Monday, October 7, 2013

Blips: Resonant Echoes

Source: Feel The Pain
Author: Peter Malamud Smith
Site: The Gameological Society

I'm just going to come out and say it: the original Metroid and Metroid Prime 2 are the best games in the franchise, and in turn, two of my all-time favorite games. Now, most Metroid games are quite good, so this isn't meant as a slam on the rest of the pack, but the majority of folks seem to put Super Metroid and the first Prime game on a pedestal above all others. So, I was quite pleased to read Peter Malamud Smith's piece where he seems to hold a similar outlier stance to my own. Super Metroid and Prime are perfect games in a way, with the rough edges sanded off and explicit, unwavering purpose in level design and pacing (Prime's late-game fetch quest notwithstanding). These games are designed with fluidly scaffolded player experience at their core. Prime 2 and Metroid however, often keep the player in the dark, sometimes quite literally, and that's part of what I like so much about them.

Sure, Metroid could have used a map, and Prime 2's Dark Samus is a dumb, lazy antagonist, but everything else about those games creates the foreboding, otherworldly atmosphere that has always seemed like the brass ring of the franchise –one which none of the other entries manage to grasp. Metroid's background is solid black, which may have been a technical limitation, but nonetheless evokes both the empty vacuum of space and the dark void of an uncharted cavern. Prime 2 has a "dark world" that is essentially poison, forcing you to dart between clean air safe-spots to survive. In fact, survival is as much a part of Prime 2 and Metroid as adventure, which makes exploration a rather tense affair.

This is not to say that Super Metroid and Prime were devoid of these atmospheric qualities, but neither game puts the player in a downright oppressive world or fosters feelings of dread quite like Metroid and specifically Prime 2. Maybe it's just a matter of personal preference as to which tone you find more appealing or memorable. While I'll always remember Super Metroid and Prime as amazing games, I'll never forget my actual experience trudging through the darkness in Metroid and Prime 2.

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