances, I had fun with Sonic Blastman. It provides a solid challenge. Once you get a handle on his skill set, you’ll find yourself systematically breaking down your opponents and having fun while doing it. At the end of the day, that’s what video games are about. Having fun.
I’ve heard that Sonic Blastman 2 improved on almost everything that is wrong in this game. I recently purchased the sequel, so I guess we’ll find out …
Three out of five stars
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