Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Postbox: Early Mountain Village in Majora's Mask 3D

Hey there,

I'm a long time reader of your wonderful blog. Recently I stumbled upon a sequence break that let's your visit the Snowhead area early, before you get the bow, and I was wondering whether you were aware of that, since I haven't read anything about it on your blog.

There's a short video explaining how to do it on Youtube here:

MM3D: Mountain Village Early Tutorial

I think it's arguable whether this constitues as a glitch or not. I'm pretty sure it isn't intentional, but on the other hand it doesn't involve anything like glitching through walls or wrong warping, and it doesn't seem to break the game either.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about this, in case you're interested. :)

I wasn't aware of this and it's certainly interesting. So, thanks for the find!

Usually I'm not one for glitches, which is why you won't find much about it on this blog, but if it's light oversights like this I do like to explore them. I guess, you could compare this to how you could enter Ikana Village with just the Hookshot in the Nintendo 64 version by aiming at the one tree. It probably wasn't intentional and didn't work for me anymore in the Nintendo 3DS version, but it's still fun to use this for some sequence breaking. (Another comparison would be using single wall jumps in Super Metroid to get certain items like the Wave Beam earlier.)

In general I think that Majora's Mask could have been more open and leave the order of the four regions to the player, instead of sticking to a certain sequence. The game can be open at times, but it should allow more.

That being said, with this "glitch" you should be able to get as far as Snowhead Temple, but not any further, because you will need the Bow there in order to finish the dungeon. Apparently you can't even get or use the Fire Arrows, if you go as far. But at least you will be able to use the Goron early in the game, which is neat. I might even try this, when I replay Majora's Mask 3D some time in the future.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Future of Metroid in Titles


Last year on Hyrule Blog, we looked at the Future of Metroid at a time, where the franchise was pretty much silent, save for the release of Federation Force, which wasn't received with warm welcomes. Then we primarily looked at Metroid Prime 4 and a potential remake of Return of Samus. By now the latter already has been released and Metroid Prime 4 was announced to be in the making. It's good times for Metroid fans and with that we shall take a look at what else there could be in store in the next couple of years for the Metroid series. This time we will list individual titles and talk about their potential.


Metroid Prime 4

This is already a given. We will be getting Metroid Prime 4 at some point on the Nintendo Switch, maybe already next year. We don't know much about the title yet, other than it will probably focus on Sylux as the main antagonist and that it's not developed by Retro Studios, the guys who created the Metroid Prime Trilogy. Let's go into more detail about Metroid Prime 4 in a later post and move on for now... To titles that may lie beyond the upcoming episode of the Prime series.


Metroid Prime Hunters 2

The original Metroid Prime Hunters was a mixed bag. The singleplayer experience was quite awful, the controls can give you gramps and the Nintendo DS wasn't suited all that well for first person graphics. The multiplayer experience on other hand was at its core really good. It provided an Arena Shooter with unique characters similar to games like Unreal Championship or Quake Champions, set in the rich Metroid universe. And a sequel should focus on this, with better graphics and better controls.

Such a game could follow Metroid Prime 4 on the Nintendo Switch and give Nintendo fans a more adult alternative to Splatoon. Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Bounty, Prime Hunter, Survival, Defender and Nodes could return alongside new game modes. There also could be a singleplayer mode, which focuses on opposing the other hunters yet again, but it would need to be a lot better than the original to please the fans. But such a game could focus on Samus' activities as a bounty hunter and even involve a bounty system - something that Retro Studios had in mind for Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, which was ultimately discarded, because according to Nintendo Samus isn't doing her job for the bounty (source).

Chronologically such a game would probably take place some time between Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and Metroid Prime 4, so that Sylux can still remain as a playable character, next to Spire, Kanden, Trace, Noxus and Weavel. They probably also would introduce a couple of new hunters for this game.


Metroid Prime Trilogy HD

The Nintendo Switch is known for its many ports, so it shouldn't surprise anyone, if they ever re-release the Metroid Prime Trilogy with updated HD graphics to accompany Metroid Prime 4. For the graphics Nintendo would probably hire an external company like Tantalus, who made Twilight Princess HD on the Wii U. And ideally a Trilogy re-release would be on par with Metroid Prime 4, when it comes to controls and interface, and maybe even add some features here and there. Especially the maps and menus of both Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes could use some overhaul. And let's please get rid of those Friend Vouchers, a rather nonsensical feature that just makes it impossible to complete the Metroid Prime Trilogy these days, unless you have a prepped save file at hand.


Metroid Super Remake

While a HD version of the Metroid Prime Trilogy would be considered a "remaster", there's still the topic of full remakes such as Metroid: Zero Mission and Metroid: Samus Returns. Here it would make sense, if they keep remaking the games in order and re-envision Super Metroid aka "Metroid 3" next. Such a remake could happen on the Nintendo Switch and would use glorious HD graphics for the game's environments, enemies and backgrounds, combined with the controls of Samus Returns.

You could argue that Super Metroid doesn't really need a remake, because unlike the Metroid games for NES and GameBoy it already has pretty much everything there is to modern Metroid games. It introduced crouching, Wall Jumps, Shine Sparks and many of the series' staple items, such as Super Missiles, Power Bombs or the Gravity Suit, all that were added to the previous remakes...

However, many of this doesn't really work as well as in the newer games. Switching items is inconvenient, Wall and Space Jumps have a weird timing to them, the Grapple Beam works very stiffly and the whole map screen could use an overhaul. At the same time they could add abilities such as the ledge grab or the Spider Ball.

With an improved input, some new abilities and pretty graphics, such a remake could be received very well. But of course Nintendo would have to be careful with this, because Super Metroid is still a fan favorite and quite the beloved game. Things like sequence breaking and the whole nature of speed runs should stay to avoid disappointments.


Metroid Fusion Remake

Before MercurySteam made Samus Returns, they originally proposed remaking Metroid Fusion. And this shows in the game, where you have the option to play in the Fusion Suit and where an additional ending scene even shows, how the X would have looked like on the Nintendo 3DS. They could just use the same engine and start working on Metroid Fusion next.

But this wouldn't be all that necessary, because Metroid Fusion is much less in need of a remake than Super Metroid is. From today's standpoint it still looks and plays quite alright, so there's nothing really to improve upon other than the graphics. Well, they could try to make the game less linear and turn the SA-X into an actual AI that lives and hunts on the BSL Research Station, which both probably would be interesting. But overall Metroid Fusion holds up quite well.

Another problem is that Zero Mission is pretty much on par with Metroid Fusion, when it comes to graphics and controls, because it was also made for the GameBoy Advance. So, if Metroid Fusion is in need of a remake, then so is Zero Mission, where would end up with a remake of a remake. Let's not go there...


Metroid 5

Enough with all the remakes already! The classic Metroid series needs to continue at some point, where Metroid Fusion has remained as the last part in the story for 16 years now. The game has left off with both the Metroid and the X potentially being destroyed for good. Of course we can't be sure of that, since Metroids have a habit of being cloned by Space Pirates and the Galactic Federation alike. The latter, however, might become a new enemy in this game, in the very least Samus could be confronted by a corrupt part of the Federation.

It's hard to imagine the Federation as the main enemy, though, but Samus Returns also introduced a new potential plot about the Chozo, which could be the topic of a new game.



Saturday, October 14, 2017

2018 Zelda Calendar

Another year, another Zelda calendar. This is the one for 2018:




And I have to say that it's quite solid, probably the best calendar since 2013 for me (I didn't buy any before that year). There's only one motive that got used previously and it's the first one, which gets used for the September til December 2017 section, which is fine, because I'm not hanging that up anyway. But overall the Zelda series has enough official artwork and illustrations to have completely individual calendars for the next hundred years, so there's no need to repeat things.

But this time the selection of motives is quite rich and also as up-to-date as it gets, since they managed to use illustrations and artwork of Breath of the Wild from E3 2016. I'm also happy that Tri Force Heroes made it in there, because that game is too underrated and certainly offers a pretty nice page there. I also really like the illustration of Link walking through a dark Hyrule Castle from A Link Between Worlds.

I'm not too happy that both Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess got featured three times each, where the diversity suffers quite a bit. In the very least they should have used some of the amazing new artworks from Twilight Princess HD (especially the artwork of Zelda looks gorgeous), where the Wii U remaster so far wasn't featured in the calendars yet. Instead they keep bringing old Twilight Princess artworks from 2006. If they want to go old, they could use some of the classic artwork from the NES games instead. But at least they end the year with a pretty amazing piece of Fierce Deity from Majora's Mask 3D.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Metroid Mania


It's Metroid Mania on Hyrule Blog! A majority of the posts last month were under the Metroid label and it will probably be the same for this month, before we return to Breath of the Wild and the new DLC in November.

It might seem "off" for a Zelda Blog to write so much about another video game series, but in its origins this site was named "Torvus Blog" after the Torvus Bog region in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and it was intended as a video game blog about Zelda, Metroid, Super Smash Bros. and other games. Later on I made the decision to specialize on the Zelda franchise, because it was the most promising topic. And in hindsight this was clearly the right choice, given that lots and lots has happened with Zelda in the last years, while the Metroid franchise was pretty much dead.

Now that Metroid is finally back, it doesn't mean that Hyrule Blog will transform into something different, so Zelda will remain as the clear focus. But a topic on this blog will still be games that offer a similar Action Adventure gameplay to Zelda, where for me the Metroid games always have been up there and remained as my second favorite Nintendo series. Metroid is the Sci-Fi Zelda.

Similar to my efforts of replaying the Zelda games for the 30th Anniversary, it was around the 30th Anniversary of Metroid that I returned to the Metroid series by playing its various games - an endeavor, which I have continued in the last months. So, here's a list of what I have achieved so far with review-esque thoughts about each game. Some of these titles I have played for the first time, with others I tried to achieve something new, like beating a higher difficulty mode, and some titles got replayed for the fun of it alone.

Summer 2016

Summer / Fall 2017

Next on my list would be replaying the entire Metroid Prime Trilogy on both Veteran and Hyper Mode difficulties, which I haven't done before. This might take a while, though, and serves more as a preparation for Metroid Prime 4, which is still far on the horizon.

What I really like about the classic 2D Metroid games is that they all play relatively fast, where I even played through some of the games twice and where I might try to achieve some better times in the future to view all the best endings... Overall this was a lot of fun so far and gave me some ideas of what Nintendo could and should do with the Metroid series in the next years, which I will share later on.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Metroid: Samus Returns


Metroid is back! After completing Samus Returns in both Normal and Fusion Mode, it's time to give the newest entry in the franchise a little review.

It's the first traditional side-scrolling Metroid experience since Zero Mission in 2004, which was a remake of the first Metroid game on the GameBoy Advance. And because Metroid II - Return of Samus always felt quite similar to the first game, it was only a matter of time, until we would see a remake of the GameBoy classic as well. In fact last year, for the 30th Anniversary of Metroid, the fan project Another Metroid 2 Remake aimed to deliver the same thing, but now we've gotten the official version developed by MercurySteam and produced by Yoshio Sakamoto, who hasn't touched the franchise since Metroid: Other M in 2010, which wasn't received all that well.

So, it has been seven years since the last main Metroid game and after Metroid Prime: Federation Force, which was released last year, the Nintendo 3DS again proves to be the platform, where Metroid finally returns. And in this case it worked out really well. The graphics look pretty nice and the 3D helps you to distinguish between what's important and what's in the background, which offers lots of interesting world details. It's the kind of 3DS game, where you want the 3D to be turned on all the time, similar to A Link Between Worlds.


For this the entire upper screen has been kept clear and all the typical HUD elements were moved to the touchscreen, where you can also view the map at all times and switch between weapon types. Only downside is that the game seems to run at 30fps only.


Music and sound are quite good as well, but don't provide the top-notch quality that you would expect from a Nintendo game. For what it's worth, they managed to mix the ambient tracks of the GameBoy classic into some atmospheric new music pieces, which is quite awesome, but at the same time they just recycled some music from the Metroid Prime Trilogy for some low effort. It's still quite a good soundtrack overall and even offers some fine new tunes. Also, some sound effects, like those of the new Teleport Stations, have an acoustic noise to them, which makes listening to the game not always that pleasant. But for the most part it's pretty great.

What's probably more important than how the game looks and sounds, is how it plays. And the controls might take some time, before you get used to them. You can toggle between Free Aim and Missiles Mode with the L and R shoulder buttons, you can (de)activate the four new Aeion abilities with A, which you select with the D-Pad at beforehand. You shoot with Y, you jump with B and you use the new Melee Counter with X. You also switch between weapon types with the touchscreen, while touching the map makes you instantly go into Morph Ball mode, where otherwise you would need to crouch first. It all feels quite convoluted in the beginning, where it's easy to confuse things with all the necessary toggling. But the more you play, the more you get a feel, why the controls are the way they are and learn to appreciate them. Still, some options for the controls would have been nice. And for New Nintendo 3DS owners they should have utilized the ZL and ZR buttons in some way, for example for the instant Morph Ball.

In the very least the game plays very smoothly. Especially Wall Jumps and Space Jumps were never as easy to perform, which almost makes you wish that Super Metroid will get a remake next. Even the Grapple Beam works very well in a way, where you never actually have to manually switch to the beam. Aiming at something, where the Grapple Beam can attach to it, will automatically activate it (your laser sight will then be blue to signal this).

Let's get more into detail with what's new here. With the Free Aim you can utilize the 360° precision of the Slide Pad for the cost of your mobility. A laser sight makes it easy to find your target and it even turns red then (or blue for grapple objects, as aforementioned). In boss fights it's a somewhat of a "risk vs. reward" mechanic, because it makes it easier for you to hit the designated weak spots, but it will also be easier for the boss to hit you, while you're standing still on the ground. And there are quite many boss fights in this game.


The Melee Counter also sounds like a good addition on the paper. Enemies running into you can be quite the annoyance (which was especially problematic in Another Metroid 2 Remake), where this new move seems to be perfect answer. Problem is that the Melee Counter suffers from a similar illness, how Skyward Sword treated its motion controls. Now almost all the enemies, even small crawlers, charge into you. They blink right before the charge attack to signalize that now it's time to use your Melee Counter, where this whole technique feels more like a quick time event than a proper addition to Samus' fighting skills. And if you screw up, you get hurt badly. This is quite annoying in the beginning, but it gets better later in the game, where your attacks get so strong that you can quickly take out enemies, before they can even charge. And with the bosses it's often treated as another "risk vs. reward" mechanic, where it's easier to dodge their melee attacks with jumps, but facing them might result in a cool action sequence, where Samus blasts the hell out of her enemies in close combat.

Completely new are also the four Aeion Abilities - Scan Pulse, Lightning Armor, Beam Burst and Phase Drift. They all consume so called "Aeion", an energy refilled via yellow orbs that you get from successfully fighting enemies. Scan Pulse uncovers a nine-by-nine area on your map around you and reveals hidden secrets, as well as breakable blocks on your upper screen. It's kind of a more practical version of the X-Ray Scope from Super Metroid, where you also won't need maps from the internet anymore to find everything. Any scanned area will be permanently marked on your map, though, so some players might want to have scanned every possible square, while others might want to avoid to use the Scan Pulse at all.


The Lightning Armor and Beam Burst offer the typical defensive and offensive upgrades, which you often find in games like this (e.g. different Armor, Magic Rings or Spirit abilities in Zelda games). Here you can use both at the same time and sometimes it's even necessary to use them to get through hazardous environments or to deal with tough enemies that otherwise can only be damaged with powerful weapons that you might not even have yet.

Last and maybe least there's also the "Phase Drift", which rapidly consumes your Aeion to slow down time. Primarily this gets used for puzzles with those breakable blocks that no one really liked in any Metroid game ever. In this way it's even a fine mechanic, because you finally have a way to successfully deal with these blocks without them being totally annoying. But because of that you will face more of these blocks than you ever have at the cost of your Aeion. Luckily, often there's a Big Aeion Orb nearby, which completely refills your Aeion Meter, so you can try again right away.

That's really it for new things that got introduced to the series. Similar to Zero Mission, Samus Returns also adds a couple of staple items, which weren't present in the original GameBoy game - the Grapple Beam, Super Missiles, Power Bombs and the Gravity Suit. The Wave, Spazer and Plasma Beams now also stack, while the Ice Beam is kept a separate tool next to the Grapple Beam, which you have to select via the touchscreen. This does make sense at first, but it feels a little useless later in the game, where freezing enemies doesn't help much and Missiles tend to be more effective against the stronger Metroid variants.

Surprisingly, the Speed Booster doesn't make a return here. It essentially got replaced by the Phase Drift, while there's also a new hidden technique to emulate a Ballspark, where you have to combine the Spider Ball with Power Bombs. It's much easier to perform and it feels like a blessing that you don't have to pull of all those finger acrobatics anymore that were required for some expansions in Zero Mission. But this trick isn't documented in the game anywhere and there are no funny animals around to teach it to you, so some players might even expect at first that the Speed Booster is still hidden somewhere...

By the way, the Spider Ball feels so good and useful in this game that it's almost a shame that it never was present in any of the other 2D Metroid games.

Even with some small flaws here and there, overall this game plays quite well and offers the classic Metroid experience that you'd want. But MercurySteam also did quite a good job at translating the world of SR388 into something more, while at the same time staying quite faithful to the GameBoy classic. It feels like a much larger world now, but at the core you are able to recognize the different areas from the original and it follows the linear design, where you move from one area to the next, hunting down all the Metroids in one area.

It's just much more fleshed out and it also adds new lava and under water sections, which Metroid II - Return of Samus didn't have. In there classic music pieces from Super Metroid are played, which is all quite nice, but it feels about as original as adding the Gravity Suit along with it.

Unlike the original game there's also quite some backtracking involved, but it introduced the new Teleport Stations to make it easier to move between the different areas. A similar comfort has been offered by the Gunship ports in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, but overall this has the potential to become a new staple in the series and makes you wonder, why Metroid games didn't have this before.

A big part of what made Metroid II - Return of Samus special within the series were the enemies, especially experiencing the full life cycle of the eponymous Metroid creature. And from the basic Hornoads up to the Metroid Queen the enemies of SR388 surely have evolved quite a lot, all offering new attacks and plenty of surprises. For example the Autoad robot enemies actually feel threatening in this game, because they emit a blast that temporarily disables your Aeion. And of course the different Metroid are much more threatening in the remake and assault you with various fire attacks for example.


They also introduced the new Diggernaut boss enemy, which has an amazing build-up and offers a crazy fight, where you really have to master all the individual steps. But it's quite satisfying, if you finally manage to beat this boss on all difficulties.

But that's not all, similar to Zero Mission they added a little something to the game to extend the experience...


Completing the game is also not all that convoluted than it was in Zero Mission. From the beginning on you can see the completion percentage for every individual area, while the different endings are entirely based on your time, but not the completion rate. The latter unlocks a gallery with "Chozo Memories" piece by piece and that's really it.

Additional galleries and the "Fusion Mode" difficulty have to be unlocked via amiibo after the game was beaten once. And that is certainly one of the bigger amiibo scams that Nintendo tried over the years, because normally you would expect such features to be unlocked without the necessity of tracking down four different amiibo figurines. There's a "Hard Mode" unlocked for everyone else, but in Fusion Mode enemies deal even more damage and you get to play in the Fusion Suit from Metroid Fusion.


Conclusion

Samus Returns is a return to form for the Metroid series. MercurySteam did a good job of translating the GameBoy classic onto the Nintendo 3DS and added everything to make it the full 2D Metroid experience that fans would want. There are some rough edges here and there, but it offers the playability and the replay value of a very good Metroid game.

It also will make you long for more and luckily it even teases potential new Metroid titles (more about that later on), where we can only hope that MercurySteam is already onto the job.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Metroid amiibo unlocks new Paint Jobs in Federation Force

... and in Blast Ball.

This might seem weird, but even though I got Samus Returns already, my first instinct was to try the new Metroid amiibo in Metroid Prime: Federation Force, which was still inserted into my Nintendo 3DS, after I had 100%ed the game earlier this week.

Dataminers had found at least one secret Metroid Paint Job a while ago, so I thought that the amiibo might unlock it - and it really does! There's one for Federation Force and one for Blast Ball.

Flying Life-Form (Federation Force):


This Paint Job lets you carry packs of five Repair Capsules instead of just one, which is the ideal Paint Job for anyone, who likes to specialize on healing.


Floating Parasite (Blast Ball):


Blast Ball Paint Jobs don't have any special abilities, but they're still nice to have. And before you ask, the new Samus amiibo just unlocks the same Paint Jobs as the one from the Super Smash Bros. series.

This is overall quite curious. For once it means that Nintendo had planned the Metroid amiibo over a year ago and secretly implemented its support into Federation Force at the time. But then they seem to have forgotten about it...! They could have advertised this, but they didn't. Not even the packaging of the amiibo mentions this special usage. This hasn't even made it on the typical Nintendo news sites yet...

Or maybe it's just that no one cares. This really shows, how dead the game is, but Nintendo could have used this to draw some attention towards Federation Force, which these days might not get as much hate as it did one year ago, when the franchise didn't offer anything else.

Got the Metroid Samus Returns Legacy Edition & amiibo

It's another of these days... When a package full of new Nintendo stuff arrives and it feels like Christmas. The only difference is that it was actually containing Metroid goodies, instead of the usual Zelda merchandise:


I was actually lucky to reserve all these items on Amazon Germany, but this cost me quite a lot, because they seem to piss on their "Best Price" policy these days and just stick to the placeholders. It cost me a total of 140€, while it should have been 100€ tops. But the Legacy Edition cost 100€ alone, which it definitely isn't worth it, and then 20€ for each amiibo. But it seems that Amazon likes to make some profit out of all the rarity as well.

Anyway, the Legacy Edition is quite nice, especially if you're a fan of the GameBoy classic. It's not worth 100€ (maybe 70€ tops), because it only contains the usual penny-ante stuff: a keychain, a pin, a steelcase that looks like the original GameBoy module, an artbook and the soundtrack. Oh, and there's a code for the Virtual Console classic game as well:



The amiibo are really nice. I was never a big fan of amiibo figurines and the practices behind them, but those two figurines are certainly worth it:


They look very nice, they have a nice weight to them and the Metroid is made out of squishy, transparent rubber, which is pretty awesome and offers something different. Those are certainly my favorites next to the Guardian amiibo from Breath of the Wild.

I also found out something "exciting" about the Metroid amiibo, something Nintendo hasn't even advertised anywhere. But more about this in a few minutes!