After finishing Metroid Prime 3, resident Metroid fanatics Don, Matt and Christian were eager to discuss not only Corruption, but the Metroid series as a whole. Presented here is the first part of an in depth look at what, if anything, makes a Metroid game a Metroid game.
Don: I think the most relevant issues are what makes this a Metroid game, what makes it NOT a Metroid game and how it can compete in what is, frankly, a pretty badass set of this-gen titles.
Matt: Which Metroid titles have you played, Don?
Don: All but the original Gameboy ones. I’d like to get the move to 3d out of the way.
Matt: Ok, so you’re good with Metroid lore then.
Don: Yeah — totally. 3d: it works, it has since mp3 and we’d all be bitching if it was 2d
Christian: I wouldn’t bitch.
Don: Let’s establish that it is bang-on, or as good as it will get for Metroid, and move on.
Matt: Well, there is a vocal contingent that likes 2d Metroids. I want both, actually.
Christian: Now Don makes a sound point. This game wraps up the prime saga, and really we’ve seen about all we can see from this style of 3d Metroid.
Don: Well, Christian, by ‘we all’ I mean the gaming populace mean. 1) We all want/like both – and HAVE both – but read the public sites, everyone bitches that 2d Metroid is ‘more of the same’.
Don: I think, to be honest, that this title wraps up a huge chunk of the Metroid arch.
Christian: In any case, the next metroid needs to be more like say, Fusion and not another prime
Matt: So 2d?
Don: Agreed 100%.
Christian: In terms of style, not dimensions. Doesn’t matter what the dimensions.
Don: Well, the problem is that if we switch too much we get the Zelda effect. The Cellda effect, to be sure.
Christian: Or the Phantom Hourglass effect?
Matt: Explain to me what you want from a Fusion-like game?
Don: I think he means art style and game flow.
Christian: Well Fusion was different in many ways. It drove the Alien comparison further.
Don: That it did.
Christian: The X virus was such a dangerous threat to Samus.
Matt: While enjoyable, it felt too linear.
Christian: Her interaction with the ship AI., it put the character in such a new light
Matt: I like exposition, as well.
Don: Matt, the linear fence will NEVER be right. Too much is too much, too little is too little and the public will NEVER find a balance.
Matt: But the very essence of Metroid is non-linear.
Don: Matt – though I agree with you, I think there is a vocal sect who would scoff. The original Metroid game (not exactly games) was non-linear, but that doesn’t mean much.
Christian: Here’s an interesting new idea I have. Out of the recent metroid games, Corruption seems the least friendly to speed runs. Not sure about sequence breaking. Well people love speed running Metroid games. Beat it in 5 hours, 6 hours, whatever. And much of that comes from sequence breaking – getting powerups when you shouldn’t be. Corruption contains the most exposition, and arguably the most travel between locations, both on the planets and between the planets. And I haven’t heard from the Metroid community how easy the sequence breaks are. But it doesn’t seem like a game geared towards running through like a demon after memorizing the puzzles and map. it drives the exploration/archaeological emphasis of the Prime games to its logical conclusion
Don: Agreed. But it is a PRIME thing that it is concluding. Prime seems to have its own rules. Good ones, but how relevant is it in the Metroid universe as a whole?
Christian: Which is why the focus needs to shift again.
Don: Agreed. Now that that’s out of the way I have to ask this: why would I want Metroid – outside of brand recognition – if I’ve got Halo3 and Bioshock?
Matt: Those aren’t the same kind of games
Don: Hold on, Mr. Game Designer. Not everyone sees or thinks that. I am asking a question I get EVERY time I try to preach MP3 – by gamers, not game designers or game writers.
Christian: Don makes a sound point.
Matt: Have these people played any Prime games then?
Don: Most have, yeah.
Christian: And some haven’t because hey, this is the Wii.
Don: Outside of jumping, how is MP different from Bioshock?
Christian: Now their interest is piqued.
Don: (Story aside, of course.) Exploration, compelling story, interesting weapons…Why does Joe gamer want MP3 and not Bioshock?
Christian: Prime’s problem since the beginning is that it’s an adventure game robed in FPS sensibilities and it’s hard to see that when it walks and talks like a duck.
Don: What adventure? The one where I collect things and shoot things in the first person? Because I spent a LOT of time shooting things in the first person. And a good deal of walking around in Bioshock as well as MP3. Now – let’s be clear – I am likely the hugest MP3 fan here – I am not arguing against it – I have answers to all of these questions – I just want YOUR takes. (This question baffled me when posed to me when I spent two weeks trying to get the ENTIRE WORLD to buy and play MP3.)
Christian: For me, the Prime games are the closest thing we’ve seen in gaming since Myst went out of style in that it presents worlds of grandeur that I like to walk around in and investigate. Then Corruption tossed in much more shooting, and I wasn’t sure what to make of it.
Matt: I like the fact that Metroid is more about traversal of the environment. It’s the setting that grabs me. Bioshock uses that idea very little.
Christian: Bioshock lets you explore just about everything, but it didn’t always felt like exploration. It felt more like….rummaging.
Matt: Only Arcadia felt like a Metroid title and it was used sparingly.
Don: So it is the aesthetics – the concept is essentially the same?
Christian: The Prime games give you both pretty statues to glare at, and caves and temples to traverse. It’s the design. Because in the end I’m still going through stairwells and apartments and shit in Bioshock. Prime lets you travel through caves and temples and mines and mountains.
Matt: Metroid games have a cohesive environment that sucks you in.
Don: Right – ok – that brings us to the next question.
Christian: There’s a remaining sense of mystery, where you aren’t sure what’s around the bend.
Don: Thank you for the wonderful segue, Christian. Why is MP3 different from Halo? Plenty of caves and mountains in Halo3…temples, mines…
Matt: Halo is explosive. The gameplay is different – the shooting mechanics.
Don: Ss far as I remember, a SHIT TON exploded in MP3. Ok – so the shooting mechanics and aesthetics are the only differences I am reading here.
Matt: And the fact that Halo has people helping you. Samus is alone. That draws you into the environment even more.
Don: Matt, I would count that as an aesthetic choice. All good answers. Next question:
Is it stubbornness, pride, arrogance or loyalty that makes us swear up and down that MP3 isn’t an FPS but is instead some weird hybrid?
Matt: Halo can be set in any location, and it will still be fun. Metroid needs a well-designed level to be fleshed out. FPS games are more about the shooting. I haven’t found many that emphasize exploration and level design like Prime has, even Bioshock.
Don: I would argue that everyone and his mother are ranting about Bioshock’s level design and exploration. Every review is strewn full of it. In fact, some reviews say “just another FPS but with a great environment.”
Matt: I think the very look of it is what they’re talking about. Not how everything is interconnected.
Christian: The answer here is simple. Halo is a game that is first an foremost about combat. It emphasizes the conflict between squads. It forces you to asses both enemy and situation in order to determine what weapons and tactics to use. The rich lore of Halo 3 (AKA the terminals) are hidden away. It gives the college frat boys what they want, and they’re giving guys like us a wink and a nod with the deeper narrative. Halo is as deep as you want it to be.
Metroid … the combat isn’t about how to tackle the battle. Once you figure out the weakness or pattern for an enemy, that’s it. Every other engagement is close to automatic. The combat isn’t as much to challenge as it is to overwhelm. If it kicks your ass enough you may not survive later pitfalls — it’s erosion, where Halo is – impact? And Metroid Prime needs its lore and its story to succeed -it wraps you up in it. Halo and Bioshock are more about spontaneity and experimentation. Prime is about immersing yourself into every square inch of the world that has been crafted.
Don: Just so I understand: Halo and Bioshock are more about spontaneity and experimentation. Prime is about immersing yourself into every square inch of the world that has been crafted.
Don: Just like Bioshock.
Matt: I don’t think Bioshock pulled it off as well as Prime.
Don: I agree, Matt, but it sure tried.
Christian: At no point in Bioshock did I feel like I had to do everything. Bioshock let me take a recording – and sometimes I didn’t listen for three hours! Sometimes I listened while setting up a trap or wrenching people in the skull. Prime makes you sit there and read the text. You have to follow along.
Don: You don’t really though – you can not use the scan visor…
Christian: And without it the game loses a lot.
Don: Right – same with the recordings.
Christian: So does Bioshock, but I feel it isn’t as much because Bioshock can be played in a very goofy, reckless way.
Matt: Yes, in subtle ways they are alike. But one has guns, and one as some weird shooter as an arm.
Don: Which is a gun.
Matt: It’s abstract though and shooting doors to open them. That’s also abstract.
Don: This is my main issue with the high-minded ‘it’s adventure wrapped in an fps shell’ company line. People who don’t know the lore of either, I believe, see the game as it is. Our differences here are SO subtle.
Matt: the generic gamer, you mean.
Don: I think WE are blinded by the game’s history and lore. The everyman — yeah. WE know what ‘Metroid’ is supposed to be and we apply that and when challenged we have tiny little things – shooting doors or the need to read – that somehow tip the scales for us. My fiancée, the one who kicked the SHIT out of gears on hardcore – can’t see the difference. Here’s the kicker – she can tell me the difference between gears and any of those titles in a heartbeat