What makes Metroid ... Metroid

What makes Metroid ... Metroid

A few days ago we told you the story of metroidvania and their relationship with the progenitor Metroid. A key concept among those that emerged is that, if Samus Aran's adventures were once played even for the sake of level design and map structure, now those same concepts are widespread in many high-quality titles.

Metroid Dread has just come out, you can read the review, which we liked a lot. In this article we would like to deepen some typical aspects of the saga, those that go beyond its being "metroidvania". Therefore, ignore any discussion on the level design of the map, or on the game design choices so characteristic that, in fact, they founded a sub-genre: after all, having spread so much, and recognizing the undeniable and enormous historical importance of Metroid, they cannot more to consider itself as something "unique" to the Nintendo game.

So, to summarize the concept, in this short special we will talk about what makes Metroid ... Metroid. Also and above all taking into consideration the other games of the genre.

Fear and isolation

Metroid Dread: there is no shortage of classic heroin shots Over time we have repeated several times, as in our article for the thirty-five years of the saga, which Metroid was inspired by Ridley Scott's Alien (which also gives its name to one of the most characteristic bosses of the series). Both works have a courageous and dynamic heroine as protagonist, but this is ultimately the least important connecting factor between these two universes.

The fundamental concepts of the two works, on an aesthetic level, are the themselves: they are only explored with different expressive means, and with not exactly overlapping declinations (Alien is definitely more horror, for example). These coordinates are the science fiction setting, and the feelings of fear and, above all, isolation.

None of the three concepts, if taken alone, would be as distinctive as it is shown as a whole. Metroid is set in space, a space in which Samus Aran is a bounty hunter, in which there is a rich narrative background, which includes a Galactic Federation and advanced technological tools (including, as in Alien, spaceships). br>
But the sci-fi setting, by itself, isn't enough to describe Metroid. Just as important, in fact, exactly as in Alien, is the isolation in which the protagonist finds herself. Samus Aran, in her missions, almost never has helpers or companions. And this generates the fear, and anxiety, of exploring an alien planet full of pitfalls and obstacles. As we had written before, fear is common to both works, but in Alien it is explored until it reaches the threshold of horror, which in Metroid tends not to happen.

This is one of the reasons for inserting Non-player characters in Metroid are so complicated: it's true, they enrich the background and make her "work" for the Federation more credible, but they also risk ruining the atmosphere of the game, which feeds mainly on the isolation of her heroine. The same thing happens for any multiplayer modes, as in Metroid Prime Hunters: even if playfully valuable, they corrupt - at least in part - the atmosphere that fans of the saga love.

Samus Aran

Metroid Dread: Samus Attacks An Enemy With New Skills We've mentioned it many times before, but Samus Aran is really a distinguishing factor. We don't talk about her personality, her charisma or her gender. Let's talk about her characteristics from a playful point of view. After all, many differences in level design between Super Mario, Donkey Kong and Sonic (speaking of 2D platformers, of course) arise precisely from the different abilities of the individual characters.

Samus Aran is not identical in every single episode and with over time he has acquired various skills: in hand-to-hand combat, in running, in sliding. Some features, however, have remained intact over the years. For example, it is an extremely agile and acrobatic character, but at the same time a heavy protagonist - in the true sense of the word. Samus is not as graceful as Link, nor rubbery or supple like Mario: paradoxically she is more like Donkey Kong. She is a character whose weight of the armor he carries as she moves: she accelerates little (exceptional powers excluded) and the game always transmits a certain gravity in the landings (even at the sound level).

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Despite this, despite her armor, Samus Aran is very skilled in jumping. She is able to make considerable vertical leaps, even by curling up on herself; an ability, the latter, which allows her to take the shape of a sphere (at will), so as to sneak into small passages and tunnels. Finally, the sensation of power that his shot transmits should not be underestimated: a shot that can be addressed in various directions, more and more free with the passage of time.

In summary, there are four elements that, on a tactile level, characterize more Samus Aran. The ability to roll up and the ability to shoot; her weight and, at the same time, her superb acrobatic skills (jumps vertically, rather than horizontally).

Bounty hunter, non-anthropologist

Metroid Dread: Samus' negotiations with the local fauna. The last element that we wish to highlight, in relation to the identity characteristics of Metroid, lies in the role of Samus Aran and, consequently, in that of the player. A role that differentiates her from most of the protagonists of the other metroidvania: in almost all of her adventures, Samus Aran faces the dangers she faces in order to complete a mission. Not to get to know the place better, not to explore it better, not to become familiar with the local culture.

Samus Aran moves, travels and lands with the primary goal, very often, of destroying something : a species, an entity, sometimes a planet itself. In Metroid there is little room for sweetness, or pity: clearly there are exceptions, and we already know which one you are thinking about, but "that event" is narratively powerful precisely because it arises from a context in which there is none. nothing like it.

Metroid Dread: Samus' loneliness, as always. Some might find what has been said taken for granted, but it is not properly taken for granted, on the contrary. Think of Hollow Knight: the protagonist is interested not only in Hallownest, but through it also in his identity, and maintains cordial relations with the living beings (with most of them) he meets (enemies excluded, of course). He has time for contemplation and reflection.

Samus Aran, in moments when (as players) we live his story, she is not interested in reflection or contemplation. She is interested in completing a task at the top of her motor and mental abilities, under looming danger, and the game goes to great lengths to communicate this fact to us. If all this remains the same in the post Metroid Dread, we are not given to know: the fact is that this last episode was built faithfully to these historical characteristics.

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