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  1. Nerdtendo

    OP Nerdtendo Your friendly neighborhood idiot
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    [​IMG]
    <--- Previous Log (Portal)



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    Hello ladies and worms and welcome back to Tales of the Backlog. No one said they disliked volume #1 nor that they liked it. In fact there were no responses so I’m gonna take that as a “go ahead and do another!” This is a blog series posted by myself where I, a 16 year old kid, play critically acclaimed games that I missed out on due to my age at the time of their release, and offer a fresh look on them. Last time, I covered Portal and have since played and beat Portal 2 although I won’t be talking about that one. Check it out!


    Today I’m talking about the 2002 Gamecube classic that died and is now resurrected again, Metroid Prime. In this report (review? I think I’ll just call it a report) I’ll be playing the version included in the Metroid Prime Trilogy for the Wii through the Dolphin emulator. Why didn’t I just do the Gamecube version since I was playing through dolphin? Well I wanted to use the Wiimote but it didn’t work so I mapped the controls to an Xbox One controller. On an unrelated note, it’s not the best idea to map IR controls to a thumbstick but it does work better than expected. After all that boring stuff, let’s get into the game now


    Game info:

    - Release Date: November 17, 2002 (Nerdtendo age: 9 months, 4 days)

    - Developer: Retro Studios/Nintendo

    - Platform(s): Gamecube/Wii (Metroid Prime Trilogy)

    - Genre: Action-Adventure

    Gameplay:

    The 2D to 3D era was an interesting time. When the technology was available, every series was making the jump with various success. Even when the jump was successful, there was plenty of clunk that hasn’t aged very well at all (looking at you SM64 and OoT). Samus’ bounty hunting escapades however, did something different. They waited. Instead of immediately hopping the bandwagon, Nintendo sat on the franchise until the technically superior Gamecube. This paid off in spades in the end. Retro Studio’s take on the Metroid universe looks and plays spectacularly.


    Gameplay wise, all of the elements of 2D Metroid are here. You shoot bad guys, explore branching paths, get lost, backtrack, fight a boss, upgrade your weapon and movement arsenal, use your new power to open new paths, and repeat. This style has been dubbed “Metroidvania” and there’s no wonder why so many future games stick to this formula. The feedback loop is frustrating, rewarding, and fun. Samus feels great to move around with and as soon as you unlock her double jump, leaping around is freeing. Shooting guys does feel great but I can not iterate enough how much better it feels with a Wiimote and not an Xbox controller. Trust me.


    I really suggest watching Mark Brown’s “What Makes a Good Metroidvania” video on youtube. In summary, a good metroidvania provides many branching paths you can explore in any order, but hinders too much progress in the wrong direction. Metroid Prime does this well. At any given moment, you can explore at least 3 different paths with one being the “right one”. Even if you go the wrong way, you are rewarded with missile and health upgrades which encourages further exploration. You’re then given an upgrade that unlocks previously locked areas and you do it all over again. Even if you get hopelessly lost, you can go comb areas for secrets and wait for the automatic hint system to give you a push in the right direction.


    I do have some critiques here though. While the basic moveset and design is great, there are some shoehorned items that make sections of the game gimmicky. For example, the invisible space pirates that can only be seen with the thermal visor (which obscures your vision greatly) is used much too frequently. It’s even worse when those pirates have weapon-specific weaknesses so you have to shoot them with every beam until you find the one that hurts them. The same is true for the x-ray visor which is barely useful. I think they should have reduced the amount of invisible enemies or made them weak to all attacks and let the player adjust weapons based on their situation.
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    [​IMG]
    (This gives me a headache)​



    I have one more issue with backtracking in the late game. The Phazon Mines are a pain to navigate with it’s three floors and tough enemies. You can either bum rush through the enemies and try not to get hit or painstakingly clear each room the three mandatory times you have to go to the bottom. A few more elevators would’ve been great here.


    90% of the time the game feels great. I know I just harped on some elements but for most of the game they aren’t too bad. I don’t like to use this word but you really do feel badass exploring areas, finding secrets, and beating up what’s in your path.


    Level Design:

    Metroid Prime is atmospheric. From the tranquility of the Tallon Overworld, to the hostility of the Space Pirate base in Phendrana Drifts. You are constantly surrounded by mystery and intrigue. The world is coherent and engaging. You land on an unknown planet, and explore the wild overworld, as you descend, you reach the ruins of an ancient civilization. You stumble across temples and sanctuaries. You then dive deeper which naturally leads to the volcanic depths of Magmoor. After that, you detour back up to a remote tundra and finally, you find the phazon mines in the deepest depths of Tallon IV. Within each area, the platform placement encourages the idea of a planet. Instead of jumping from abstract random platforms, you’re climbing mountains covered in snow drifts, exploring caves that go from narrow passages to expansive areas, and jumping off branches through the fauna of the wild. There’s no special parkour or grandiose intricate puzzles, but you always feel engaged with the world. The world is a mystery and yours to explore and I appreciate that. I do have gripes with some long backtracking but I already talked about that.

    [​IMG]

    Music:


    I have decided to lump the music in this game into two categories. area themes and battle themes. Each main area has a musical theme that corresponds to its overall theme. Tallon Overworld is alien, but the start of a grand adventure. Phendrana is Tranquil, Magmoor is foreboding, and the mines are unnatural and menacing. The great thing about these themes is that they all con convey different emotions but they each share a common theme of loneliness. Each theme opens up with grand chords, but they remain empty and unresolved. These chords remain under each theme even after the melodies kick in. That isolation heard in the soundtrack is spectacular. Especially how some themes can feel so hopeful and exciting in their melodies (Tallon Overworld) but also nag at you with that sense of dread.


    The battle themes are used when Space Pirates are present or there is a boss. Any other enemies stick to the area theme. These tracks are excellent at providing a sense of danger, but also telling you how much danger you’re in. When the space pirate theme begins it makes you want to look over your shoulder wondering when you’ll be ambushed. Once the song starts ramping up though, you feel outnumbered (a fitting thing because you are very outnumbered). There are out of tune sirens blaring and garbled, manufactured sounds mixed in with a brass melody that makes you forget how to breathe. It’s incredibly effective. The boss themes are similar, but less erratic. There are heavy, resonating basslines and haunting melodies. “Are you afraid of this fight?” the song asks. “You should be.”


    Story:

    The story is conveyed mostly through the world presented to you and information that you scan from scattered Chozo lore and Space Pirate logs. I honestly was focused on gameplay so I skimmed the lore bits but I have a bit of knowledge of the greater Metroid plot and context clues from the world helped me fill in the blanks. That being said, here is the story from what I paid attention to.



    Samus goes to infiltrate a Space Pirate base, is stopped by the new Meta Ridley, is stripped of all her power suit upgrades, barely escapes, and lands on a new planet, Tallon IV. She begins exploring and stumbles across the Chozo ruins. Apparently, the Chozo used to live here. I didn’t pay much attention as to why they were not present, but Wikipedia tells me a meteor hit and brought with it Phazon and the ”Worm”, a beast dangerous enough to cause planet-wide evacuation. From what I can tell, the Space Pirates operate on Tallon IV to study metroids and extract the powerful Phazon which they use to super enhance their soldiers. After collecting 12 Chozo artifacts, you can go to the site of the meteor crash and fight the “Worm” or Metroid Prime. After you beat Metroid Prime, you escape to your ship and live to tell the tale. Roll credits.


    This is the plot but the greater story is told through each area. I’ve mentioned this a bit in the music, but each area represents a different aspect of your journey. In the overworld, you feel hopeful. This is where you start the game and also where you visit almost every time you progress majorly. The Chozo ruins are mysterious. You don’t really know what’s going on and you’re trying to find out where to advance. Magmoor is foreboding. It’s linear but there’s so much that can hurt you, you really have to watch every step. Once you reach Phendrana, you relax a little. You’ve made it through the lava filled caverns and can now explore this open, freezing tundra. After this peace, you reach the Phazon Mines. This is a scary area with the biggest threats around every corner.


    Hope, intrigue, anxiety, peace, and fear. The areas and their music really help drive home what Samus feels throughout her journey. I appreciate this subtext more than any plot point of the whole game. It’s really freaking cool.


    I love the way the story is presented. The plot is there for people who want to search for it, and it’s not in the way of people who are just there to shoot guys. It’s also a pretty good story and reveals some pretty big details about the universe. The subtext is there for everyone who plays the game regardless of if they are paying attention to the plot and greatly enhances the player’s experience.


    Graphics:

    Graphics are not the most important thing to have but neither are toe-nail clippers. Just because you don’t need them doesn’t mean they don’t help. The game looks pretty decent even today. I had the game upscaled to 1440p for most of the game which does remove some fuzz from the game, but it still looks alright in its native resolution. Again, the artstyle is all about that atmosphere. Prime goes for as much of a realistic artstyle that the Gamecube could handle. It’s dark and gritty and doesn’t do a whole lot of wacky. Some of the environmental texturing tends to look pretty muddy. It also can be a tad too dark in cavern areas. I understand wanting to make areas dark for atmospheric purposes, but if it hinders my ability to see the next platform, a few more light sources are needed. One thing the art succeeds in is world building. It all looks so natural unless it’s supposed to be otherwise. Edges aren’t too sharp and aren’t too round. Fauna is growing out of crevices in the wall. The Chozo remains are decaying, but there’s enough to imagine what it was like in its glory. The pirate base is organized and everything is in its place. It looks like a real world. You don’t have to suspend your disbelief for any odd platforms or out of place hidden rooms. Like I said, the resolution really holds the world back, but there is really strong design here. I’d love to see it in HD one day.


    upload_2019-1-12_23-44-57.jpeg upload_2019-1-12_23-46-7.jpeg upload_2019-1-12_23-46-39.jpeg

    Conclusion:

    Metroid Prime is a masterpiece and I think that’s largely due to how engaging it is. You become invested in the gameplay and story through wonderful atmosphere in style, level design, and sound design. It brings the Metroid games gracefully into the third dimension and still holds up wonderfully today unlike some N64 games I know. If you haven’t already, go play Metroid Prime. If you have, play it again. It took me a little under 15 hours so it’s not a huge time investment and it’ll get you pumped up for Metroid Prime 4. Just don’t play the Wii version with an Xbox controller.



    Well that’s the show folks. I think I’ll keep doing these until people tell me they don’t like them. I don’t even know if people will read them but I do put a lot of time into these so if you enjoy, feel free to tell me and if you hate, tell me that to. Next I think I’ll report on Katamari Damacy to celebrate the release of Reroll. I’m already about halfway through, but after that, I’d love to play a JRPG. I’m choosing between Kingdom Hearts because I love Disney and a lot of Square stuff or Xenoblade Chronicles because it’s been on my radar for a while. I’ll do whichever one is more popular by the time I finish Katamari so make sure you vote! I even moved this from my blog to general gaming discussion so I could include the poll. I hope that's okay staff. See y’all later. Thanks for reading.
     
    Last edited by Nerdtendo, Mar 7, 2019
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  2. B_E_P_I_S_M_A_N

    B_E_P_I_S_M_A_N Pending Deletion
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    It's a start, but you might want to go more in-depth with all of your points. Why is the level design coherent and engaging, how does it all flow together, and are there any weak spots anywhere? Even if the music good, does it go at all to complement or enhance the gameplay or overall mood of the game? Don't just shrug off the game's graphics; even if they are only part of what makes a good game, a good art direction can add to or detract greatly from a game. Analyze the color palette of the levels, are they varied/consistent enough? Does anything wear down on the eyes after a few hours?

    Don't just say that a game is engaging; a good review should reveal why a game is engaging, often coupled with a brief explanation of the game's underlying mechanics. This is so that readers will have a general idea of how the game plays, and are able to determine whether or not its a game they would want to play.
     
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  3. Nerdtendo

    OP Nerdtendo Your friendly neighborhood idiot
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    Thanks for the feedback. I'm not naturally a good writer so I'll take all the tips I get. I'm sure I'll get better as I keep writing
     
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