Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Moving day

19 years.  I started this gaming diary 19 years ago, because I wanted to write something. It's fair to say there have been ups and downs in my writing frequency.  It's time for a big change now, though - after a few years of procrastination I'm moving this over to Wordpress.

Blogger has been fine, but there are some limitations that I'm not going to overlook any more.  As I've included more and more screenshots in my posts, the lack of a gallery function has annoyed, and the interaction between my Google account and Blogger files has annoyed me.  It's time for a move.

I won't be updating this blog any more.  See you on the other side.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Metroid Prime Remastered: completed!

The very first time I ever posted to this blog, back in 2005, was to talk about Metroid Prime.  Reading back, my writing skills were a little lacking, with the post being almost entirely descriptive.  It appears that that was my second time of playing the game; the first time I'd got to a "plant boss" which I couldn't defeat, whereas the second time I progressed past this for a couple of hours.  Assuming that the plant boss was Flaahgra, that means that I'd hardly touched the game either time; I'd have managed to explore most of the Chozo Ruins, maybe, but probably barely got to Magmoor Caverns. It's all speculation; I can't remember 19 years ago.

It's all academic now in any case.  About a year ago, Nintendo released an updated version of Metroid Prime for the Switch, and I've been playing through it over the last month.  The game structure itself is identical, but it's had a major graphical revamp and (more importantly) controls have been adjusted.  One thing I did recall about the Gamecube game was the difficulty I had in controlling Samus, not so much in terms of movement but in terms of looking around and finding enemies or points of interest.  The new game allows you to use classic controls, but having tried these against the standard dual stick controls, there's a night and day difference.  I was able to get Samus to do what I wanted, and also look around to see what to do next.

And it was certainly worth looking around.  The original game was known as being good looking on the Gamecube, but this remaster has had a huge amount of effort poured into it which makes the world look astounding.  There's so much detail to see and interact with; at times it seems a shame that the visor obscures your view a little so you lose some of the magnificence.

All the areas you explore are made of small rooms; there are no expansive vistas here.  This is fortunate, given that you need to retrace your steps many times over as you unlock new doors and abilities; somehow they have made the world seem small yet simultaneously very expansive.  This is helped by the variety in the levels - what my son would refer to as biomes - with snow and lava settings giving a diversity to the visuals.

What was interesting was seeing this very modern game with a slightly anachronistic structure.  Defined save points, signposted boss battles, secret pickups and upgrades - after the freedom afforded in Breath of the Wild and other open world games, this seemed quite old fashioned ... yet this was at times to its benefit, with genuine tension arising from exploring the world and trying to find the next save room.

Everything was cleverly designed.  Enemies are varied and require different techniques to defeat (or, as you progress through the game, avoid and run past).  Platforming and traversal, particularly in the morph ball, had a lot of thought put into it, especially the mazes on magnetic rails.  When fighting a boss, I knew there was a way of avoiding attacks - even if I couldn't actually do it consistently.

There are endless clever touches and one-off events.  I particularly liked the room which held a hologram of the solar system.

Looking at this was pretty tense, because each time I scanned something new I thought enemies were about to attack.  Tension was quite thick throughout the game, partially caused by the save system, but also because the enemies - particularly metroids - were generally quite unpredictable.  I'm not a huge fan of scary games, but this just landed on the right side for me.

The scanning mechanic was a bit tiresome.  Having to make sure you scan everything in order to get 100% completion, quickly became unrealistic after I forgot to scan one of the earlier bosses.  That's probably a good thing, as otherwise I imagine I would have become quite obsessed, and a final number of 99% is probably worse than the 91% I ended up with.  I also didn't find all the upgrades.  Going by the HUD at the end, I estimate that there was one energy pack I didn't find, and there must have been quite a few missile and power bomb expansions left unfound.  I am also assuming [and I don't want to know otherwise] that there weren't map stations (to reveal unexplored rooms) in every region, since I only found them in three.

It's taken me 20 years or 19 years or four weeks, depending on your starting point, but I have completed the game.  I didn't have much of an issue with any of the normal enemies, and faltered at only a couple of the bosses.  The omega pirate took a few attempts before I realised that he was recharging his health from time to time.  Meta Ridley just took far too long to kill.  The first time I got to the core of Metroid Prime I had a single energy tank remaining, and died before I worked out how to do any damage.  Otherwise, the difficulty was pitched exactly right to make it challenging but not disheartening.

Now to wait for the remaster of the second game.