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FGC #328 Metroid: Samus Returns

Samus is baaaaaackIt seems hard to believe, but, after years of Metroid 2 being the black sheep of the Metroid family (or at least its most ignored entry), we now have three different perfectly valid Metroid 2 experiences readily available. The original Metroid 2 is right there on the 3DS Gameboy Virtual Console, AM2R is an amazing fan remake available in the secret corners of the internet, and now we have the official Nintendo reimagining, complete with amiibos and an honest-to-God advertising campaign (admit it: it’s hard to remember if Federation Force actually happened). Metroid 2 is king of the Metroid Hill, and it’s great to see there’s a Metroid Hill in the Nintendo Kingdom at all.

Of course, it’s not so great that Metroid: Samus Returns is the Metroid 2 I’m least likely to ever play again.

That sounds a might pessimistic, so let’s first cover the good stuff. First and foremost, somebody at Nintendo learned from the Metroid: Other M debacle, and Samus Aran is now delightfully mute. Granted, there’s something unnerving about the fact that the only way Nintendo seems to be able to maintain their bad ass bounty hunter’s bad ass status is through keeping her from opening her mouth for an entire adventure… but still! Samus is cool, calm, and collected, and, at no point does she worry about “the baby” or space dragons that may or may not have eaten her parents. That’s what we like to see! And, while she doesn’t talk, she does take a few moments to have “cool” moments in cutscenes (like casually blasting a defeated foe post battle), so what little personality that seeps through is Adam-free and Aran-appropriate. Oh, and this game has the Screw Attack! That’s a great little item. Love that thing.


And now for the bad parts.

I think it all boils down to one thing: this video game is too video game-y.

OMEGA!Yes, this is an odd complaint, but it’s valid for this interpretation of SR388. Metroid 2 was a game about a made-up heroine fighting random space monsters until there were no space monsters left. It’s a videogame, and it’s not like someone put serious thought into the ecology of the planet that houses frightening space bugs living among infinitely spawning flying worms. But… that seems reductive. Despite the small screen, despite the complete lack of color, and despite the music that was clearly composed by randomly spitting on a Casio from a distance of at least eleven feet, there is a lot of care and consideration in the original Metroid 2. The “Metroid life cycle” is ridiculous (jellyfish -> bug -> bug with tusks -> fat dragon -> tyrannosaurus), but it seems… possible. Metroids are a weird and wondrous species, and, sure, some of them can breathe fire, but it does make a certain amount of sense that they wouldn’t be amoeba-looking “larvas” for their entire life cycle. Butterflies don’t look that much like caterpillars, after all. Similarly, the other creatures of SR388 seem like actual fauna that might have to live side by side with space vampires. Metroids are given a wide berth, and, aside from the occasional errant robot, if it moves on SR388, it’s staying clear of those apex predators. In fact, this is epitomized during the final area of Metroid 2. The Queen Metroid’s lair is completely devoid of non-metroid life, and this leads to entire screens of Samus exploring empty corridors.

Unfortunately, the staff of Metroid: Samus Returns likely found those vacant hallways boring, because that kind of environmental storytelling is absent from this iteration of the Queen’s Lair. Now that area is choked with rampaging robots, angry bats, kamikaze bugs, and murderous hedgehogs. This is just like the area before, which is crowded with rampaging robots, angry bats, kamikaze bugs, and murderous hedgehogs. And the caverns before that also include rampaging robots, angry…. You get the idea. Yes, as you progress in the game, you gain new and exciting ways to battle these monsters, and the different areas generally have different layouts and configurations so it doesn’t all become rote after Area 3, but… It gets exhausting. Samus’s armor has been reduced to Fusion levels of softness, and, at all times, you have to be on guard, else you’ll lose an entire energy tank to an errant angry bat. So you’re always defending yourself, always in rooms filled with rapidly respawning opponents, and always… drained. There is no rest for Samus, because this is a videogame, and if you’re not doing videogame things at all times, what’s the point?

Hey little duderAnd if you think this is an exaggeration, consider that the larval metroids appear in this adventure just as they did in Metroid 2, Super Metroid, and almost every other metroid game. The difference here, though, is that when you clear a room of metroids, and return to what should now be an empty room, there are now all new monsters skulking about for your endless fighting pleasure. Yes, this game can’t even let Samus rest for three hallways.

This need for a constant stream of encroaching encounters is obviously to showcase the new combat features of this Metroid adventure, but… they’re not that great, either. Don’t get me wrong, the new multi-directional aiming is a godsend, and the whole “melee counter” system is fun and exciting when you smack that X button right in time, but it’s more… videogame problems. The average metroid boss battle (which happens somewhere around forty times over the course of the game) involves a lot of hopeful chucking of missiles at a weak point that may or may not be guarded by random electrical discharges at the moment. But you can counter at just the right time, and blast off half a metroid’s health in one quick quasi-QTE. Obviously, the fastest way to clear SR388 of its indigenous life forms is to exploit these counter moves. But it quickly becomes clear that if you miss an early pass at your counter opportunity, it’s often faster to just suicide poor Samus (only takes like three hits anyway…), restart the battle, and save yourself ten minutes of clumsy missile aiming in favor of thirty seconds of mastering the counter timing. This is generally just convenient with the alpha metroids, but it’s practically essential by the time you get to the “invincible for 90% of the match” gamma metroids. And, given the vast time difference between countering vs. not countering, victory over I call him Hoagieany given boss feels less like “mastering” the encounter, and more like “Oh, I finally hit X when I needed to.” It’s not about skill, it’s about following the pattern like an obedient puppy. And the last thing Samus Aran should be is obedient.

And for further evidence, please find me someone that enjoyed that Digby the Drillanaut boss fight. That was the most “this is a pattern, follow it” boss I’ve seen since the NES days.

Now, I want to make something clear: none of this makes Metroid: Samus Returns a bad game. I enjoyed my time with the game, and my hand may have cramped into a Kid Icarus claw from playing the game nigh-continuously since its release. I did not rest until the last Metroid was in captivity, and the game was good enough to hold my interest through repeated demoralizing game overs. But am I going to rush back and play it again? No. Going to fish out every last item because they stuck friggen plasma beam doors randomly in the first area? Nope. Hard mode? Absolutely not. Even the old standard of “it’s a Metroid game, now do it faster” doesn’t seem at all appealing. Sure, I could do this quicker, but it would be because I’d be able to best the various bosses faster… assuming my counter timing skills stay consistent. If not, I’ll be spending another hour taking down four damn omega metroids, and I really don’t want to do that ever again. Heck, I’m not even sure I want to see another one of those stupid snail monsters again. How can the most elite bounty hunter in the universe be thwarted by a mollusk!?

Grab 'emSo here’s the state of 2017: we have Metroid 2, which is the deeply flawed story of a bounty hunter eliminating space monsters on their home planet. We have AM2R, which is a remix of that story with modern design conventions and a loving attention to detail. And we have Metroid: Samus Returns, which is a videogame.

… I’m pretty sure I have other videogames to play.

FGC #328 Metroid: Samus Returns

NOTE: Spoilers may appear in this area…

FGC #327 Metroid 2: Return of Samus

This is some terrible musicMetroids are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or exterminate in any way.

As a proud citizen of the Galactic Federation, you’ve likely heard the smear campaign launched against the humble metroid. The rhetoric is always the same: the hated space pirates scooped up a bunch of metroids from their home on SR388, telepathically controlled the creatures with a gigantic sentient AI, and then threatened the entire galaxy with their army of “monsters”. We were all saved by the benevolent Galactic Federation and their ability to properly outsource, and the galaxy is now at peace. But the Metroid “scourge” remains! As long as SR388 is still populated by metroids, then any Tom, Dick, or Ridley could return, rustle up another army, and lay siege to our poor universe. What’s a Federation to do?

Well, if you’ve been following the latest on GFBC, you know that the Federation is currently attempting to pass legislation to exterminate all metroids. That’s right! Just because a few bad apples decided to kidnap a peaceful species and use them for evil, the Galactic Federation is going to commit genocide. We cannot let this happen! The metroid is a naturally peaceful species, and anyone that says otherwise is woefully uninformed.

We at the Metroid Preservation Association recently sent an expedition down to SR388, and here are some of the metroid fun facts they sent back.

Larval Metroid

HUGS!This is the “creature” most featured in Federation propaganda, mainly because they were the first vanguard of the Space Pirate threat. And you want to know the kick of it? This is a metroid baby. That’s right! You’re looking at the equivalent of a human toddler, or perhaps a feline kitten. Can a metroid be destructive? Of course! But no one demanded that all dogs be euthanized just because one puppy tore up the couch. Larval metroids have no concept of right or wrong, and just because they could potentially absorb the life force of a nearby organism doesn’t mean they should be eradicated.

And, speaking of which, have you ever seen a metroid feed? They don’t use mouths or teeth like many animals; no, metroids subsist entirely on hugs. Since metroids are incapable of communicating, we don’t even know if a metroid’s most threatening trait is deliberate. So many sentient creatures live their lives with a need to embrace a loving “mother”, and it is entirely possible that the shy child metroid is no different. Sure, this inevitably leads to the death of the hug recipient, but these metroids don’t know their own strength! They’re babies!

Metroid Fact: In rare situations, a larval metroid is capable of copying abilities from his or her hug buddy. Does this mean a metroid might be able “steal” the ability to talk? We’d sure like to hear about that!

Alpha Metroid

Look away!Now this is why you always observe God’s creatures in their natural habitat. Kept in captivity, a larval metroid will forever stay larval, and, at best, may use its energy to grow to absurd sizes; but leave that same metroid on SR388, and something magical happens. Through a biological process that can only be described as wondrous, a larval metroid will shed its soft shell, and grow into an alpha metroid, a creature with tiny legs, adorable tusks, and a protective shell. But don’t worry, metroid lovers, the alpha metroid still maintains a “jelly belly”, and, while those miniature appendages might not be the best for the task, they’re still hugging machines. An alpha metroid will approach its mark relentlessly, begging for hugs all the while.

Free hugs aside, think of the implication of the alpha metroid. Without observing metroids on their home world, we would have never known such a delightful being ever existed. What else are metroids capable of? We don’t know, but we do know that we’ll never find out if the Galactic Federation has their way.

Metroid Fact: If a metroid were capable of returning its absorbed energy to others, it could use said stored energy to power an entire city! Think of the glorious future where metroids and people may live happily together, freely sharing their energy and experiences. Can you envision a more idyllic paradise?

Gamma Metroid

ZapA metroid doesn’t just stop at the alpha form. It turns out that a metroid can develop even further. A gamma metroid seems to be the natural evolution of the alpha, with longer legs, bigger tusks, and even a “head horn” that looks like a charming little dunce cap. Silly gamma metroid, you’re still just a kid, you’ll learn how to get out of the corner soon enough.

The gamma metroid even learned a new trick: it can generate and distribute electricity! This is amazing, as metroid physiology previously only allowed for the absorption of energy, and it seemed that all the excess power was spent on the metroid’s strange floating ability. But the gamma metroid has extra power, and he/she knows how to use it! Lightning bolts fly from the gamma’s fangs, igniting the dark caverns of SR388 with every burst. Could gamma metroids be deliberately illuminating these passages for the benefit of their fellow SR388 inhabitants? That seems like the most apparent answer.

Metroid Fact: Metroids do not compete. In the event that multiple metroids have targeted one person for hugs, the metroids will work together, and never damage each other in pursuit of the hugee. Metroids are so polite!

Zeta Metroid

Toasty!Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, the zeta metroid will emerge from the carapace of a gamma metroid. And this change means big things for our friend the metroid! The alpha/gamma’s “limbs” become “fingers”, and zeta now has full-fledged legs and arms. And a tail! How could any creature with a tail be worthy of extinction? And those lightning powers have evolved, too, because the zeta has the ability to spew fire and acid-like substances. These abilities are clearly there for the betterment of his or her friends, as who doesn’t like to warm up with some spicy fire breath? Why, with a zeta metroid in your kitchen, you might never need an oven ever again! And don’t forget about that acid spit for opening those hard-to-open jars!

Metroid Fact: Metroids hate the cold, which is probably why their entire planet is filled with lava. As a result, it’s not the easiest place to explore, but with a few decent barrier suits, you might find it’s a pretty nice planet with all sorts of exciting indigenous wildlife.

Omega Metroid

Look at the widdle tailAnd thus must the zeta inevitably become the omega, the final form of the humble metroid (usually). The omega metroid is basically a miniature tyrannosaurus. And that’s good! Who among us hasn’t ever desired a pet dinosaur? The omega metroid, not unlike a mastiff or a great dane, would be the perfect oversized companion for any schoolchild. Aw, look at that omega, it even looks like it’s wearing an pleasant little backpack. Wouldn’t you be happy to see Lil’ Timmy walking down the street with Lil’ ‘Meggy Metroid? Just be sure to clean up the sidewalk before that acidic drool seeps into the water supply.

Metroid Fact: If a metroid does happen to absorb all the life energy of an opponent (who was clearly asking for it), it will leave behind a stone or sand sculpture of the aggressor. Wicked people are transformed into pillars of salt in the first book of the Bible… Could metroids have visited Earth in our distant past?

Queen Metroid

QUEEN OF HUGSDid you know that metroids have a matriarchal society, and they all love their mama? It’s true! Queen Metroid is apparently the mother of all metroids on SR388, and lays eggs at an astronomical rate. While there appear to only be about forty living metroids on SR388 currently, there are a number of eggs lying around the queen’s chambers, so it looks like we’ll be seeing a population boom any minute now. And that’s great, because this galaxy could use more metroids!

The metroids are a humble, huggable race. To eliminate them and their planet would be an affront to the very precepts on which our Federation was founded. After all, if metroids were so terrible, then why didn’t our expedition team ever return? They clearly chose to stay and continue their lives on SR388, living in peace and harmony with our friends, the metroids. May the whole galaxy be as welcoming and serene as SR388.

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FGC #327 Metroid 2: Return of Samus

  • System: Nintendo Gameboy, and 3DS if you’re nasty. No, I’m not talking about the remake.
  • Number of players: There is only one metroid hunter in this galaxy.
  • Awesome new powerMaybe actually talk about the game for a second: This is such a weird game. It feels at once complete and whole, but also entirely unfinished. Samus spends what seems like forever gradually upgrading and fighting alphas and gammas, and then finally encounters her first Zeta. Then, one area full of three or so Zetas later, the mighty Omega rears its ugly head. Then you fight a couple more… and the game is basically over. You’re at the queen’s “final level”, and then all that’s left is to leave the planet in the calmest “escape sequence” ever. We were just getting going! I want more!
  • Favorite metroid form: That would be the zeta metroid. Omega is too powerful, alpha is too boring, and gamma’s stupid lightning artificially prolongs the fight with its missile blocking properties. Zeta is just right. Actually, my real favorite is the tried and true larval metroid, but they’re all over the place at this point (in, like, a whole five games).
  • So, did you beat it? Of course I did. I beat this puppy back in the day, and I did it again just now. See my AM2R review for more details on why wet paint always makes me think of SR388.
  • He’s too big: No Ridley in Metroid 2. How does something like this happen!?
  • Did you know? Shooting zeta and omega metroids in the back causes more damage… but since the Metroid series is averse to HP gauges, the average player has no hope of knowing this. Omega’s lil’ tail does twitch a little more on a back hit, I suppose.
  • Would I play again: Hopefully I won’t have to, because…

What’s next? Obviously, I’m going to spend this weekend playing the latest Metroid game, because of course I am. Will I also be ready to write about it? We’ll find out! Please look forward to it!


FGC #272 Nintendo Land

Looks like a chess piece...The WiiU is dead. Time for a post mortem.

Nintendo Land had some big shoes to fill. Wii Sports, the game that launched the phenomenal Wii, was maybe the most successful launch game of all time (eat it, Duck Hunt). It was an amazing introduction to the system… and… uh… it was also a complete failure. Wii Sports is good! Unfortunately, it was so good, that many people bought the Wii exclusively for Wii Sports, and never purchased another game. This would simply be kind of annoying for Microsoft or Sony, but Nintendo actually makes software for their hardware, and if someone is buying the hardware but none of the following five years of software… that ain’t no good. And Wii Sports was an excellent showcase for everyone’s favorite Miis, but it didn’t include so much as a Mario cameo, left alone the obvious Punch-Out tie-in over in Wii Boxing. In short, Wii Sports was a marvelous system seller, but a terrible Nintendo seller.

So the course was clear for the WiiU: Nintendo needed a new killer app to sell its system with all those exciting new WiiU features, and it needed a game that featured all the new (old) friends you’d make on the WiiU, like Mario and Olimar. Nintendo has been making videogames for twelve billion years, so this should be a walk in the (Nintendo Land) park, right? Heck, let’s throw in a new mascot character that is a talking TV screen for some damn reason! Nothing is more exciting than a literally two dimensional rectangle with an annoying voice!

Of course, I am writing this article from a dystopian future where the WiiU is done. The Switch is now king, and Miiverse is a sad shell of its former glory (though still talking about Splatoon, for some reason). Nintendo apparently has no plans to release first party games on the WiiU ever again, and the only thing on the WiiU release schedule is… Cars 3: Driven to Win. I don’t think that’s going to push any systems. Whether the WiiU was a success or not, what’s important is that it is now dead. Sweet dreams, WiiU, may paratroopas lead you in.

But we’ve still got Nintendo Land sitting here, so let’s see if any of the various minigames involved were at all relevant to the WiiU and its general trajectory.

Yoshi’s Fruit Cart

CHOMPThe Game: It’s everyone’s favorite thing! A game that deliberately hobbles your view so as to create a challenge out of nothing! Hooray!

WiiU Relevance: In a way, this is the prototype for Kirby and the Rainbow Curse… a few years after Kirby Canvas Curse. And instead of enjoying the innovative momentum system that makes either of those games a blast, now you can only see half the game at any given time on either screen. The fruit is on the top screen, and your drawn line is on the pad, so the challenge lies in spatial relations. Unfortunately, there’s a hole in my bathroom that tells you everything you need to know about my depth perception (to elaborate, that hole was supposed to be a cable jack a room over…. I am bad at measuring).

Nintendo-ness: It’s Yoshi! In cart form! Yoshi eating fruit is Yoshi to a T… though the whole “is a mechanical cart” thing is a little weird. Also, if you’re going to go with a Nintendo protagonist that rolls along and eats everything in his path, how about, ya know, Kirby? Was HAL sick that day?

Overall Rating: I’m sure there are some people out there that enjoy this kind of thing, but I’m not one of them. I can’t freehand to save my life, and I can’t guide a Yoshi to save his. You know what killed the dinosaurs? Me.

Donkey Kong’s Crash Course

OookThe Game: Navigate a little cart thing through an obstacle course themed after the original Donkey Kong construction “maze”.

WiiU Relevance: This one uses the WiiU pad’s gyroscope “leaning” powers. This seems to be the feature that got reused the most in later WiiU games, and even worked its way into the final WiiU game, Breath of the Wild. Come to think of it, this means that this game is partially responsible for those damn “labyrinth” shrine puzzles. Zero out of five stars.

Nintendo-ness: Donkey Kong is about as Nintendo as it gets, but this game recalls the original Donkey Kong, and not the more iconic Donkey Kong that would return for Tropical Freeze. Also, every time Nintendo references original DK, it reminds us all that we still have yet to see a perfect arcade port of DK, and that’s horrible.

Overall Rating: Oh, did I mention this game is impossible? Because it is. I’m just glad this nonsense only ever reappeared as a minigame distraction, and not, like, Super Mario Tilt ‘n Tumble.

Captain Falcon’s Twister Race

VrooomThe Game: It’s racing! With F-Zero cars! It’s kinda F-Zero!

WiiU Relevance: As the Switch release of Mario Kart has reminded all of us, when it came time for racing to hit the WiiU, Nintendo had already abandoned the whole “use your controller like a steering wheel” thing. Oh well. The control scheme here is as smooth as silk, so good on Nintendo at least making this seem like a viable option, even if it wasn’t really used outside of the WiiOG.

Nintendo-ness: Nintendo loves Captain “Show me your moves” Falcon. This is F-Zero through and through, with futuristic venues and the good ol’ Blue Falcon (no Dynomutt, unfortunately). On the other hand, this game serves to remind us that we haven’t seen a decent F-Zero game since the friggen Gamecube, and we wouldn’t see another on the WiiU. Way to be a tease, Nintendo!

Overall Rating: It’s no Falcon Punch, but it’s pretty close to being a Falcon Slap. I do appreciate how the game offers two different (and viable!) views of the same action on two different screens. That could have reappeared on the WiiU at least once.

Balloon Trip Breeze

FloatyThe Game: It’s basically Balloon Trip Advance with a stylus-based control scheme. This gives me very little to complain about.

WiiU Relevance: This game controls by blowing a breeze to move around your Balloon Tripper via stylus motions. This is… actually kind of fun. It’s frantic in a good way, and it’s always enjoyable to have a complete freak out attempting to keep your lil’ balloon buddy out of the maw of a giant fish. Unfortunately, I can literally hear these swiping motions doing permanent damage to my WiiU screen, so I can see why this didn’t become a popular control scheme.

Nintendo-ness: Billy “Balloon Man” Balloonguy is popular with the old-school crew, but he still has yet to get his own game in the modern era. That said, the Balloon Trip theme has somehow infiltrated my brain to an intense degree (likely thanks to Smash Bros), so it is synonymous with Nintendo in its own way.

Overall Rating: Honestly, of the one player games on this collection, this one saw the most play. It’s probably the only game I’d buy a la carte… but that’s mostly because Balloon Trip is my Tetris. It’s hard to get this wrong…

Takamaru’s Ninja Castle

I have no idea what is going on hereThe Game: It’s basically a shooting game ala Time Crisis or Link’s Crossbow Training. Turn the WiiU gamepad sideways, and hurl shuriken at an endless army of ninja. The ninja vaguely look like characters from South Park, so let’s consider it a crossover.

WiiU Relevance: Wow, I had totally forgotten the WiiU pad had “aiming” functionality like the Wiimote. You mean there could have been shooting games like House of the Dead for the WiiU, but nobody ever bothered? That kind of makes me sad.

Nintendo-ness: This game is based on a Japan-only game, Nazo no Murasame Jō, that is vaguely Zelda-esque. The star of Nazo no Murasame Jō, Takamaru, has cameoed here and there in various Nintendo games since… but you probably thought he was a random Kid Icarus character, didn’t you? Sorry, Tak, you’re not exactly Mario.

Overall rating: Middling. Fun game, but ninja seem out of place next to Donkey Kong and Yoshi.

Octopus Dance

Just danceThe Game: Somebody at Nintendo played Just Dance, and now you have to, too.

WiiU Relevance: Despite the myriad of ways this could be more interesting, this is just Simon Says with the occasional “flip” between the screens so you will confuse your left and right and feel like a damn kindergartener again. I guess this reminds you that there are two analog sticks on the WiiU Pad? Has anyone ever “missed a button” on a videogame controller? I usually try every damn thing I can find about two seconds into any given game…

Nintendo-ness: Mr. Game and Watch has become the hipster of the Nintendo pantheon. Oh, you never played Octopus, a game likely older than 80% of the people reading this article and only available on severely outdated hardware? Oh, that’s cool, I mean, I have, but you wouldn’t understand. As such, given Mr. Game and Watch never actually existed and was basically a homunculus created for Smash Bros, anytime you see ol’ G&W, it’s because Nintendo is trying to be cool with the retro crowd. … Though I can’t say that’s a bad thing.

Overall Rating: The moral is never purchase a Just Dance game for WiiU.

The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest

SLASHThe Game: Link, he comes to a town, he comes to kill like a billion bokoblins.

WiiU Relevance: This is a fine demo for 1-to-1 sword slashing ala The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword. Unfortunately, Skyward Sword apparently put Nintendo off ever doing the whole “motion control sword” thing ever again, so this is basically the last hurrah for the concept.

Nintendo-ness: Link is literally a system seller, so it’s only natural that he’d appear here. Come to think of it, is Zelda in this one? Or Ganon? Is he a piggy or a pile of smoke?

Overall Rating: I mean, it’s fun to show off what the Wii could do, but that’s old news, Nintendo. Move on, you’ve got a new system to promote. Maybe you should be thinking about what Link could do with a magical ipad, like, I don’t know, control mammoth mechanical elephants or something.

Pikmin Adventure

Pew?The Game: It’s co-op, “simple” Pikmin.

WiiU Relevance: Was there actually a Pikmin game released for the WiiU? There was? Awesome. Mission accomplished.

Nintendo-ness: Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit’s Pikmin!

Overall Rating: When Nintendo Land had been released, we’d gone an entire console generation without a Pikmin game. This was a delightful little way to be reminded the franchise existed before moving on to any other game in the compilation. What was that thing with Yoshi again?

Metroid Blast

Pew pewThe Game: You are heroic bounty hunter Samus Aran, and you’ve got a hell of a lot of bounties to collect. Is that thing supposed to be Ridley? Eh, better kill it to be sure.

WiiU Relevance: Aside from the WiiU Pad owner getting a gunship while the rest of the nerds have to run around in their spacesuits, this is probably the most straightforward, least gimmicky game on the collection. Likely as a result, it’s also probably one of the most fun single-player experiences in Nintendo Land. Go fig. Hey, which games on the WiiU wound up becoming the most popular, anyway?

Nintendo-ness: As ever, Nintendo has no idea what to do with Samus Aran. She’s basically reprising her role from Metroid Prime Hunters here as Nintendo’s resident character most likely to wind up in a death match, and… I guess that’s where Federation Force originated, too as well. Hey, Nintendo? You know that the word “metroidvania” doesn’t refer to just shooting stuff, right?

Overall Rating: This is fun! It also has nothing to do with anything! Maybe that’s good! This might be more fun if Samus was a squid, though.

Mario Chase, Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, and Animal Crossing: Sweet Day

The Game: These are three different multiplayer experiences where, one way or another, the dude with the WiiU Pad gets to mess with the poor schmoes that are stuck with the Wiimotes.

WiiU Relevance: This was always the promise of the WiiU, right? That we could have wonderful, creative asymmetric multiplayer games that aren’t possible on other platforms? Oh what games we’ll play with… oh, the system is already dead? Dammit.

Nintendo-ness: I’m probably not the only person that thought asymmetric multiplayer would take off, as Mario and Luigi, the biggest horses in the Nintendo stable, headline two out of three of these attractions. Animal Crosser has been trying to achieve some moderate level of fame since the Gamecube, and it’s important that we keep ignoring that dude. Should Animal Crossing ever become as popular as Mario, Nintendo will find a way to monetize the AC model for mobile devices, and then we will not have enough money to afford food.

Overall Rating: This is super fun and… it was released opposite a four player Mario game? Oh, screw this noise, give me my real Mario.

Post Mortem

What was your name again?Well, that was more telling than I expected. The best game in the compilation was the one that employed the least random WiiU BS, and, the further we got from “it’s a videogame” to more “it’s a gimmick given form”, the less fun was had. This is pretty much how the WiiU worked, as Breath of Wild is the most amazing thing that has ever happened, and it didn’t even need to be on the WiiU. Meanwhile, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a game I have to continually look up to make sure I’m not confusing the title with its DS incarnation. The WiiU was a noble experiment, but its greatest strengths didn’t exactly lend themselves to what the public seemed to actually want, so, at best, we got games like Mario Maker and Splatoon that kinda sorta remembered we had a stylus at hand.

The Nintendo WiiU. Cause of death: Trying.

FGC #272 Nintendo Land

  • System: Well shucks, I totally forgot what system this game is for. N64?
  • Number of players: As many as you can imagine. Or four. It’s probably four.
  • Favorite Attraction: Metroid is pretty much always going to be the answer.
  • Just play the gig man: The faux retro themes that permeate this game are right up my alley, so it almost feels like cheating to note that I really like this soundtrack. In other news, I also enjoy games that feature Mario.
  • Did you know? I’m assuming this will be the last disc-based pack-in game I ever see in my lifetime. Even the WiiU learned pretty quick that it’s a lot cheaper to just include a download code in the box than a disc that is totally for resale.
  • Would I play again: Nope! It’s surprising that, even though there is so much content available on this game, all of it feels completely perfunctory, and I would rather play practically anything else that provides a more full experience. So, sorry… uh… television guy… I’m going to go play something else now.

What’s next?
Random ROB is insulted he was not in this game and has chosen… Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves for the NES! Huh, not the game featuring well-meaning thieves I would have expected from this blog, but whatever. Time to rob from the rich and give to the Nintendo kids. Please look forward to it!

FGC #235 Metroid: Zero Mission

Lose some weight, tubbyI’ve already named Super Metroid one of the five most important games in gaming. I’ve already gushed over a remake of one of the best Gameboy games ever produced. And, yes, I took time out of my busy day to explain how Samus Aran’s butt is the worst thing to ever happen. Oh, and I played pinball. Look, I know it, you know it, Ridley knows it: I like Metroid games. I love Metroid games. I even love anything that looks remotely like a Metroid game. This is absolutely no secret.

My secret shame, though? I hate Metroid: Zero Mission for the absolute pettiest of reasons.

Why do I love Metroid games? The most obvious answer has something to do with the way a Metroid game is traditionally structured around exploration. I’m not someone that gets hung up on whether or not you can sequence break, or if some renegade AI is telling Samus where to go, or whatever; all I really care about is playing around in giant, planet-esque environments that occasionally contain zoomers. And by “playing around”, I certainly mean shooting everything for absolutely no reason. Seriously, has anyone figured out exactly how many creatures Samus doesn’t have to obliterate to complete her average mission? At this point, I’m committing dessgeega genocide entirely out of spite. And the minute you get that screw attack? Oh man, Samus’s feet never touch the ground again, she’s just a whirling dervish of unending destruction.

Come to think of it, it almost seems like the exploration is secondary. I just… like being Samus Aran.

Moving right alongMost videogames are about the destination. As an easy example, I’m looking forward to Kingdom Hearts 3 (I’ll probably be looking forward to it for a long time), and it’s almost entirely to see “how it ends”. And it’s not even that I care that much about the plot of Kingdom Hearts (this is a lie), I could conceivably live the rest of my life never knowing whether or not Donald Duck gets a happy ending, but… I’m interested. And, while I do actually enjoy the gameplay, magical venues, and general “feel” of your average Kingdom Hearts game, I am absolutely playing that game to get to the all-important ending. See also: Xenosaga, every JRPG ever, and even a healthy percentage of Zelda games. There’s joy in discovery in searching across Hyrule, but I can safely say a few recent adventures of Link were finished only for the sake of finishing. Or, put another way, there’s a reason I’ve (re)completed Wind Waker HD but not Twilight Princess HD.

But I don’t ever feel that way with a good Metroid game. It really is about the journey, and I get more joy out of dodging rising lava or plowing through space pirates than I ever do when I see that Mission Complete screen. I killed all the metroids, I saved one metroid, I got saved by one Metroid being killed, whatever, it’s all immaterial to the sheer joy of poking around Zebes, and gradually getting better at doing it. My first run through Super Metroid, I was stumped by the glass tube/super bomb “puzzle”, and wasn’t able to progress much past acquiring the gravity suit. My clear time on that file was somewhere around ten hours. That means that, basically, I spent an extra seven or so hours exploring Zebes with nowhere new to go, and I never got tired of it. There’s just so much fun in being Samus Aran that I could explore Zebes with nowhere to go for hours in the same way I could spend a few hours at the beach with no real goal. And I’m a guy that has quit random games halfway through their tutorial because I got bored. Being Samus Aran is fun, end of story.

Except… Metroid Zero Mission divorced me of that notion.

They don't fall, thoughMuch of Metroid Zero Mission is fun. As ever, I love exploring Zebes, and the construction of “this” Zebes is a great balance of Metroid (1) and Super Metroid. Things are familiar, but not the same. It’s actually very close to the Igavania template: you know about where the clock tower is supposed to be, there’s sure to be a basement full of monsters, but everything else between is up in the air. You know you’re heading toward an inevitable confrontation with Dracula/Mother Brain, but there are Speed Booster puzzles now? Neat. There is enough “new” here to not get repetitive, but it’s still familiar enough to be indisputably Metroid/Zebes.

And then there’s the new material. Say hello to Zero Suit Samus.

For anyone that loves Metroid but mysteriously skipped Metroid Zero Mission, MZM, plot-wise, plays out almost exactly like the original Metroid. Beat Kraid, beat Ridley, beat metroids, beat Mother Brain, escape an explosion, call it a day. However, MZM adds a “new” story to the finale: while escaping Zebes, Samus Aran loses her powersuit, and must infiltrate Space Pirate HQ to acquire a new one. Samus is naked for this adventure, and is equipped only with a stun gun and her apparently natural ability to somersault twenty feet in the air. This transforms Metroid into a stealth affair, as Samus is vulnerable in her zero suit state, and your average space pirate mook can do about three e-tanks worth of damage with a single shot. And… get ready for a lot crawling. Like a baby. Woo.

For what it’s worth, this section of Zero Mission is probably as good as it could be. The stealth seems fair (space pirates are not omniscient in their Samus-detecting), the layouts are conducive to careful sneaking, and, yes, the moment you finally reclaim the powersuit and transform the space pirates into a fine paste is superb. In fact, for years I actually defended the zero suit section of Zero Mission, because it’s one of the few instances of stealth (particularly in a 2-D game) that I can tolerate. I’m pretty sure I had wholly good memories of Zero Mission through the Gameboy Advance’s lifespan, and even somewhere into the DS’s era.

BooooBut then I got in the habit of playing Metroid games recreationally. Like, oh, it’s a boring Saturday, maybe I’ll take some time and play through Super Metroid. Oh, I played through Super Metroid last week? How about Zero Mission this time? And every time I played Metroid Zero Mission “casually”, I quit after Mother Brain, and ignored the zero suit segment. Every. Time. Why? Because Samus sans suit leads to “levels”: a strict, linear challenge that can only be successfully solved one way. And I’m not playing Metroid to play an adventure game, I’m playing Metroid to rip through rippers and explore a planet. Metroid Zero Mission’s zero suit segment isn’t Metroid to me, and, at that point, why am I even playing?

And what’s more, it makes Samus Aran worse. I said earlier that I enjoyed “being” Samus Aran, but that’s apparently not true. I like being Samus Aran… only while in a powersuit. The heroine isn’t the heroine, she’s just a delivery device for the real star of the show: an anonymous piece of tech. That’s not good! Sure, Iron Man or any of the many “mechanical knight” superheroes have a similar problem, but they’re not the only prominent heroine in Nintendo’s pantheon. Mario can stomp goombas without his hat, Link can slash Moblins while in a bathrobe, but Samus Aran needs her powersuit for a fun experience. It also probably didn’t help when Zero Suit Samus was basically a penalty for using a smash ball in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, or when “naked” Samus was a recurring threat of “oh no, she’s vulnerable now” during Metroid: Other M cutscenes. The message has been clear since Metroid: Zero Mission: Samus is a strong woman, but without her powersuit, she’s prey.

It’s… demoralizing.

JerkSo, despite liking 90% of the game, I hate Metroid: Zero Mission. I hate that it made one of my favorite heroines appear weak. I hate that that stupid stealth section kills my playthrough every time. I hate that I have a save file from right after that section, so I can just copy that file and play through the post game infinitely. I hate that “Justin Bailey” Samus used to be a reward, not a punishment. I hate that one stupid blunder completely kills this whole experience for me.

I hate you, Metroid: Zero Mission, and the zero suit you rode in on.

FGC #235 Metroid: Zero Mission

  • System: Gameboy Advance and WiiU Virtual Console. Unlike Metroid Fusion, this game was not part of the GBA/3DS Ambassador Program. More’s the pity.
  • Number of players: The one and only Samus Aran.
  • Favorite Boss: You ever notice how there are a lot of giant bugs in this game? Like, there are two different kinds of worms, and then there’s that cocoon/moth thing… or are they all supposed to be related? I have no idea. Anyway, aside from the old standbys, I like giant moth thingy, because there’s nothing like chasing down an enormous insect and pumping missiles into its ovipositor. Apparently it’s called “Imago”.
  • Favorite Remake Addition: Every Metroid game should include the Speed Booster. Every. Single. One.
  • He’s Too Big: The Ridley fight in Zero Mission feels like a nice balance of “hectic” and “you’re still going to win”. That’s good! The Mecha Ridley fight, meanwhile, always seems to be completely impossible or really, really easy, but never anything in between. That’s bad! So… zero sum Ridleys.
  • Did you know? Crocomire of Super Metroid was apparently intended to be in this game, but he got scrapped somewhere along the way. What’s interesting is that his sprite is pretty smooth and tan, so it’s possible there would have been a story (likely involving beam weapons) explaining why he is red and lumpy in time for Super Metroid. Or maybe he was just cancelled because making him lumpy would be too expensive. Who knows.
  • Would I play again: Gladly! Just, ya know, only about 90% of it.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Guilty Gear Isuka! I think there’s a puppy in that one! Please look forward to it!

There it is