Monday, August 28

Super Metroid

Quintessence. It's super.

What could possibly be written that might sufficiently express the immense significance Super Metroid holds for me? The very question also serves as the answer, but may my best words suffice in the lines ahead. It's also with great amusement that I recall the year this game was released, when two copies (each from two different sources) simultaneously arrived in my care. Surely, this was an omen.

For the several weeks that followed, Zebes had me. The brilliance of the series' first opening sequence begins the very moment the game is powered on. Minimalistic music with dissonant intervals conveys tension over cuts of dark imagery of an apparent attack just past; all the while a baby metroid cries out, still in captivity from the end of Metroid II… so what is going on? This is just the title screen. The beginning of the game has Samus recount the first two chapters and interim events that lead up to this point before the player takes control. The title sequence and narrative are presented with a cinematic feel, and gameplay is utilized to include the player in the prologue: from the very outset, Super Metroid is ingenious and groundbreaking.

Such an opening is also the first time in a Metroid release when Samus' character begins to be explored. Indeed, there is a human being under that Chozo armor, and this is when her capacity for compassion is unveiled. Samus' humanity is explored further in Metroid: Other M; however, establishing her nature early in the series' release history makes her relatable and builds a bond with the player, helping drive the interest to complete every epic adventure in the best possible way. It's also part of what connects the story of Metroid to our own world; again, making everything believable and thus appealing.

Of course, these intricacies are levels of thought that were still unconsidered in my youth; adventure was the name of the game. My basic understanding had Samus as the heroine fighting to set things right, with the villains having taken the baby metroid for their own dreadful ends. As I sought deeper significances in following years, the metroids themselves took on a different role as my perspective changed. The early portion of the Metroid storyline (especially the Prime sub-series) shows what's known of the creatures as mysterious, but dangerous entities that pose dangers to all who encounter them; conversely, the latter installments (with Metroid II as the turning point) suggest that the organisms were created for a purpose that had nothing to do with warfare. The behavior of the hatchling distinctly suggests the capacity of the species to form emotional or psychological bonds, but there will be exploration of that in a future chapter.

One thing is for certain: I have the warmest of regards for the infant metroid, and it was instant love for Claudia as well. In fact, we began referring to the hatchling as "Sweet Baby!", and we still do.

Countless hours were logged during my time on Zebes since its reappearance in 1993, and my initial trek spanned over 40 hours. As my skills improved, my path was refined and my clear time fell quickly; eventually, I could see the credits roll in 1:48, after having collected 100% of items. This time, I happily helped Claudia have an experience with a pace more befitting the discovery that defines this series, so our clear time together was 5 hours, 16 minutes; and we acquired 98% of items.

Truly, this game is a masterpiece. There are innumerable nuances comprising this vicarious voyage, leaving very little that would improve upon the virtually perfect blueprint that was established. However, one must have their own experiences to fully appreciate what awaits them, so I encourage anyone interested in the Metroid series to ensure they participate in this quintessential title.


So here are my thoughts about the game:

Pros

- Super Metroid made its debut notable by being the first game released in the series implementing an opening sequence. This included features like animations that also updated the visuals for events from previous games, and the ability of the SNES to allow for recorded voice performance.

- Another first for the series is the map system, the influence of which can still be seen in the newest of games. The map system of Metroid has been perfect from its inception here, but although it's comparatively simplistic to every evolution since then, those core aesthetics and functions are what persist.

- The 16-bit generation was the beginning of beautiful, detailed pixel art, and Metroid 3 is home to some of the very best. Immense care was taken with every background, foreground, animated entity and visual effect. The scope with which this title was produced is still readily apparent: it's as grand as the day it was released.

- A further example of what was pioneered in this era of games took the form of layered graphics. Moving layers of environments relatively, but to different degrees gives a sense of depth, and thus helps immerse players in the experience. There are also places where the background does not move at all, giving the impression of extreme distance.

- The sound designers for this game are experts in their craft. Synthesizers were the primary device used to create sound in games, and the SNES illustrates the pinnacle of what was possible in that earlier time. The masterful manipulation of waveforms all comes together to create a soundscape that equals its visual counterpart in depth, atmosphere, and signature.

- Surviving Samus' ordeal requires a connection to the experience that is fluid, intuitive, and precise; Super Metroid is exemplary in this regard, as its controls represent the apex of exploratory freedom for this series and as a benchmark in gaming history. There even exist some secondary and hidden abilities that come into play under certain settings and circumstances.

- Also unique to the series is a status screen which avails the switching of beams and suit abilities. This is both a curiosity and a convenience: nowhere else in the series does this functionality exist, but it can be useful because the disabling of certain abilities may make navigating specific corridors of Zebes notably easier. For example: my preference is to have the Ice Beam disabled for almost the entire mission.

- Finding hidden items in Super Metroid is reminiscent of the original NES experience, and for good reason: this is the same planet. With certain locales reproduced, and some items placed nearly identically, the intent is clear that Samus has returned to a familiar place that has been rebuilt to thwart her objective. 

- As mentioned above, Samus has some capabilities that are not immediately apparent, but are revealed by various means throughout the game itself. One such method is the inclusion of helpful creatures. These beings demonstrate their own natural prowess, hinting that Samus can also traverse the current obstacle in the same way. While this type of instruction in gaming may have a steeper learning curve than the more contemporary "tutorial", I find that learning through direct discovery is immensely more rewarding and memorable.


Cons

- Ever the expert in colors, Claudia noticed that the palette of Super Metroid is somewhat sour at times. We did however agree that this was an unfortunate limitation of the SNES being a 16-bit machine. Again, this was occasional, but those few instances were fairly obvious.

- "Who built this place?" Space Pirates. But seriously, the puzzle aspect of the Metroid series (or any other games of similar genre) can sometimes have environmental designs that are quite ridiculous when compared to sound architectural principles and practicality. Of course, this point is mostly harmless amusement; the Metroid series has some of the best level design that can be found anywhere.

- With all the innovations that were introduced in Super Metroid, it's surprising that the map does not indicate when items have been collected, as is the case in later-developed installments. There may have been some limitation on the SNES that prevented the potential for this particular function, although the map does mark when main bosses are defeated.


Over the years, Super Metroid has told a story that has changed along with my own perspective of the world. Finally sharing this part of my life with my Truelove is a dream-come-true, and our next adventure expands even further upon where we've been together.

Happy gaming,
- Aaron -

Thursday, July 6

Metroid II: Return of Samus

Metroids, metroids, and more metroids!

We have now arrived at the beginning… of my fascination with Metroid. This was the title that began my affinity for the adventure, and my curiosity about the story of Samus Aran. Because Metroid II was a departure from anything I'd previously played in my few years of games, the learning curve I encountered was a bit steep: memories come to mind of being stuck near the beginning of the game after several failed attempts to push through the game's main obstacle mechanic. Had I simply read the manual before playing, my first foray into what would become one of my favorite series could have involved far less confusion. However, it was that very challenge that forged my appreciation for the Metroid experience, and what enthralled me to follow the story through every new mission.

Returning to the planet SR388 resurges my fond feelings of that time. Similarly, the original presentation even influenced Claudia in the same way, although this chapter was completely new for her. Within those past generations of video games is found a profoundly refreshing charm: although the Metroid Prime Trilogy is exemplary in its genre, Metroid II has the sort of simplicity in controls and aesthetics that continues to be relevant in gaming. The world I held in my hands, although now considered rudimentary by current standards, in that time ignited desires of my own adventures; grand journeys of exploration and mystery.

Although the truth of my memories is powerful for me, it seems the time has come for Metroid II to acquire a power-up of its own: with the announcement of Metroid: Samus Returns, this pivotal chapter in the story will be officially updated. Developed for the Nintendo 3DS, this remake looks to be an action-packed narrative driven by expressive animation, and some fast-paced battle scenarios. It's certainly quite the revision, so let's hope this new direction can effectively add story while preserving the exploratory charm that enthralled me in my novice youth.

So pivotal in the series is this game for me, that I was inspired to create a piece of art based on some of the final moments. For the unfamiliar, it is a bit of a spoiler, but anyone who's played Metroid II and onward will also be privy to its content. This piece marks the moment I feel that Samus' view on metroids begins to change; the spark that calls her to eventually question the motives of the Galactic Federation.

With each of my countless passes through the caverns of SR388, my confidence and finesse grew, granting my thumbs the skill to guide Samus back to her ship with greater efficiency than ever before. Eventually, that mission time would fall to just above an hour; however, I desired a rewarding experience of discovery for Claudia, so our stay for this mission would last 3 hours, 21 minutes. Since the file with my record time is still saved, it was only a few extra minutes to wait for the end credits to roll so she could meet this retro version of Samus, as the Zero Suit is fully expected to appear in the remake.


So here are my thoughts about the game:

Pros

- The simplicity of Metroid II is a breath of fresh air after being steeped in the complex action of the Metroid Prime Trilogy. Feelings of youth are rekindled in me for having returned to this title, just as they have been in Claudia for reminiscing on that generation in gaming.

- What's gathered about the story in the manual also has a refreshing simplicity. As was the model of the time, the stories of games could more appropriately be described as scenarios. In any case, the mission is clear in Return of Samus; we'll see how the plot thickens (or perhaps doesn't) in Samus Returns.

- Retro music is always fun. What I've always appreciated about it is the level of music theory happening in the most memorable tunes; in fact, that's the reason those sound tracks are so iconic. The limitations found in the audio processing capabilities of the time required compensation in the form of more creative compositions.

- The relatively linear nature of Metroid II is again a refreshing respite after the Prime games. Many consider this linearity a mark against the game; however, life has variety, and so too can the situations that comprise it. Regardless, the approaching remake may align this chapter of the story with the rest of the series' conventions.

- The original iteration of the Spider Ball is still the most versatile: having the ability to traverse all terrain is one way the classic 2D gameplay surpasses more recent implementations. However, any 3D environments with open features would require such extensive modeling of the world due to the freedom afforded by the original version of the Spider Ball, so it's reasonable that limitations were placed on the Prime Trilogy version.

- Saving and loading game files is instantaneous, thanks to the tiny data size of Game Boy software. As system and data storage hardware have both improved, solid state software storage has always been a solid advantage for Nintendo's handheld systems.

- Claudia and I both noticed during the Prime Trilogy that nearly every creature we encountered was hostile. This sort of behavior is rare in Nature, and seemed dubious to us. With a few exceptions, the lifeforms of SR388 are simply carrying out their existence aloof to Samus' presence, and is another pleasant leave from the gauntlet the Prime Trilogy can be.

- Items in Metroid II are a fairly regular occurrence when all their locations are known. Because of the intricate nature of the terrain, there are many small spaces and hidden paths to explore and discover, providing plenty of rewarding replay value.

- Again, the final moments of this chapter are pivotal for me, and Claudia thought they were touching ("sweet baby!"). My belief is that it's the beginning of something profound in the series, and to eventually see how it all unfolds beyond Fusion is something that I continue anticipating.


Cons

- One drawback to the simplicity that games of this generation had was repeating tiles in their environments. Despite the many variations of tiles in use, some corridors and caverns appear identical to others, so Metroid II can confuse the unfamiliar player. On the other hand, this may have been an intentional implement meant by the developers to challenge players.

- Not yet included as a feature when this title was released, there is no current mission time available in Return of Samus: only the mission clear time at the end is given. Super Metroid is the first in the series to have been released with such information displayed on the file select screen.

- Finding items has always been part of the reward and puzzle aspect of the entire series; however, despite being a classic tenet of the series, the frequency at which Samus begins missions from scratch actually seems fairly ridiculous, especially in these scenarios, where the opportunity to thoroughly prepare herself seems critical. You simply must improve upon that, Samus!


Revisiting my entry point into the Metroid series has reminded me of my positive past, but with more to share with my Love, we now look forward to my favorite chapter next and to what brilliant new adventures the future has for us.

Happy gaming,
- Aaron -

Thursday, June 22

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption

Three's a charm.

Trilogies come and trilogies go, but it's really nice when they do so near the beginning of an encompassing series. Metroid Prime Trilogy takes place between Metroid: Zero Mission and Metroid II: The Return of Samus, and is an elaboration on why Samus' fate seems so entangled with both the Space Pirates and the creatures after which the series is named.

Specifically, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption takes place shortly after the events of Echoes, and provides an epic finale to the Trilogy by raising every standard that was set along the way. This game is a masterwork; truly a brilliant part of the series as a whole. The title sequence of the original stand alone release insinuates that the situation is quickly escalating, and any veteran of the preceding two chapters will instantly understand the music and visuals of the introduction.

For the Trilogy, the individual Prime games lose their respective title sequences, which were each important to their identities; however, what's gained with the capabilities of the Wii Remote more than compensates for the Trilogy's unified menu. When any of the games are started, each is accompanied by a short, highly detailed transition showing Samus' currently equipped suit in the game selected.

As I've also mentioned in the previous Prime reviews, the controls developed for Corruption are so effective, that every other standard dual analog stick controller setup for a first-person perspective game has been rendered obsolete. It's for this reason that the Trilogy was produced, and why I chose it to help streamline my library. Truly, I can't imagine going back to the GameCube controls.

Moment after moment, as Claudia came with me on this step of the adventure, Corruption impressed us. Indeed, much of this game felt new again for me, but as we made our way, memories of all we'd see and face rushed back to my mind incrementally. The lore of Metroid is deep, and Corruption links games and fills in the spaces for those who've followed the series; for the uninitiated however, the plethora of details provide a sometimes overwhelming level of foreshadowing for both this game and the rest. Such an intricate world in which to find all that information can compound matters, but that simply reflects the vastness of life and m'Love was grateful for my experience and eagerness to elaborate on every appropriate encounter.

As a note to such instances, it's worth mentioning that Metroid Prime 3 is a reflection of current human society, and reinforces my own theories about the overall story of the series. The Galactic Federation takes actions that mirror the imposing behavior that can so easily be observed in government. Often, these actions are executed with a claim of some universal benefit; however, by opening one's mind to researching freely and practicing critical thinking, the truth will be found. Because the series is such a close facsimile, my years of following Metroid have left clues about the true motives of the Galactic Federation that point in one direction, and I am eager to learn what happens after the events of Metroid Fusion. My excitement aside, Claudia and I are here in the present, so as the series unfolds before her, I help connect the dots between what she's quickly gathering on her own.

Switching gears: this post comes at a perfect time, as Nintendo has just announced two new Metroid games: Metroid Prime 4 for the Nintendo Switch, and Metroid: Samus Returns for the 3DS. The Switch looks like a great step forward: it has the power and control versatility of a console with the convenience of a handheld system, so it's something I've been anticipating for a long time. I'm eager to experience it soon, but we have so many adventures awaiting us before we come to that. With the announcement of Prime 4, questions have immediately arisen as to where this game will fall in the timeline: will it take place between Corruption and Metroid II, or will it simply be a first-person adventure at some other time? The teaser presented seems to suggest that the game may be related to the content in the Trilogy however, so the future will reveal all. Interestingly enough, Metroid: Samus Returns is actually a remake of Metroid II: Return of Samus, so it's curious that there's so much focus around this part of the storyline. What's been shown at E3 looks exciting and engaging, and is a major overhaul on the original release. Again, a continuation of the series beyond Fusion is what I anticipate the most, so despite my excitement, I'm patient for what I know will be a sequel well done.

Because Corruption is the last of the Trilogy, I wanted to make sure that we saw the special ending sequence as part of the game this time, as we've had to view the previous two online. Indeed, we reached our goal: our completion rate was 100%, with a mission time of 20:53.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is Claudia's favorite of the three, and while I consider each of them parts of a whole, I feel I had the most fun in this last leg as well. Each game has its quirks, but they've all made monumental changes in the way I see and prefer to play games; so although they're equally important, I'd have to favor Corruption because it was developed for (and to take the most advantage of) the controls that improved upon the other two so greatly. A second point is that story presentation was the biggest that Metroid had ever seen in its release history, and that trend seems to only be growing. To make this a trilogy of virtues, Corruption uses exquisite detail to bridge gaps between the "main" games in the series, to illustrate themes that are found later along the timeline, and to also reinforce statements that I feel the Metroid series makes about our own world.

Absolutely, the conversation on Metroid Prime 3 could continue on, but like our time behind Samus' visor, it's time to move on to the next.


So here are my thoughts about the game:

Pros

- It's nice to get an interior view of Samus' gunship from her perspective. This is the first time for the series. The instrument panels, interaction via motion controls, and even a few encoded secrets involving the communicator, make this unique gunship experience stand out.

- As opposed to characterization, full voice acting is something that Nintendo hadn't utilized much across most their gaming library for some time, but Corruption got the treatment and it truly breathes life into the story's characters with naturally delivered, emotive dialogue. Still, Samus characteristically holds her tongue, but the rest of the cast doesn't seem to mind.

- The interface is the most streamlined it's ever been, and every bit of info it displays is contained in a unified menu system. The Wii Remote again proves itself; as the game's selection method, navigating everything is fluid and intuitively labeled.

- Speaking of navigation, the map has again been improved: it's easily the most versatile version of the series. The ability to freely point to and select any room independently of the center (allowing for a singular zoomed view, and the option to highlight that room), greatly aids in completing objectives and returning for items as appropriate.

- More detail than ever is found throughout this chapter of the Trilogy than the previous two, regarding both polygon count and texture work. The frame rate is solid, and in only a couple instances did the action ever cause an exception. Color usage is again masterful, unifying the entire experience, but letting individual worlds and regions shine with their own identities. Brilliant use of lighting and colorful bloom adds intensity to match every moment of Samus' mission.

- Stellar is a perfect word to describe the environments in Metroid Prime 3. What was tested in Echoes has grown wonderfully: skyboxes paint vast distances, while rendered geometry generates a greater and more detailed sense of local depth. SkyTown is a favorite location of ours, with its structures that reminisce of Art Nouveau and bear intricate surfaces of metallic gold and green.

- Another little detail we both liked is that Samus' missiles are modeled to be physical projectiles. The little things are what create the big things, and the multitude of those very details is part of what makes the third part of the Trilogy the best for us.                                                       

- As always, the music is exceptional. There are of course reprisals of previous Prime themes and more classic fare to connect Corruption with the rest, and the original score sets the tone and feel of each environment, world, and situation in which Samus finds herself.

- As advertised on the back of the case, this is how Metroid Prime is meant to be played. The Wii Remote controls are exemplary: they show how first person gaming should be implemented. As mentioned in past posts regarding this topic, having both speed and accuracy available simultaneously is paramount; thereby representing a zenith in gaming control that has only been perfected by Nintendo.

- The culmination of the Trilogy is marked by a series of epic scenarios and battles. The stakes have certainly escalated by the end of this chapter, and the finale of Corruption provides some grand closure.


Cons

- Those familiar with the more technical aspects of the Metroid series will recall that the doors are essentially real-time loading screens; therefore, to experience such long waits before doors open, and often in some tense situations, is quite a surprising step backward for the series. Let's hope that Corruption keeps the title of "slowest doors", and that things only improve in the future.

- The wonderful worlds that were represented in both Prime and Echoes set a standard that was undoubtedly surpassed this time around. That said, we found ourselves staring at what we expected to never see again: texture seams are everywhere in Corruption, from the depths of space, to some of the most subtle texture details. These anomalies most certainly interrupt the impressions intended by the artists, and we were truly shocked that these sorts of oversights exist in a game that otherwise possesses such polish.

- The Galactic Federation is an appropriate representation of human government: they monitor Samus' activities and even installed equipment into her suit without her consent. While they meant well in this instance, they also implement methods for themselves that mirror Space Pirate activity. This may be an intentional part of the story and depth of the series regarding ethics, but we must be careful not to bring this sort of reality into our experience as a result of the exposure to this content.

- Finding new gameplay mechanics is something that Nintendo expertly explores, so while the inclusion of the Wii Remote Nunchuk motion capabilities in the Metroid Prime 3 experience was quite engaging, its use in dismembering creatures with Samus' grapple abilities is a violent aspect we found particularly distasteful.


With Corruption marking the end of the Metroid Prime Trilogy, we learn that the Trilogy itself will soon end, by becoming a quadrilateral experience. Regardless of what shape the situation takes, we'll always be ready for the adventure. Next stop: SR388!

Happy gaming,
- Aaron -

Wednesday, June 21

DIY Beauty: Don't Sweat It

Summer is finally here, and that means a lot of hot weather (and with this comes sweating). Sweating is a wonderful, natural way to detoxify the body, but ruining beautiful clothing is not ideal. It is easy to stop this from happening though with a single panty liner. Just cut one liner in half, down the center (it can also be cut to shape for a tank top as well), and stick each half to the inside of the shirt under the arms so that they protect the cloth from wetness and yellow staining. This works especially well for expensive garments or ones that are dry clean only. However, make sure that the liners can't be seen under thin fabrics, because that would be very funny! This trick definitely only works for thicker materials.

Cheers and here's to happy, healthy living.
~Claudia

Monday, May 29

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Once again we're off to the high seas for a bit of piratey fun! I'm always so excited about these movies and I've made sure to stay clear of the spoilers before I go, as it provides me with the most sincere experience that I can have without being affected by opinions or plot points. That being said, I unexpectedly went onto YouTube on the morning of the movie release, and an ad for the film was running. I thought nothing of the seemly random explosions and swashbuckling as I browsed, but then out of nowhere they decided to show more than what I was wanting to see! Indeed it was a lesson, and in the future I will be more cautious. Despite that, I was still extremely happy that the day had finally arrived, and it's always so wonderful to have another adventure with our favorite pirates.

Dead Men Tell No Tales was no exception. It was filled with thrilling action and gorgeous CG that's so good that there really isn't anything to nitpick about (most movies these days are like that). The colors were brilliant, and I absolutely adored the turquoise and slate palettes that the artists chose for the promotional artwork as well.

One thing that I did notice about this particular movie was that it seemed a bit darker than the other stories. There was a lot more implied brutality, and even Salazar's rage was quite foreboding. I've admired that, being a Disney franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean has kept it pretty lighthearted up until now, but this movie definitely reminded us about the true nature of those times. It was not an easy life for a pirate. These days I'm not into violence as a form of entertainment, but it's pretty hard to separate the two. Alas, pirates and violence go hand in hand. Perhaps that duality will always exist in our world. Or maybe one day we'll only need that form of expression via a vicarious experience like movies, TV, and games. In the meantime I'll take what I can get, but perhaps in the very near future Aaron and I can just go to the Caribbean and meet our needs directly: awesome clothes, tall ships, freedom, treasure hunting, white sands, and the horizon.

☠ Claudia

Thursday, May 25

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes

What's behind door number two?

Facing darkness is most often a spiritual or philosophical endeavor, but as we navigate the corridors of the planet Aether, we learn that Samus has a far more literal confrontation before her. It would be best to let the events unfold for the player on their own, but suffice it to say that this adventure is steeped in the duality of light and dark. That reality of Nature is a subject that Claudia and I frequent in our conversations, and so the beauty that can be found in both sides of this game can inspire one to think about the same in our own experience.

Echoes turns out to be the longest game in the Metroid series. Scheduling time to reach our 97% completion rate in 23 hours, 40 minutes proved a little tricky; regardless, here we are with one remaining chapter to conclude the Trilogy before we return to the main storyline. Ironically, this review may also be one of the shortest in our marathon.

Metroid Prime: Echoes expands upon everything Prime began for the series. Imagery is detailed and vast: environments are more expansive and organic, boldly offsetting the presence of technology. Color usage is brilliant, and is something that Claudia noted several times. The game's matching soundscape sings of a world revered by those who call it home, or at times pulls at the depths of darkness for something familiar but very different.

Oddly enough, the cinematic nature of Echoes seems a bit lacking compared to my memory. Despite her hardened personality (that was possibly the aim of the developers), Samus seems inhumanly cold and callous during the majority of moments throughout her stay on Aether, regardless of the situation. Although Echoes surpasses Prime in many ways, it would've been refreshing to see Samus act more human. Even through silence, a character can speak volumes, and she didn't create much credit for our species.


So here are my thoughts about the game:

Pros

- The excellence in controls continues with the Trilogy version of Echoes. The Wii motion controls are spot on for every chapter of the Prime series, and this one is just as perfect.

- The story presentation in Prime 2 is deeper, and more elaborate. Save for Other M, every Metroid game to date has very limited interaction with other characters. Echoes is one of the first to break this trend, having a living indigenous ambassador of another species who communicates with Samus. The Luminoth are an intriguing, enlightened people.

- Visuals push the GameCube even more with textures and particles. The ground broken in Metroid Prime was stellar; however, Echoes takes textures, particles and the more elaborate use of polygons further. In certain "rooms" of the map, the terrain opens up to reveal massive expanses, usually placing Samus at the precipice of shear cliffs, to beautiful effect.

- Design work for creatures is very creative, and some enemy behaviors are more complex, providing greater challenges to the player. The guardian battles were an interesting way of recovering Samus' abilities. Yes, again: it's a Metroid thing.

- The menu system is new and more detailed, and shows the current percentages of subcategories within the hierarchy to help visualize how complete the logbook is. The design of the file structure is something I've found unique to Echoes.

- Music and sound design are both as expertly executed as in the first Prime. The overall atmosphere has a more spiritual but ominous feel that compliments the visuals. Speaking of ominous visuals....


Cons

- The atmosphere in Echoes is the darkest yet. While presented with prowess and surreal beauty, that potency has very real spiritual connotations, and can affect the player in underlying ways. Every creation reveals what lives within its creator.

- While the visual presentation in Echoes exudes the same expertise that has become synonymous with Retro Studios, we did notice something very surprising: the skybox used to give Echoes some of the most expansive scenery in the series has two serious flaws in the forms of incredibly low image resolution and a noticeable texture seam near the bottom.

- Although Samus' suit designs in Echoes were striking and unique, her proportions were painfully exaggerated in some cases: I believe "wack" was the term Claudia used.

- Again, Samus' behavior during certain cinematic moments was disappointing. There's a human in there! We would've liked to see her show that more. Corruption does a better job with story, and Metroid: Other M is the most cinematic chapter of the series, so it's nice that future titles will improve upon portraying Samus as a believable, feeling human being.


Light and dark are within all things, and we will expand our consciousness based on each of our experiences with this duality. Our time with Metroid Prime: Echoes has done this for us also, and we have grown as a result.

Happy gaming,
- Aaron -

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