Posted by: seanmalstrom | June 15, 2014

Email: Super Metroid is a sequel and why I think Metroid

It’s not everyday that a female reader emails Malstrom about Metroid. Let’s see what she has to say…


Hello Mr Malstrom

No, no, no! I am not a ‘mister’. ‘Mister’ is for married men. I am not married. Just as ‘Mrs’ is for married women, ‘Ms’ is for unmarried women. The term for single men (which has bizarrely been discontinued) was ‘Master’. In some of the old TV shows, you can see them refer to the single man as ‘Master’. It’s still a holdover from Batman with Bruce Wayne being referred to as ‘Master Bruce’. Why the practice of referring single men as ‘masters’ got discontinued may have been due to sensitivity to slavery or that women don’t want married men to know they are ‘not the master’… I don’t know. It’s also a running joke here for me to be referred to ‘Master Malstrom’.

In real life, I try to get people to refer to me this way creating hilarious results. At a bar, there was a girl I was with who referred to me that way. When she was away, another girl asked her why she was calling me that. “Because he is the master.” hahahahaha.

You have to have fun in life!

Earlier you said that Super Metroid is a remake of Metroid but it’s really not. They explain the continuity in the intro and one of my friends made me realise that when you first go down in Brinstar to get the morph ball there’s an area that is actually the first Tourian of Metroid 1 (I verified and it’s true; that was a cute detail). The rest of my message is about that time you said Metroid prime follows the spirit of Super Metroid. If the Prime series is more in your taste that’s fine but I just want to add my honest experience with the series for the matter of exchanging ideas and perhaps see another (hopefully valid) point of view.

Well, all the Metroid games are technically ‘sequels’. I liked how in Metroid 2 you went to another planet. But in Super Metroid, you go back to SR388. You return to the same areas like Brinstar and Norfair. You fight the same bosses like Kraid and Ridley. You even have the same end boss: Mother Brain. Aside from the ‘story’ (which really is non-existent in early Metroid games), Super Metroid was essentially a remake of the first game.

When Zero Mission came along, I thought, “We don’t need a remake of Metroid. We have Super Metroid for that, and Super Metroid did a damn good job at it. So what is the TRUE purpose of Zero Mission?” This baffled me until Other M. Sakamoto wanted to ret-con the original Metroid by introducing his ‘story’ to pave the road for Other M.

Many people don’t ask, “What is the intention of the director is making this game?” WHY are they making it? These older Nintendo guys want to do new stuff. So why would they do something like Fusion or Zero Mission? Judging from what Sakamoto was up to, his intention was to transform Metroid into a Samus centered dialogue adventure game. To fans of Classic Metroid, this certainly wasn’t what we wanted. Fusion got criticized hard for its runaway dialogue. Despite that, Sakamoto made Other M which has more dialogue.

The point is that the game isn’t about pleasing us, it is about pleasing the director. It is NOT a coincidence that Sakamoto directed his Metroid games only on platforms with high install bases (GBA, Wii) and not on weaker install bases (N64, Gamecube).

I’m not a hardcore but I always liked to play with Metroid games. My first one was Super Metroid and I was a young girl (around 10). To be honest I was more watching than playing because I was so scared at this game that I wanted my father to play it while I was hiding under a blanket. Let’s say that Metroid became a father-daughter moment to me and the very first memory I have of this game is this dark scary atmosphere in this claustrophobic world. So I never really had the feeling that Samus was a badass bounty hunter (in the sense she’s above any dangers like Kratos or Master Chief) because the world she was interacting with forced us to remain ‘’humble’’ even with all these super abilities. So if I had to make a quick description about what Metroid is about I’d say something like:  metroid are bred somewhere in a giant dark underground maze of tunnels and you have to get through them using your acrobatic skills and firepower.  That looks about right.

Then came Metroid Prime;  I only played that game once compared to Super Metroid that I play religiously every years and I didn’t really like it. Most of the memories I have of that game are stuff that make it feel not like Metroid. I still remember that moment when my father came to me while I was playing that game and said: ‘’why we only see the gun and why we’re walking?’’ I had the same frustration, why that game is so goddamn slow? Samus used to have so much energy, she was running fast and jumping high now all she does is walking and scanning stuff, wtf!  And what just happened to the atmosphere?! Of course I didn’t expect to hide under a blanket anymore but I still had that ‘’goose bump’’ feeling with Super Metroid. Everything was so dark and unfriendly (even the surface is full of grey thick clouds). But Prime… I remember when I was in that wide sunny place with relaxing music. I was like…what happened?!  Why that area is so large and why it’s sunny with a blue sky, that isn’t Metroid!  It’s especially the case in that place with Chozo ruins that feels more like a fantasy world than Metroid. With all the shitty logs I had to scan and read, I felt like I was playing Myst. I don’t care about the Chozo ‘’civilisation’’! When I care about the Chozo it’s because I’m scared that the statues become alive and attack me! Statues in Prime only exist for these incredibly long Myst-Morph ball mechanisms.  I will admit that some segment of the game got the vibe right. The beginning of the game was ok and some segments in the pirates’ ship but most of the time you have large and dull areas with tons of stuff to scan (seriously that scanning thing is so boring) and you just walk around and kill a couple of stuff.  Even familiar bosses felt not okay, I remember when I was fighting Ridley in Super Metroid, and the scary factor was to be trapped in a small area with him and not having a lot of space to avoid him (both battles). In Prime you fight him in an open space and he’s  flying far away from you, jeez it was the first time I wasn’t excited to fight Ridley…

I agree with many of your criticisms of Metroid Prime. The controls of the game have not aged well. The scanning gets lame. If the scanning was optional and did nothing more than add ‘flavor’, it’d be great. I thought it was cool you could scan a creature, and the game would tell you some information about it. Scanning the enemy computers to see what they were saying about Samus was also funny. But you omit one thing: scanning around all day was introduced in Super Metroid.

Above: Standing around and scanning the room constantly is what Super Metroid did. I didn’t like it in Super Metroid, and I didn’t like it in the Prime series.

But if you were making a 3d game based on Metroid, scanning would be included since it had a prominent part in Super Metroid did it not? Scanning doesn’t differentiate Prime from Super Metroid, it is a similarity between the two games. It was much more prominent and non-optional in Prime obviously.

It’s important to remember that Metroid Prime wasn’t a First Party Nintendo game. It was made by a new company called ‘Retro Studios’. We had no idea how the game was going to come out. Nintendo timed Metroid Prime’s release with Metroid Fusion just in case Retro screwed up. But Retro didn’t screw it up.

Your complaints about the ‘differences’ of Metroid Prime isn’t the fault of Retro but of Nintendo. Retro was told what they could and could not do. They were told to make it a spin-off game that was separate from the main series.

I have to challenge some of your criticisms. Criticizing Metroid Prime’s ‘sunny world’ doesn’t make sense as it was a different planet. Metroid 2 had a sunny world too as that was a different planet.

Above: Looks sunny to me!

One thing you said that I really have to disagree with you on is saying Metroid Prime got the Metroid atmosphere wrong. Are you crazy? Prime nailed the atmosphere and added more. While I’m not a big fan of 3d games, the first person perspective does aid in the immersion.

Above: I can’t see how you can hate that or not think it doesn’t seem like Metroid.

Above: Metroid Prime ADDED new areas to the Metroid mythos like the Phenandra Drifts.

I don’t see how you couldn’t have been in awe of the Sanctuary Fortress in Metroid Prime 2.

Meanwhile, what new areas has Sakamoto added to Metroid? He keeps placing his games on space stations. He doesn’t really add anything except ‘character development’ for Samus which no one wants. Metroid is about exploring new areas.

Another thing I don’t like about Prime is how unfocused about the metroid this series is. Seriously it’s all about phazon! The first Prime makes at least an effort to include metroid (along with dump phazon) but look at the sequels: MP2 is force-feeding us with even less familiar content and some kind of Zelda-ish Light/Dark world is there even metroid in that game?  I can’t even remember! Prime’s original content is already invasive in the first game and it totally discards everything about the original point of the series in the sequels to become some kind of permanent phazon/stupid Dark Samus glorification. They totally lost me in MP3 AKA Spaceship simulator and that dumb Halo war and also that Metroid Hunters game that is only about showing off badass hunters being badass; nothing about this felt like Metroid anymore. At least I was ‘’happy’’ with the 2D titles even if I hated that computer guy that was telling me where to go (The fun of a maze isn’t to find the path on your own?) and the annoying Chozo magic (seriously why using Chozo for something else than scary statues that sometimes attack you?!)

I’d agree with that. But whose fault is that? It’s not like Retro was allowed to make a mainline Metroid game.

As for all the scanning, I believe the person to blame for that is one Shigeru Miyamoto. He was the one who wanted the scanning I believe.

Then Sakamoto’s Metroid came out and I was really happy because that game looked like Metroid! My father even started to play videogames again for this one.  Most points we remember about super Metroid are back in Other M: tunnel-maze design, fast acrobatic Samus, small and dark places, story around metroid being the main threat (Heck that Queen Metroid battle was neat!). To be honest, I was really surprised of the bad reception because it looked so Metroid-ish to me. Then I started to read your blog and got it, I don’t know if it’s because I’m a girl myself that I could stomach that ‘’mother instinct’’ thing better (I’m just thinking out loud there’s no science there) but it didn’t make me super mad like most people.  I don’t say I want Metroid to be about that, actually I don’t even mind to remove that stuff if that makes people happy (as far as I’m concerned that was a detail).  I don’t say the game is perfect, I hate when human computer guy tells me what to do or activate in my suit (jeez that was a dumb excuse to balance power!).  But I was happy to play a 3D Metroid that felt like Metroid again and I’m just wondering if the ‘’kill it with fire’’ attitude most people have for Other M isn’t exaggerated.  I mean, Ok, mother instinct is dumb and couple of story stuff too but does that justify to go back to the so-anti-Metroid ‘’Prime’’ formula?! I mean you really want to walk slowly in a happy sunny area and scan shit again??? Not to mention that even the sales dropped for this series right after the first one.

Metroid Prime was made by people who were genuinely fans of Classic Metroid.

Metroid: Other M was made by someone who was hostile to Classic Metroid.

This is why Other M has the ‘burn it with fire’ reaction. Prime has its flaws, but it’s clear they were trying to attempt to put 2d Metroid into 3d. The intent with Other M appears to be Sakamoto wanting to turn Metroid into something else entirely… into manga.

Ok Other M executed some stuff badly, I get that but what I don’t get is why people just discard the whole package for 2-3 elements that were badly executed instead of asking to fix what was wrong and keep the good stuff.  I’m rather surprised that people just prefer to go back to the Prime series when the very DNA of the game is just ‘’Metroid wrong’’ but refuse to give a second chance to the Other M formula because they didn’t like the damn script. I just feel that saying Metroid Prime has the spirit of Super Metroid is like Saying Zelda was always about puzzles.  I didn’t want to look aggressive, sorry if it’s the case. I know the Zelda puzzle thing pisses you off a lot so maybe you can understand more my point of view about Metroid.  
Thank you and sorry for the long message.

Aggressive is good. I like aggressive girls.

Criticism of Metroid: Other M run deeper than the script. It’s like Sakamoto ignored all the criticism of Metroid: Fusion. In fact, he did. He doesn’t care what WE think of it.

I don’t believe the premise is ‘More Prime’ or ‘More Other M’. I personally don’t want more Prime. The three games are enough (I stopped in the third game because I got tired of the formula). However, if given the choice between More Prime and Crazy Sakamoto, I’d choose More Prime anytime.

You and I want the same exact thing. We want a spiritual successor to Classic Metroid (e.g. Super Metroid). The reason why we don’t have it is because Sakamoto is in control over it. And Sakamoto has gone crazy and wants Metroid to become a manga.

What did you think of Donkey Kong Country Returns and Tropical Freeze compared to the Donkey Kong Country series on the SNES? That is Retro’s doing. If Retro can pull off a new Donkey Kong Country, they can pull off a new side scrolling Metroid.

The reason why I don’t think we’d see it happen is because it would reveal how incompetent Sakamoto is as director. Nintendo tends to circle its wagons around its developers.

What I think we will get is Retro making a new Prime game for the Wii U (using the Gamepad to scan in new ways… ugh) to be released at the same time as a new Sakamoto side scrolling Metroid on the 3DS. Sakamoto will have the platform with the larger install base and Retro will be expected to sell millions on a non-existent install base.

The problem with Metroid isn’t the Prime series. That is a spin-off. Prime is to Metroid as Yoshi games are to Super Mario Brothers. The problem with Metroid is Sakamoto. I honestly don’t think he is a fan of Metroid gameplay and is only interested in making scripts and skits in the Metroid universe.

If you played and finished the original Metroid on the NES, then I will say I am impressed. It is a difficult game. Only hardcore gamers back in the day finished it without cheating or Nintendo Power maps.



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