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Monday, September 20, 2010

My personal history with Metroid or a preface to my review of Metroid: Other M

Before I review Metroid: Other M I wanted to preface it by looking at what impact these games have had for me personally; they're near and dear to my heart and there's very memories tied to each one. Plus it gives me the chance to space out the images from the Other M preorder bonus. Please tolerate the wackiness of how some of the pics had to be oriented.

Still in it's shrink wrap

I adore Metroid; I always have ever since playing Metroid II: Return of Samus for the Gameboy. Yes I know its blasphemy that I played what's arguably the least liked game in the whole series as my first installment. What can I say? I never had an NES until November 1990 and since this was long before the Internet came along there was no way to really hear about the original Metroid. The only way I ever heard of the second game was because Kool-Aid was offering it for free when you traded in a certain number of points for it. I was intrigued; who was this masked person with a smoking gun? Why were they returning? Why of all the games for the Gameboy was Kool-Aid offering this one? There was also a very cool TV spot for the game at the time with an ostentatious talking head that looked like a Lite-Brite come to life. That likely didn't hurt, as it ran on Nickelodeon nonstop during the latter half 1991. I never got enough points to get the game from the Red Punch Man himself but it was fine because my Mom got it for me and my Brother for my Birthday. Yes I had to share; my family was somewhat convinced that video games represented the first strike by Japan to corrupt America's youth so we'd be easier to conquer in the future, so they were VERY reluctant to have anything to do with them. The game was the 6th one I ever owned, coming after Super Mario Brothers/Duck Hunt (pack-in), the old Kemco NES Batman game, Tetris (pack-in), and Super Mario Land.

The slip around the pictures and a picture from one of the flashbacks

Metroid II was one of the first games I ever beat all the way to the end. They may not sound like a lot but when you're 6 years old and had to share all of your games with your older Brother it seemed like a big deal. I played that game nonstop for ages and it felt like I'd accomplished something major when I finally beat the final monstrous Metroid Queen. I'd never played a game like it beforehand excusing a weekend rental of Kid Icarus. But I never thought that there was a prior entry to the series; the local Blockbusters didn't have it and this was ages before places like GameStop were around. If you hadn't already heard of a game, chances are you wouldn't until it got another installment or there was a feature on the series in Nintendo Power which I never got to read regularly until the school library started getting it in 2nd grade.

Dream Girl?

I finally got to play the original Metroid when it finally popped up in a Movie Warehouse around a year later. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity I beat the game in a weekend which was a pretty rare feat for me with rentals excluding the Mega Man series (and even then only #'s 2-4 and 6). I was thrilled to death by it; sure the Metroids weren't as varied or interesting as the ones in its sequel and Mother Brain wasn't nearly as frightening as the Queen Metroid but the music was infinitely better and it was much easier to tell where you'd been and where you were going.

Zero Suit Samus

6 months after my parents finally succumbed to me and my Brother's desire to have an NES, we saw the first advertisements for the SNES. My Dad told me this pretty much proved his point that the instant we got something like this, something better would be out right afterward. I still believe to this day he only bought the original Nintendo because he knew the SNES was coming long before we did.

Flashback Samus

Because of that, we didn't have a Super Nintendo until around early 1995 when my parents bought a van that had the system hard wired into it. I had to settle on just renting Super Metroid whenever we were going on vacation. That was fine with me because I'd been waiting over a year to play it; at least for more than the brief moments spent at the Best Buy display anyway. There had even been a comic running in Nintendo Power that served to intensify my fervor at making it past the first areas of Zebes.

Galactic Federation Soldier

I love Super Metroid; it’s still arguably my favorite game in the series though you could never force me to pick just one. I played it over so many vacations that it’s essentially etched into my memory to the point where I had to take year or more gaps in playing it just so I wouldn’t remember EVERYTHING about it (I had the same problem with the Wind Waker and Resident Evil 4).

Flashback Malkovich

After getting into the SNES generation much later than most people and going to a school with a rigorous math curriculum I sat out on the Nintendo 64 generation. Sure I played parts of Mario 64 and made it through Ocarina of Time at a friend’s house over one weekend, but otherwise my experience with most N64 games is just hearing about them from other people. Samus made no appearances in the 64 bit generation and I was a long way from having any real money of my own so it seemed like a convenient compromise.

Samus chillin' out with the GF soldiers

Because of that I actually drifted out of playing video games seriously for a long time. Oh I kept up with Mario and Link in one way or another but the only games I really bought were for the Gameboy or at that time, the Gameboy Color. That’s just how things were until around 2002 when I first started to hear about not one, but two new Metroid games. Retro had been working on Metroid Prime and Nintendo R&D 1 was getting ready to release Fusion. Needless to say I bought both a GameCube and a Gameboy Advance in anticipation of both of them.
A still from one of the much hyped cinematic kills. This enemy's a real pain in the ass at first.

Fusion came first if not for the fact that it was cheaper overall to afford, then for reticence on my part on Metroid being reborn as a FPS with the Prime series. The first entry in the franchise in almost a decade, Fusion remains something of an odd man out even now. It had very discreet objectives and was more story based then past entries had been until that point. Also the addition of the SA-X, Samus’ original evil clone was unique in that there was a character seemingly pursuing you now, one that was actually scary because it could kill you relatively easily. It’s also interesting to note that with Samus' new look, the SA-X taking on the appearance of her wearing the Varia Suit is kind of a metaphor for where the franchise was going. There hasn’t been any other material since that takes place after Fusion which I still feel is a lost opportunity.
So here we are at a glossy still of gameplay footage. This is where the bonus kind of goes downhill.

While I had been a little wary of Prime being an FPS, when I finally went into Sam’s Club in the middle of December and bought it, I soon realized I had nothing to fear. Retro took Metroid and brought it to its largest audience ever with an innovative and immensely fun game that was genuinely challenging. Fighting the actual Metroid Prime creature was quite difficult (at least on GameCube; it was much easier on Wii for some reason) and it’s one of the first games I ever played that used every button on the controller. I beat Samus’ first 3-D adventure over a breathless 2 weeks taking up my entire Christmas break and I couldn’t wait for more. Metroid Prime is pretty much responsible for my reentry into the home console market and as a result I ended up having more games for the GameCube then for any system I’d ever had before. By the time the system’s unpopularity had finally transformed into semi-obscurity, I owned almost every well reviewed game on the system short of Cubivore. You could say Prime is the game that cost me over a $1000 because at one point my GC collection was over 60 titles.
More gameplay footage though this shot does look pretty cool.

In 2004, another two Metroid games came out. Metroid: Zero Mission and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes didn’t have the simultaneous release that the prior games did but they still ran me ragged in their own special ways. Zero Mission had 8 endings (of which I’ve only gotten 6 of at this point) and Echoes came closer than any other game ever to giving me a nervous breakdown. I missed a creature scan in one area and that in tandem with the surprising difficulty of some of the bosses put me off of it for some time. For the next 3 months or so I just played Zero Mission a few more times to get my Metroid fix and only came back to Echoes after I’d cleared my head with the incredibly satisfying Resident Evil 4. For a while when I was coaching a high school Speech team, a lot of the competitor’s on other teams knew me because of the GBA I was running around with. Zero Mission was an excellent use of the Fusion engine to remake the first game, and I couldn’t get enough of it since it came with the original version included. It also introduced the Zero Suit which is likely the last radical change to Samus’ look that most people are going to accept. As for Echoes, Retro’s second entry wasn’t quite as great as the first but it had the burden of being the sequel to a revolutionary, franchise changing game that pretty much stole everyone’s attention from their issues with the GameCube. That is, until some guy reminded everyone that the next Zelda game still looked like a cartoon.
A good shot of what the game's HUD looks like but not the most exciting piece of art you could have picked for this.

A year after the DS was released Prime Pinball came out and 6 months later Hunters was released. Pinball was interesting in that it came with the DS rumble pack, one of those great Nintendo peripherals that only work with about 10 games ever and Hunters tried to make a serious bid towards adding a multiplayer aspect to the series. The different abilities of the characters kept things fresh and it made a conscious effort to keep players from resorting to standard FPS tactics as a result. I’m not sure how successful the game was considered by Nintendo as the only person I knew who ever played Hunters with me was Jas and he eventually sold his copy. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it as it was one of those fun games you can finish over a long evening much like Luigi’s Mansion.

The rest of these are all just gameplay shots. Weird considering how there were more character designs they had to use.

Shortly after the launch of the Wii, the last installment in the ‘Prime’ trilogy, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption streeted in August of 2007. Rare pulled out all the stops in this one, making it the first game where you saw the inside of Samus’ ship as well as the first where there was flight to multiple locations instead of one giant overworld. The origins of Phaazon were finally explored and there were multiple NPC’s to interact with, a step up from the singular Luminoth in Echoes. It ended up being an easier game than its predecessors though that may have been a result of the new control scheme. I still find it to be a stronger game then Prime 2 if not just for the fact that the locations in Corruption are more interesting. The confrontation with Dark Samus was also a lot more satisfying and the opportunity to launch a satellite that would reveal all the powerup locations was great to keep track of what you’d already obtained. Prime 3 was a big deal to me: it was that year's Birthday present I get for myself which is no small thing as those are usually a pretty big deal. Past ones have included Transfomers Masterpiece Megatron, my 3 original Astro City Hardcovers, my Nausicaa Manga boxset, Masterpiece Starscream and the Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus. This year's either the new AT-AT or Masterpiece Grimlock. It gave a great closing to the first time that Nintendo had picked another developer to work on a AAA franchise (sorry Donkey Kong) and felt like a complete story even with the extra cameo of one of Hunters characters in the 100% completion ending.
A frame from the opening cinematic that wowed so many at E3. Ironically not one of the videos you can watch from the main menu after having beaten the game.
 2 years later Metroid Prime Trilogy came out and revised the first two Prime games with the Wii control scheme as well as streamlining the bonus content from the various games. It’s out of print now which is curious as I’m not sure what that says about how Nintendo thought it would perform. If you can find it definitely worth it, though it’s important to take note it doesn’t work with some of the first released Wii consoles.
The Bottle Ship. This is just one of the many similarities the game has to Metroid Fusion.
Before Other M was revealed there was talk of the next game in the series being called Metroid Dread but that seems to have dissipated. Yoshio Sakamoto has said that the game does exist and he may go back to it someday. Here’s hoping as it would be the first game in the series set after Fusion and in 2-D to boot so maybe on the 3DS. The Metroid franchise has always been the third tier one for Nintendo but that’s left it open to be the one experimented with the most radically for better or worse. It’s got the most discreet continuity but at the cost of having the fewest entries next to its compatriots. There’s a lot of interesting qualities that set it apart from other properties at the big N and I’m happy to see them acknowledging that.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE metroid game because it have Old-School Weapons.Its pretty amazing for gamer as mine. I am really happy with this game that I collected at PIJ.