Another Metroid 2(021) Rewind: A Metroid Series Playthrough

dear LORD the E.M.M.I. are TERRIFYING

going from Fusion last night to this now is a pretty wild way to see twenty years of progress.

anyway I’m like half an hour in and Dread rules. I love this kind of feel so much. but GOD IS THIS SCARY

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The SA-X is definitely a huge loss of potential. But I had a conversation recently that clarified a bit for me: I had always been confused as to why they kept saying that “they had to scrap Dread for the DS because the technology wasnt advanced enough”, which confused me, because it really didn’t feel like this game was that advanced. But when I said that, people pointed out to me that path-finding can be a pretty intensive process, especially when its being updated moment to moment. Apparently, that’s why they couldn’t make the E.M.M.I on the DS. In that context, it starts to make sense why the SA-X can’t be a terrifying, dynamic hunter, but rather just a scripted encounter. If the DS couldn’t, it’s certain the GBA couldn’t. I still think they could have figured something out better, but it does help me figure out why that is.

Still, maybe one day we’ll get a fan-made Fusion remake that makes the SA-X more terrifying and dynamic (and that gets shut down by Nintendo eventually)

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Metroid Dread: Mid-Action Report (like three and a half hours in)

I went into this plan with a sort of academic-y mindset, the plan being to explore the main force behind a genre I really like that I’d never gotten to play. And my feelings on the older games are all a bit limited because of the way they fit into a developmental history — that’s to say, I felt like I was playing them to observe first and enjoy second. The first game surprised me with how much I enjoyed it, while the others all sort of fell into the expectations I’d had for them.

That’s all to say that, yo, I adore this game. It’s so good. Broadly @vehemently I agree with your review — it’s an action game in a way that the earliest games weren’t really trying to be. To me it does feel like it’s taking elements from all of them and synthesizing them in a really engaging way. It doesn’t have the hostility of the first game (in most cases), but it does have the speed of that game and later of Fusion but in a map that’s closer to Super. That said, I feel like it’s floating somewhere between action and horror in the spectrum of… power, I suppose, that games can give the player? I guess we’d call that a thriller, to steal a term from other media that’s I don’t really hear used in games.

I want to draw that distinction because modern horror games seem to be all about keeping the player just powerless enough to always be afraid (especially the Amnesia inspired tree), and that’s always been hit or miss for me. It works when the atmosphere works, and when there’s enough pathos to ground the experience for me (something like Devotion comes to mind), but generally I feel like agency makes horror in games more interesting. I’m on my fourth EMMI sequence I think, and they’re still as intense as they were at the start (way, way more intense than I find any sequence in something like God of War or another tentpole “action” franchise). And that ties into the level design, the way those zones spiderweb between the EMMI-free parts of each area so that, while you rarely have to stay in them for too long, you can’t skirt them either. It’s all funneled in way that’s precise but not heavy-handed. The map and its integration are both incredibly well done.

I also feel like holding the Morph Ball back for a little while is a real stroke of genius in terms of this game’s escalation, because all those little passageways and gaps that you can’t access for the first couple of hours suddenly become a whole heap of new possibilities once it shows up. It comes at the end of what’s likely the first major moment of backtracking the game pushes you to do, which pushes you to try some more backtracking, at which point you realize that hey — these sectors all connect at more than one point! That’s new! That revelation then immediately opens up a new sub-area with the Varia Suit, which then opens up a huge swathe of the map that had been inaccessible before and immediately leads to a great boss fight (though, uh, Kraid, you should probably have a doctor check out that infection). The power-up order and the links between sectors are a couple of the ways this game is playing with the expected formula, and I’m finding that those choices work really, really well for me.

There is one thing though that is fundamentally (and obviously) different about Dread, atmospherically, than all the others, and I can see it being hit-or-miss but I find it to be really compelling — not being alone. The Chozo that shows up in the opening is the immediately marker of that, but there are lots of little indications around the environment that there are other things here on this planet. Bangs behind doors, screeches and scratching sounds, things like that are relatively standard — but I just reached an area where the game’s first boss is being poked, prodded, and seemingly dissected by a machine in a research laboratory, implying that there’s some group of sentient things moving through the background here, following Samus around, observing her progress through this world. In comparison to the empty worlds in Fusion or II, or the enemy-filled warrens in the first game and Super, or even the rogue robot that MercurySteam added in Samus Returns, that’s something completely different. Personally, I find it extremely eerie, precisely because all the previous games had played with this idea of aloneness so thoroughly. It’s maybe the one thing here that feels most new, and I like it. A lot.

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Short observation: very few gaming moments are better than suffering through the sluggish passages of a water level for an hour, finding the Gravity Suit, and then blasting through a hallway at the speed of sound,

(Actually though I like the water level in this game. It’s no Maridia.)

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Yes, the most impressive thing about Dread is that Buremia doesn’t suck.

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im the maridia defender. i like the music.

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I’ve been thinking about how Buremia is good actually and have ended up even further appreciating how Dread pinballs you around all these areas. There are so many passages in and out either via connecting points or teleporters that none of these areas ever really wear out their welcome. It feels like a much more developed version of what Fusion does with its back-and-forth through its different sectors, but where that game felt very regimented and sectioned this one feels incredibly fluid. I think — and maybe I’m wrong, but the sense is pretty strong at this point — that Dread is almost as linear a game as Fusion is in terms of its main path, but that main path is subtle enough that it never feels that way. I’m pretty sure backtracking to get the Morph Ball when I did was the intended and probably only path forward… but in the moment it felt like an organic choice, which ruled. And the teleporters adding new conduits through these areas that aren’t linked by proximity feels like a genuine bit of innovation. Maybe I’m forgetting something obvious, but I feel like that’s not something I’ve seen in a recent metroidvania.

Also, the bosses? They rock. These are really good boss fights — maybe my favorite non-Hollow Knight set of bosses in one of these. They’re precise and well-signaled and hard but absolutely learnable, and it feels like each time I go from getting creamed to blasting through with almost full health in the course of 10-15 attempts.

(Maridia’s music is great. And I didn’t hate it that much, it had a great vibe… I just probably would have liked the level a lot more if it hadn’t felt like it was the entire second half of Super Metroid.)

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Metroid Dread: After Action Report

Damn, that was good. :grin:

This was hands-down my favorite of the bunch. I think it might be my favorite metroidvania game since Hollow Knight — which is saying a lot, because that was the first one I played, and I have tried out a lot of these since then. As for the series itself, the first game is a close second. But as much as I love that game’s kinetics and hostile environment, this was just… everything I like in a platform/action game. Fluid movement, responsive combat, clear tells and triggers, exacting level design, the works — it’s all here. And it managed to pack a ton of upgrades and power-ups into a control scheme that didn’t feel unweidly (which, thinking back, was one of the small problems I had with Samus Returns.

Broadly, it’s the best feel I’ve found in a 2D platformer since Dead Cells, and the Hollow Knight boss comparisons I’ve seen around are merited. The checkpointing was generous in a way that really helped maintain the flow, and the leveIs manage to balance an openness with some clever paths. The feeling I’ve eventually reached with most of these games was that their worlds felt expansive at first and shrank as I got farther and farther into them. But despite being able to traverse it quickly, ZDR always felt big — like an actual planet, as opposed to a tiny base on one. I stuck around and found every item just because I wanted to spend more time with it, and even found myself enjoying the Shinespark puzzles in a way I could never quite bring myself to in the older games.

(Also, thank you MercurySteam for not putting the Screw Attack five minutes from the end of the game. Becoming a spinning ball of death is such a fun mechanic and this is the first one where it felt like I was actually able to explore and fully enjoy it.)

A couple things stand out to me. One, I was surprised by how evocative I found the game’s environments. I’m normally a pixel art person — 2.5D stuff can be neat, but I usually find it gimmicky. But here though, it really helped communicate a sense of scale that I don’t know pixel art could have accomplished — the liveliness of the backgrounds made this place feel inhabited and unique, and the occasional sweeping view of some part of this planet, like the (underground?) ocean that Buremia is anchored in really just made Samus seem tiny in comparison. That sense of scale was one of the things I really loved about the first game, as well as something I find compelling in series like Souls, and it really worked for me here too.

I also very much love (not that this is particularly new) how Samus’s solution to anything she doesn’t like is to immediately blow it up. Extremely relatable. Entirely understandable too, given her experience. When Raven Beak started talking through the computer before his boss fight I said, “blow it up, Samus” out loud to my empty apartment, and she did. Her characterization through things like that is pretty exellent throughout. And I loved that they, briefly, gave her a voice — and that they did it in Chozo — it felt like it preserved some of the mystery of a silent protagonist while also paying off a great moment. All in all, the plot worked for me. There were clear inconsistencies and just a general weirdness around the computer, so the reveal that it was Raven Beak all along was both a nice flip on what happened in Fusion and a satisfying twist. Meanwhile, the “No, I am your father” moment was… maybe a little hokey, but hey, I’ll take some melodrama in my science-fiction. The moment midway through where Samus releases the X and they immediately take over the entire planet just reinforces their power in a way that Fusion was never quite able to, and the ending… I like a whole lot, even if I’m not sure what to make of all of it. Samus becoming a full-fledged metroid feels like the natural conclusion of her arc — and it works as a figurative realization of what the metroids themselves stand for. They were created and designed to counteract a lifeform with extreme power by absorbing and draining energy, and it feels natural that an attempt to exterminate them ended with their exterminator, in a way, being subsumed and transformed into something different. Takes that classic science-fiction plotline about playing god and develops it out in an interesting direction. The thing Im not sure I know what to make of yet is the very final scene, with the X mimicking Quiet Robe absorbing Samus’s metroid abilities so that she can leave the planet. The X do absorb their marks’ memories, so maybe when it absorbed Quiet Robe it developed some sympathy for Samus? Was this a way of showing the X have not just reason (which seemed to be the main point of Fusion but emotion too?.

Anyway, when I said “what if parasites had community” in my post Metroid II comments, I didn’t realize the entire rest of the series would be about developing that thought out lol. I’m not done with this! I will take a break for a while (lol at me thinking I could do this entire series in one summer), but at some point I’ll be back with the Primes, then eventually Other M and AM2R.

And before I go, here’s my favorite piece of concept art from the special edition artbook. Wish Nintendo hadn’t limited their stock to like five copies of this thing, because as far as artbooks go, it’s top-notch.

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I beat Final Boss Bird Dad and man, what a game. Masterful boss fights, especially that last one. Oh my god, that was exquisite. That could be the best boss fight Nintendo has ever done. There’s some magic going on with this game where the bosses look just impossible, and then within a few rounds you get the pattern down and they’re all manageable. This final boss has three phases and I only needed to see the second phase twice to beat him. Could be how generous the game is with your flash step abilities, I don’t know.

The last comment in this thread compared the bosses to Hollow Knight, only the last one felt that tough to me. And Hollow Knight is lot more ruthless. Or I’ve suddenly unlocked latent alien DNA in me over the last few years and I’m a 2D action god now, but I doubt it.

That’s easily the best Metroid game I’ve ever played. I’d say that deeply surpasses Super Metroid.

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