Atmospheric Pressure: Navigating Metroid Dread’s Oppressive Depths

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.

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Metroid’s Genealogy: What Samus Returns Reveals About a Series’ Evolving Design

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.

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Treasure and Virtue in Sin & Punishment

Sin & Punishment’s single best setpiece captures the essence and versatility of its design. With your character Airan on a platform zipping around a naval carrier fleet, you evade the barrage of artillery fire from massive aircraft carriers, dogfight squadrons of enemy aircraft, and bat missiles back at their launchers, while unleashing a constant stream of shots to send them to the bottom of the ocean, all as the world soars and reorients in full cinematic splendor. It’s one of the most exhilarating action spectacles of the generation and combines the best elements of the classic shooter and brawler genres into one unique game. The scene ends with the freedom fighter chasing down a comet-sized missile shot from low-orbit as it hurtles at your ally-turned-monster Saki.

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Going Maverick: How X4 Upgraded Mega Man’s Hardware

Depending on whether you chose to play as X or Zero, the fight against Web Spider requires a different set of tactics. With his X-Buster, X can dash around the small jungle room until Spider descends from the canopy, wall jumping over the webs he shoots and firing from afar. With his Z-Sabre, Zero is forced to stay close to the bug on his line, dashing away from the web only to careen up and around over it in a circle and strike before your foe scrambles back to safety. The fight gets harder when the Repliforce member lays an electric grid and starts scurrying about the scene. Because of their different playstyles, the remaining seven robot masters will present X and Zero with a similarly different dynamic that test what the two machines, and the player at their controls, are made of.

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Hard Corps Contra

Contra: Hard Corps opens to a robotic army assaulting a sprawling future city only to be decimated by a charging tank that ejects your character guns blazing into an active warzone. Not only does this succinctly indicate where the game’s tonal priorities are, it’s also the designers giving you some honest advice: charge forward until every enemy is demolished. Hard Corps distilled Alien War’s brazen creativity down to its run and gun foundation, creating a single minded epic that is equal parts twitch shooter and blockbuster action flick.

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