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.

Continue reading “Metroid’s Genealogy: What Samus Returns Reveals About a Series’ Evolving Design”

A Platforming Odyssey: Running and Jumping Down the Path Super Mario Trail-Blazed

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”

Seeing Adolescence Through The Eyes Of Majora’s Mask

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.

Continue reading “Seeing Adolescence Through The Eyes Of Majora’s Mask”

Discovering The Adventurer’s Spirit In The Legend Of Zelda

LEGEND OF ZELDA OPENING

The Legend of Zelda opens with Link in the small clearing of a lush Hyrule forest. At that point, the entire world is a single plot of land that exactly fits the dimensions of modern 1987 television screens. Take a moment to survey your surroundings and you’ll notice four options; you can travel north, go west, or head east, but you enter the cave first. There you get the most classic of all weapons to aid you, a trusty sword. You’re going to need it as the fate of a Princess and her Kingdom rests in your ability to reassemble the eight scattered pieces of the mythical Triforce of Wisdom and defeat the sinister Ganon.

Continue reading “Discovering The Adventurer’s Spirit In The Legend Of Zelda”

Metroid Fusion 3D (aka Other M)

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.

Continue reading “Metroid Fusion 3D (aka Other M)”

Exploring Metroid Prime: How Samus’ Soul Was Transplanted Into A New Body

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.

Continue reading “Exploring Metroid Prime: How Samus’ Soul Was Transplanted Into A New Body”

The Design Of Mario & Luigi: The Lessons From A Superstar Saga

The first great fight in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga is against the corrupted form of the matriarch Queen Bean. The brothers Mario have several offensive targets to select, her crowned head and her two gigantic, body-builder-caliber arms that pound the ground and send shockwaves that injure any plumber that doesn’t properly jump over it. Pouncing on her noggin’ awards you nothing more than damage thanks to those pointy golden spikes, so you quickly decide to avoid that strategy, choosing instead to deflate her arms to knock the thing off and reveal her soft skull underneath. In this dazed state, she takes full damage and hacks up beans that hatch into additional enemies if the timing of your jump is off by more than a few frames of animation and you crack one open.

Continue reading “The Design Of Mario & Luigi: The Lessons From A Superstar Saga”

Bayonetta’s Leg-Swinging, Face-Breaking Encore

As is the great curse of every artist, the critic gets the last word. For the burlesque dancer Bayonetta, the Omnitient Critic grades her revue on a six-point scale of dirty Stone to Pure Platinum. It’s a good thing that her routine was so incredibly well choreographed that she can test it against her newest dancing partner, the mysterious and powerful Lumen Sage. The purity of the battle system comes alive against an evenly matched opponent and the vast armies of Paradiso and the hordes of Inferno, on the path to save the soul of a lost friend. So let’s look closer at our provocateurs moves and understand why they steal the show.

Continue reading “Bayonetta’s Leg-Swinging, Face-Breaking Encore”

Zelda’s Missing Link

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.

Continue reading “Zelda’s Missing Link”

A Super Mario World: Exploring Dinosaur Land Through Play

Super Mario World starts at Yoshi’s House and gives the pudgy Italian plumber the freedom to explore the overworld to the left or right. To the left is Yoshi’s Island 1, a bright and colorful place with tank top-wearing koopa’s, small purple dinosaurs and giant goddamn bullet bills. Beat it and the area around will come alive underfoot. The path dead ends at the Yellow Switch Palace sitting on top of a cliff and the large button that causes matching boxes to fill in throughout the world. With this one action, large scale change has swept across Dinosaur Land. It will never be the same.

Continue reading “A Super Mario World: Exploring Dinosaur Land Through Play”