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”
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”
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.
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.
It’s said that the eyes are the window to the soul, an idiom Metroid Prime explores from a different angle. If Super Metroid’s greatest achievement was creating a cohesive world, where the majority of the game was told organically through the events on screen rather than by traditional cinematic techniques, moving that series into three dimensions needed more than translation, it needed reinterpretation. The most honest move would be to maintain the naturalness of perspective, the harmony of self and environment, and Retro Studios made the wisest, boldest move available to them, designing a first person shooter to capture the spirit of that classic and letting players strap themselves directly into Samus Aran’s suit. The first time an energy beam glances off our intrepid bounty hunters helmet and the flash reflects her eyes off the inside of her visor, it becomes apparent that the old adage holds true.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is celebrated for how it critiques social engineering, Hideo Kojima having crafted a theme that shows how controls built into the social fabric of a culture can shape an individual’s thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. The story and game progression do an outstanding job of subtly running players through a simulation of the events of MGS1’s Shadow Moses incident as the rookie Raiden, forcing them to question whether their actions were truly their own or if they had been molded into a clone of Shadow Moses’ legendary hero Solid Snake.
Early on in A Link Between Worlds, the travelling merchant Ravio takes up shop in your house, lines it with The Legend of Zelda’s classic complement of items and offers to rent Link each and every one. This event single-handedly eradicates the suffocatingly linear item-based progression that had reached its logical conclusion even before Twilight Princess put its staggering deficiencies on display. A Link Between Worlds is in many ways an alternate take on an old story, one that reveals its true ambitions at the beginning of the second act as Link squeezes through a tear in the fabric of Hyrule and discovers that every inch of the world and its seven palaces are accessible with the right tool in hand.
Go immediately left from at the start of Metroid: Zero Mission and you’ll find the Morph Ball upgrade exactly where it was in the original Metroid. This is the first in a series of discoveries that shows how the remake beautifully modernizes galactic bounty hunter Samus Aran’s first adventure that celebrates the past while recognizing the journey her series embarked on following it, rebuilding the original release in the structure of influential classic Super Metroid.