If Metroid has a central emotion, it’s a claustrophobic anxiety created by its desolate, foreboding atmosphere. The original game used ambient music and otherworldly imagery to choke the player as they descended into the planet Zebes and subsequent titles further explored the sense of anxiety, but it wasn’t until Metroid Fusion that the series characterized the threat, creating a strong foe that stalked Samus Aran and actively pushed the bounty hunter back on her heels. While this SA-X was a great way to mirror Samus’ abilities and turn the classic weapons back at you, its scripted appearance and limited scope left a lot of room for improvement. But with Metroid Dread, the series was finally able to make a fully reactive A.I. that nimbly navigates the environment to stalk Samus, instilling a gripping paranoia into the gameplay unlike it had seen before.Continue reading “Atmospheric Pressure: Navigating Metroid Dread’s Oppressive Depths”
Just as genes create an infinite number of organisms with only a few components, game series continually adjust their mechanics and structure to keep their designs fresh. Since its first release, the Alien-inspired Metroid series has dealt in biological themes including consumption, growth, and fusion, even when transitioning from 2D sprites to 3D polygons. But evolution is tricky as it risks sabotaging the design’s strengths, and after almost a dozen entries Metroid was in danger of bursting apart. Samus Returns is a remake that attempts to return to the series’ design on a cellular level by synthesizing its side-scrolling gameplay with polygons, reclaiming the genetic heritage that built the series and its heroine.Continue reading “Metroid’s Genealogy: What Samus Returns Reveals About a Series’ Evolving Design”
Survival depends on your ability to properly manage your supplies in a complex world where dangers lurk around every corner. With Dead Rising, Capcom reworked the survival horror concepts of its more famous zombie-fighting series to challenge players to survive three days against an endless mob of monsters and your own hunger. By fighting his way through the Rogue-like structured brawler, photojournalist Frank West will document an absurd horror-comedy about dying and coming back again.Continue reading “Surviving Deadline: An Exposé on Dead Rising’s Absurd Zombie Apocalypse”
Where a story needs to give its characters the abilities to accomplish their goals, a videogame needs to directly translate those skills into mechanics players use to overcome every obstacle in their way. Both mediums use tools that challenge characters, one of the most powerful of which is creating a rival that fiercely stands in opposition to their primary mission. In 2009, Rocksteady Studios fully translated one of pop culture’s greatest characters into a videogame and pitted him against his equally well-established foil. By locking Batman and The Joker inside Gotham’s mental-clinic-turned-prison, Batman: Arkham Asylum brilliantly explores one of culture’s greatest rivalries over one long night.Continue reading “Psychoanalyzing Batman: Arkham Asylum’s Multiple Personalities”
The concert in Super Mario Odyssey’s New Donk City is a celebration of one of videogame’s most influential series, sung by Pauline, the damsel-in-distress-turned-mayor from Donkey Kong. With the city freed from Bowser’s clutches, the festivities showcase Mario as he enters a warp pipe, transforms from 3D polygonal model into 2D sprite, and runs through a steel-beamed obstacle course packed with coins and lava pits, and ends with a barrel filled course thrown by the cranky ape. This homage pays tribute to Mario’s amazing history, and shows how Odyssey combines decades of level design techniques to create unique courses in living worlds.Continue reading “A Platforming Odyssey: Running and Jumping Down the Path Super Mario Trail-Blazed”
Early first person shooters created virtual proving grounds for an emerging digital warrior class to test their combat skills, but as games became more intricate, new player archetypes branched out. By the end of the Nintendo 64’s life, Rare had learned to construct complex environments built with infrastructure stalked by reactive guards, while providing players with a large toolset to deal with them. The product turned them into versatile special agents rather than warriors, culminating in 2000’s brilliant Perfect Dark.
Perfect Dark’s intricacies are apparent as early as the first level. Your mission to smuggle the defecting Dr. Carroll from dataDyne is easy on the lowest difficulty, only asking you to reach the bottom of its tower, but adds more objectives that explain the whistleblower’s actions from there. The opening helipad leads down to the executive floors and this large office with two women. If you quickly knock out the tall blonde calling for security you’ll get Cassandra De Vries necklace, smartly introducing dataDyne’s CEO.Continue reading “Running Perfect Dark’s Training Program”
For the third time, legendary agent Solid Snake destroyed the walking tank Metal Gear deep behind enemy lines and saved the world from Armageddon, this time from his old unit FOX-HOUND led by his newly-revealed twin brother Liquid Snake. Until then, Metal Gear Solid had been an action-packed bonanza told through expertly produced cinematics that rivaled Hollywood blockbusters. And then the story pivoted at its climax. What had been a politically charged narrative about Cold War era terrorism and the threat of nuclear war changed into an examination on genetics, using the very technology and rendering techniques that brought the game to life to reinforce its deep and complex themes. With MGS, Hideo Kojima merged his narrative and gameplay abilities into a deep metaphor about biology, technology, and destiny.
An hour after he was locked in Clock Town, Link’s been turned into a Deku Scrub staring down a massive, fiery-eyed moon so close that he could pick its gritted teeth with his sword. Looming over him is Skull Kid, supercharged by the Majora’s Mask. Playing the Song of Time Zelda had entrusted him with to save Hyrule, Link returns to the exact moment he’d entered Clock Town, the moon again 72 in-game hours from destroying everything, the citizens back on their schedule as if the first round had been a bad dream.
The first portal back to Mars is guarded by an army of hellspawn trying to rip you limb from limb. Agile fireball throwing imps and dual wielding Mancubus, burly Hell Knights and rocket-launching Revenants all converge on your location, employing a wide assortment of tactics while you unleash the concussive blast of your shotgun and unload mag after mag from the assault rifle and unleash its micro missile alternate fire. You weave between shots and sidestep claws barely missing your face, jump to the stunned body of a Cacodemon and tear out its eye only to be knocked down and witness the centaur-like Baron of Hell’s fatal finishing blow. The fight is an exhilarating and tense struggle for your survival.
Considering how Other M picks up directly after the events of Super Metroid, it’s easy to assume that it will be a faithful 3D interpretation of that seminal classic. However, Samus Aran’s long opening monologue that recalls her memories of the baby metroid’s sacrifice quickly reveals that Yoshio Sakamoto and Nintendo SPD Group No. 1 are willfully neglecting that influential game’s intuitive storytelling. Other M is the logical conclusion to the misguided ideas introduced in Metroid Fusion that break the series’ careful harmony between player and gameworld to ultimately exert its authority over both.