Tag Archives: Metroid

Find your way in Fez, go right here and do this in Metroid Fusion

Currently, I’m playing two videogames that are the polar opposites of one another: Fez and Metroid Fusion. Well, there are some ways they are similar. Both are platformers, asking the player to navigate rooms and levels, either by traversing left or right or up and down or via secret paths. Both feature relatively retro graphic styles that are pleasing to the eyes. Both have lackluster jumping, with Gomez feeling very floaty and Samus being too finicky. But that’s kind of it.

Otherwise, one game demands you put in the time and cranial crunching to figure out where to go next and what to do, and the other…well, there’s a computer program that marks your next destination and objective extremely clearly on your mini-map. One requires you to take notes, the other does it for you. One has electrified water, one has water levels you can raise and lower with a turn-switch. If you didn’t know which one is which, Fez is the open field of daisies and Metroid Fusion is the gust of wind pushing you down the path to the market.

I find both styles of gameplay pleasing and frustrating. Various reasons exist, of course. For Metroid Fusion, which I’ve been playing in small bits in bed before the Sandman takes me away, it’s been real nice to have a clear goal, a place to go to, a boss to kill, and a save room right after it. That’s not to say that, across the grand scheme of the Metroid franchise, it’s not disappointing to see such heavy hand-holding, especially when Super Metroid kept its distance from beginning to end, allowing the player to live and learn via trial and error. In Fusion, specially named Navigation Rooms fill out your entire map, whereas you once had to do that on your own. But it’s fine for now. The A.I. commander nicknamed “Adam”  tells me what my next objective is, and if I somehow forget, I just click the objective button on the map and get refreshed. It’s linear and predictable, but the game was originally made for the GBA, which means it was designed to be played portably, and in that it is extremely successful.

In Fez, I wander. I wander, and I wonder. I spend a lot of time looking at walls, spinning rooms, jumping and spinning rooms to little effect. There is little instruction doled out, and even your floaty companion is little help, as it is just as cryptic as the alien-esque hieroglyphics. You see things that may or may not be important, and you move on, promising to return when you have further knowledge. At one point, I came to the conclusion that I needed to take notes, and these scribbles did little to explain the way of Fez‘s world, but it felt important, felt necessary. At certain places, such as the bell or the clock, my note-taking just felt stupid and pointless and that I would never understand what was probably right in front of my face.

I started writing this blog post on Wednesday and then managed to “beat” Fez last night. I found the “kill screen” by using 25 cubes and 7 anti-cubes (as well as a handful of treasure maps, one unused key, and one single artifact). I have some thoughts on all that, but I think I’ll save it for a separate post. Guess that’s another difference between it and Metroid Fusion; the latter isn’t special enough to warrant further thinking.

Samus as she’s always been in Metroid II: Return of Samus

I made decent attempts at the original Metroid, both back when it was out on the NES via a neighbor’s system and many moons later with it in my pocket on the Nintendo 3DS. I absolutely love and continue to play Super Metroid to this day. I even had a GameBoy for a good chunk of my childhood–and yet, I missed out on Metroid II: Return of Samus. I blame Mario, naturally, and…um, more Mario.

As evidence proves true here, I’ve had $6.22 sitting pretty in my 3DS for some time now. Nothing has been released on the eShop lately that’s looked even remotely enticing. Okay, okay. Freaky Forms: Your Creations, Alive!–despite its zany title–seems like a good time. I had way too much fun making silly and weak creatures in Spore Creatures. So, maybe one day. But not today, or tomorrow, or the day after that because I’ve already spent my eShop money. Yup, that’s right. I did some pre-Black Friday shopping and bought Metroid II: Return of Samus on Thanksgiving evening, after a busy day of family, talking, not talking, and too much foodstuffs. It was a nice little distraction-limned treat for myself, and I crawled into bed, turned the heated blanket on, and began hunting Metroids.

See, in Metroid II: Return of Samus, you’re tasked with taking out Metroids. Thirty-nine of them, in fact, which is a weird number, but whatever. Maybe forty would’ve tipped the scales or something. This has to do with the fact that Samus previously prevented the Space Pirates from using the Metroid race for their own evil purposes in the original Metroid. Now, to stop another attempt by the Space Pirates, Samus has been sent to the Metroid’s home planet of SR388 to eviscerate every last Metroid she finds. That ought to do it, right?

So far, I’ve taken down two Metroids. Pew, pew, blam. The game plays just like Metroid and Super Metroid except it’s a lot less open and more linear, with very little back-tracking. Sometimes that’s okay. Still, there’s no map, and taking damage from even the minor enemies can be devastating. One nice addition that definitely inspired the save+health-restoring stations in Super Metroid are the inclusion of save spots and energy/missile-recharging balls, as well as the ability to create restore points via the 3DS. And speaking of balls, I was pleasantly surprised to find Samus able to roll into a ball at the start of the game; the new spider-ball ability takes a bit to get used to though. My suggestion for those stuck: try everything until it clicks. Y’know, like I did.

Other oddness includes Samus being huge on the screen, a severe lack of background detail, and less than stellar music. That said, it’s more side-scrolling Metroid-blasting action, and that’s really all I need. With the ability to save frequently and recharge health much easier, I suspect I’ll finish Metroid II: Return of Samus far sooner than ever completing the original Metroid. Watch out, you thirty-seven Metroids left! I’M COMING FOR YOU.

30 Days of Gaming, #27 – Most epic scene ever

Hey, remember this meme? Me too. Actually, I did forget about it for a bit, seeing as the last update to it was way back in early August 2011. My bad. I can’t wait to count up how long it’s taken me to blog about 30 days’ worth of topics. Probably in the triple digits by now. Grinding Down has truly earned its namesake. To be honest, these last few topics are a bit of a struggle, all of them seemingly heavy-hitters in terms of constant forum topics and debates. Hopefully I can do them justice, but truthfully–I’m a little worried about my choices.

This is Super Metroid‘s second time appearing in the 30 Days of Gaming meme. The first was for the topic of “a game I’ve played more than five times,” which you can read about by clicking this clickity part.

To start, the last Metroid is in captivity, the galaxy is at peace. Until it’s not. Super Metroid begins by tilting this utopian idea on its side, with the Metroid larvae Samus brought to the Ceres Space Colony for researching being stolen by her nemesis Ridley. As she hurries back, she finds all the scientists dead. And she’ll be soon too if she doesn’t escape before the planet explodes. Narrowly missing the chance to become space particles, Samus then tracks Ridley to the planet Zebes. Ridley is the second-to-last boss, and despite his involvement in this whole mess, he’s not the show-stealer. No, not by a mile. Leave that honor to Mother Brain.

Good job, bounty hunter. You’ve made it to Tourian. This is Mother Brain’s base of operations, and it’s been relocated and rebuilt. Tread carefully. As you make your way closer to the end, you’ll pass former victims of the life-sucking Metroids; they crumble and turn to dust as Samus hurries past, a haunting image. But that’s only the beginning. You find Mother Brain, all encased and hooked up to too many tubes, just like in Metroid, and you blow her to bits, watching with glee as the machinery around her explodes and drops her to the floor, defeated, nothing more than a brain without a body. And then she gets up.

Clearly, it makes no sense how a pinkish lump of brainstuffs is able to grow out an entire dinosaur-like body like that, but it took me by surprise the first time nonetheless. I remember my own brain squirming in my skull, trying to find its own “grow a T-Rex body” switch and make sure it was set to OFF. Frightened, you launch every single rocket and super missile you have in your arsenal, relentless in your attack. And Samus is putting up quite a fight, dodging mouth-fire and bombs–but then Mother Brain hits her with an eye beam of stunning. Down she goes, forced to endure Mother Brain’s attacks as her health depletes block by block. It’s frustrating and heartbreaking to witness. Just before the end, when all seems hopeless and the final attack is being charged up, a Metroid swoops in to save Samus, sucking the life from Mother Brain. The Metroid then transfers her energy and powers to Samus, sacrificing herself in the cause. The remainder of the battle is a snap thanks to a kickass supercharged beam shot, and Mother Brain’s brain is disintegrating before you know it. No time to celebrate though; you have three minutes exactly to escape the planet before all is blown to bits.

What I love about this scene is how unexpected–and unpredicted–the Metroid’s saving swoop-in is. There’s no pausing, no jarring cutscene, no weird sounds like you’d get on a PlayStation when a FMV was readying to load; it’s all one fluid moment, filled with fluid movement, and the scene is nearly impossible to not watch. I remember thinking my controller was broken when I couldn’t get Samus to move after Mother Brain’s stun beam, and that sadness quickly turned to elation when I saw who had Samus’ back. One can only assume that this was the Metroid she had originally brought to the Ceres Space Colony.

This scene still resonates with me today, some fifteen-plus years later. That’s epic enough for me.

Samus Aran against the nefarious Space Pirates is no stroll through Zebeth

Yesterday, a day earlier than originally touted to be available, the 10 NES games from the 3DS Ambassador Program were ready for downloading. Let’s name ’em all: Wrecking Crew, NES Open Tournament Golf, Yoshi, Metroid, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong Jr., Balloon Fight, Ice Climber, and The Legend of Zelda. Whew. That’s a lot of titles, and  several of them are straight up ancient and esteemed relics of the past. However, getting them onto one’s 3DS was a tricky, convoluted process.

I was excited to give each of them a try, especially since–and this is where I lose all street cred as any kind of gaming fanatic–I’ve never played the original Metroid or The Legend of Zelda (1 and 2). I know. That’s like…crazy talk, right? I also don’t drink milk; deal with it. Well, that’s just how life went; I was never into emulating games on my computer throughout college and post-college, and since I missed setting sail on the NES boat from actually back in the day, that was it. Strangely, I did devour the later installments of these games on the SNES, and consider them to be absolute favorites. Fast-forward many, many years, and here I am, stretched out on a guest room bed, face merely inches from the screen, playing these games for the very first time on a shiny, battery-drained 3DS.

To start, Metroid is freaking hard. You elevator down onto Zebeth (later installments change this to Zebes) with a meager 30 health and can quickly lose all of that if you don’t proceed carefully. There’s also no solid save system, just a wonky password thing that I’m too lazy to try. So, you grab the morph ball immediately to your left–also known as maru mari–and move ahead in baby steps. I managed to get my health up to about 70 before getting stuck near those tubes that release an endless swarm of flying enemies; coupled with the fact that Samus can’t shoot in a downwards direction and that her shots actually can only go so far…well, she didn’t last long. Had to restart from the beginning. I think I was relying too much on my Super Metroid skills here, not grasping that both games play very differently.

Quick deaths and total restarts. This is a reoccurring theme with these freebie NES games. They are tough cookies. Except NES Open Tournament Golf, which is more terrible than tough. I got a 9 on the very first hole, and that’s not cool. I know how to golf. I got a birdie and two pars this summer in real life golf, swinging a real club and hitting a real ball. I should be even stronger in the pixelated version. But yeah…

I’m definitely going to give Metroid another fair go, and might have to actually rely on this password-saving feature once I get deep enough. Imagine getting all the way to Tourian and dying and having to begin all over again? ::shudders:: Oh, and the music is still amazingly powerful, wriggling its way into my very soul. Love, love, love it.

30 Days of Gaming, #13 – A game you’ve played more than five times

This is kind of a weirdly phrased topic. I mean, it seems like it wants to ask about a game you’ve beaten more than five times because honestly, I’m pretty sure I’ve played every videogame ever more than five times–as have you–save for Epic Mickey (cue sound effect). If that’s the case, I had a number of choices for today’s 30 Days of Gaming meme topic, most of them coming from the great house of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country, and Suikoden to name a few.

However, I’m going with Super Metroid, a game I can’t pinpoint on the number of times I’ve completed, but it’s one that I return to consistently every few years and love revisiting. I’m so proud to still have this cartridge in my SNES collection; thank the stars above and below that I didn’t trade it in with all those other games I now regret living without.

Super Metroid thrives on exploration and discovery; without it, Samus would just be some ho-hum bounty hunter that hopped up and down platforms, shot enemies to pieces, and took down crazily unique bosses. Those aspects of Super Metroid are great and certainly nothing to sneeze at, but its everything else around them, the unknown padding if you will, that makes this truly a game worth coming back to again and again. It’s landing on Zebes in the rain and heading to the right to discover that, no, really, you need to be heading to the left. It’s making your way through Crateria, which, as a young boy, I always misread as Cafeteria, and getting chills from the dreary, silent mood thickening in the air above. It’s getting even more freaked out when Samus first arrives at the Wrecked Ship to drips and statue-still enemies. It’s that final boss fight, and the frantic rush thereafter; it’s going back to where it all started.

Every time I play through Super Metroid, I discover something new. Last time, it was reaching new areas with the Shinespark technique that I had previously thought were unreachable. Another time it was sinking through some quicksand to…not die, but end up in a hidden room. Long before that it was learning all the secret, chargeable special attacks. I can’t even imagine what other hidden goodies remain for my next romp through, but I’ll be sure to x-ray scan every wall possible and bomb whatever gets in the way.

Truth be told, I’d love a new version to pop up on the Nintendo 3DS, and considering there’s a 3D upgrade to a title like Excitebike…well, my dream isn’t too far-fetched. Until then, I’m just gonna roll up into a ball and wait.

Games Completed in 2011, #11 – Monster Tale

Metroidvania is a special genre of gaming. It’s both linear and not, it’s devoted to progression and secrets, and it’s been around since the venerable NES days. I mean, it’s very namesake comes from two of its most obvious influences: Metroid and Castlevania. Over the years, Metroidvania has seen some peaks and valleys and straight-up dry spells, never finding a wide audience, but there’s been a rebirth of sorts on handheld consoles like the Nintendo DS. Mostly more Castlevania titles, but there’s also been the occasional surprise debut, and that’s where we find Monster Tale from DreamRift, the makers of Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure.

In Monster Tale, you play as Ellie, a young girl who stumbles upon a magical armband, unhatched egg, and hidden world inhabited by monsters. She quickly discovers that she’s not the only human to venture into this world as it is ruled by snotty, personality-heavy kids, the worst being Priscilla. They have enslaved many of the monsters and turned them into their evil pets. The egg Ellie found earlier hatches, and the monster quickly bonds with our blue-haired protagonist, fighting off enemies, eating snacks, and evolving into more powerful forms. She names it Chomp, and he/she/it will be vital to her survival as she searches for a way back home.

Monster Tale is a mix of platforming, combat, and pet raising. You’ll travel through five themed worlds—a wicked treehouse and demon express train, for example—until you can’t travel forward any more; most likely, Ellie will need to learn a new ability like charge shot or obtain a key to open a locked gate. Unfortunately though, DreamRift is a wee bit masochistic and decided to make back-tracking a high priority here. Very high priority. Now, with Metroidvania games, back-tracking is the point; you get a new ability, and now you can get past X from that earlier level. However, the back-tracking in Monster Tale feels unnecessary, and often the item/power needed is on the far opposite side of the map. There’s no fast-travel system so Ellie and Chomp have to trudge all the way back; I was constantly checking the map so as to not get lost. It feels like something implemented to transform a four-hour game into an eight-hour game.

Good thing the combat is fun, especially thanks to Chomp. He/she/it is an adorable monster that helps attack enemies on both screens of the Nintendo DS. Chomp can’t spend too much time up top as it drains its health, but the bottom screen acts as a sanctuary, healing it and housing many special items for it to interact with. There’s some great animation work when it comes to Chomp chompin’ down on some cold pizza. As Chomp defeats enemies and eats entire bowls of rice, it gains XP and levels up, opening up new forms. I had him evolve into the Juggernaut by the end of the game and kept him there, but there’s plenty of other forms for people to tinker with if they’re curious. I only wish that Chomp was a little more proactive when on the top screen; it seemed like it wouldn’t attack an enemy unless Ellie personally chauffeured it over.

Story-wise, Monster Tale doesn’t ask too much of your attention. There’s small bits of dialogue between Ellie and another kid before a boss fight, but other than that—it’s purely background fluff. I likened it previously to a Saturday morning cartoon plotline, and I’ll still stand by that. I do think that DreamRift missed out on a great opportunity though; all along, Ellie is trying to get Chomp back to its mother, but this plot point fizzles out. It’s safe to assume the two are reunited, but it would’ve been nice to see some monsterly reunion on-screen.

The production values in Monster Tale can’t be ignored. The 2D sprites are colorfully crisp, and the animation work is top-notch. The quality kicks it into even higher gear during the boss fights, my favorite being against the deranged bunny rabbit. Background details such as monsters hiding behind paintings really help with the immersion. To be honest, I did not notice much of the music; I eventually turned all sound off as I got tired of hearing Ellie make a noise every time I hit the jump button. Every. Single. Time. Thank goodness the game’s gorgeous to look at for extended periods of time.

Monster Tale came out shortly before the Nintendo 3DS launched, a period being labeled as “the end of the Nintendo DS era,” but not by me. It might be late to the party, but it’s a pristine example of why gamers should stick around a little longer. Sure, the back-tracking gets tiresome, but the combat and pet raising is irrefutably addicting. It’s definitely one of the more unique Metroidvania titles in some time, and if you’re a fan at all of fun, friendly platformers, this is one helluva tale.

A copy of Monster Tale was provided to me by Majesco Entertainment for review. My completion total was 78.6% after just under eight hours. I’m pretty sure I found every room, but did not spend a ton of time evolving Chomp into different forms. I basically stuck with the Juggernaut form and grinded him to level 30 before the final boss fight. The hardest part of the game involved a moving platform and floor lined with deadly spikes.

Super Mario Bros. Crossover is a dream come true

Do you like Super Mario Bros? How about The Legend of Zelda or Contra? Hmm…and Castlevania, Mega Man, and Metroid?

That’s good. I like ’em all, too.

And now, thanks to the Internet, you can play them all, more or less, at once. Introducing…Super Mario Bros. Crossover!

Yup, this little miracle allows you to basically play Super Mario Bros, but with the character of your choice. There’s Samus Aran from Metroid, Simon Belmont from Castlevania, Link from The Legend of Zelda, Bill Rizer from Contra, and Mega Man from, er, Mega Man. And the greatest part is they all play as they should from their respective games, meaning Mega Man can charge up his blaster and Samus can roll into a ball and drop her classic bombs. All while goombas roam the ground and pipes wait to be explored.

It’s silly fun, but also pretty great. Believe the hype.

In Metroidvania, no one can hear you scream

Just acquired this achievement last night in Shadow Complex:

scream
Make ‘Em Scream
(20G): Get 100 soldiers to scream

What’s nice about this achievement is two things: 1) it was not one that I had to consciously be aware of achieving, in that I just shot soldiers and tossed grenades their way, and sometimes they’d scream when being blown to bits and other times they’d just crumple to floor and 2) Shadow Complex does a wonderful job of providing in-game tracking towards its achievements so I knew I was getting close to this one, making each further scream all the more rewarding.

Two new Xbox Live Arcade games downloaded

Needed a little pick-me-up last Friday evening, so I purchased some Microsoft Space Bucks and downloaded Shadow Complex:

shadow-complex-01

…and Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers:

mgathering-580

I’ve had only a limited amount of play-time with both games, but so far they’re not terrible. In fact, Shadow Complex is quite impressive for an Xbox Live Arcade title, doing many a things great. Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers is not the MTG I’m used to playing, but now that I lack a group of friends to play with it does a decent job of filling said void. More later as I continue to work through ’em…