Malik  (6/18/04)

This has been one hell of a crappy week for me, so I guess there is no better recourse than to start bitching.  On top of all the usual work related crap, and the general stupidity of watching people be asses to each other, as usual, I gave up on a second play through of Metroid:Prime after realizing how thoroughly crappy the game really is when compared to the original spirit of Metroid.

I'm Malik, and it's time.

In Space, No One Can See Your Goatee 

For a long time, there has been a staple of video games that was annoying and usually only took away from the game, for me at least. That would be the evil twin concept. For example, in Adventure of Link, one of the final bosses was Shadow Link, an evil twin of Link with all the same powers and abilities. Not so long ago, we had Metroid Fusion in which the SX-90 or whatever it's called (sorry, I didn't care since this name seems to pander to little kids who think code names and numbers are really cool), which was in essence a giant virus/parasite that had the form of Samus, with almost all of her powers. 

That last one seemed to have done well with Metroid fans, for some unexplainable reason, and so, in order to be completely unoriginal and stale in game design, it is being said that Metroid Prime 2 is going to have a Dark Samus. Once again, you will be facing an evil twin of the main character. 

This has always been a major downfall of a game in my eyes since you are, in the games which include the "evil twin" feature, not designed to fight yourself, but rather to take out something far more diverse. I mean Link is not situated to fight himself; he's designed to take down octorocks and moblins. When he faced his dark self, it was, at times, a quite unbalanced times? No, what I mean is IT WAS an unbalanced fight. Plus, if I wanted to face off against a human (or Hyrulian or elf or whatever) boss, I doubt I'd be playing Metroid or some other sci-fi/fantasy game of this nature. I want my enemies to be big freakin space monsters, not my evil twin and other humans... 

In Metroid Fusion, at least it was understood that SX-90 (I'll just call it that...right or wrong, I just don't give a shit about a "cool codename") was not an even match for Samus for the majority of the game, and thus it usually served as a concept that would make you race blindly through some unexplored area while trying to seek shelter. However, that was a special case, and it only really works as such a purpose in a platformer, not a first person adventure or FPS title. 

Now Metroid Prime 2 is planning on having the same sort of "feature", which is about the most unoriginal idea they could come up with for a game that should have nothing but original ideas and villains. That is bad enough on it's own, but considering the slower reaction times of the Metroid Prime engine (it is a good engine for it's purpose of puzzle based boss fights and quick exploration) versus the standard FPS engine or a standard platformer engine, and a fight again yourself will be nothing short of a controller breaking exercise in anger management. 

When you faced off against an evil twin in other games, you are usually far out manned, out maneuvered, and outgunned due to the fact that while you and your opponent start with equal abilities, things are not really equal. The computer controlled villain has the unfair advantage of not having to fiddle with the control, camera, weapon select, or whatever. If the computer wants a missile, it doesn't have to hit the "y" button, and if it didn't mean to turn into a ball, it probably wont. Meanwhile, I don't know of anyone who could say that in Metroid Prime they didn't turn into the ball and take some massive damage in the process while they really meant to hit the missile or jump buttons in a boss fight...I bet if Dark Samus wants to become a ball, it won't even take half the time it takes for light Samus to change shapes. 

In most other "evil twin" fights through out geek history, the controls and the camera are balanced enough to allow a player to overcome even an even fight like facing off against themselves. This is simply due to the ease of handling a first person shooter with FPS controls, or using a side view perspective on classic platformers, or a usable (but still poor) camera as found on many 3D platformers. However, Metroid Prime, with the time lag in turning into and back from a ball (which didn't take nearly that long in the classic style Metroid titles) while the enemies can still be on the offensive, and the awkward controls of trying to aim for a moving target (while not being able to move yourself) that is just barley out of your auto aim range, an "even" fight will be about the most unbalanced fight imaginable. 

On the other hand, if the makers of Prime 2 decided to tone down the Dark Samus in terms of abilities to make the fight more balanced, this would still make the game far worse off. Why? Let me say this; would you think a fight against a toned down evil twin was a fun experience when it's all said and done? I know I wouldn't. While we are dealing with a fantasy/sci-fi setting, I still want some realism. I don't want to have the feeling that, when it's all said and done, that I was not facing enemies that the mighty Samus should have been fighting, but rather some stupid toned down versions. 


True, they could make this work in the same unusual way that they made Metroid Prime's completely unconventional game play system work. However, since the first M:P had enough flaws, I doubt that they have any of that luck left over for M:P2. So, the best solution is to simply take this Dark Samus, along with the concept of limited bullets for a standard weapon (the light and dark beams have limited ammo...), out of the game before it's too late. Then, the developers could try to do something original and unexpected to blow our minds. While Metroid Tetris 2 is not my idea of a perfect game, I'm still excited since M:P did keep me riveted to the GCN for a few weeks...I just don't want my excitement to be wasted on an unoriginal experience (if I wanted unoriginal, given my love of RPGs, I'd be buying every piece of shit Square threw on the market). 

Actually, here's a better idea; why don't the developers invite their children, little siblings, neighbor kids, or whatever to come to work with them and think of some far better enemy ideas...I'm sure they'd be more original than the damned "evil twin"...unless it's Leonard Nemoy or Cartman in a cheesy goatee, I don't want to deal with any more damned "evil twins".

When Good Games Go Bad 

On the same sort of note as the whole Metroid Prime 2 problems, I figure it'd be a good time to get into one of my biggest issues with some of our old time classics. 

Many times a sequel is created for a game that was in it's prime back in the days of 2D side scrolling fun in which the owners of the game's license just have no clue of what their doing beyond the goal of making money. To make money, however, they have to look to do something that will not just draw in fans of the original, but also something that will draw in new fans (too many older gamers just give up their addiction as they age...usually because being a geek is not seen as a good thing for anyone out of their teens). The best way to do this is to use the most hip and trendy gaming ideas...usually the realm of the 3rd dimension is a quick answer that takes no effort. 

This has been seen in Metroid Prime, Sonic Adventure/Heroes, Shinobi, Castlevania, Ninja Gaiden...the list just goes on and on. However, beyond originating in classic games and 3D, there is something else that most of these games have in common (except Ninja Gaiden); they just suck compared to the originals. I think it's pretty safe to say it's not just the designers getting lazy, since the recent 2D Castlevanias were all quite good (from SotN to AoS). 

The real problem can be found in what, beyond going 3D without a real reason, that these games all did in their 3D incarnations; they added innovative features...except Sonic, who should have just stayed in 2D. Innovation is a good thing in and of itself, when there's a reason. I mean innovation gave SotN and the later Castlevania games the equipable items and level up systems (which were not innovative in themselves, but in a 2D side scroller there were pretty new) and it gave Metroid Prime the first time to show off a FPS view with a twist of auto-aim in a first person adventure title. 

I mean in Shinobi we were given a deathblow combo system, in which a player must try to kill a series of enemies really quickly to see a cool animation of everyone dying at once. Shinobi also allowed some of the first smoothly done 3D wall walking. Sadly, this did not make up for bland level designs and a complete lack of variety. 

Castlevania (the newest one) gave us an almost purely 3D take on the theme of the original. That would have been good, but we had not only grown to love the deep equipment selection and leveling up of SotN. Plus, we had the "feature" of constantly backtracking through previously explored rooms with no reason; SotN had the same thing, but with random item drops by enemies and the experience system, you could take advantage of it all. Also, SotN had a fresh feel to each room, so it was fun to constantly re-explore and even look for hidden rooms...none of that in Castlevania (the newest). 

Metroid Prime, like I said, gave us a new engine that in itself could show us that 3D could be great on a classic title. 3D is usually bogged down with bad cameras and sloppy controls, but M:P over came that obstacle with authority. Sadly, the designers decided instead to go with an innovative twist of you weapons being for the most part useless. I mean instead of a plasma cannon being bad ass (like it should be) and the wave being only mediocre at the end of the game, you are given enemies that can only be hurt by the weapon that corresponds to their armor's color. First off, this is sad and pathetic in itself since in previous Metroid games we learned that the standard beam weapon should always be crap at the end of the game since it is naturally weak. Secondly, why don't the enemies get their armor-maker or whoever to design some armor of a color different than their weakness? Why are they advertising their weak points. That takes away from the quality of the game experience. I won't even go into, again, how the bosses are merely puzzle elements, for the most part, that only require a very simply pattern to defeat. The bosses always had some element of strategy in previous Metroids, but not to the point of you not even harming a boss as much as you move it's solar generators or damage it's one glowing rock (why would an ice/rock monster have a glowing point? The explanation when you scan the boss is not satisfactory if you have any imagination, at all). 

The list of these innovations in conjunction with typically poor 3D found in remakes of the classics can go on all day. I've seen it far too many times. Plus, when a game goes 3D, if it was originally an action title, for some reason it now must be an adventure game (Mario 64/Sunshine compared to the NES and SNES Mario titles...just think about it). Why can't a remake be a true sequel in that not only the characters and world return from the original, but also the game play? 


The best solution is for the designers who are committed to making remakes to take a good look at Castlevania:SotN. There we had a game that was updated for the newer audiences and technology, but still felt true to the original in almost every way. We didn't need any innovation for the sake of innovation, or 3D engines. If a classic game is going to be redone for today's gamers, then let's keep it true to the original...if it's just going to be a cheap pile of crap with the classic's characters, then change the characters and make it into a new series to live or die by it's own merits. I would rather see a new series of 3D speedy animals come along and crash and burn than see my once beloved Sonic be dragged through the mud like Sega has been doing to him. More so, I'd rather see a Diablo clone with a new name, than a game almost devoid of story and interesting characters go by the name of Phantasy Star <anything>.

The Geek Stigma 

A recent article in tried to look into the issue of why there are so few women gamers as compared to the vast majority of gamers, who are men. This has been looked at a dozen times and in a dozen ways, but this is one of the first times that looked beyond just the social roles placed, typically, on women; such as how a girl "should" be raised to be proper and sophisticated, yet other words, girls are often raised to believe that video games are the enemy. This typical view of why women don't represent geeks all that often is very short sighted and full of crap. 

This article also didn't focus on who women want certain game styles. It has been overly analyzed that women "want" to play something "'about pink fluffy kitties,'" and thus the problem is that guys design games that are too "insensitive". The thing is, I have known a fair share of women geeks in my day, and I can tell you that not a one of them would play something cute and fluffy for anything beyond a drunken laugh. 

So, instead looked at the real issue at hand; who's making the games? While the issue of some people being raised to not be geeks is still an important issue in some cases, it is not a unisex issue (I know more guys who were raised to avoid video games than women...since "video games won't make you into a senior VP of marketing" or whatever), so it cannot be the root of the problem...however, I must admit that this is probably a problem with more minor causes than a true root of all the problems, but the issue of game designers, producers, programmers, etc is one that is too rarely looked at. I mean, while it is dumb to say that men cannot design games that women would want to play, it is safe to say that having only one voice (or one type of voice) go into the development of a game will often times lead to a more narrow and focused audience for the final product. In other words, if only men are voicing thoughts on how to design a game, it will attract fewer people (not just fewer women, but fewer men too...however with more men playing games than women, it means the final total audience will be mostly men, once again). 

Hence, it is not just good for women to be involved in the creative process, more people of all background should be considered a key factor in developing new titles. With additional experiences, the developers can then have different perspectives, which could help to shut down a crappy game before it hits the shelves. I mean while focusing on bringing women into the geek world is a great thing, we should not limit the goal to just that. The diversification of game development talent could help to bring about new games that could help to bring in more people of various ages, more women to console games, more men to puzzle games, etc. To just focus on bringing on more women geeks is only a short sighted goal that could easily be expanded to help recover the often stale game industry. 


The method of game development studios to actively try to hire women is a great first step. However, the ultimate goal should be to bring about more voices of different backgrounds to developing new content. With more voices to detail concerns about what could be a crappy game could help to push the usual crap from cluttering the marketplace. The solution should not just be to bring about more of one type of gamer, but to bring out the geek in everyone. To do this, crappy games are the largest hurdle. The best solution is to expand on development talent (by bringing in these different voices) to critique and eliminate stale and lifeless titles before life is forced into them. 

I mean maybe if we had some varying backgrounds at Square, we wouldn't have had to suffer FFX-2...or FFX...or FF:CC...or FFXI ("world pass", my ass). 


I know I focused a lot on Metroid related items, but that's because I find it best to bitch about what one knows about. Since I've started playing some Prime again, it felt like something near and dear to me heart. Anyway, next week I'll try to lay off the Metroid bashing for a little bit...looks like I need to find another game to piss me off...Until then, at least I have Thief to keep me happy.