Metroidvanias in Review
234 7.61. Metroid - Famicom and NES
Metroid is full of innovation, being the earliest prominent game to feature non-linear exploration in which abilities gained throughout make access to previously blocked-off areas possible. This formula would continue to define the series' gameplay in future, more refined installments.
Damage counts are very unforgiving. Samus's health can drop so much in a matter of seconds that replenishing it may take ten minutes to an hour, depending on how many health max-ups have been collected and which enemies' health are being defeated for their energy. Despite the unforgiving damage counting and likely need to use a strategy guide to advance past difficult parts of the adventure, the gameplay is fun and relatively effortless, Samus controlling well even by today's standards and bosses being enjoyable once one figures out the trick behind their defeat.
Metroid's graphics are a mixed bag. Samus's sprite looks great, never once letting on as to our hero(ine?)'s gender, and the wall textures get the job done duly. Later on in the game, the Metroid creatures are animated simply but to great effect. The backgrounds, on the other hand, are uninspired, being pitch black with nothing that alerts the player that he or she is playing in a 3D world, just from a 2D perspective. Metroid's themes, as with any other sidescroller, are assigned to different locales. Some of them are simply eerie background sound as one would imagine hearing all alone on a planet inhabited by alien lifeforms, while others are very moving pieces that range from heroic to urgent.
The drawback of Metroid being the first of its kind is that, being the basis from which future games in the style would work, as well as being developed in a time when technology wasn't advanced enough to include certain things, it lacks a few of the features that will be more familiar to gamers of later generations of Metroidvaniacs. Though the developers created a perfectly coherent Planet Zebes for Samus to traverse, this map is unavailable for viewing in-game. Once abilities have been gained, no explanation of what they do is given, leaving the player to experiment in order to find out what's changed. One's progress is saved via password, which is only given upon dying.
Because of its sheer impact on platforming, Metroid cannot possibly be considered average. However, due to its flaws - most of which come from being conceptually too advanced for a system like the NES - it cannot be considered as close to perfection as what the series would go on to be. But then, later installments - in which all the ideas and vision of the original are brought to life in full bloom - owe everything to this little first trek through an unwelcoming space.
-Combined elements of Mario and Zelda to popularize the sub-genre of open-world platforming
-Is impressively deep for a NES game
-Contains Alien-inspired sci-fi atmosphere for an immersive experience
-Stars a strong female protagonist who set the stage for later gaming heroines
-Classic, creepy sci-fi score
-Backgrounds are uninspired, if mysterious
-There's no map for reference and new abilities, once obtained, aren't explained - this can get confusing quickly
-Difficulty is higher than in any other series entry because of merciless death blows and slow revival
Samus steps in when intergalactic safety is threatened by the Metroids.
87 7.22. Metroid II: Return of Samus - Game Boy
With Metroid for the NES, the group who would become known as "Team Metroid" set in motion the skeleton for a new kind of platformer: one that is nonlinear and involves the collection of abilities to reach new areas. With Metroid II: Return of Samus, their job was to improve upon the formula. Though Team Metroid would later reach the series' pinnacle with Super Metroid, they were able to make this game a successful portable experience similar to the initial outing. Most critics preferred the NES's Metroid over RoS, and successive releases would polish the formula and make those analyzing the series look at this game in a comparative light. MII:RoS is agreed on by series fans to be the franchise's most underappreciated entry.
The story works to explain the first Metroid and bring back the heroine Samus Aran. The planet SR388 is feared to still contain Metroid life forms. After sending a research crew and some of the Galactic Federation's own - all of which which are assumed to have been attacked by the Metroids - Samus is called on once again to destroy any Metroids that remain on the planet.
Noticeable upon starting a game in Metroid II: Return of Samus is that the graphics have been taken up a notch - Samus's sprite sees a redesign that would stay with the series till the present date. Though the game was originally in black and white, inserting it into a Gameboy Color or GBA will access its color palettes which, though not altogether more varied than needed, do add to the experience. In addition to these initial noticeables, Samus comes already equipped with some of the weaponry from her last mission - the Morph Ball and missiles. Also adding to the player's convenience, upon receiving a new ability its name is given at the bottom of the screen so that the player needn't guess at what has just transpired. The game has also been made a less troublesome affair through the inclusion of save pillars, which allow for keeping one's progress secure without the hassle of writing down passwords; and energy and missile icons, which provide a way to return one's energy and missiles to their rightful, max amount instead of defeating enemies (previously this was the only way to replenish one's stats, robbing persons of their youth in a similar fashion to the Castlevania Metroidvanias' level-up systems). Not only does the map present new conveniences, but the mission is clearer - at the bottom right of the screen, next to the missile count, is a count of Metroids contained in the game that is lowered as Samus destroys Metroids she finds. The catch with all these helpfuls is that, as with the original Metroid, the levels contain repetitive environments, which beyond simply being uncreative, make it hard to tell if an area's been visited already or not. It's still difficult to make one's way around without a map, though in this case it would have simply made it glaringly apparent how nonsensical the SR388's level design is. That is, it isn't coherent and sometimes Samus will get lost because the map doesn't follow the laws of two-dimensional space, rooms overlapping and corridors going farther than they should. Rather than requiring the player to figure out his or her way to secret passages in order to progress in the game, players are simply rewarded for this with item upgrades while the only mind-boggling thing about the map is its lack of coherence. As such, the game is much easier than Metroid and more fun to play, unless intellectual challenge is desired.
Introduced in RoS are a couple of new abilities, including the Spider Ball, which allows Samus to roll along walls; the Space Jump, which allows her to jump as many times as she'd like in midair - this would become a mainstay in the series; and the Varia Suit, which allows Samus to take less damage from enemies - the concept of attaining new, stronger suits throughout an adventure would appear prominently in later games, often necessary for their protective attributes against harsh climates. The music is very much like the score for the previous series entry - it consists of a few catchy tunes and tracks ofambient background noise which are assigned to different areas throughout the game. The funky Game Boy music charm is present in all its glory, though in Team Metroid's attempt to keep the music from being too distracting they reuse themes in multiple areas.
Team Metroid have used the framework created with the NES original and given the series a fun game with a number of improvements. The experience is made more engaging and easy to understand with a Metroid count that indicates one's progress. The game is a good deal easier than the original, but for the right reasons. Not only has it given the original a successor, making Metroid a full-blown series, but it sets things up in its climax for a third installment - Super Metroid - which was released three years later.
-Destroying a count of Metroids makes for a fun goal
-More accessible than its predecessor, with save points, missile refill spots, and name displays of items collected
-Many of Samus's abilities and technical aspects of gameplay have been updated from Metroid
-The story continues, featuring the Metroid species in different forms and setting up its Super NES follow-up
-The black and white graphics attain a unique atmosphere
-Memorable and varying tracks feature in some of the areas
-The map is non-sensical at parts
-The close-up view of Samus leaves less room to see nearby enemies
The space bounty hunter comes face-to-face with the first of the game's 39 evolved Metroids.
280 8.73. Super Metroid - Super famicom and SNES
The first game brought so many new things to platforming and video gaming in general. Metroid II: Return of Samus created a solid portable experience in the same style. But for two and a half years a team of less than twenty developers, some newer to video game creation and some more experienced, worked to bring all the core aspects of the original along with the new elements introduced in Metroid II into a perfected masterpiece. Super Metroid is without a doubt the series' pinnacle, video gaming aficionados worldwide acknowledging it as one of the greatest video games created. It also became the first quintessential open world platformer, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night continuing the legacy three years later as the second one.
The saga continues right where the last game left off. Samus takes the baby Metroid (which she names "Baby") that she spared in the Return of Samus - the lone survivor of its species - to the Ceres Space Colony. There it is studied by scientists, and they quickly find out that its abilities can be used to mankind's betterment. Following a new bounty, Samus leaves the colony. While gone, however, a distress call is sent to her, prompting her to return. When she does she finds the place a shambles, and soon finds Ridley with Baby in his hands. Though she tries to save the Metroid, Ridley overpowers her and escapes, and soon she has to cut out as well due to the station's self-destruct sequence going off. She then follows Ridley to Zebes, where she aims to single-handedly put a stop to the Space Pirates's plans to breed new Metroids and conquer the universe, as only she can. Except for the opening scenes, this game's events are shown to the player with textless cutscenes. Though successfully executed, later games would use dialogue to advance the story.
Samus controls better than ever before. As with Super Castlevania IV, this game's protagonist can use her weapon in eight directions (up, down, left, right, up-left, up-right, down-left, down-right) by aiming with the D-Pad or using the L and R buttons. Samus starts off with regular beams and capable of wall jumping and dashing. As the game goes on, she will be able to shoot missiles, turn into a ball and lay bombs, and swing from and full-circle around certain blocks as Simon did three years prior. Her energy, missile, super missile, and power bomb supply will increase greatly. She will also attain stronger and more effective beams, suits that make her more resistant to cumbersome environments, and the ability to jump higher and - eventually - as much as desired.
The course of the game is to be expected from the series. The player wanders the map in search of uncovered ground, braving battles with the game's cast of enemies and finding a save point once he or she is convinced progress has been made or death is the only alternative. First the player's overall objective is to find an upgrade which will advance him or her in the game beyond what can be done presently. Once the upgrade is collected, one will remember various spots just made for it. After exploring one may hit a snag but will eventually find another upgrade, and so the game goes. Bosses will block the path at various points, occasionally preceding another power-up. The game's difficulty isn't off the wall, but figuring our what to do certainly provides welcome mental challenge and visiting earlier spots a test of patience. However, up until later in the game much of the previously explored map will be closed off to the player, meaning one should get as many upgrades and explore as much as possible before the current location of Samus is blocked off.
Saving and replenishing aren't done at the same place in Super Metroid. In fact, there are separate rooms for saving, re-energizing, reloading missiles, and receiving maps of the current region (though on rare occasions two of these will share a room). It may be confusing to post-Symphony of the Night Castlevania fanatics used to saving and reviving in one fell swoop, but it's only challenging and actually rather fitting for this less complicated game's needs.
As can be gathered from the preceding, this game lends players a hand - which just so happens to be holding a map. Each terrain's respective map is fixed on a grid, with red boxes filling up the individual squares on the grid as Samus explores new areas. At map rooms Samus receives maps of an unexplored areas, which fill up the grid as blue boxes (the Castlevania series' map color of choice). White lines separate rooms, hallways and corridors. Nintendo R&D1 also provided the player with white dots on each location of the map that contains an item of importance, be it an energy or missile upgrade, an elevator, or the like. Previously visited Save/energy replenish/missile refill/map stations have their more specific icons to indicate their locale.
Samus's sprite is fully realized, colored and animated so perfectly that she feels like an extension of the player. The background and foreground graphics are rich and busy - a far cry from that of the two previous entries in the series - creating a completely immersive experience in which said extension can explore. From the opening track, which consists of far away cavern noises and one simple but on the mark note at a time in the foreground, to the energetic percussion-heavy Brinstar theme, this game gets a reaction out of the player, exciting him or her to march on or intimidating him or her to be hesitant at making such a move. The atmosphere creates a mind-numbing feeling of suspense, the earliest instance of which involves ten minutes' worth of enemy-less gameplay at the beginning of the game, only for there to be enemies walking on the walls and shooting projectiles at Samus upon returning to previously peaceful areas.
Super Metroid, as may be discovered upon wandering astray (whether knowingly or not), also offers the player many instances at which an area not intended to be visited yet may be accessed. Though battling bosses that Samus isn't fully prepared for just yet may prove challenging, it has led to a massive amount of speedruns for the game on video game communities in conjunction with video upload websites. To the dismay of fans of the game, these opportunities to skip ahead have been "corrected" in its more recent ports - passing by large portions of the map wasn't originally planned to be an aspect of Super Metroid after all. Still, it's something that has added to the game's replay value and allowed for healthy/heated competition between the players, and thus for the full experience the SNES cartridge is probably the best way to enjoy this title.
Super Metroid has only been equaled with later Metroidvanias, but never bested. As far as the two dimensional games go, the Metroid series would soon fall into a pattern similar to a post-SotN Castlevania franchise, where each new entry tries to emulate the series' pinnacle and fails to introduce anything all too new. Needless to say, this game still stands as the perfect representation of classic Metroid-style gameplay which cannot be improved upon but which sits next to Metroid Prime as one of two (hopefully more one day) individually impressive entries in the series.
-Epitomized the Metroid formula
-Atmosphere does its job of putting the player on edge
-Epic boss fights
-Graphics have seen a big boost from the two earlier games
-Sequence breaking makes trying for best times that much more fun
-Pantomime storytelling is executed perfectly
-Extra things to do, beyond powering up and making progress, are nonexistent
Samus pushes Crocomire with missiles.
Super Metroid pushes platforming with innovation.
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228 7.84. Metroid Fusion - Game Boy Advance
Released in both America and Japan on the same date, Metroid Prime and Metriod Fusion saw the return of bounty hunter Samus Aran to the world of video gaming, eight years after its previous title, super Metroid. Prime was created by an America team, Retro Studios, took place inbetween the series' two earliest games chronologically, and took a first-person shooter approach. Fusion, released for the Game Boy Advance, was to be the more traditional title, bringing back the 2D, exploration-based platforming and continuing the story some time after the events of Super Metroid. It became a somewhat controversial game for the places it failed in its emulation of said game's gameplay, but is generally well-liked, and deservedly so.
A research team is exploring planet SR388, and Samus is also present to protect them from hostile creatures. During the search Samus kills a Hornoad, and upon its destruction an organism leaves its host and goes inside Samus. She notices nothing different, and they continue on. On the flight back to the lab she goes unconscious, her ship flying into an asteroid belt and her escape pod automatically ejecting. The scientists soon realize that Samus has been infected by a parasite, which they name "X". Large portions of Samus's Power Suit are surgically removed, though X is too integrated with her system to be taken out. Things don't look good for the bounty hunter, until a serum created from a "Baby" (the Metroid that Samus had spared) cell is created, Metroids apparently being a predator of the X - their absense allowing the X to grow so large in population. Once taken, Samus is healed with an immunity to lower X parasites - in fact, she can draw strength from them. Also, she is weak to cold attacks and environments, as per her new Metroid makeup. After an explosion goes off at the Biologic Space Laboratories research station, the heroine arrives to find the scientists missing and the specimens that were being used for experiments loose and infected with the X. She is guided by the gunship's computer, which reminds her of her old Commanding Officer, Adam, in recovering her abilities and fighting a more than worthy foe.
Rather than having Samus learn new abilities from Chozo statues as she did in the previous game, here she regains - in the form of data - latent abilities lost with her Power Suit. Returning are the Morph Ball, missiles and Power Bombs, the Space Jump and Screw Attack. Not returning are the Grapple Beam and X-Ray Scope.
Samus will do almost everything she did in the preceding title, but in an effort to improve upon Super Metroid, the controls have been made much simpler. To operate missiles - which eventually become Super Missiles rather than a separate weapon - all that need be done is hold down the 'R' button and fire. To lay Power Bombs - which are collected later on as always - doing the same in Morph Ball mode gets the job done. There are no Grapple Beam (which would eventually be made less useful upon collecting the Space Jump anyway) and the X-Ray Scope has been noticeably omitted (leaving it entirely up to the player to collect hidden items, with challenging puzzles throughout the game - another definite high point for the game, and an area where it beats Super Metroid). All in all, Fusion's weapons are much easier to make use of - there will be no trying hurriedly to switch between five items in the heat of an important boss fight and losing health as a result.
Despite there being little new in how Samus interacts with the environment, there are a bunch of small differences as well: Samus will catch on to ledges upon just failing to land on a platform; she will also climb ladders in this game; energy replenish rooms and weapon recharge rooms have been merged into the simply-titled "Recharge Room"s; colored doors are marked as such on the map; also, items in rooms that the player has already visited but which haven't been collected yet appear as a circle on the map, and once collected they will be marked as a dot.
Metoid Fusion actually does take more after Super Metroid in a number of ways than any game in the series had previously, although not in spirit. There is frequent instruction from the base computer which guides the player along. Also, as Samus reaches new areas, previously-visited ones will be locked from her - placing more restriction on Samus's ability to roam than was present in Super Metroid, despite that game doing this more moderately. Helping the player along with dialogue might have worked for Fusion's story, but limiting the exploration of previous areas on various important instances (if one isn't careful, he or she will be stuck on the final bosses without opportunity to go back, get any missing energy tanks, and prepare) seems contrary to what Metroid's about. In earlier games, the locking off was there - but not like this. It almost makes the game linear. To add to this, there are six sectors in addition to the Main Deck, simply titled "Sector 1," "Sector 2," and so on, and the player tackles one sector after another, acting very much as levels rather than interconnected locales.
Metroid Fusion smarts of Super Metroid in all the obvious places. There isn't a whole lot new here, through for those looking for something along the lines of Super Metroid on the go - fun exploration, a compelling story, and memorable boss fights - this game has it all.
The graphics are more similar to the previous series title than any game has been before. This may not be such a bad thing, as the detail in the space station and in boss sprites is certainly appreciated. Still, it could have been improved upon - but then again, the Game Boy Advance isn't really a far superior system to the Super Nintendo, and the visuals reflect this. The music is a mix of ambient station tracks, quintessentially sci-fi gems (the Main Deck), tension-creating music, and electronic, energetic songs - all of which draw the player in where the graphics might have failed.
As with every game previously, there will be some sort of reward for making especially good time (such as seeing Samus in progressively suggestive attire and poses), but beyond that and backtracking in order to get energy tanks and the like, there's not too much to do after beating Metroid Fusion. Considering that the game is probably as high quality as the developers desired, a full experience that has the player invest some time and makes it enjoyable all the while, an extra or two wouldn't be needed to take one's mind off the main campaign itself. It would simply be nice to see something else, since Super did all the main things that this game did.
Metroid Fusion is not without its flaws, but despite these, it's definitely worth a play so long as one doesn't mind the linearity in spite of the interconnected maps. And, truth be told, it is far from being the most controversial Metroid game out there.
-The story is integrated well with the gameplay, and interesting to boot
-The controls are simplified and refined from those featured in Super Metroid
-The space station setting provides a nice change of pace from the planet-based settings used before
-There's little in the way of innovation when compared to the three previous Metroids
-Splitting the map up into sectors and disallowing backtracking makes for a somewhat linear affair
Samus avoids the mysterious SA-X, her parasitic counterpart.
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151 8.15. Metroid: Zero Mission - Game Boy Advance
While working on concepts for the next classic-style Metriod game, it was suggested among the developers of the previous Game Boy Advance game (Fusion) that the next one could be a port/remake of Super Metroid. Yoshio Sakamoto - producer of Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion and soon-to-be producer of the GBA's next big series entry - instead decided on a port/remake of the original game for the NES in order to give those who were introduced to the series via Metroid Fusion an idea of what the series has been about from the beginning. The execution is wonderful, and the ratings - despite being hindered by the game's short length - reflected the quality of the game. One key flaw not often cited - the lack of innovation - holds this game back or, rather - being such a fundamental aspect of the game - works as a solid yet unimaginative foundation for it.
Being a remake of the original Metroid, the story is an elaboration on that game's plot, taking place in the Cosmic Calendar's 20X5th year. The Space Pirates attack a research base containing Metroid (believed to be have been the exterminators of all life on planet SR388) samples, and Samus is sent out on her Zero Mission to destroy their base on planet Zebes before they can breed enough Metroids to threaten the Galactic Federation. Memories of her upbringing by the Chozo return to her as she harnesses their legendary powers to destroy the Metroid species the bird-people had themselves created. The story is told in pantomime and cutscenes a la Super Metroid, aiding in the team's cause of creating a more traditional series experience than that present in Fusion,
Gameplay for Zero Mission is almost identical to that of Fusion, with some minor differences. Samus doesn't climb and hang from ladders, but she does ride a machine attached to the ceiling that takes her from one end of a room to another. Super Missiles don't replace regular missiles, though they're still fired the same way, with the select button setting which kind of missile will be discharged. The number of special rooms has been reduced, Recharge and Navigation rooms being replaced by their respective Chozo statues. Since Samus has yet to learn her famous powers at the game's start, she'll have to visit Chozo statues for those as well. The different kinds of doors are also smaller in presence since Samus won't need to break through Zebes's security. Blue doors open upon Samus shooting them with her beam, red ones when she blasts them with her missiles, green doors her Super Missiles, and yellow ones her power bombs. The map isn't broken up into sectors and is much more non-linear, with different regions of the planet connecting at several different places. Bosses are easier than Fusion's, and take after their battle style in Super Metroid.
At the end of the game Samus will have to go for a stretch of the map with only her Zero Suit and pistol. This is a new, interesting bit of the game, but it isn't as great an aspect of it that it makes for too different an experience from the series' other offerings.
As with many other aspects of the game, Zero Mission's graphics are derivative - in this case, the backgrounds, foregrounds and enemies look identical to their Metroid Fusion counterparts. The music consists of remixes of previous tunes and original classics. Though the remixes are by definition reimaginings of old material, they're not overused and are brought to life well, blending with the rest of the title's themes. Though its visuals are perhaps the weakest thing about the game, its music is quite possibly the best.
This remake of the original Metroid is the best emulation of Super Metroid's formula since that series-defining entry. It's also a celebration of the whole series, with the level features from the original, bosses and the basic formula from Super Metroid, and the small improvements from Metroid Fusion. Ultimately, it's the least original out of all the classic-style series title to date. It's a great game, but plays it too safe. Retro Studios took the series to somewhere new with their Prime series, and it had become clear to R&D1 that a new development team is capable of bringing its own charm to the Metroid franchise. Sadly, it would eventually be just as clear that such a risk can yield two results.
-Perfect portable version of the Super Metroid formula
-First time Samus in her vulnerable Zero Suit is playable
-The score, complete with remixes of familiar tunes and Gregorian chant, is fantastic
-Samus's childhood with the Chozo is touched upon
-Longtime fans will be pleased with this game's inclusion of many areas, scenes, and boss fights from earlier entries
-Does little new - for the first time in 2D Metroid the engine and graphics from the previous game are reused
As Zero Suit Samus, the feeling of desperate isolation is in its purest form since the original Metroid.
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300 8.66. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night - PlayStation
After Rondo of Blood Konami set out to produce a sequel, although gameplay-wise it would not be very similar to its predecessor. Midway through production management changed, making programmer Koji Igarashi the project's director. He had a vision in mind that would deviate from the usual straight platforming formula in favor of themes the series had explored with Vampire Killer and Simon's Quest, but were more prominently realized in the fine example of explorative, atmospheric gameplay known as Super Metroid. A very evolutionary title for the CV series, Symphony of the Night not only incorporated the non-linear map system and integrated storyline of Samus Aran's great adventure - it added some new stuff as well.
MP max-ups and an RPG system take the place of missile power-ups. In fact, this is the first Castlevania game to feature a full-blown RPG system. Enemy variability from Metroid to Castlevania is like that of Mario to Sonic the Hedgehog - enemies are much more diverse in the latter, and they often complement the environment around them. The game starts the trend that would continue with future CV storylines - the main character struggles against a wayward ally and once he or she is defeated they're revealed to be merely a pawn in a greater, darker plot to resurrect the D-monster. This one is the first CV to feature a main character who isn't a Belmont, too. As for the map design - it gives the CV series a footing in this new non-linear territory, though the alternate castle could've been more than a reversed version of the first one. There are, however, alternate backgrounds and foregrounds and a different assortment of enemies. Though much more complicated than characters' abilities in past CVs, the spell system is much simpler than what the series would go on to do. The music and graphics carry the perfect tone, varying depending on what effect is needed. Michiru Yamane, who had previously scored Castlevania: Bloodlines, composed this game's soundtrack, and would go on to do, in part or in full, the soundtrack for the bulk of the Metroidvanias that would follow. Many of the sprites are borrowed from the previous entry in the Dracula X saga, Rondo of Blood, and from Super Castlevania IV, though many lively sprites are added as well.
There's lots of neat little extras to enjoy in this game - among which are a cloak which one can modify to one's preferred color scheme. The alternate character mode is also introduced in this game, though much less evolved than the main game's mode. It unplugs things, giving one a much more classical platforming experience. Miscellaneous hidden extras are still being discovered in this game to this day.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a true gem, and one of the greatest Metroidvania games - if not games - of all time.
-Reinvented the Castlevania series in the style of Metroid
-Gorgeous, gothic-looking graphics
-Atmospheric and multi-genre score by Michiru Yamane
-Tragic portrayal of the father-son relationship between Dracula and Alucard and their dealing with the death of Dracula's beloved and Alucard's mother
-Rich RPG system and loads of accompanying extras
-Richter Belmont is a playable character
-The game is too easy
-The upside-down castle is a somewhat cheap means of extending the gameplay
125 7.47. Castlevania: Circle of the Moon - Game Boy Advance
Circle of the Moon reproduces the Symphony of the Night formula for handheld in a watered-down though much more challenging installment. Remember the non-linear castle? It's there. The second castle? It isn't. Remember the story where a wayward ally is used for a much larger plot to resurrect Dracula? It's there. The alternative mode where you can play the game as said character upon beating the game? It isn't. To be fair, there are more alternate modes in this game than any of the other CVs, though mostly they simply alter one's stats in some significant way. Transforming into and playing as a skeleton and teddy bear would be awesome, if it weren't for the one hit K.O. rule that applies to those characters.
CotM complicates the magic system from SotN, though it's one of the stronger magic systems used in CV games. It's a mix-and-match sort of deal where one pairs up two Dual Setup System (DSS) cards collected from certain enemies - one Action card and one Attribute card - and sit back and enjoy the results: special powers, abilities, summons, etc. The challenge in this game really hearkens back to classic CV games, but that isn't to say one should expect having their brain racked facing Death for the umpteenth time. It's not unbeatably hard - it's more difficult than easy but is still well-balanced for those used to platform games.
The colors used in CotM are generally quite dark, something that was a problem when it was released as a launch title for the Gameboy Advance. However, in this day and age of backlit screens it's not as much of a problem and in fact reflects well the dark and gritty atmosphere of the CV universe. The music is well-interpreted, being almost all re-arrangements of earlier series themes.
There's no alternate castle, no alternate characters, no endless assortment of collectible items, and no color-adjustable cloak. What's there is a solid and challenging adaptation of the CV Metroidvania formula.
-Great challenge, though entirely doable
-The DSS Cards make for one of the more engaging magic systems in the Castlevania series
-Intense boss battles
-Graphics create intimidating enemies and grim environments
-The remixes which make up the soundtrack are awesome
-Graphics are too dark for non-backlit systems
-HP/MP/Heart-ups are unnaturally out-of-the-way and half of the ability upgrades only apply to very specific obstacles
-The music is almost completely recycled
-Hugh Baldwin is not a playable character
Nathan enters a warp portal.
93 7.38. Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance - Game Boy Advance
After KCEK redeemed their reputation after the disastrous N64 Castlevanias with Circle of the Moon, Team Iga took back the floor. The result is a much prettier installment, the graphics as gorgeous as a handheld follow-up to SotN could hope to be. There's an appreciated though incredibly confusing inverted castle to ensure one a long adventure as well as lots of extra exploration. The game introduces a Hard Mode - much needed as the game is quite easy; it also brings back the alternate character mode missing from its predecessor. There's a fine attention to detail here - certain moments if the game might actually, seriuosly frighten the player, or at the very least shock him or her. The story's pretty standard. It doesn't pack as much of a punch as that of SotN, but it's about as engaging as CotM's - it has all the same elements from said games, too.
And while all this is well and good, what's really significant about this game is its introduction of the Boss Rush Mode - an alternate coliseum-esque mode where one fights all the game's bosses, one after another. All the Metroidvanias for handheld Nintendo CVs and Team Iga's 3D games have incorporated Boss Rush Mode into them. The trend of including alternate playing modes would continue in later games. Being able to use of the famous Konami Code (made famous with its inclusion in Contra) to unlock Simon Belmont in BRM is a nice touch as well, for nostalgia and variety.
Finally, upon beating the game the player is given the Sound Test Mode, where one can listen to the game's many songs and sound effects. Many in the CV fandom have criticized HoD's music and speculate that because the Gameboy Advance cart can only hold so much memory, the game's music was sacrificed in favor having beautiful graphics. The music, however, is quite eerie, if not sounding over-synthed for lack of enough audio power in the GBA for full orchestration. Sound Test Mode is a great feature, and one sorely missed since the days when the CV series was made up entirely of straight platformers.
Harmony of Dissonance was received as another solid platformer, but many wonder: could it have been more? Is the series destined to make this kind of game for years to come, without shaking the formula up for each new title? Certainly Team Iga is trying - BRM is a testament to that. They would go on to shake up the formula in future releases, to varying success. But the fact remains: Metroidvania Castlevanias work.
-Lively, colorful graphics
-Juste Belmont can equip different, effective whip add-ons
-There's much more depth and variety than in Circle of the Moon
-The parallel castles are a thoughtful way of stretching the map
-Boss Rush Mode, a challenge pitting the player against all the game's bossed in succession, is introduced
-Maxim Kischine is playable, and Simon is playable in Boss Rush Mode
-The game is very easy
-The parallel castles can get confusing
-Most of the bosses are a joke
-Juste's sprite is stiff when still and its after-image effect is too pronounced
Juste is chased through the entrance to Castlevania by Talos.
114 8.29. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow - Game Boy Advance
Aria of Sorrow was the second time a non-Belmont would star in a Castlevania game. A massive success, this one introduced the wildly popular Tactical Souls System. More than merely a way to combat enemies more effectively, it became a new means of advancing in the game. Using one's souls to reach spots on the map previously unavailable to the player is very fitting for the Metroidvania genre. The story for this one is quite involved and interesting - the best CV story since SotN. This game is the first to mention an event of great importance in the CV series: Dracula's final defeat at the hands of Julius Belmont in 1999. Future games would fill in the gaps inbetween when the Belmonts disappeared to after the 1999 battle. And speaking of future games, this one is the series' first to take place in modern day time, and in 2035 at that. AoS is also the first CV game to feature a two-player mode, although it's only for trading souls with friends. Still, CV co-op and Vs. modes aren't too far off. AoS brings back the beloved Boss Rush Mode and Sound Test Mode, proving that these features are here to stay. AoS was one of the series' more successful games; of course, many in the fanbase feel it could've made more integrated use of the Tactical Souls System, warranting the need for ability-to-map strategy a la the Metroid series.
AoS is another solid game, but the riff between veteran Castlevania gamers who preferred the more simplistic CVs of of old and younger gamers raised on Metroidvanias is already very defined at this point. It seems the series has taken a route few video game franchises seem able to avoid - a split fanbase and the developers' impossible struggle pleasing both sides.
-Story introduces the significant event of Dracula's final defeat in 1999 which would serve as the structure around which future games would be based plot-wise
-The story itself is quite complex and intriguing
-Tactical Souls System makes for the most engaging magic system in the Castlevania series
-Julius Belmont is a playable character
-The player is left wanting to play a game about the 1999 battle, which sadly hasn't been made
-The Tactical Souls System isn't utilized to its full potential
-2-player mode consists of trading souls, not platforming
Soma looks out at the moon from the stairway to Dracula's Castle Keep.
276 7.410. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow - Nintendo DS
Continuing where Aria of Sorrow left off, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow pits Soma Cruz against all-new enemies in an all-new adventure. Finally Team Iga has a platform worthy of their potential: the Nintendo DS. While they incorporate new features from the system in small amounts, they by no means enter a new genre. The graphical capabilities are up to the level they were with SotN on the Playstation, and thus many of said game's sprites are ported to this one. Even Soma's and other human characters' sprites seem to be derived greatly from the SotN human sprites. The sound, too, is able to truly represent composer Michiru Yamane's talent in full. As for the Dual Screen, Team Iga saw no need to shake up the formula too much - they give the game separate screens for the game and the map/status screen so everyone's happy. And when it comes to the Touch Screen, Iga is clearly experimenting lightly. It's used very sparsely for things like destroying ice blocks that are in one's way and sealing a boss's defeat, and it's clear they don't plan on using the feature in future installments beyond the menus and title screen.
There are many little effects - cars bouncing when jumped on, destrucable environments, Soma's breath being visible in outside areas, enemies from the background - and they serve the game well in showing how much effort was put into the little details, even if the concept as a whole is very similar to AoS. One great point of criticism for this game is the art direction. It changes abruptly from Ayami Kojima's detailed work, which complemented the blending of European and Japanese styles that the series is known for, to an anime style for the sake of appealing to younger Nintendo DS gamers and allowing for interesting cutscenes when starting up the game. As far as the Tactical Souls System goes, it's as good as ever. Clearly Iga has a good thing going with lots of potential, and one wouldn't be too off the mark in predicting that future Metroidvanias will use different forms of the system. Again, though, there's not as much room for strategy and much potential is left untapped.
The truly great thing giving this game an edge and opening doors for future titles is the extras. There's an alternate character mode, Julius Mode, in which the twist is that Soma's succumbed to the darkness within and Julius and his team of Alucard and Yoko Belnades must set out to stop him in a wonderful homage to Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. This game is the first game to feature a Vs. Mode, albeit a race-to-reach-a-goal deal instead of a full-blown combat mode. This game also features the inclusion of Enemy Set Mode, where one is given the ability to set up enemies to create a custom-CV experience. Unfortunately, the "Set" aspect also applies to the level in that one is given a map which is already built and cannot be arranged itself, the only creative outlet being the placement of enemies. Even the places inside rooms where one is allowed to place enemies is limited. However, as any one who's read my article "A Call to Action" knows, I'd like to see these extras explored further in future games. The idea of switching between characters gives one alternate ways of defeating the game - if one character isn't cutting it against a boss, try another. Vs. Mode and an Enemy Set Mode could very well and hopefully will lead to their own Castlevania games. The former could lead to a fighting game featuring the multitude of series characters and their respective abilities. The latter could lead to a game where the player gets to create whole castles to play in. Imagine if online sharing of players' castles with other players would be included - the replay value would be tremendous!
The Metroidvania format has been mastered by Team Iga by now, not that they did any wrong whatsoever with the first one. The clash between members of the fanbase is by this point known to anyone involved in online communities. One thing's for sure - that Team Iga have a thing going, and while they're trying to shake up the formula every chance they get, they're far from abandoning it.
-Creates a new engine with controls and graphics refined from previous Castlevania handhelds
-The cut scene at the beginning is really cool
-Julius Mode introduces an alternate universe where Soma succumbs and becomes Dracula
-Julius Belmont, Yoko Belnades, and Alucard are playable
-Feels like a simply revamped Aria of Sorrow
-The anime style is lacking when compared to the art in preceding Castlevania games
Soma uses the power of defeated foes on Abaddon.
127 7.611. Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin - Nintendo DS
Since Team Iga mastered the straightforward Metroidvania style for the fifth series game to work in this way - Dawn of Sorrow - director Koji Igarashi drew from previous deviations to the formula and incorporated them into the gameplay of his next handheld offering. Specifically, he took the team dynamic which was an extra mode in Dawn of Sorrow and changed it up a little for Portrait of Ruin's own partner system.
PoR takes up where Castlevania: Bloodlines ended a decade before, continuing Team Iga's trend of filling in the empty spaces before and after the Battle of 1999. The story is engaging and interesting - the Sorrow series and Portrait of Ruin show how Iga's storytelling can go beyond the standard "Wayward Ally" plot - but the dialogue is the silliest of the series, seeming out of place for such a serious concept as going into a castle with monsters of all sorts to kill the king of all vampires. There isn't much change graphics- and physics-wise from DoS to this game, even though the GBA titles had a whole new engine each time. Almost all the sprites in this game are taken from past titles, including the bosses. The Skills System featured is only a way to give Johnathan and Charlotte sub-weapons and magical abilities, respectively, not being altogether different from the Tacticle Souls System. Iga did this on purpose - he liked it so much that he wanted to keep doing systems in the vein of Tactical Souls for future games. Where this game really differs from other Metroidvania CV games and CV games in general, however, is in the partner system. One can switch from one partner to another, call a partner to fight beside the player (controlled by a CPU), do combos and solve puzzles with one another, etc. It's a nice reprieve from the lone hero theme usually present in CV games and shows that Team Iga is experimenting with ideas for the purpose of using them in future games.
The partner system is also present in the alternate player modes, where one can play as Richter Belmont and Maria Renard or the Sisters. Also available as an option is the Old Axe Armor, for the old-fashion self-made man. The Boss Rush Mode is back, but it's broken up into three shorter challenges, among the bosses being lesser enemies. The Vs. Mode where players can race one another is back, and can even be played over Wi-Fi. Also playable via Wi-Fi is a Shop Mode where the player may enter other players' shops as one of Dracula's minions and buy things cheaper and in a greater variety than in the main game. One would have expected all the extras to be back, but to make room for the Wi-Fi modes the Enemy Set Mode seems to have been sacrificed, indicating that Iga didn't like this game mode as much or that fans didn't react well to it.
Portrait of Ruin takes a large leap in another direction, but it's all within the same relative direction the series has been stuck on. That is, the partner system doesn't change the fact that the game is not altogether very different from previous games in the series. However,it makes gameplay less boring since switching between characters does well to change the pace when needed, and despite the bad dialogue the story is quite interesting, explaining the Morris bloodline's being separate from the Belmonts and introducing the plot of the Belmont line's going missing in the decades preceding the final defeat against Dracula.
-Partners system shakes up gameplay a bunch
-Weapons and sub-weapons are in abundance
-Worlds inside paintings allow for out-of-castle, differently themed levels from what has generally been seen thus far in the series
-Story is interesting and fills in some gaps after the disappearance of the Belmonts and before the Battle of 1999
-Richter Belmont and Maria Renard, Stella and Loretta, and Old Axe Armor are all playable
-Cheesy dialogue and poor characterization make the story less awesome
-Recycles sprites from SotN and DoS too much
-Reuses the engine from Dawn of Sorrow
Jonathan whips Elgiza good.
90 8.112. Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia - Nintendo DS
Though not as gameplay-changing as what was done with Portrait of Ruin, in Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia the formula is shaken up a little with an overworld map. It's not too different from the separation of levels in Portrait of Ruin, except that one doesn't have to make one's way through Dracula's castle to enter other levels but can choose any one of them with a couple clicks on the directional pad and then another one to confirm one's selection.
Again present is a hub where allies collect and help out in the quest, as well as adding certain challenges that will yield a reward. There's a lot to do on the side - attaining the best ending depends on whether all villagers are rescued (as opposed to wearing a specific combination of items like in previous CVs). The sprites presented include a great amount of new ones, almost every boss being brand new. This is refreshing as the philosophy behind recent CV games has been very green, using mostly recycled sprites in place of new creations. The anime art direction present in the previous two DS CVs is absent here, and even though the artwork isn't done by Kojima herself, it's definitely in the same vein.
The story in this one goes by the Wayward Ally formula, but it contains plenty of differences to previuos stories in the series and is executed as well as any CV game can claim to have been. Since Koji Igarashi rejected Sonia Belmont's story from the official Castlevania timeline, it's only fair that he'd create a new heroine for the series. The gameplay isn't too different from past titles - the same engine is used, and this time there's no partner system - except that the game is the hardest CV Metroidvania ever, tied with Circle of the Moon. It doesn't make clever use of the unique abilities Shanoa brings to the table outside of the Training Hall. Still, one won't feel as if the game was handed to them. The extras don't do anything altogether new. It's mostly the same stuff as in previous games, which is quite more than what most games offer - returning are the Boss Rush Mode, the Shop Mode, Sound Mode, and Albus Mode, where the game can be played again with the male gun-toting member of the Order of Ecclesia. The Hard Mode returns as well, and this time beating it will allow for a new mode - Level 255 Hard Mode, where the landmark 255 is achievable. It's much harder to level up as one progresses into the later hundreds and doesn't benefit the player much other than making enemies significantly easier to beat. It's likely to be appreciated by the portion of gamers who don't mind leveling up by defeating an enemy over and over again.
Though it falls short in offering much innovation to the formula and in giving any new extras that aren't already featured in other games, Order of Ecclesia is a step in the right direction as far as story, difficulty, and art direction go. If one is disillusioned with previous titles and waiting on the next CV entry that'll break ground while at the same time honoring the classical tradition of the series, best advice is to skip this one. But like with almost every Castlevania game, it definitely offers a fun time for any fan of platformers, and is a solid Metroidvania.
-Female protagonist (Shanoa)
-Difficulty is up to Castlevania par, but not beyond the point of minor frustration
-Story is among the best in CV series
-Mostly uses newly-created sprites
-Overworld map offers a nice change in pacing
-Art is high-quality again
-Albus is a playable character
-The way areas are separated by an overworld map takes away much of the non-linear fun from the formula
-The Glyph System is too much like the Tactical Souls System
Shanoa in Wygol Village.
74 813. Kirby Super Star - Super famicom and SNES
Of the six games included in the video game collection Kirby Super Star for the SNES, The Great Cave Offensive is the most fun game to play along with Revenge of Meta Knight. Whereas the latter introduced a new playable character with his own dynamic to the series, the sub-game in question here receives its high marks for its collection feature.
The sixty items amassed throughout the adventure don't have any real purpose, though they're plenty fun to look at in the pause screen. They also make reference to other Nintendo games (ex: the Screw Ball, an early name for one of Samus Aran's famous abilities. This nod to other Nintendo licenses shows HAL Laboratory's respect for them, which is important to recognize since the classic Super Smash Bros. games would be created by this developer.) The game starts out practically handing the treasure chests to Kirby, but the difficulty varies as the game progresses; there are still ones right out in the open, or almost so, and as the map shoots out in different directions the items take a little more thought to attain. Only a few are brainwracking.
The map is broken up into different sections, separated by long mine shafts, and ultimately goes in a circle. It's a relatively linear design, most of the free exploration coming onto the scene in the Old Tower Area. There are splashes of genius level design scattered throughout, and the cave locales take advantage of Kirby's copy abilities to challenge the player in surpassing the puzzles in order to reach that hard to find treasure chest. Without using a guide, Kirby's inventory should be missing about five to ten items out of the sixty.
The Great Cave Offensive is fun, but most Metroidvania fans should buy it also for the platforming and trademark Kirby gameplay, or not at all. It's not a groundbreaking entry in the MV legacy, and is short since it's packed in a cart that also fits in eight other games. The mentioned games include something for the different kinds of sicescrolling souls, but they also suffer from The Great Cave Offensive's central flaw - they're too easy, except for the Arena, which is inconsistenly the opposite. Recently, the game has been re-released on the Nintendo DS with updated graphics - there not being too much room to improve on in that department, anyway - and extra games, most of them that teeth-grating brand of difficult, the balance between being too hard and not hard enough substituted for really easy here and unforgivingly challenging there.
On its own, however, The Great Cave Offensive is quite good. Still, its greatest feat is giving Kirby a new genre to tackle and opening the doors for a future Kirby Metroidvania - Kirby & the Amazing Mirror - a game by which the developers saw inside the elements included in this game and drew out their true potential.
"The Great Cave Offensive"
-Plenty of items referencing other Nintendo games to collect
-Puzzles that must be beaten in order to attain the items are challenging and fun
-Has a lack of unity with linear and non-linear parts of the map in separate sections
Kirby runs, jumps, floats, climbs, swims and swallows his way to having the perfect collection.
635 8.314. Super Smash Bros. Brawl - Nintendo Wii
In 1998, without the permission of Nintendo, HAL Laboratory - the creators of the Kirby series and most notable Kirby & the Amazing Mirror - developed a demo for a fighting game for the N64 crossing over Nintendo's various famous characters. They did this without Nintendo's or the miscellaneous characters' developers' permission, knowing they probably wouldn't okay the project without seeing it working in action. They then received approval to continue development. 1999's Super Smash Bros. became a massive success critically and commercially, spawning a sequel two years later - 2001's Super Smash Bros. Melee. - for Nintendo's next primary console, the GameCube. When Super Smash Bros. Brawl was announced after a seven-year wait and its cast of characters being revealed one by one, everyone who was a hardcore gamer was keeing up with it every step of the way. Once released, it included thirty-five playable characters from various Nintendo franchises, including two third party characters (Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake), as well as an platformer/beat 'em up Adventure Mode called The Supspace Emissary.
There's a rather in-depth story behind Brawl's Adventure Mode. The master of the realm of Subspace, Tabuu, has taken control of Master Hand, master of the World of Trophies, in order to gain control over the other dimension of existence. Taking advantage of Smasher Mr. Game & Watch's strange properties by drawing Shadow Bugs out of his physical being, Tabuu is able to infiltrate the World of Trophies. By threatening the Isle of Ancients, its inhabiting R.O.B. robots become subordinate to Tabuu, who then makes them construct Subspace Bombs and Dark Cannons which are able to turn Smashers into trophies and transport them and locales from the World of Trophies into Subspace. Then the invasion begins. After much resistance from the world's most prominent Smashers, Tabuu is able to capture them and various locations of their world into Subspace and form a knightmarish labyrinth known as The Great Maze. Certain abnormalities in the manner in which some of the fighters were taken by Subspace causes them to be freed from the condition, and they make their way to Subspace where they free all of their fellow Smashers. In order to truly defeat Tabuu, they'll have to enter The Great Maze and brave the familiar obstacles and adversaries that await them there.
Selectable upon beginning or continuing an adventure in The Great Maze are four of the game's large character roster. There are no extra lives to keep the game going after the four characters are defeated, though the player's party is refreshed upon saving at the game's many save and warp points. The difficulty of the game is also selectable, the various levels being: Easy, Normal, Hard, Very Hard, and Intense. That way the challenge is custom-fitted to any gamer (or masochist!). As with the previous 30 linear levels of the Subspace Emissary, the map for The Great Maze serves mostly as a means of pitting the player against one set of minor and boss enemies after another. And just like Kirby & the Amazing Mirror, doors facing the player are the means of going from one scene to the next. The Great Maze's many bosses are made up of dark clones of The Subspace Emissary's many characters and bosses, and the ultimate villain of the game, Tabuu.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl's The Great Maze is more about setting the player up with fight after fight than it is about platforming or exploration. This could also be a positive - as was done with Kirby & the Amazing Mirror (also HAL Laboratory), the genre was fitted to the series in question. With this one the series' defining qualities aren't as complementary to the exploration-based platforming, and the end result is all over the place - in more ways than one.
-A team of four characters from Brawl's large roster can be selected
-The graphics are like a 3D Mario game
-Sonic makes his big Smash Bros. debut
-Thirty stages of brawl-platforming must be endured to reach
-As with the preceding levels, it's mostly just an excuse to have the player battle with one or more enemies after another
Marth stands before the path to Tabuu.
4 6.515. Dr. Franken - Game Boy
Halloween and Metroidvanias have been proven to work together, as made especially apparent with the Castlevania series' many MV ventures. Vampire Killer and Castlevania II were two of the earliest examples of this, but it wasn't until 1992 that anyone would create a sidescroller featuring one great big interconnected gothic castle filled with ghouls and creepers like Symphony of the Night would do most famously. Whereas SotN sympathetically portrayed Alucard the son of Dracula, Dr. Franken takes a sympathetic turn on a Frankenstein monster who's trying to put his girlfriend back together in a twist on CV 2: Simon's Quest.
Franky is a Frankenstein monster whose beloved, Bitsy, has been taken apart part by part by Franky's enemies and scattered all across a castle full of hostile creatures. Now Franky has resolved to brave the haunted castle and bring his love back to life.
Dr. Franken is a simple game, in theory. The player controls Franky, who can do a high jump straight upward or a directional jump at the loss of some height and shoot projectiles at enemies. In order to return his health meter back to its rightful state, he can visit onetime-usage power outlets which rejuvenate him little by little. He may explore the castle's seven floors looking for Bitsy's body parts and other items that will aid him in this purpose, all of which have been broken up into separate maps. Once he's finished gathering all the body parts up, the game will end. There are no bosses, meaning the game should be that much more seamless and incomplex. Dr. Franken tries to make itself a convenient experience, but only to partial success. While maps do help make the levels easier to traverse - with question marks placed for important rooms - the game's many rooms are recycled to the point of getting lost being all-too likely. Making it unavoidable, however, is a pre-Paper Mario failed attempt to make 3D sense out of two dimensions. Going through openings to the left or right will take the player to rooms in whichever direction accordingly, but entering rooms above and below the current one on the map is achieve through entering and exiting through doors facing the player, while actually going upwards or downwards from the current room to the next one brings the player to the next floor. Perhaps Motivetime Ltd. could have broken the game up into layers instead of floors, and made entering and exiting doors facing the player the means of going from one map to another, and exiting a room upwards or downwards the means of getting to an above or below room on the map, but then architecture - unlike sidescrollers - isn't about layers! "Have I been here before?" - now that is the question. There's a password save function which allows the player to pick up his or her progress up to the very room Franky last visited, but since there's no way of healing Franky all at once, the player will find him or herself hitting the same power outlet and restarting from the last save point (ie - the room with the power outlet) and upping Franky's health once more, since power outlets recharge each time the game is restarted. It's still more convenient than the original Metroid's leaving the player to destroy enemies over and over for health because of unforgiving damage tolls and the fact that health isn't saved when a game is picked up via password, but Dr. Franken's password save function could have used some tweaking before it was put out on the market. It was one of the more realized Metroidvania handheld examples of the era, but would go on to be ousted by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III's own simple and convenient password system one year later.
The game's graphics are on the level of other Game Boy games - simple, but effective. Franky's sprite looks just like the Boris Karloff image of Frankenstein also used in the Castlevania series (and everywhere else), while the levels in their basic design are not hard to make out as book shelves, electric chairs, stairs, fireplaces etc. Some enemies and most projectiles are difficult to identify - for example, Franky's own attack - though it's nothing as bad as, say, Castlevania Legends. The music consists of two tracks - a title theme and one sorrowful piece that is played throughout the entire game. Neither are too dreadful - at least not in any way that wasn't intended - but a few more songs to go along with the gameplay, perhaps in rotation or by level, would have made for a more pleasing listening experience.
Dr. Franken is not an altogether bad game, and certainly not the worst even out of Metroidvanias, but its simple platforming elements are merely the surface beneath which lies frustrating item hunting in a weird and wonky map. It would have been more fun if clearer directions had been given. In 2002 Metroid Fusion would be criticized for spoon-feeding the player the game's goals and objectives. Argument, meet counter-argument.
-Franken searching the castle for his girlfriend's body parts so he can put her back together is a great concept
-Graphics portray the castle and its guests aptly
-Dr. Franken controls well enough
-The map is a rarity for Metroidvanias from this period
-The story is suspiciously similar to that of Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
-The way each floor connects and the way rooms connect vertically within them is mind-boggling
-Directives aren't given, making finding items in the proper order very haphazard
Franky searches the castle far, wide, and by other spatially impossible means to find his love's body parts.
6 7.816. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Re... - Game Boy
Four years before the release of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Konami put out this quality title. Though it differs in that its difficulty level is quite high, many innovations are present that would be attributed to later Metroidvania games. Chief among these are a viewable map with marked areas (later used in Super Metroid) and the ability to switch between playable characters (which would also be featured in Portrait of Ruin).
The story introduces Cyber Shredder, a revamped Shredder with robotic parts, and his clan of Cyber Foot Ninjas into the TMNT universe. The Cyber Shredder would appear as his own separate character from the Shredder in the 2003 Ninja Turtles TV series. In this instance, Cyber Shredder has kidnapped Master Splinter, April O'Neil and all of the turtles except for Michelangelo. Whereas most Metroidvanias allow the player to advance through the collection of new abilities, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue accomplishes this through the rescue of Mikey's turtle brothers. In this way, the defining gameplay mechanic complements the story well, as Return of Samus's Metroid count did two years earlier.
The game begins with Michelangelo entering Cyber Shredder's hideout with the intent of rescuing his comrades. Michelangelo (or "Mikey") can spin his nunchakus around over his head like a helicopter when jumping, allowing him to hover slowly downward so he can travel longer distances. The first turtle rescued, Leonardo (or "Leo"), can spin himself and his katana around, creating a drill out of his legs and swords which destroys breakable rock below him (this is depicted on the box art). Rescued second is Raphael (Or "Raph"), who can withdraw his head and limbs into his shell and slide around in it, allowing passage through tight spaces. Donatello, who is rescued third, can climb up and down walls. After the turtle brothers, Splinter and April are next up to be saved. Each of the turtles are selectable from the pause or map screen. While the concept of multiple playable characters was by no means new to TMNT video games, it was a first for Metroidvanias and proves how adapting the MV formula to include elements of a particular series can help make it a unique take on the sub-genre.
Radical Rescue is much harder than most MVs, even from the start. Enemy placement is inconvenient (e.g., on a platform with a short walking space at the top of a ladder) and bosses are brutal. At the end of the game, all the bosses must be defeated again one after another, with larger health meters, before being allowed to fight Cyber Shredder. This is an early precursor to the Castlevania series' Boss Rush Mode and has been named as such by today's gamers. The Boss Rush Mode does its job of building up to the final battle and prolonging the game, but it's a rather cheap way for the developers to go about doing so as no new challenge is presented and the challenge that is there is unfair, even by this game's standards. On the other hand, the map itself isn't too hard to navigate, as it's given in full to the player from the game's beginning with markers on important places. The connections between rooms aren't identified though, as each room on the map's a solid square or rectangle with no openings where one room leads to another. This is one of the earliest Metroidvanias to feature a viewable map, predating Super Metroid by a whole year.
At the continue or map screens, a password is provided based on which item has just been collected or which boss has been defeated most recently, similarly to Metroid though much simpler as there are only a handful of landmarks in one's progression in this game. For extra continues upon continuing a game, inputting a "1" or "2" as the last character to any password will give said amount of continues to the player.
The art direction seems to take after the Mirage comics series with the turtles' respective designs. The music resembles the cartoon series, funky and familiar beats included in each of the game's areas to echo the turtles' energetic and lively personality when faced with evil. The sound effect kicking off boss battles would later be used in Castlevania: Bloodlines. Michiru Yamane scored Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan, also for the Game Boy, and both the TMNT series and Castlevania are owned by Konami after all, so it's not hard to imagine some borrowing between composers from this game.
Radical Rescue lives up to the Ninja Turtles video game series' reputation for being made up of games that don't skimp on the difficulty, as despite its length this game rivals even Castlevania: Circle of the Moon in this department. Due to an overwhelming final battle most players will likely never finish the game, if they make it to the Boss Rush in the first place. But the interesting things that are done here to merge the MV formula with that of Ninja Turtles video games are still of great value and should warrant any fan of either to try it out and make it at least up to the Boss Rush battle. As for the possibility of more games in this style - the jump from beat 'em up platforming in TMNT I & II to non-linear MV sidescrolling is striking though by no means a turning point for the series, as afterwards TMNT games would continue to be comprised of beat 'em ups and fighters.
-All four turtle brothers are playable
-Playing as Mikey and then the other turtles makes for nice Metroidvania progression
-A map which marks important places has been included
-Difficulty is unfair, especially at the very end
-The map has all rooms but doesn't distinguish between walls and doors
Mikey's on his way to rescue his family in only the most radical way.
3 417. Spider-Man - Game Boy Color
Spider-Man - his first appearance hitting comic book stands in 1962's Amazing Fantasy #15 - broke the boundaries of superhero comics as much as could be done without deconstructing its conventions as Alan Moore's Watchmen achieved. His abilities were similar to the rope-swinging of heroes like Batman and the wall-crawling of The Fly, but he incorporated them into his repertoire uniquely and had one of the best costumes a superhero's ever donned. The main thing that he did for comics was introduce the first superhero whose true identity was that of a nerdy teenager not much different from the followers of said media themselves. Flash forward a few years, and that same crowd adds to its DNA an obsession with video gaming. Put two and two together and one has the potential for what would make for a perfectly audience-specific product. Spider-Man's video game career has been much longer and more successful than just about any other superhero, as he's brought to the table a unique gameplay setup with a freedom of movement and agility rivaled by few other video game protagonists. That being said, every hero has his flaws, and Spider-Man is full of them.
Things begin when J. Jonah Jameson barks at Peter Parker, the photographer for Jameson's newspaper The Daily Bugle, to take some pictures and not come back until he does. As Spider-Man explores the city and its outer and under regions, he happens upon several supervillains as per the web of life. The game's plot doesn't do justice to the story-telling from the hero's decades worth of comic books, as it's not original or integrated with the plot well. The protagonist starts off looking for pictures and gets involved with villains, but there's little depth and the instances in which Venom pops up are abrupt. Even considering Parker's Spidey Sense doesn't work on him, from a narrative perspective this is just a poor attempt at transitioning from one chapter to another.
Spider-Man attacks by pressing 'B' (punching while grounded, kicking while in mid-air). He jumps with 'A', and pressing the jump button twice causes him to shoot out a web to swing on. By sliding one's thumb quickly over the 'B' and then the 'A' button, he'll shoot out a bit of webbing to disarm enemies with. Punching is very short-range, and kicking must be well-timed to be successful. It's likely that the player will be hit while trying to punch an enemy close-up or while failing to kick at just the right time in a jump. However, shooting out webbing to bind the enemy does its job of leaving him helpless, and once defeated the enemy will drop a heart as compensation for lost health. Also, by taking out enough thugs one after another Spidey can level up to, at the highest, level 6. When he does this, his attacks and defense occasionally increase, and some level milestones will award the web head additional abilities - the uppercut combo which has him perform a series of punches followed by a sock up the chin, and a web kick which has him web-sling feet first and wipe out enemies by-so-doing. What attack and defense increases not awarded to the player by leveling up are found throughout the game's map. Health-ups are also scattered all-around; needless to say, the course of the game goes by much more smoothly when the Spider-Man has improved stats (which can be monitored by pressing select). Hearts and temporary invulnerability power-ups are also scattered about.
By this time in his video game history, Spider-Man has progressed from his Atari 2600 debut and has his own unique, personalized control scheme. He's faster than most platforming heroes, but his controls are slow: there's a brief wait as he gears himself for jumping, and the same goes for web-swinging. This actually makes more sense when being realistic: people, even one so gifted/cursed as Peter Parker, need to prepare for a jump by crouching slightly, and webbing takes a second or two to touch a distant surface before it can be swung on - but this isn't necessary for a sidescroller. An inability to change directions in a jump in another example of physics-sound but cumbersome mechanics. Vicarious Visions would improve this for future games in the web head's career. One thing that isn't realistic is the excess of scattered around gangsters and birds, who due to the flat nature of the levels couldn't possibly be placed cleverly. Fighting enemies is a chore, since the player has to either be within a few pixels of them so his punch can reach or jump from a certain distance so he can kick the enemy midway through his jump. To add to the frustration, the thugs and boss enemies (which present the same problems) Spidey will have to content with can attack him while he tries to do any of these things, and fitting to the ol' Peter Parker luck, their attack negates his every time. As annoying as these characters are to deal with, the worst ones are the birds, which hone in on poor Spectacular, draining his health and flying from a different angle next so that Spidey will have to be incredibly lucy to get his fist in the same place as the bird at the same time. There's no running away either, as the avian city-slicker will follow the player until it's killed. At least the fleamen in Castlevania make a prompt escape. The mercy of having knockback result when enemies are hit, which indicates that the attack was successful and offers the player an advantage, is not given.
The different locales Spider-Man will find his way through are nonlinear primarily in the way they connect at points and initially also because there are multiple stories to each building on an otherwise straight-forward path. Eventually the Sewers and Dr. Octopus's lab will be explored. These get incredibly confusing and are a pain to navigate through due to the lack of a map and the frequency of dead-ends and paths that lead to already-visited places.
This particular Game Boy Color game's graphics are nothing special. Spidey and the super-villains are animated nicely enough, but minor enemies don't have much charm; it's probably easier to create a good-looking sprite with an iconic costume as its basis. The levels themselves are walls, floors, and backgrounds of one color each that at least don't take away from the already unimaginative levels. One area which has more detail is the sewers, but it's simply too dark to appreciate or heck, even see. Considering how confusing the place is, this only makes things worse. During the cutscenes the dialogue often appears as dark text which is similarly hard to make out. Seeing as this game was released before backlighting was added to a system with which to play it on, and seeing as it's still hard to know what one is looking at even when using some such system, this is one of the main faults of the game. The themes to the game complement its visuals enough, but beyond the status screen's remix of the famous theme to the Sixties cartoon, none of these songs stand out in any significant way. The presentation as a whole is decent - not good, but not its worst aspect, as that prize would have to be award to Contestant #5, the gameplay.
Spider-Man benefits from the titular character's unique control scheme, but if that's the only reason one has for playing it, there are plenty of other games in the series (including a couple great titles also by Vicarious Visions) that are much better for this purpose. Here the controls are clunky and the level designs boring, the visuals fail on all accounts except the super characters' sprites, and the music doesn't present anything worth note but at least does justice to the original Spider-Man theme. Vicarious Visions would have the license to the unashamed slinger for years ahead, and would produce much better games like Mysterio's Menace and Enter Electro. Another company would return to the non-linearity that Vicarious Visions had tried their hand at, and would be much more successful in the form of Spider-Man: Web of Shadows. The thought behind an open-world exploration-based Spidey game wasn't ill-conceived, but it would need to be used more responsibly in the future.
-Spider-Man's control scheme is one-of-a-kind
-Enemy AI makes for some frustrating encounters, especially with birds and bats.
-Some parts of the game are hard to see because of how dark they are
-Story seems thrown together
"People to go, places to see, nothing to show, no love for me,"
39 7.918. Mega Man Zero - Game Boy Advance
When the 1993 mega hit Mega Man X was in its earliest stages of development, it wasn't planned to star a blue bomber similar to the protagonist of the original series. The character Zero, significantly different in appearance due to his red-and-white suit and long blonde ponytail, was set to play the starring role. However, Keiji Inafune - the character's creator and primary series artist along with Hayato Kaji - feared that fans wouldn't react well to having such a different robot as the main character and intead had Kaji design a more mature-looking blue Mega Man character. Zero was placed in the game as a supporting character, and would be playable later in the series. When the original and X series were starting to lose steam in the early 2000s, Inti Creates offered him his own series where the franchise's formula could be deviated from; also of note, they later successfully returned to said formula with the downloadable Mega Man 9.
The Reploid War resulted from an imperfect recreation of Mega Man X's electronic makeup which brought about a Reploid-corrupting virus. Reploids infected became Mavericks, and were hunted by the trio of Mega Man X, Zero, and Axl, the Maverick Hunters. Eventually the leader of the malfunctioning robots, Sigma, was destroyed and the Hunters were able to eliminate the virus and go into hibernation until needed again. Mega Man Zero picks up a century later, in a world where X, the leader of the paradise-to-be Neo Arcadia, has become obsessed with destroying Mavericks and has them arrested whenever fancy strikes. Ciel, who has a connection to the X in question, finds Zero in an underground lab, where she revives him. He doesn't remember much - his name, his past, or his purpose - but he's the world's greatest hope of overcoming the government and restoring peace. The whole thing as a continuation of the Mega Man saga makes sense - the Maverick Hunters become a menace once their purpose is fulfilled. And the things that don't make sense - X's role in the conflict, for example - are explained by the end. And in the wake of chaos and disaster, Zero's and Ciel's romance is subtly hinted toward.
Zero is a joy to maneuver through levels - his movement is responsive; he can dash, an afterimage trailing behind him; he can slide on walls and jump off of them, climbing by doing this repeatedly. Zero can operate two weapons, his main weapon and his side weapon. Because of his memory loss he can only use his Buster Shot to begin with, but he quickly relearns the Z-Saber, and then gradually relearns the Triple Rod and Shield Boomerang. These weapons can be leveled up by using them to defeat enemies, and with each level gained new features are added - the ability to attack multiple times in succession or charge the weapon for a more powerful strike, namely. Thunder, Flame, and Ice Elemental Chips affect Zero's attacks against the right or wrong enemies as well. As if these abilities utilized with a little finesse weren't enough (and given the challenges presented in the missions, only a little finesse won't be), Zero collects throughout the game programs called "Cyber Elves". These help Zero in a variety of ways, be they temporary or lasting: Nurse Elves in particular lengthen or renew Zero's health bar, their exact effect varying by specific Elf; Animal Elves, then, alter Zero's abilities or provide support in battle; Hacker Elves change aspects of levels and missions, finally. Some Cyber Elves can be accessed only at certain points in the game, and some must be fed crystals dropped by enemies to evolve into their usable form. Raising and preserving Cyber Elves without using them may yield its rewards, but they're thankfully available and with limited continues one can't be blamed for using them as a crutch on a first run-through.
The resistance is the hub of the game. There, Zero can talk and receive help from those Reploids rescued from missions, save data and enter the missions themselves via the Data Room where Ciel resides, and change areas and feed or download Cyber Elves via the Trance Room. Mega Man Zero blends the level-based flow of straight platformers with the non-linear, connected aspect of Metroid. The way this is done is clever - upon completing a mission, the area in which it takes place becomes a seamless part of the accessible map. As missions are knocked out, some parts of areas become blocked off while others are opened up. The Underground Laboratory and Neo Arcadia are separate from the main map, however. Even though the missions are quite short, they require the player to be on his or her toes. In general, if a mission is particularly challenging, the boss following it is of the easier sort; if the mission seems like a breeze, the master enemy ends up making up for it - and in this way the difficulty balances itself out. The Cyber Elves also come in handy, especially the permanent ones which increase Zero's health bar, one which improves his defense, and one which places platforms where all spikes would normally be. Even with spikes out of the way and statistics altered, the game presents its challenges - bottomless pits, like spike pits, cause one-hit K.O.s, while bosses can have as much as four bars to their health meters. For the hardcore players, or those looking to unlock the Cyber Elf Jackson, these are optional temptations; certainly precious aid for a first run-through of the game.
Just like his physics, Zero's sprite moves beautifully, and the other characters are solidly animated as well. There isn't much of an attempt at texture in the backgrounds, but they're lively enough. The whole thing is colorful, especially for a game with such a dark story. The music is a big motivational factor - it follows in the "Rock"man tradition faithfully; though there aren't many tunes in the game and the ones present are often listened to in long stretches, they're fun and don't get old quickly.
There are several modes in the game - Easy Mode, which upon completion starts the player at the beginning of a game with all weapons and their effects in place; Hard Mode, another mode attainable upon completion which makes missions and bosses that much more difficult; Jackson Mode in which Zero starts with the invincibility-rendering Cyber Elf Jackson, attained by defeating the game with all Cyber Elves fully fed but unused (a hard mode in itself); and Ultimate Mode, unlocked by using every Cyber Elf in Jackson Mode and beating the game, in which a number of effects make Zero over-powerful.
The beginning of Zero's starring series is impressive. The controls make even the more frustrating parts enjoyable, and the Cyber Elf system provide a nice crutch for first-timers and the less hardcore players. As is the tradition with the series, numerous sequels would be released using the same engine and graphics while making a couple of basic gameplay modifications. Not until Mega Man ZX four years later would the experience be changed considerably, bringing the non-linear exploration back to boot.
-Controls are smooth as silk
-Cyber Elf system is a nice crutch for new players
-The story is interesting and fits well into the Mega Man mythos
-Levels and bosses are challenging and make the player use Zero's abilities in full
-The backgrounds are very simple with little texturing
Zero battles X's turrets at close range.
1 819. Samurai Jack: The Amulet Of Time - Game Boy Advance
With the success of the portable non-linear Metroids and Castlevanias, Cartoon Network allowed a video game version of their beloved animated action series, Samurai Jack, to be created. The resulting game is naturally compared to another indie Metroidvania based on an animated children's story released for the GBA, Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas: The Pumpkin King. Except that the games are really quite different, Samurai Jack being more linear and having a more complicated battle system, while The Pumpkin King is broken up into several maps and is much simpler.
Though the story is fairly dark, the graphics look very much like the Cartoon Network series, the simplistic textures and bright colors appealing well to children who are fans of the show. The controls for Jack are pretty slow and limited, which takes some getting used to for gamers accustomed to platformers starring protagonists as quick as Sonic the Hedgehog or as nimble as Spider-Man. Boss fights are pretty easy - making it through long stretches of the map one's first run through the game is what will cause the most difficulty. Fighting enemies in general often turns into slash fests, not warranting much strategy.
The map has a very linear design to it - despite the Metroidvania format - going right to left instead of the standard left-to-right in most sidescrollers. The enemies throughout the game drop items that help one out in increasing one's stats significantly if taken to the shrine to a special device that takes them and gives back similar, upgraded items. Once the player reaches the end of the game, he or she will be taken back to the beginning of it with all of Jack's stats preserved.
Like The Pumpkin King, Samurai Jack: The Amulet of Time is a unique take on the Metroidvania genre. Despite this fact, it is often considered a lesser contribution as MVs tend to be very well-made. It's an unfortunate consequence for a game that by overall standards is quite fun.
-Nice, involved RPG system
-Looks just like the cartoon
-Great samurai background music
-Overall, shuns the reputation generally assigned to Cartoon Network games
-The RPG system doesn't seem necessary - there's little challenge once the slightest upgrading is done to Jack's stats
-The map is rather linear for a game attempting to riff on Metroid
-Jack's controls are very heavy
-Boss battles are slash-fests with little strategy required
Jack happens upon a family living in a cabin in the woods.
54 8.420. Kirby & The Amazing Mirror - Game Boy Advance
An obvious successor to "The Great Cave Offensive" game included in the compilation Kirby Super Star, Kirby & the Amazing Mirror features similar gameplay elements - collecting of items and non-linear level design - but elevates these while adding more.
Everything from a presentation level is standard Kirby-fare; the graphics, music, and controls are all as good as the series has ever achieved whenever it's gone on a traditional outing. Which has been about half the time, as the Kirby series is one of the few franchises in gaming to drastically reinvent itself consistently, to varying success. Kirby's delved into genres of all sorts, making the concept of a MV featuring the pink puff less far-fetched.
The respective levels' designs are confusing as first, and at second, and at twenty-ninth, the complexity of the various interconnecting maps being how most of the game's time goes by. The paths seem linear from an undiscerning point of view, but open up in all directions once the player sees the game the way the developers intended: as an integrated and fully-realized means of taking advantage of Kirby's various abilities. Most of the time the abilities most effective in combat are less useful in getting through the game's many puzzles. In addition to the nonlinear gameplay, the collection that Kirby is put in charge of amassing is the other obvious point at which K&AM has taken a defining aspect of "The Great Cave Offensive" and stepped it up a notch. The collection in this game adds an extra purpose to the exploration, and this time each one is functional as well. "The Great Cave Offensive" has some nifty stuff to be collected, but items such as maps and songs/sound effects are more useful while things like spray paint cans that change Kirby's color are just plain fun. And, of course, Kirby collects mirror shards as the main objective, getting all being required to beat the game.
An all-new element to K&AM is the multiplayer aspect, wherein up to three friends (or CPUs considered almost friends) can play the main game to greater effect than one player alone. This comes in handy for battling bosses, and it can also make easier management of important copy abilities for access to the various routes of the game. When one ability is needed, one friend has it handy; two rooms later and some other ability is required, another friend is ready to be of help. This relieves the player of having to go through the same series of rooms with a different copy ability each time for the sole purpose of passing another specific obstacle that calls for it.
Kirby & the Amazing Mirror is one of the most refreshing Metroidvania games since Castlevania gave its take on the genre, a wholly unique creation from the genre's other gems, SotN and Super Metroid. It takes advantage of Kirby's copy abilities for its progression and offers a complex map that requires the player to always use his or her head. Other MVs are guilty of simplistic level design that gives the player a few good hours to explore while it makes up for the lack of its duration with combat systems that require repetitive defeat of enemies over and over to increase one's stats. Part of the rut MVs have been in has been a result of sticking to the conventions of the genre and settling with what's been established as yielding success. K&AM takes the formula, applies it to the series' own unique brand of gameplay, and makes the necessary tweaks so that the MV genre works for Kirby, not the other way around.
-Levels challenge player to use Kirby's copy abilities and a fair share of foresight to explore
-A unique and refreshing take on the non-linear sidescroller, and one not likely to be done again any time soon
-Extra Kirbys can be called for help, either as CPUs or extra players
-Useful items like spray paint cans which allow for palette swapping can be collected throughout the game
-Backgrounds are detailed and gorgeous, and the graphics overall represent the cutesy goodness expected from the series
-3 mini-games which can be played with up to three friends is a cute extra
-You'd have to really pry to find any big ones, actually
Kirby and friends battle Mega Titan.
17 8.621. Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas:... - Game Boy Advance
The other indie Metroidvania for the Gameboy Advance also based on an animated feature starring a character named Jack, The Pumpkin King, is about as different to The Amulet of Time as the Nightmare Before Christmas film is to the Samurai Jack show. Whereas Samurai Jack offered an Action RPG with one fairly linear map, The Pumpkin King gives one a simplistic platformer where only weapon upgrades improve Jack's status and which consists of several non-linear maps. Both have similar elements present in all Metroidvanias, but are foils in many ways.
TPK's tone does well to pay homage to the Castlevania series which helped shape the MV genre - despite having a completely different holiday in its title, it's all about Halloween (as the film was). The graphics are reminiscent of Super Castlevania IV, giving a begrimed, squalid feel to the levels rather than the more eloquent look used in later CV games. The music gives off the effect desired - the hooks and melodies come together to create archetypical Halloween music, except Jack's Pumpkin King theme song which gets one in the invincibility mode with its upbeat and march-like nature. Jack Skellington himself controls much more effortlessly than the Jack in The Amulet of Time, moving quickly, turning in midair easily, attacking upwards as well as left-to-right, and being able to grab on to ledges instead of falling. To complement this fact Jack's sprite moves with a lot more grace than mentioned counterpart, as proven by his victory dance. It helps that Skellington has a wiry appearance with free limbs whereas the samurai has a manlier figure all kept under a robe which doesn't allow for much flexibility. The story is simple, serving as a prequel to the 1993 film wherein Jack first meets Oogie Boogie and Sally. It doesn't have mature themes of death and fate like with the Castlevania series, and though it's mostly serious it has mild humor splashed here and there. It's altogether a much more child-friendly game than much of what else is on the market, and the best part is only bugs were hurt in the process.
The Pumpkin King is another fun Halloween-themed MV, giving a unique alternative for Castlevania Metroidvania fans. As a game based on a movie - the events preceding it, at least - TPK fares pretty well. It's no downright classic, though it's certainly on par with the average MV game, which is above average as games tend to go.
-Solid, challenging platforming gameplay
-The levels are Halloween heaven with their grimy and gothic atmosphere
-Great boss fights, and Jack's victory dance is kickin'
-The Zero bits offer a reprieve from the sidescrolling parts
-Story explains the lives of Halloween Towners before the events of the stop motion movie
-3 cute mini-games to be enjoyed alone or with up to three friends
-Pick-up items don't really do anything, and the power-ups are more combat- and specific obstacle-based than actually adding anything significant to Jack's moveset
Jack throws pumpkin bombs at a headless horseman.
4 1022. Spider-Man: Web of Shadows - Nintendo DS
Released not long after the release of Spider-Man's third live-action motion picture which portrayed the titular character as torn between two suits and two worlds, Spider-Man: Web of Shadows offers yet another unique Halloween-esque (dark levels and enemies, people in costumes) Metroidvania for the world to enjoy. Yet Peter Parker still sees the dark, symbiote-infested world in a humorous manner - his witty, enthusiastic remarks help lighten the mood of the player while he or she is having difficulty keeping up with the harder bosses of the game.
The choice between good and evil and the ability to pick one's allies isn't as game-changing as in the console versions of WoS - all one gets is his or her choice of Nightcrawler or the Green Goblin as an ally in boss fights, the ability to use the blue-and-red standard suit or the symbiote suit at any time in the game, and two endings based on these choices. If one has played any other Spider-Man platformer, the main character's primary abilities shouldn't be too new. The acrobatic nature of Spidey and multitude of unlockable combos for each suit allows for various different fighting styles, depending on the player's strengths. The enemies aren't in incredible variety, and everyone fought over the course of the game - bosses included - is some sort of symbiote. The bosses seem impossibly hard at first, but each one leaves some opportunity for Spidey to spam them to defeat. WoS's graphics are wonderful as far as 2.5D goes, offering a vastly different visual experience from other Metroidvanias. Most of the background sound in WoS is ambient electronica, which fits the grim and gritty symbiote-populated New York setting.
Often overlooked due to its being released after a series of less-than-stellar Spiday DS games, Spider-Man: Web of Shadows is the redeemer for those willing to give it a shot. It goes along with the Castlevania series and The Pumpkin King in its inclusion of Halloween elements, though it doesn't base its expression of them on mentioned games.
-A unique control scheme and one that's executed perfectly
-Deep combat with two costumes allowing for multiple fighting styles, one for every gamer
-Well-rendered 2.5D polygonal graphics
-Cinematic music and camera zooming
-Lively voice acting with fun dialogue
-Guest appearances by a few other Marvel characters
-Choosing between good and evil isn't as big a factor as advertised
-The most practical way to beat each boss is to spam it
Spidey kicks symbiotic Manhattan keister.
1 823. Daniel X: The Ultimate Power - Nintendo DS
After using the engine from 2008's Spider-Man: Web of Shadows in 2009's straightforward beat 'em up X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the more stealth-based Assassin's Creed II: Discovery, the beginning of 2010 saw Griptonite's return to the Metroidvania formula with Daniel X: The Ultimate Power.
The story is based on the Daniel X novel series by James Patterson. Daniel X is an extraordinary being - a humanoid alien with super strength, speed, amazing memory, transformative abilities, and the "Ultimate Power" - the ability to create. While he was still an infant his parents were killed by the praying mantis-esque alien "The Prayer". His desire to avenge them is as strong as any aspect of his being. As he's developed his powers, he has become an Alien Hunter who scours the universe destroying alien outlaws. He isn't alone, however, as he's created friends for himself: Dana, Emma, Joe, and Willy. After a battle with Elios - his current objective - at the beginning of the game, Daniel is left stranded on the planet Silerius V. His goal now is to brave the environment and escape so he can defeat his target once and for all.
As with Web of Shadows' and X-Men Origins' titular characters, Daniel has a witty comment for every situation. These Griptonite Games tend toward having protagonists whose take on their decidedly serious environments make the games much less bleak affairs than the standard Metroid or Castlevania game. Also like WoS, The Ultimate Power gives the player clear directives on where to go and what to do in the game, eliminating the confusion so often experienced in most non-linear games in the style. Combat is similar, too, with the ability to purchase new abilities from save points - most of which do exactly what Spidey's did two years earlier. As if it weren't enough that this game borrows the Metroid/Castlevania formula, early on the shape-shifting protagonist Daniel X attains the ability to turn into a soccer ball to roll into tight spaces a la Samus Aran's Morph Ball, and later on he learns to transform into an eagle which can reach high places a la Alucard's and Soma Cruz's bat transformations.
The beat 'em up elements of previous Griptonite games come back in Daniel X. Whereas during battles in Web of Shadows exits were blocked off with ichor webbing, and in X-Men Origins: Wolverine the more traditional approach of simply making doors unexplainably impassable was taken, Daniel X pits the player in beat downs by having the space shuttle setting initiate lockdowns which can only be lifted by defeating all present enemies. WoS made spamming the bosses the most efficient way of defeating them. DX's bosses have instead been left absent of any opportunity of spaming them while being kept from being too hard, or they've been created with some sort of trick to defeating them which keeps the win from seeing too easy. Being able to create things, small segments of the game involve Daniel stopping the platforming action to solve a puzzle, which upon completion will create a stairway or platform that will open a path in the game past an obstacle. These puzzles involve connecting dots like in Dawn of Sorrow, but instead of the challenge being in drawing perfect lines in one direction within a time limit, in this game it lies in figuring out how to connect all dots without overlapping lines already drawn with no time constraints.
Daniel X is another strong offering from the talented developers collectively known as Griptonite Games. It does everything Spider-Man: Web of Shadows did so well but with the Daniel X universe this time. However, it suffers from one fatal flaw: it relies on WoS's formula perhaps a bit too much. Beyond simply using the same engine as said predecessor, Griptonite has developed, in large part, the same game. Most will not dwell on this fact, however, and those that do will likely see it as a plus. Either way, it's what the Castlevania series has been doing since 2001, so why should Metroidvania fans be bothered at yet another nod to one of the genre's foremost series?
-The sci-fi space station setting presents a very different, brighter world from Web of Shadows's New York
-Effortless controls give the player ultimate power
-Rich, customization-friendly combat system
-Creation puzzles present a cognitive challenge and are lots of fun
-Surprisingly natural for a book series adaptation, as well as the only way to get the the story of Daniel's battle with Number Four
-Alien Scanner mode is a fun extra for social occasions
-Comes across as a rehash of Web of Shadows, with glaringly similar just-about-everything
Due to lockdown, Daniel's only means of escaping from the room he's currently in is destroying all else present.
6 824. Alice In Wonderland - Nintendo DS
Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, and Helena Bonham Carter were fittingly attached to the new Disney film adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. After all, they're three quirky minds who are capable of doing justice to the written work of the quirky person to end all quirky persons - Lewis Carroll. The film is eccentric and unique to begin with but ends up slipping into the cliché Hollywood blockbuster formula, losing is muchness partway through. The video game was to come out the same week as the movie, but if a movie based on a book can't maintain the magic that made the latter so iconic, how can a video game based on said movie? The chosen developer became Étranges Libellules, a French company with "strange" right in their very name, and their decision was to have the game take inspiration from the movie, not have it based on it. In only relating itself slightly to the film, it pays due homage to the classic of Victorian psychadelia.
The plot is in tune with the movie: Ten years after the fact, Alice happens once again upon Underland (or, as she calls it, "Wonderland"). Since her last visit, it has been ravaged by the Jabberwocky - a dragon-like creature let loose on Underland by the Red Queen. Alice doesn't fully remember her last visit to the realm, but its inhabitants are somewhat certain that she is destined to defeat the beast and return Underland to its former glory. Now, with the help of McTwist the White Rabbit, Absolem the Catterpillar, the Chessur Cat, and the Mad Hatter, she will journey through the destroyed land collecting armor and weaponry in order to prepare her for doing battle with the Jabberwocky.
In the game the player uses each of the four playable Underland natives to protect Alice as she collects pieces of armor and the Vorpal Sword to restore their world. The characters are operated almost solely by the touch screen. Pointing to the area ahead on the screen, the player can move either McTwisp, Absolem, the Chessur Cat, or the Mad Hatter with Alice following close behind. She can be stopped by tapping on her, and will continue following upon another tap. If she's left too far behind, she'll begin to be sucked into a red vortex - the only thing that will harm her in the game. It does get tiring making sure Alice stays with her protector, since it's quite frequently she'll need assistance climbing a ledge or jumping a gap. On many instances, a red vortex will appear and armored card soldiers will attack the player and try to take Alice with them. Tapping on and slashing them with the stylus will take care of this particular problem.
The player frequently interacts with the environment, as every one of the described playable protagonists has a special ability. First, McTwisp can stop, resume, rewind and fast forward time in relation to certain objects - like a growing tree or a flowing fountain. Absolem can reverse gravity in green-misty places, causing him and Alice to shoot either upwards or downwards. The Chessur Cat can make things appear or disappear, creating bridges, making obstacles go away, and more. The Mad Hatter can flip the levels at particular spots, allowing him to manipulate his access to chests and the like. An exclamation point or a question mark will appear above the controlled character, indicating either that the current character has the appropriate ability for the obstacle at hand or must switch to the character that does. Often these abilities are used one after another for some more challenging puzzles.
The touch technology is handled quite well here, as natural and easy to use as any touch-based DS platformer, though not nearly as creative as Kirby: Canvas Curse (which it doesn't need to be). It certainly beats efforts to incorporate this defining Nintendo DS feature like Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow's. The microphone even gets used in the game, as blowing into it will have a windy effect that will affect card obstacles - arranging a card bridge or knocking a house of cards down, etc.
The game will give the player each objective within the story, which can then be checked in the Quest Diary, while the location of the spot where the objective will be accomplished appears as an exclamation point on the map. If the player would like to keep track of the different spots on the map where a collectible is but cannot presently be accessed, he or she can drag a question mark onto the map so as not to forget it later. All this makes the course of the game that much simpler in knowing what to do next. Each individual mini-map will be arranged in relation to the other maps in the form of a puzzle. Say one has a piece and connects it to another piece by a spade-shaped connection. When Alice and her protector enter the space card door on either map, they'll be taken to the location of the spade door on the other one. Eventually all the maps will fit together perfectly and it will be complete, but only after collecting and arranging every one of the twelve pieces scattered across the game.
Beyond the bit of mental energy that will be required for the game's puzzles, Alice in Wonderland isn't too challenging; every time one's health runs out, the consequence isn't starting over from the last save point - rather, the character currently being used just looks a little sluggish when left alone. This probably had something to do with the target audience - children who saw the movie and wanted the video game; also, the fighting portions of this title aren't as important to its gameplay as the puzzle platforming, so this was actually a good decision for the purposes of this offering.
Alice in Wonderland is certainly an artsy, eccentric game in the visuals department. The characters and levels are cartoony, but in a way that expresses their personalities and the dark tone of the Tim Burton film, respectively. The characters hobble along fluidly, their movements and expressions - especially Alice's - full of a unique sort of life. The backgrounds, though creating a dark atmosphere, are too simplistic to really complement the different players in the story, and throughout the game the environments and the sprites seem like they should be from two different games. The music isn't going to stick in anybody's head, but it does resemble the work of Danny Elfman and has a complexity to it that matches the character sprites in a way that the backgrounds failed to do. Even though the scenery might have been better, the game maintains a quirky personality to be expected from things affiliated with Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, and the work of Lewis Carroll.
Alice in Wonderland's many quirks include its use of the touch screen for something so traditional as platforming, its map which in itself is a giant puzzle which can connect in different ways, and the general zaniness which comes out in its art and dialogue. The map is a totally compelling element on its own. The primary aspect of the game is of course using one of four natives to escort Alice through Underland. The game wouldn't be the same without this key point, though it can be trying at times. This is a truly interesting non-adaptation, but Alice holds back both the characters the player operates and the game itself, since one must constantly keep track of her. For a main - in fact, titular - character to be so cumbersome is nonsensical. It also makes a game with so much life trying. It's not too difficult, and the puzzles should be completable with little help, but requires patience. Still, Étranges Libellules certainly did a good job with this incarnation of Carroll's work, incorporation due eccentricity and innovation. Unlike the movie, its main flaw is in faithfulness to its core being, not deviation from it.
-The four playable characters have distinctive abilities
-Unique puzzle map makes the world arrangeable
-Touch screen-based platforming works well
-Puzzles are clever
-Artistic style is one-of-a-kind
-Escorting Alice around gets tiring
-Alice's role in the story seems unimportant
A luminescent Chessur Cat guides a pubescent Alice over a ledge here, back through a rabbit hole there.
1 825. Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions - Nintendo DS
Griptonite have established themselves as being a company that cares about faithful Marvel super hero video game renditions. They brought Spider-Man back as a star of quality handhelds after many failed attempts by other companies with their hit Metroidvania Web of Shadows. Then they went on to produce two more super hero games for the DS: X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Iron Man 2. Inbetween these two, they also developed an MV in WoS's vein titled Daniel X: The Ultimate Power. It would only be two years before they returned to their MV formula and the star that made it shine to begin with: Spider-Man.
The Amazing Spider-Man finds Mysterio one day with a stone tablet. Not thinking much of it, he grabs it with his web and causes it to shatter, after which Mysterio escapes. Madame Web then contacts Spidey and lets him know that he's shattered the Tablet of Order and Chaos, creating a rift between three dimensions. Web then asks for the help of the Spider-Men of all three dimensions - Amazing, Noir, and 2099 - in repairing the rift. Amazing is the main Spider-Man. He responds to any adversary with wit and sass, and is rarely somber. Amazing's world is Silver Age New York City, which he can web sling and wall crawl through. Noir is Spider-Man from an alternate version of Amazing's dimension's 1930s. He's gruffer than Amazing but still responsible for occasional repartee. His world is the Marvel Noir grim and gritty Depression-era New York City, and his opponents are the city's many thugs. He initially can't climb on walls but instead kicks off of them. 2099 is from a future probably not from Amazing's universe. His name is Miguel O'Hara and he's a Spider-Man enthusiast whose DNA has been rewritten to be fifty percent spider. He has lots of personality like his hero, if he's not a bit cockier. He lives in the future Marvel 2099 universe, where he contends with the Public Eye's forces. He initially can't web sling but can glide on air currents. As the lines between the universes fade and the dimensions converge, each hero attains abilities from his counterparts.
The game's difficulty in battling with enemies and exploring the map is customizable, with Friendly, Hero, and Super Hero as selectable options for both Combat Difficulty and Exploration Difficulty upon starting a new game. In addition there are multiple modes of the games itself, Story being available from the game's beginning while Time Trial and Boss Rush Mode are unlockable. The Story Mode is shorter than Web of Shadow and Daniel X, if only by a little; however, there are a variety of challenges to be completed in addition to the alternate modes. They're not necessary to beating the game, but they do add to a save file's percentage of completion - fifty percent is all that can be achieved by beating the main game. As with Daniel X, a tutorial is given at the beginning of the game in Amazing's world before the dimensions are shattered. Afterwards, Madame Web guides the different Spider-Men through the rest of the game, fusing the concept of receiving objectives with the story.
Though the combat system has mostly been retained from Web of Shadows and Daniel X, one cool twist is added: the Spideys can use their webbing to grab enemies' weaponry and throw it back at them, or if they don't have a weapon and aren't too big, they can simply pull the enemy towards them for a good pounding. Currency to be used at save points to purchase new combat abilities are no longer collected from enemies as in WoS and DX; instead, they're found throughout the game map. Save points are consequently used only for saving the game and not as a shop.
The voice acting that was absent in Griptonite's other 2.5D outings is back. Comic book geniuis and Spider-Man creator Stan Lee narrates the introduction and conclusion especially for Spidey's multi-dimensional Nintendo DS adventure, though Neil Patrick Harris doesn't have a role in the handheld version of the game as he does in the console version. The voice acting all around is superb, at any rate, and every character is brought to life wonderfully.
Like in Web of Shadows and Daniel X, the touch screen is used at a crucial part of the game - in sending pieces of the tablet through portals to the Spider-Men of the other dimensions. In this mode a tablet must be spun by drawing a circle in the center of the screen; then inter-dimensional beings must be fended off by touching them and, in the case of the green hands, holding down for a couple seconds. It's all very reminiscent of WoS where upon dying Spider-Man was given a chance to regain his health and dragging red orbs to the center of the screen gave him health while poisonous orbs brought his health down and had to be tapped with the stylus and destroyed. This mode gets harder as the game progresses. It isn't nearly as fun as Daniel X's creation bits, and make getting around from map-to-map a slight strain.
The graphics are on par with other Griptonite games, though this time the company is working with varying, interesting environments which gives the 2.5D style a chance to shine. 2099's world is especially lively, with flying cars in the background along with sleek, massive skyscrapers. The music of the game is less of the electronic and ambient sort, as was the case with WoS, in favor of a style more reminiscent of Danny Elfman's own scoring for the Spider-Man live action films.
Griptonite has created another fine 2.5D platform Metroidvania adventure, and this time they've shaken up the formula, taking advantage of Marvel's multiverse aspect. Perhaps it's a little shorter than the previous MVs, perhaps the challenges aren't in sync with that of the Story Mode, and maybe the warp point challenges discourage exploration. It's still a refreshing change of pace considering Daniel X was so derivative of Web of Shadows. Griptonite are heading in the right direction in trying to do something different. Shattered Dimensions is Griptonite's most fun and engaging 2.5D platformer yet, proof that they're improving their game.
-Control scheme, combat, and cinematic elements are as glorious as in Griptonite's other offerings
-Playing as Spider-Men from three different dimensions with unique but eventually shared abilities is lots of fun
-Different dimensions have their own scenery, enemies, and overall tone
-Excellent voice acting, including an introduction by Stan "The Man" Lee!
-Time Trial Mode for speedrunners, Boss Rush mode for boss beaters, several challenges to be completed and, upon beating that last, Unstoppable Mode for godlike invulnerability
-Ultimate Spider-Man isn't included in the handheld version
-Warping is a pain because of the touch screen challenge required to do so
Amazing whips out the combos shortly before passing on the fight to his counterparts from different dimensions.
This section includes all Metroidvanias in which the levels are broken up by a non-platforming connection. EX: Portrait of Ruin's maps are connected by a main platforming map and thus is a regular Metroidvania; Alice in Wonderland, though the map can be manipulated via the puzzle system, is traversed entirely via platforming; while Tails Adventure is split up by an overworld map; and Wario: Master of Disguise has the maps selectable from a level select screen.
10 7.226. Tails Adventure - Game Gear
Tails was the first supporting character to be introduced to the Sonic the Hedgehog series, one year after the debut of its titular protagonist. In Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Sonic's sidekick was notable for "tail"ing Sonic throughout the game, optionally operable by a second player in place of the automatic AI. Eventually, the Sonic franchise became so popular that spin-off titles based on supporting characters would be considered a possibility. In 1995, Knuckles Chaotix - featuring Knuckles the Echidna and his anthropomorphic teammates - was released on the 32X, and just a week after that Tails' Skypatrol came out. Knuckles Chaotix may have been a departure for the series with its ring bond dynamic, but it was nothing like Tails' Skypatrol for the Game Gear, which had Tails in a plane dodging obstacles while the screen automatically moved forward. While not what would be called a complex game, it was followed five months later by Tails Adventure for the same system, one of the most involved Game Gear games to date.
There are two stories for this game, one for the Japanese release and one for the Western release. In the Japanese version, Tails has yet to meet Sonic and is simply relaxing on the unspoiled Cocoa Island, which also contains Flickies and the Chaos emeralds. With the latter on their minds, the imperial Battle Kukku Army - an army comprised entirely of birds - bomb and invade Cocoa Island, and Tails steps in to put a stop to their plans. In the Western version, Sonic and his sidekick amicably part, Tails eventually finding what he would afterward call "Tails Island". Then the imperial Battle Kukku army attacks the island, prompting Tails's intervention.
Tails controls a little bit differently from how he does in Sonic 2 and Sonic & Knuckles. He walks at a slow pace and doesn't build up speed for that matter, moving and jumping like any other sidescrolling protagonist. He can fly by pressing the jump button a second time, as in other games featuring the two-tailed fox, and can in this instant stop flying by pressing the jump button once more. The rings he collects act more as health contributing toward his total, as in a game like Castlevania or Mega Man. The longest Tails can fly and his maximum amount of health are increased by collecting each of the six Chaos emeralds. He doesn't fight enemies by rolling up into a ball and hitting them in said form.
During the normal platforming levels, Tails mainly uses various kinds of bombs to destroy rocks and enemies. Early in the game he'll also have a remote-control robot to get into tight crawl spaces (or simply look ahead without fear of getting damaged). Tails will acquire many other amusing though not quite so useful items, such as "Sonic" which allows Tails to spindash. During the submarine portions of the game, Tails will find various types of firepower as well as add-ons to the submarine such as a speed booster and armor which renders it invulnerable. As with any game in this style, there are often times where one must figure out where to backtrack as the next course of action.
An adventurer can take a break from his or her travels by going to Tails's House, which is accessible from the beginning of the game. There, one can equip the many weapons and tools collected throughout the sidescrolling bits to any of the four available slots, one can view the password which will put the player back at whatever level of progress achieved thus far, and later on in the game one can have Tails ride a submarine - which itself can be equipped with at least four items specific to underwater travel - so he can play in the water levels.
Players may continue a game by inputting a four-characters-by-four-characters password similar in appearance to Super Castlevania IV's password system.
The score is made up of typical jumpy, energetic Game Gear music - nothing that stands out especially, but pleasant nonetheless. The graphics are also typical of Game Gear games - bright and colorful, with detail put into certain aspects of the game (Tails's and the enemies' sprites, the foregrounds), and other things not faring as well (the blank backgrounds; also, each item appears as a blue box when found - weird, since each one has its own icon when equipped and at Tails's House).
Though not one of the best games out there, Tails Adventure holds its own against the rest of the Game Gear line. The cartridge offers a deep, fun, colorful adventure that riffs on the non-linear, item collection-based Metroid series. This is Tails's - as well as any Sonic character's - first and last foray into the free-roaming sidescroller sub-genre. Just as Metroid's formula was added to and eventually perfected, Sega might have continued down the path laid out in this game. On its own, it's still a nice handheld platformer.
-Tails gets a solo outing
-Visuals are colorful and pretty
-Plenty of weapons and other items for the two-tailed fox to choose from
-Surprisingly immersive for a Game Gear game
-Introduces bird enemies tailor made for Tails
-Lack of directives make it hard to know where to go next
-Speed-based gameplay isn't present - thus the opportunity for a game with Sonic elements blended with Metroid's was missed
Tails takes on the similarly-gifted Battle Kukku Army with bombs and a desire for adventure/experience working with Sonic.
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32 7.527. Wario Land 3 - Game Boy Color
Nintendo Research & Development 1, the people responsible for such innovative classics as Metroid and Kid Icarus, had been put in charge of Mario's handheld titles starting with 1989's Game Boy launch title, Super Mario Land. The plot for said game was retconned with 1992's Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, directed by Hiroji Kiyotake, the Mario opposite Wario becoming the real villain behind the previous game's events as well as the front-and-center villain of 6 Golden Coins. The greedy purple and yellow rival had loads of personality despite, or possibly because of, his fixation with money. He became Nintendo R&D1's baby, while his similar appearance to Nintendo's mascot reflected the team's frustration at having to create a game around a character (Mario) that they weren't responsible for bringing to life for the first Mario Land. Soon the team would be able to truly do their own thing, as a similar fate came about for Wario as had previously for Donkey Kong, and Mario's nemesis was soon awarded a game - and eventually a series - with himself as the main character. R&D1 were able to really be innovative with Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, and their main innovation was that Wario was indestructible - no health, no lives, nothing. He would go on to have his own non-Mario-titled outing on the Virtual Boy, and when that system didn't prove to be a suitable outlet for gaming Wario soon found his way on the Game Boy and successive handheld Nintendos. With 2000's Wario Land 3 for the Game Boy Color, the team mixed in another of their signature innovations - Metroid's non-linear, backtracking-based elements.
Though the weather is perfect for flying, while riding in his plane it malfunctions and Wario crashes into the woods below. He wanders until he comes to a cave, where he then finds a music box. He winds it, but no song comes out. In fact, nothing happens until he disappears from where he was standing and finds himself inside the world of the music box! A hidden figure tells Wario of his once-rulership of the music box land, ending when an evil adversary locked him away with the magic of five music boxes. While Wario doesn't take much stock in the hidden figure's plight at first, it is soon mentioned that the being will send Wario back to his homeworld and let him have any treasure he finds if Wario helps restore his power. Thus, Wario sets out to collects treasure and music boxes alike.
Wario plays great. He jumps and walks like one would expect. By presssing the 'B' attack button, he'll charge at the enemy or obstacle before him elbow-first. Pressing down on the D-Pad while jumping causes Wario to crash down on whatever's below him with just as much force as the previously mentioned attack. These are his basic controls, but as the game goes on Wario will collect each of the game's ten power-ups, which while grant Wario enhanced versions of these moves as well as his basic abilities from Wario Land 2 (swimming and picking up enemies) - not entirely game-changing abilities as one would acquire in any other open world platformer. Since Wario's capabilities only change so much on his third numbered outing, he will also collect non-power up treasures which alter the levels in some important way, allowing him to traverse them more fully. It's a preferable alternative to having Wario attain super fantastic abilities he's never had before and has no reason to have either, as is done with many games in order to support the gameplay.
The main draw of the Wario Land series - what sets it apart from games like Super Mario Bros. and Wonder Boy - is Wario's invulnerability. In this game there are no health bars, life counters, or timers - the screen simply displays Wario, his surroundings, and those inhabiting them. Because of this, much of the gameplay consists of Wario solving puzzles and defeating bosses, while all the while the baddies on screen attempt to delay him as much as possible. And successfully, no doubt, for Wario will get flattened, become a living balloon, be set on fire, turn into a zombie, turn into a vampire (where's werewolf Wario?), and contend with many more altered states, all of which hinder him from collecting treasures and returning to his own plane of existence. Therein lies the challenge, but it also occasionally comes in handy - sometimes Wario needs to be stung and puff up so he can float to a higher place, for instance. Despite the uniqueness of this defining aspect of the Wario Land series, many will find it frustrating to the point of being moreso than having to constantly keep one's health in check.
The boss fights are exhilerating. They require Wario to attack the enemy three times, which would be easy if he wasn't in constant danger of being transported back to the area before the boss by various means. This keeps the fight exciting, but not dragged out.
The typical confusion that occurs while playing other games in the Metroidvania style is not present here. Upon receiving a new power-up - which will allow the player to read new sections of earlier levels - the specific spots on the overworld map will flash on the screen, indicating where on should go next. If one should forget, the Temple area from the very beginning of the game can be revisited, and the hidden figure will say where to go to advance in the game.
Another interesting feature employed in Wario Land 3 is its night and day system. Every time the anti-Mario exits a level, the setting changes from day to night or vice-versa. Sometimes this will change the level - zombies will be out at night, water will be at different levels from one time to another, sinking sand won't be so hard to walk through, etc.
At various points the player will have to complete a golf mini-game in order to move specific rocks out of his way to a treasure chest. This game has Wario clubbing a Para-Goom on a 2D course, the goal being to land it in the hole within the par number of strokes (usually two to four). There are obstacles in the way though, so simply measuring how much power to put into each shot (by stopping the moving blue Wario marker at the desired point on the gauge and clicking again toward the beginning to select how it will be clubbed - normally, with a topspin, or with a backspin) doesn't provide the only challenge. The game costs ten coins to play at first, but eventually shoots up to fifty. Hopefully by that time the player will have gotten better at the game, and won't plow through twenty tries and all of Wario's treasure without success.
The visuals - Wario's and his foes' sprites, namely - are simple but expressive. The levels themselves are animated on a very basic level as in any Mario game, not overly detailed or anything. The music is also very basic - blippy Game Boy Color music that isn't overly layered or complex - but in its simplicity is actually quite effective, be it the blood-pumping tunes (like the high-energy West Crater/East Crater theme) that feature in many of the levels, or the softer songs (like the bittersweet overworld nighttime theme). Even though the scenery leaves something to be desired, this is a great effort overall in the presentation department.
Wario Land 3 is a game that probably shouldn't be taken in all at once. It's a rather long game, consisting of twenty-five levels spread out over four interconnected maps (named North, East, South, and West), and each level must be revisited several times to get all four treasures and the eight Music Coins. Once this has been done for all of the levels, a Time Attack should give one ample reason to go back to the game and try for the best times. The formula may become less fun to the player once he or she has collected all the power-ups and is simply trying to access Time Attack mode, but it's a fitting game to play a healthy amount here, a healthy amount there. Ideally, it doesn't take more than a week, but at least half of one. And it's entirely doable without consulting a strategy guide.
Wario Land 3 may be a little long, but in its length it has all the refreshing platforming fans of the series have been consistently wowed by. Not only that, but it takes the unique indestructibility of Wario and adds in a splash of the Metroid series' formula, Wario having been created by the same man who designed Samus. As far as said formula goes, it's handled very well, with a NPC guide to help the player from the very beginning so that knowing where to go next isn't as much a matter of trial and error as in similar (albeit smaller) games. It's such a shame that the Wario series' later entries - which fittingly enough don't have nearly as much involvement from Hiroji Kiyotake - would abandon what made Wario's games so interesting and opt instead for the more traditional health bar. They would, however, return to Wario Land 3's formula, even after Nintendo Research & Development 1 stopped working on the series.
-Wario is completely indestructible for the first and only time
-Puzzles require thought without being frustrating
-Great boss battles
-Golf mini-game which removes blocks from Wario's path is fun
-Game goes for too long after the last power-up is attained
Elmo wants to eat apples with Wario.
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23 5.828. Wario: Master of Disguise - Nintendo DS
The Wario series has gone through consistent cycles of change. In the first cycle, which is made up of 1994's Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 and 1995's Virtual Boy Wario Land, Wario plays somewhat like Mario in that he has different forms - small Wario, which yields a death upon taking damage, and different forms based on whichever hats he finds in each level, which grant him specialized abilities and act as an extra damage point, a hit reducing him to small Wario. Though he can take damage, enemies themselves don't harm him but rather their weapons do, making for a significantly different experience from the Mario games despite the noticeable comparability. In the second cycle, made up of 1998's Wario Land II and 2000's Wario Land 3, the selfish star would be completely invulnerable, in the one instance merely losing coins from enemy damage and in the other instance simply being knocked back briefly. In these games, he'll have to in equal amounts fend off and welcome humbly the different enemy attacks and environmental effects which will change him into many altered states of being. The third cycle, comprised of 2001's Wario Land 4 and the much later Wario Land: Shake It! in 2008, requires that Wario maintain a health meter and features his basic moveset along with a rush at the end of every level to return to the beginning before the timer runs out. The fourth cycle is sandwiched inbetween the previous two games, and it is one of experimentation. Wario World in 2003 took the titular treasure tracker into 3D while 2007's Wario: Master of Disguise introduced a new overall gameplay structure that took much of its basis from previous games. Wario would don several costumes, as in the first cycle, and a la the second either use these costumes to his advantage or have them hinder him from progressing as desired. Much like the third cycle, Wario would have a health meter and the graphical upgrades present in those titles. Two things would be very different: For one thing, his costumes and the puzzles they'd allow him to interact with are (beyond Thief Wario and Dragon Wario) new and unique to some of his previous staple abilities; for another thing - and this is what would make or break the game for most - Wario would operate all action beyond mere movement through the DS's famous touchscreen technology.
One day in Wario's personal TV room, a program comes on about a master thief whose title is The Silver Zephyr. Wario himself finds the character lame, and enters TV Land to take control of the show and particularly The Silver Zephyr's magic wand Goodstyle. The prim and proper pointer immediately takes to Wario and guides him in learning more fantastic abilities which will ultimately lead to more shimmering treasures. While Wario may have the Goodstyle advantage, he'll have to face off against the other prominent thieves of TV Land, including a wand-sick Count Cannoli (formerly the Zephyr). Really, the story just holds things together and isn't masterful on its own but does support the game's overall personality with its humor and quirky characters.
Wario's control scheme has undergone a massive reconfiguration since he migrated from Nintendo R&D1 to Suzak. For one thing, all the buttons are used for Wario's movement. The D-pad and four lettered action buttons do the same thing as one another - the top one makes Wario jump, the left and right ones make him walk, and the bottom one makes him crouch. Since all the primary buttons sans Start and Select aim Wario in particular direction, the stylus is used to draw Wario's costumes, each of which grant him a set of different abilities. Thief Wario is fast, can jump up high, and can perform Wario's signature
tackle; Cosmic Wario can shoot lasers at long range; Arty Wario can create blocks to walk on and doors back to the last save point or the beginning of the present level. All this is a refreshing change of pace for the sidescroller genre and Wario's previous forays into it, but it can also try one's patience due to the consistent failure every time one tries to create a costume or effect by executing a specific shape or formation. There are eight costumes in all, each one bringing its own set of abilities to the table, and they'll need to be used one after another for the game's trickier puzzles.
Wario will play through one 2D labyrinth after another, and each Act will progress the story just a little more. The anti-Mario will use the mentioned abilities - once he's collected those needed - to progress through the various traps and obstacles and make it to each level's boss. The similar formula present in Wario Land 3, where it would become tiring eventually, is in this game consistently new and engaging thanks to the variety of challenges and ways to interact with them by way of the greedy treasure hunter's different attire. The developers don't leave the player to figure things out on his or her own. A treasure chest containing the area's map is usually found early on in an Act. When he visits a room with an important puzzle to complete, and when he leaves the room without completing it, the map will color the room yellow, reminding one where everything is. The last area where the boss is found in an Act shows up as a red room, so it should always be easy to know what the final destination is. Generally, the levels revolve around Wario solving a bunch of puzzles that have a similar effect which contributes to the accessibility of the final spot in each Act. Throughout each level, Wario will also collect less significant treasures from red chests. These items are usually something completely oddball and aren't necessary to collect. They can be viewed afterwards in the coffee table room in the master thief's TV Room, along with every foe he's defeated thus far, and mini-games previously completed can be played, while info on Wario's adventure in TV Land may be
viewed. The enemy and treasure descriptions are all humorous, and often the price of the latter alone is hilarious.
The boss battles are very fun for those able to switch costumes on the fly. They'll require different sequences of costumes to be used in succession. The icon of the particular one that Wario will need will be indicated (courtesy of Goodstyle) on the lower left-hand corner. A little practice is always smart to figure out which ways of drawing the different shapes will cause which attire change, as some are similar.
Graphically, Master of Disguise is fantastic. Wario's different suits are colorful, the foregrounds detailed much of the time but simple when appropriate, and the backgrounds lively and beautiful. The music is great, too - no songs that are likely to be re-orchestrated for future installments in the series, but very lovely tunes that are an upgrade from the blippy-sounding (though memorable) music that was present in its earlier games.
This title deviates from Wario's roots in many ways: Instead of enemies changing Wario's state of being, causing him to be delayed or granting him a means to progress, he collects a number of costumes over the course of the game which each allow him some way of besting the game's obstacles and can be upgraded for more such powers; instead of Wario being invulnerable to enemy attacks and violent environments, he starts with five hearts and can go up from there, while upon losing all health his progress won't be lost and he'll start at the last-visited save place. This is as much of a deviation than any series game before, and it's also a party in honor of every era in its duration. The faithful reinvention of the series is successful, and the game stands among the best games previously in the series - or is it below the worst? Wario: Master of Disguise has been panned and praised alike. It all really comes down to what someone prefers. Is the touch screen a refreshing or inconvenient alternative to using buttons? Are the mini-games a fun break from or an unneeded aspect to the gameplay? It's very subjective. Still, for Wario's first outing away from his creators, it has definite merit for trying something new and pulling it off to an arguable extent.
-Costume dynamic is a cool new take on the Wario formula
-Challenges aren't recycled as new and different puzzles are present in every level
-Colorful, lively, detailed graphics
-Music is lovely
-Many of the mini-games are very enjoyable
-Changing costumes with the touch screen is unpredictable
-Story and dialogue are silly and don't do much to contribute to the experience
-A few of the mini-games are annoying due to the touch screen's frequent innacuracy
Wario roasts any mice foolish enough to stir between him and his presents.
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