Friday, August 8, 2014

Blips: Needs More Metroid

Source: 'Troid Rage: Why Game Devs Should Watch Alien—and Play Metroid—Again
Author: Maddy Myers
Site: Paste

It's rare that I can side so wholeheartedly with opinions about video games, but Maddy Myers' recent piece for Paste about the state of the metroidvania had me repeatedly exclaiming "yes, exactly this!" multiple times while reading it. Myers (an undisputed Metroid aficionado) lays out the reasons why so many so-called metroidvania games fall short of the titles that originally inspired the hideously titled sub-genre. Real quick note here, but I'm in the camp that thinks this genre should drop the "vania" addendum, as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was really just a Metroid-like that did some interesting, original things with the formula. OK, but still, there are game like Shadow Complex that rekindled interest in Metroid-like game design, yet miss the core of what made Metroid play the way that it does.

Myers argues this point as well as the way Metroid itself draws inspiration from the Alien films to frame its environments and protagonist in an extremely powerful way. In contrast, Shadow Complex feels positively soulless, full of bland characters, bland levels, bland weapons, and a bland plot. All that's left is the basic mechanical device of an open ended map that requires specific abilities be gained before passing through certain doorways to new areas. And that's a great game design framework to emulate, but it's not enough on its own. Everyone likes to taut Metroid's atmosphere as a defining feature, but for some reason atmosphere (a combination of many factors including character design, animation, difficulty, level design, music, sound, and more) isn't seen as a necessary component of a metroidvania. And that's a shame, because it seems like the knowledge of what made Metroid special is actually being deteriorated by modern metroidvanias. Still waiting for a proper Metroid Prime 2: EchoesVania over here.

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