Saturday, September 30, 2017

Metroid: Samus Returns (Review)

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. However, 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 for  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 many boss fights in this game where this plays a role.

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 ever before 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 mostly 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. Some of the later areas also feel a little bit too different from their originals, where even some of the environmental story telling is lost in translation, but the remake was very busy with adding many new details of its own, especially in the beautiful backgrounds.

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.


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!

Metroid (NES) Revisited

Right before the release of Metroid: Samus Return I went through another classic Metroid game. In fact I revisited the classic Metroid game, the first one, released in 1986 on the NES. For this I again used the Wii U Virtual Console. It's a short game overall, so you can easily beat this in one evening, if you want to.

However, at first I was hesitating whether I actually want to play this or not. With the Zelda NES games I usually feel like they offer some unique gameplay within the series, where I enjoy replaying them to a degree. Especially Zelda II - The Adventure of Link is very different from the rest of the series, while The Legend of Zelda simply has his own charm and feels more like a sword beam shooter at times, which can be addicting.

Metroid on the other hand just feels like an underdeveloped prototype for the later games. Super Metroid has a very fitting name, because it's essentially a superior version of Metroid. It even takes place in the world of the first game, but tries to do everything bigger and better. Level design, controls, gameplay - everything has improved by a margin. And on top of that Nintendo even created a remake of the first game in the same style with Zero Mission. So, there doesn't seem to be a good reason to play the first game and unlike The Legend of Zelda it fails to captivate with its own classic 8-bit gameplay.

You can only shoot in three directions (left, up and right) and at the beginning of the game you can't even shoot things at your feet. You need the Wave Beam for that (or to use Bombs). It all feels somewhat quirky compared to the later games and even the most basic enemies like the Rios and Wavers can be super annoying early on, because they are so hard to hit and just fly right through you.

If you die, you start with 30 health and then you're out to farm energy balls, where enemies for the most time only leave 5 points of energy at a time, if any, while every mistake will cost you much more... Also, the Ice Beam does not do more damage and makes killing enemies even slower, because they don't take damage from being frozen. And then you're up to playing the ever-same boring corridors again and again. While getting through Norfair I almost was about to reset the game and say the magic words for the only way I knew the game could be fun:


But I didn't and I have to say that the game gets a lot easier and manageable, as soon as you get the Varia Suit. You take considerably less damage then. I almost was about to enjoy the game, when this happened:

Why can't Metroid wall-jump?

There's one part in Norfair right before the Wave Beam, where you can fall down and not get out of the lava. With the Varia Suit it takes a while, before you die there, so you have to put the game aside and slowly wait for the inevitable. Lava in general seems to be something in this game, where it's easy to get stuck in.

Also, as soon as there are more than two enemies on the screen, the frame rate drops significantly and makes the game hardly playable at times, but it still keeps throwing more enemies at you than it can handle. The Screw Attack also often fails you, where you take damage instead of destroying an enemy... It all just doesn't feel very reliable, where the game is just not fun at times.

I personally think that they did a much better job with the sequel already, Metroid II - Return of Samus. While the controls, gameplay and the graphics are as simple as in the first game, the game works much better with its restrictions. It also introduced points, where you can refill your health and missiles, which is dearly missed in the first game, where grinding is your only option.

Anyway, despite all the shortcomings, I still made it to Tourian to hunt some Metroids and face Mother Brain.

But the latter has proven to be very difficult, because again there's too much happening at once on the screen, where you get hit from every direction, while you're fighting the low frame rate... So, this certainly won't become my favorite Metroid game, it might even be my least favorite. But let's hope that my new favorite Metroid title will be released today.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Breath of the Wild: Limited Edition Switch?

We all know Nintendo and they love their special bundles, Limited Editions, Special Editions, Premium Packs, you name it. Incentives for the fans to buy (even more). In the last six years alone, we had a total of five Zelda themed hardware editions: the 25th Anniversary Limited Edition of the Nintendo 3DS, the The Wind Waker HD Premium Pack for the Wii U, the A Link Between Worlds Limited Edition of the Nintendo 3DS XL, as well the Majora's Mask Edition and the Hyrule Edition of the New Nintendo 3DS XL...

No one should be surprised, if they did the same for the Nintendo Switch at some point. And this point might be sooner than later, because Nintendo probably wouldn't to wait a couple of years, until the next Zelda game is ready to sell. Breath of the Wild is still the biggest attraction of the system and it could be possible that Nintendo announces a bundle for Christmas this year. It would be similar to the 25th Anniversary Edition of the Nintendo 3DS that came bundled with Ocarina of Time 3D later in 2011, even though the game already got released in June.

And it wouldn't even be the first Limited Edition of the Nintendo Switch, because in Japan a Monster Hunter XX Edition already exists:

As you can see, it's essentially the grey Nintendo Switch with some decors on both the docking station and the back of the screen. But the Premium Pack of the Wii U that came with the Wind Waker HD wasn't all that special either, it was just a black Wii U with some gold decorations on the GamePad. And I certainly didn't regret that purchase.

Now, Super Mario Odyssey will also get a bundle with two red Joycons (and a carrying case):

For a potential Breath of the Wild Limited Edtion they could do a mix of both, put decors on the system and the docking station and offer golden Joycons. Ideally the whole system would look fancy in the style of the Sheikah Slate, but that shouldn't be expected from Nintendo at this point. They most likely will just redecorate what they are already producing.

If such a bundle is happening, it makes sense that it gets released some time after the 2nd DLC, the Champions' Ballad, and has both the game and the DLC already pre-installed. And it certainly would attract fans like me, who haven't bought a Nintendo Switch yet.

Breath of the Wild: Champion amiibo Release Date

As announced in the latest Nintendo Direct, the four Champion amiibo will be released on November 10th and unlock helmets based on the four Divine Beasts:

This looks pretty dope, but everything looks better than the current Ancient Helmet. I just hope that they will still provide the Ancient Proficiency set bonus, unlike any other alternate head gear so far...

Also, this will currently leave only five more slots for DLC outfits, where we've already seen the Outset Island Shirt. This means that there are only four pieces left, which we haven't seen yet, maybe another full set and hopefully one useful pair of boots. Unless of course they expand the armor inventory by an additional page. But seeing, how Nintendo keeps getting the details wrong with this game, I wouldn't even be surprised, if they expect us to sell current armor to make place for the useless DLC stuff.

Apropos DLC, I'd expect the Champions' Ballad to be released on the same day as the amiibo. The amiibo need an update anyway to add the Divine Beasts helmets and it makes sense to have the amiibo released at the same time as the DLC, which revolves around them.

According to Nintendo's press release for the Direct, there's still additional functionality for these amiibo, which will be announced in the future. It makes sense that they will drop weaponry and items based on the four races. The question is, whether the actual Champion weapons will be part of this (see this post), but I also wouldn't be surprised, if they aren't...

At least, the amiibo will only be available in a four pack. This should make it a lot easier to track them down, because you don't have to hunt for four individual amiibo everywhere, where one of them turns out to be extra rare or whatever.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Metroid Prime: Federation Force - 100% Completion Journal

This is done. You're looking at my save file screen of Metroid Prime: Federation Force, which I have fully completed now after quite a journey.

It started last year with the free version of Metroid Prime: Blast Ball, where I managed to unlock all the paint jobs, which adds a certain percentage to your save file, if you import the data. I'm happy that I did that last year already, because this game is pretty much dead online these days and clearing all the "feats" wouldn't have been as much fun as it was back then.

For playing the full game I got joined by two online buddies, one who accompanied us through the "story" and one who joined me in the task of fully completing both Normal and Hard Mode. The latter also joined me in many Blast Ball matches last year, but it wasn't until after Samus Returns and Metroid Prime 4 were announced three months ago that we finally gave the full game a chance and got hooked. The three of us communicated over Skype and it wasn't the first coop game that we've played online together, because we already joined teams in Tri Force Heroes.

And saying that this is the "Tri Force Heroes" of the Metroid franchise would be very accurate. Both games appeared around the same time, focused on online coop and put the fans off with their style and story. It's just that Tri Force Heroes didn't have the issue that it was the first new Zelda in six years and that there were no other Zelda games on the horizon. The silence about the Metroid franchise put Federation Force in a really awkward spot and it probably wouldn't have been received as badly, if we knew about Metroid Prime 4 at the time.

Both games also had some issues of how they handled the online coop, but they differ quite a lot here. Tri Force Heroes was designed for exactly three players and as soon as one player left the game, the level couldn't be completed. Federation Force is smarter here and dynamically supports a player count between one to four players, much like the Four Swords games used to. If one player drops out of the mission, the others can keep going without him and can still complete the mission on their own. However, the game doesn't scale the difficulty towards the player count at all...

In most missions the rule of thumb is that the more players you have, the easier it gets, because you have more fire power and can do things faster. In singleplayer mode you can easily get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of enemies that the game keeps throwing at you, especially in the later missions. You can bring "drones", which help you a little, for any missing player and in singleplayer you can also use the "Lone Wolf" Mod Chip, which doubles the damage you do and halves the damage you take. But this might not always be helpful, if you're in for the medals.

For each mission you can get up to three Medals by scoring a certain amount of points. Points are gotten from shooting stuff, but you can get bonus points by beating the level under a certain time (which is independent of the player count), by fulfilling a certain bonus objective (which differs for each mission) and for not using the Lone Wolf Mod Chip in singleplayer. This bonus can be deciding, which is why you're inclined to not use this special Mod Chip all the time (it's still better in missions with many enemies, because you score double points).

The same goes for the drones, who can lower your score quite a lot, since points from shooting stuff are also critical. You get more points the more damage you land on a single enemy, so even small fries like Geemers should be shot with Charged Shots for maximum points, which is where your drones get in the way. It's the same with performing headshots or freezing enemies to destroy them. All of this gives lots of more points, which is essential. And this is a concept many players online even don't seem to understand.

This game works much less with random people online than Tri Force Heroes did. In Tri Force Heroes two skilled players could usually bring an unexperienced player through a level with the simple means of communication the game offers. I often even enjoyed being restricted to ingame actions and the communication icons, instead of talking to other players. But in Federation Force using Discord, Skype, Teamspeak or any other voice chat is much more essential, because you often want to come up with a good strategy.

It already starts with distributing the AUX Ammo that you have available for each mission between the players. It's good to find roles, for example in boss battle mission two players could focus on fire power, one player could focus on using the Slow Beam or Freeze Shots to stop the boss, while the fourth player could function as a healer and deploy shields and/or decoys. With the right Mod Chips in place this could work all very well, but for this you need to communicate, where the predefined ingame voice commands are too inefficient.

The aforementioned "Mod Chips" are also an interesting topic. You can equip up to three of them and they give you certain abilities. Next to the silver "Lone Wolf" chip, there's the silver "Hyper Mode" Mod that you can unlock by doing all the feats in Blast Ball. It lets you charge your Power Beam while walking at full speed and it causes double damage with Power Shots, but only if you're at full health. It can be quite useful and it was nice to have this from the get go thanks to my efforts that went into Blast Ball last year. All other 82 Mods are found at random, where there's usually a handful of Mods hidden in each level. Unlike the two silver Mod Chips, the randomly found Mods can break, whenever you die or quit a mission (this even happens, when you turn off your 3DS). But you can find duplicates and they offer a good motivation to always explore all the levels, which is something Tri Force Heroes didn't really have with its hidden Rupees.

Since I wanted to collect at least one copy of each Mod in the game, I spent a lot of time farming in the 10th Mission, "Last Stand". You have a giant boss enemy walking towards a data probe here, while you can quickly find six Mods in caves at the sides. Then just get killed by the boss (don't equip any breakable Mods), because you still get the Mods, even if you fail.

The Mod abilities either enhance specific ammo types, make you take less damage, upgrade your drones, increase your storage capacity or the like. For example there is a Mod that lets you shoot double missiles or there are Mods for taking 20%, 30% or 50% less damage. The better the Mod, the rarer it is. In a way you can compare this to the outfits in Tri Force Heroes, just that it's not as visible what the other players have.

But the game also has the Paint Jobs unlocked by collecting all the medals. Those could have worked exactly like the outfits in Tri Force Heroes, where there's even the problem that the Paint Jobs unlocked via amiibo really give you special abilities. The Samus Paint Job lets you carry 10 missiles per pack instead of just three, which is probably the most valuable ability in the game, while Zero Suit Samus quintuples your Slow Beam ammunition. The other Paint Jobs don't have any abilities, so there's no good reason to use any of them, if you have the Samus Paint Job. Ideally they all would provide small perks and function much like the outfits in Tri Force Heroes, but this way you always run around disguised as Samus, which is somewhat ironic and sad for the only Metroid game that doesn't feature Samus as a playable character.

Anyway, completing the game was quite the task. There are 22 diverse Missions in the game, where for each mission you can score up to three Medals. That's 66 Medals in total, but you also have Hard Mode, where you take more damage, some missions are slightly altered and you have to score more points for the Medals. It can get quite tough, where for two missions (H04 Containment and H14 Tremor) we even needed the help of a third, experienced player. (Kudos to Kurumi for greatly supporting us here!) "Containment", a mission where you have to trap Ice Titans in four cages, is especially troublesome in both difficulties. It's overwhelming, how this comes as already the fourth mission in the game.

But while there are some good and selfless players out there helping people, you can also have bad luck with players online, because it's very easy to troll here. It already starts at the AUX Ammo, where you can take all you can and then quit the game. Or you just stand inside a door and block the way. Or you're just gunning at the players, while all hell breaks lose... It might not be as bad as with Tri Force Heroes, where you share a health meter, because you can still finish a mission with such people at your side. However, you might even feel forced to finish it, because you don't want to lose any of your Mods. A troll probably wouldn't even equip any breakable Mods, so there's no real penalty for him. But if other players quit on him, they might get penalized, which wasn't really thought through by the developers.

Fun fact, the save file screen has counters for how many Mods you've collected (including duplicates) and for how long you've played the game, but they stop at 999 Mods (even though you can collect more than that) and 99 hours and 59 minutes. It's like the developers never would have anticipated that anyone would voluntarily play this game for that long...

Well, this is really a game for cooperating with friends and enjoying the challenge of completing everything. Don't play it for the story, because it's rather silly. The whole "giantification" theme doesn't really play out in the game, because everything got oversized. Geemers, boxes, computer consoles, everything is gigantic, so it ultimately doesn't make any difference. It would be like playing The Minish Cap in a miniature Hyrule.

To make things worse, this game blatantly rips off Star Wars and even the new Star Trek movies in various occasions. It already starts with the very uninspired soundtrack, which sounds like some bad Star Wars bootleg at times. And the final mission completely jumps the Metroid...

This final mission made me almost feel ashamed that this game is part of the Metroid universe now. But like Other M it doesn't outshine the fun I had with this game. If you have someone to play this with, go ahead and give it a try.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Metroid: Other M Revisited

Let's revisit another Metroid, before Samus Returns gets released... After playing various 2D Metroids on the Wii U Virtual Console, I was in the mood for another round of Metroid: Other M. Or two rounds, to be exact, because I did both a 100% run and a Hard Mode run. With that I've beaten the game now six times in total - four 100% runs and two Hard Mode runs. And more runs might follow in the future. I've already beaten Hard Mode once two years ago and at that point I felt like I was completely done with the game, only to be drawn back in now.

Next to Super Metroid it has been for me THE Metroid game with the highest replay value. Yes, the game's story was badly written and doesn't shine a good light on Samus' character. Yes, the level design is too linear and the authorization feature was so wrongly executed that nothing made much sense whatsoever. I mean, why would Samus deactivate her life supporting Varia and Gravity Suits to begin with? All of this angers me every time, when I replay the game, because the game could have been so much better. But it never stopped me from enjoying, how the game feels and plays.

I thoroughly enjoy the hybrid 2,5D Metroid style with its simplistic controls, its auto aim, the Sense Moves, the Lethal Strike and the Concentration. It's even what makes this game work in Hard Mode to begin with. I couldn't imagine beating any other Metroid game with just one Energy Tank and no Missile Expansions (even though Zero Mission encourages you to do so with its different unlockable endings). But here it can be quite a lot of fun.

It's still challenging, so it's not that the game is just really easy. You have to master the mechanics and know when to dodge and when to shoot. The enemies are all very versatile and it can be quite tough at times. Even so that playing Normal Mode partly can feel like Hard Mode, sometimes when you simply try to get to the next Navigation Room alive and you have lots of strong enemies in your way. Getting to the Speed Booster in Sector 2 would be a good example for this. Concentration only gives one Energy Tank at first (you can upgrade this later) and you can't find any pickups like health orbs, so you're basically stuck in Hard Mode for a while.

Groups of Zebesians can be quite troublesome, especially if they shoot those green grenades around. And the Griptians (those spiked armadillos) also gave me more trouble than they probably should. Hardest parts are of course the bosses, but here at least the game is very forgiving, because it lets you restart right at the beginning of the boss fights.

Best boss fight certainly is Ridley and he can take a while in Hard Mode, because he can easily kill you with a single hit. But despite this it never gets frustrating, it never stops being fun, so I keep going, until I finally beat him. It's like learning a dance, with the right move in every step of the fight. And it's super satisfying to finally best him.

The Metroid Queen on the other hand is a little bit more frustrating, because you can't dodge her ridiculous fire breath (that she probably stole from Ridley) with Sense Moves, despite Samus doing the exact thing in the sequence before the second phase. At least the game is even more forgiving here and puts you at the beginning of the 2nd phase, if you die. If you had to beat all the Metroids again and again, I probably would have lost motivation.

But beating the Metroid Queen in Hard Mode is certainly a nice finale for my tour through the classic Metroid series, before Samus Returns gets released in less than a week, where we will meet the Queen again.

Hard Mode doesn't have the Phantoon fight, but the whole epilogue part of the game is about backtracking and getting all the expansions that you might have missed on the Bottleship, where it would miss the point in Hard Mode... Still, it would have been interesting to phase this as well.

In general I enjoy traversing the Bottleship quite a lot, because it has such a nice atmosphere. It feels quite eerie at times. And while the music isn't all that melodic, it certainly creates a fitting ambience. Downside is that the whole level "design" is based on long tunnels, which gets boring fast.

Overall I would really like to experience another Metroid game in a similar 2,5D style on the Nintendo Switch. There are things to improve like the usage of the first person perspective, which in itself is done fluidly, but the way it was integrated and forced in the game for Missile usage and those weird pixel hunts wasn't very good. It should be mainly used for looking around and scanning things like in Metroid Prime. You can compare this to the motion controls in Skyward Sword. In itself they worked quite well, but what the game made of them with all the "slash in the right direction" puzzles and fights wasn't all that enjoyable and sometimes even frustrating... With a new game on the Switch they could put Missiles on a button and implement the first person view differently.

But for now let's see, how Samus Returns will fare next weekend! Maybe this will become my new Metroid game with the highest replay value.