35 years of Metroid

35 years of Metroid

The importance of Metroid in the videogame panorama is one of the epochal ones, which still makes its weight felt today. It was August 6, 1986 when the Gunpei Yokoi team put this particular work in the hands of Nintendo: a labyrinth, an action side-scroller, a mysterious sci-fi epic and atmospheres inspired by Alien. Without the intricate tunnels of Metroid, which not surprisingly in the name recalls a subway, today perhaps we would not have masterpieces of the caliber of Hollow Knight and Ori, up to the most recent Ender Lilies.

The gradual exploration of the planet Zebes and Samus' Power Ups, especially from Super Metroid onwards, have been leading the way for decades. Obviously paired with the equally tortuous explorations in the gothic mansions of Castlevania, published in turn at the end of 1986. Metroidvania was born thirty-five years ago, a way of understanding the video game as a large closed mechanism, of perfectly interlocked gears. Metroid is a series made up of environmental puzzles, platforming paths, enemies to defeat and intertwined challenges to be solved step by step, to unravel the tangle of corridors, rooms, elevators and underground caves.

1986, Metroid first appears on the NES. Not too differently from the first Zelda, which however used a top view, Metroid treats its setting as a closed and coherent mechanism, where each room has its specific meaning. Think of the Von Braun exploration in System Shock 2, the plans of Bioshock's Rapture or the interconnected architecture of Lordran in Dark Souls. All places that require players to be patient, orientated and live by their own meticulous details. This is the most important legacy of Metroid: its non-linear gameplay, yet planned in every aspect.

But we don't remember him just for this. In fact, Metroid tells of the solitary journey of a bounty hunter, Samus Aran. At the end of the game, having escaped an explosion complete with a traditional countdown, our hero in hyper-technological armor takes off his helmet and reveals to the player that he is a woman. Among the first protagonists of videogame history. A final plot twist to displace anyone who took it for granted that they were faced with the usual Marine full of muscles and laser guns.

This was a novelty within a medium that until then boasted only of Ms. Pac-Man and a few other protagonists (from Barbie to Athena from SNK). A novelty not to be taken for granted, even if over the years the question has become a little more gray and thorny than that. Depending on the speed with which Metroid is completed, in fact, Samus turns out to be more and more undressed, going from a body to a bikini. Metroid was born for an industry that was still distinctly masculine, despite its flashes of progressivism. The plot twist worked, in short, because Samus behaved like a male character until the end and because in revealing himself he was a sort of prize.

Watch on YouTube. Over time, Samus was treated with increasing attention. Although she is silent for most of her adventures (another element that unites her to Link), she has a story arc that makes her an interesting character to follow, mission after mission. Unfortunately, she never managed to become the Ellen Ripley of video games, to quote once again the most obvious inspiration of the setting, Ridley Scott's Alien released only seven years earlier.

Over time Samus has revealed more and more aspects of his character, up to the discussed Metroid: Other M by Team Ninja. In this chapter, finally, Samus shows weaknesses and apprehensions typical of a more human character, even if never to the point of abandoning her archetype of impassive warrior, really worn as an armor in which to roll up. The writing, dense and with long cutscenes, is among the parts that have received the most criticism. Since then, no such attempt has been made.

Development of the first trilogy has passed from the hands of Nintendo R & D1 to those of Intelligent Systems (Fire Emblem, WarioWare), to land on the NES first and in followed on the Super Nintendo. In addition to the aforementioned Gunpei Yokoi, Yoshio Sakamoto and Hiroji Kiyotake, character designer, worked on the project. To them the credit for the now iconic armor of Samus and her alien rivals, poised between the ancestral and the futuristic, between being dinosaurs and being space pirates.

At the end of Metroid, after a fight against time, Samus reveals her identity as her. Ridley, Samus's archenemy, fits into this aesthetic ambivalence and sometimes appears as a pterodactyl cyborg. In addition to the thematic influences of Alien, there was no shortage of aesthetic influences, with Giger's art taken as an example to create the most disturbing components of spaceships and the artifacts present in Metroid. Also important for the graphic sector is the work of Tomoyoshi Yamane, artistic supervisor who in Super Metroid added acid, drool and other impressive touches to the graphic sprites of the creatures.

As for the first chapter, Satoru Okada was the director, Makoto Kano the screenwriter and designer, Hirokazu Tanaka was in charge of the soundtrack. The latter decided to focus on the environmental effects, to create a sense of danger and claustrophobia. The music, in Super Metroid and in the Prime Trilogy, is instead conceived by Kenji Yamamoto, who centered his compositions on modulations with an alien flavor and evocative more ambient passages. Today it is easy to identify the Metroid soundtrack from the union of these two approaches: one dark, from horror, the other lighter, from space opera.

Retro Studios, born from a collaboration between Nintendo and the 'Iguana Entertainment by Jeff Spangerberg (veteran of the industry behind games like Aero the Acro-Bat), is the team that started Prime in 2002 and is currently working on its fourth chapter. Prime is the spin-off that transformed the exploits of space's most feared huntress into 3D and FPS. It was not, however, just any shooter: in full Metroid tradition, it introduced puzzles and power ups that expanded the possibilities of exploration, so much so that Nintendo coined the term First Person Adventure.

Despite advancing some elements of the sequel, Zero Mission (2004) is a great remake of the first Metroid. Also from 2002 is Metroid Fusion, a chapter considered among the high points of the 2D saga and one of the best video games released on the Game Boy Advance. Developed by Nintendo R&D 1, it featured highly detailed pixel art, with fluid animations and a restyle of Samus' armor. The music was Minako Hamano and Akira Fujiwara, despite both looking to their predecessors by re-adapting many songs from Super Metroid.

Most read now

Google would have created a 'time crystal' thanks to its quantum computer

An epochal achievement.

Back 4 Blood played live at 4pm!

A journey among the zombies.

Epic Games Store at a continuous loss: only a game of the 'first wave' of exclusives has generated profits

And no, it is not by Metro.

With the recent announcement of Metroid: Dread, the main series instead reaches its fifth classic chapter, if we exclude the particular Other M and the two remakes (Zero Mission and Samus Returns). The lateral exploration and the meticulous (and rarely banal) backtracking that made Metroidvania what they are will therefore return. Aesthetically, a slight change of course is expected, with aseptic and white robot enemies that make us think of Portal automatons.

Of course, considering that the Dread project was already in preparation in 2010, according to the words of Yoshio Sakamoto , it is clear that it is a title to fill the expectation of Prime 4, of which at the moment we only know the logo. In any case, the return of the two main pillars of the franchise bodes well for the future of Samus Aran. Despite being one of the first protagonists of video games, Nintendo has recently had a hard time giving her a stage in the spotlight.

Years pass, technologies improve, Metroid could try to innovate with tricks equal to those we have seen in Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The series, of course, should paw a bit more, because it is still one of Nintendo's most historic, influential and interesting IPs. It's a cardinal sin to have relegated Samus and the Metroid creatures to Super Smash Bros, Pinball on Nintendo DS, and unfortunate side projects like Federation Force. Meanwhile, elsewhere, sci-fi claims its spaces, from Returnal to Halo Infinite.

Powered by Blogger.