Forums - Gaming Discussion - Metroidvania: A Love Story

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Who knew all the way back in 1987 that a little game called Metroid would pretty much singlehandedly create an entire genre of videogaming that would still be thriving over 30 years later?  As one of the first open world games, it challenged players to memorize its labyranthine caverns and methodically eliminate dead ends, cataloguing specific areas and rooms for exploration at a later time when equipped with the right upgrade.  If Mario with his straightforward run and jumping was like checkers, then Metroid was like Chess, requiring from players more than just pushing right on the d-pad until you reached the flagpole.

I remember staying up late at night (early morning) with the music at low volumes and my fright levels at nine, dreading both the cruel creatures waiting to murder me in the cavernous depths of Brinstar, and one of my parents waking up to find me not fast asleep on a school night.  If they found me out, and they often would, they'd take the power adapter to my NES away for weeks at a time.  But it was a punishment well risked as the joys of exploring Zebes and finding hidden missile packs was worth whatever punishments would be doled out on me when I was caught.

In 1994 I experienced Super Metroid in much the same way, as an adult now, but in one long over night binge with a friend of mind as we took turns hoping to beat the game before it had to be returned to the video store the next day.  We were successful, taking only the occasional smoke (smoking's bad, kids...don't ever start) break to gush about the game and ponder our way out of a particularly perplexing impasse. That first 16 hour playthrough session would not be my last as Super Metroid became my most played game throughout my college years.

So my love for the Metroidvania genre is grounded in these classics.  I've definitely enjoyed my fair share of the Vania aspects of this portmanteau, but my first and true love was Metroid and to me the only reason I even allow the Vania part of this genre to remain is that Metroidvania sounds way cooler than Metroid-style games.  

So for this thread I thought it would be cool if we all shared our personal stories with this genre and what has made it so special to each of you. What are your favorite titles that fit in this genre.  Do you prefer the 2D or the 3D games?  And where would you like to see the genre go next?  



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I liked Metroid since the first one on NES, but I didn't play it until Super Metroid was already out. Though Metroid was the first one I played in that genre, I thought the concept of that sort of maze like layout where you need to remember to come back to certain places once you get an item that lets you access them was interesting, but I wasn't any good at memorizing the map.
Played it at a friends place, and he would practice his guitar at the same time, so I ended up associating certain songs with that game.

Super Metroid was really impressive. I can still vividly remember the soundtrack and sound effects and some of the areas even though I haven't played it since.
My neighbor's dad was apparently really good at it, and was able to beat it in under 3 hours, which me and my friends thought about trying to attempt, but we ended up not trying, because we had other new games I play I guess.

My favorite Metroidvania game is Castlevania: Symphony of the Night though. As I was very much into rpgs at the time, the rpg elements, and the Metroid elements mixed into a Castlevania game made me love that game a lot. But it was also due to many of its unique ideas, like the upside down castle, that it became such a memorable game for me. And one that I have replayed a few times as well.



Hiku said:

My favorite Metroidvania game is Castlevania: Symphony of the Night though. As I was very much into rpgs at the time, the rpg elements, and the Metroid elements mixed into a Castlevania game made me love that game a lot. But it was also due to many of its unique ideas, like the upside down castle, that it became such a memorable game for me. And one that I have replayed a few times as well.

I have no idea how this has came to be, but I have never played Symphony of the Night.  I've played all or most of the GBA Castlevania titles and have loved them all, but for some reason I just never had access to this game.  It's certainly a game I look forward to playing, but for some reason not enough to seek it out.  I'll have to do something about that soon.



super_etecoon said:

Who knew all the way back in 1987 that a little game called Metroid would pretty much singlehandedly create an entire genre of videogaming that would still be thriving over 30 years later?  As one of the first open world games, it challenged players to memorize its labyranthine caverns and methodically eliminate dead ends, cataloguing specific areas and rooms for exploration at a later time when equipped with the right upgrade.  If Mario with his straightforward run and jumping was like checkers, then Metroid was like Chess, requiring from players more than just pushing right on the d-pad until you reached the flagpole.

I wouldn't necessarily say the first Metroid singlehandedly created the genre, as the game was more of an experiment at the time and for a long time there was nothing else like it. It wasn't until Super Metroid came out that the genre began to solidify itself and eventually spread out to other developers in the industry. Also, as an avid Metroid 1 hater and mild enthusiast of Chess, that comparison kinda hurt.

Anyways.

My first experience with Metroidvania... I don't think I played a single one in all of my childhood or teenage years. I think my first experience was in 2013, as an 18-year-old, when I downloaded Super Metroid to play it on an emulator and see what the hype was all about. Got stuck early on (running room in Brinstar, obviously), wasn't enjoying myself, gave up on it. I then tried it again a few months later, started over, beat Kraid and got stuck again with no idea where to go, wasn't enjoying myself, gave up on it again (yeah, I guess "In defence of piracy" didn't do wonders here).

In June 2014, though, Super Metroid was among the rather large selection of games I'd gotten for free for buying Mario Kart 8 (RIP Club Nintendo), and so I decided to give it another go, convinced that, on the actual hardware, I would get into it this time, and I wasn't wrong. I had a great time, and was amazed that I could almost beat the game without looking anything up online (unfortunately the glass bridge broke my pride). Finished it in about 10 hours, and, while I did think it was a very good game, I couldn't quite see what was so special about it the moment I beat it. That's because I was dumb. But fast-forward a few hours, and later that night, when thinking about the game, my below-par little brain finally realized that the Metroid at the end was *spoilers spoilers*, and then I was like, whoa!! Ended up replaying the game shortly after, and from the 2nd time onwards it was just sheer love.

Funny enough, the next two Metroidvanias I played (Primes 1 and 2) had a similar story where I couldn't get into them early on and took me several attempts until I finally started appreciating them. Well, Prime 1 at least, with Prime 2 I didn't enjoy that game at all until my 2nd playthrough came along.

After finishing the Prime Trilogy, I went back to the 2D games, beating Fusion, Zero Mission, AM2R, Metroid, Metroid 2, and Samus Returns in that order. Found Metroid 1 to be a horribly outdated mess I never wanna touch again, Metroid 2 to be an alright game for its hardware and time, and all the other ones were pretty awesome. Somewhere between these, I also played Ori and the Blind Forest, my first non-Metroid Metroidvania, and also really enjoyed it. In early 2018, I finally touched the other side of the genre's name by playing Symphony of the Night, which I found to be a great but flawed game, and at that point I think I concluded that no other Metroidvania would ever come close to Super Metroid for me.

Then, E3 2018 happened, and Nintendo went like "hey, we're releasing Hollow Knight on the Switch TODAY", and it was like $8 on the Mexican eShop, so, I mean, yeah, that was a pretty fast purchase. And it didn't disappoint, absolutely amazing game. I wrote about it here, and I still feel mostly this way about it today.

That said, Super Metroid is still probably my favorite. Over the years, I've actually gotten pretty decent at speedrunning it (at an amateur level, of course - my record was somewhere around 65 minutes), and it's just so much fun to break that game... it has that BotW-esque vibe, where you feel like the developers actively want you to try and break it, and that just makes any game a lot of fun. And no matter what bullshit you try to pull off, it's amazing how the game always remains fully functional and never gets you soft locked or anything. Add to that the great world design, artstyle, soundtrack and sound effects, awesome bosses, great opening and ending, and just the whole atmosphere in general, and yeah, it's kind of a near perfect masterpiece. Good stuff, that game.

Looking forward to Ritual of the Night later this month.



@ mZuzek, my quoting isn't working for some reason, so I'll just put my thoughts here...

I think that Metroid was where it all started. Certainly to have a trend or a genre you need to have more than one, so by that token your point is well taken. But Super Metroid just refined all the elements that were in place in Metroid. I won't suggest that the first Metroid is better than Super. That would just be ridiculous. I will say, though, that Metroid has more in common with Super Metroid than Mario Bros has with Super Mario Bros. And while Metroid is barely playable as a modern game (thank goodness for Zero Mission), when I played it at 11 years old it was ground breaking and the difficulty of the game was something that I really enjoyed. Oh..and I love chess, too. My only point about that is that chess makes you think a lot more than checkers and in that way the analogy works. I know that Metroid isn't nearly as elegant a game as Chess.

Regarding your playthroughs of Super and the Prime series, I think it's awesome that you question yourself enough to return to games that you didn't once enjoy or appreciate. I can tell by the way you speak about Super Metroid that you would have denied yourself quite a bit of enjoyment had you not returned to the title. Congrats on the 65 minute comepltion time. My best was 71 minutes when I was at my most practiced, but I've found a few new shortcuts since then and I'd be curious to see what that would do to my time. I always get bogged down on replays these days trying to mockball for the first Super Missile pack and end up distracting myself away from going for a true speedrun.

I really like Hollow Knight, but I've been stuck on a boss and it kicked my ass so much that I put the game down. Everytime I see the game on my menu it looks to me like a homework assignment that I keep procastinating. I'm not even sure what the name of the boss is, but I know it's enormous and jumps on you and uses lightning. But up until that moment in time I was really, really enjoying the game. I'm sure I'll return to it sooner or later.



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super_etecoon said:
@ mZuzek, my quoting isn't working for some reason, so I'll just put my thoughts here...

I think that Metroid was where it all started. Certainly to have a trend or a genre you need to have more than one, so by that token your point is well taken. But Super Metroid just refined all the elements that were in place in Metroid. I won't suggest that the first Metroid is better than Super. That would just be ridiculous. I will say, though, that Metroid has more in common with Super Metroid than Mario Bros has with Super Mario Bros. And while Metroid is barely playable as a modern game (thank goodness for Zero Mission), when I played it at 11 years old it was ground breaking and the difficulty of the game was something that I really enjoyed. Oh..and I love chess, too. My only point about that is that chess makes you think a lot more than checkers and in that way the analogy works. I know that Metroid isn't nearly as elegant a game as Chess.

Regarding your playthroughs of Super and the Prime series, I think it's awesome that you question yourself enough to return to games that you didn't once enjoy or appreciate. I can tell by the way you speak about Super Metroid that you would have denied yourself quite a bit of enjoyment had you not returned to the title. Congrats on the 65 minute comepltion time. My best was 71 minutes when I was at my most practiced, but I've found a few new shortcuts since then and I'd be curious to see what that would do to my time. I always get bogged down on replays these days trying to mockball for the first Super Missile pack and end up distracting myself away from going for a true speedrun.

I really like Hollow Knight, but I've been stuck on a boss and it kicked my ass so much that I put the game down. Everytime I see the game on my menu it looks to me like a homework assignment that I keep procastinating. I'm not even sure what the name of the boss is, but I know it's enormous and jumps on you and uses lightning. But up until that moment in time I was really, really enjoying the game. I'm sure I'll return to it sooner or later.

My theory is you're not accustomed to the "create shortcut" button and are clicking on Reply instead of Quote.

Metroid is obviously where it all started, but my point was, if Super Metroid hadn't been made, I'm not sure that Metroidvania would've really happened as a genre. As for the game's quality, I understand that it was groundbreaking for its time, that I can't really judge. But as a younger person, having only played it more recently and after several other Metroid games, it really doesn't hold up. I'm okay with the Chess comparison too, I can live with it. I promise.

About the Super Metroid speedrunning, I just want to point out the 65 minute figure was measured in real time - I believe it was 0:49 in-game. My route was very much the any% route of a few years ago, only with a few changes because I'm obviously not as skilled as these people so I need stuff like the Screw Attack and Spazer. I haven't played in over a year, though, I'm probably very rusty by now.

As for Hollow Knight, I suppose that boss you're stuck in is the Soul Master in the Sanctum..? Yeah, that's probably the first one most people get stuck on. Mind you, it only gets harder from there, much harder, but the game does open up a lot so there are many upgrades available everywhere. Actually, I'd argue even by the point you're in in the game, it should already be open enough for you to find some nice things. In many ways, Hollow Knight is kind of a modern Metroid 1 because of how open-ended it is, most of the map is available for you to explore quite early on. It's obviously a much better game, though.



I'm going to hopefully share a bit about my experiences with this sub-genre tomorrow ( leaving my laptop behind + want to spend time on some gaming ). For now I'll say that Super Metroid is my favorite game, edging out SOTN. I played 2 of the DS Castlevania games ( Dawn of Sorrow and Portrait Of Ruin ), but they never grabbed me the way SOTN did. I also played and enjoyed the NES Metroid, and although good brings up the rear on this short list. Never gave Outland on PS3 a decent shot. Bailed on the second boss. Pussed out tbh. I have to mention I really liked Rouge Legacy when I played it on the Vita, even though it not a true Metroidvania game.

I see the Prime games included in the thread too. I loved the original Prime, but it feels weird to include it to me. Because it's 3D I guess.



Chinese food for breakfast

 

COKTOE said:

I see the Prime games included in the thread too. I loved the original Prime, but it feels weird to include it to me. Because it's 3D I guess.

I understand how it can be weird, but there's really nothing about Prime 1 or 2 that'd make them non-Metroidvania. Prime 3, though, I'm not sure it quite fits into the genre.



mZuzek said:
COKTOE said:

I see the Prime games included in the thread too. I loved the original Prime, but it feels weird to include it to me. Because it's 3D I guess.

I understand how it can be weird, but there's really nothing about Prime 1 or 2 that'd make them non-Metroidvania. Prime 3, though, I'm not sure it quite fits into the genre.

Perfect.  My easy definition for a Metroidvania is that you can go anywhere you want (pretty much) at the beginning of the game if you have the right ability.  And seeing what people are able to do in Prime right at the first steps on Tallon IV (High Jump Boots Aquired!), Prime 1 definitely fits the bill.  The separation in 3 on different planets and an external ship probably does break that formula, although to be honest I never bothered playing it after I completed it the first time on the Wii.  It was a good game and looked pretty, but I missed the overlapping paths that the previous 2 had.



super_etecoon said:
Hiku said:

My favorite Metroidvania game is Castlevania: Symphony of the Night though. As I was very much into rpgs at the time, the rpg elements, and the Metroid elements mixed into a Castlevania game made me love that game a lot. But it was also due to many of its unique ideas, like the upside down castle, that it became such a memorable game for me. And one that I have replayed a few times as well.

I have no idea how this has came to be, but I have never played Symphony of the Night.  I've played all or most of the GBA Castlevania titles and have loved them all, but for some reason I just never had access to this game.  It's certainly a game I look forward to playing, but for some reason not enough to seek it out.  I'll have to do something about that soon.

The GBA ones are similar, and a couple of them were even produced by Igarashi. Interestingly enough I never played the GBA games for some reason, but I did play Order of Ecclecia for DS, which I also liked. I'm curious to try them out. Especially the ones made by Iga.

Symphony of the Night is one of those games that's commonly mentioned among all time greatest games, so it has popped back up on newer consoles in many different iterations, so it shouldn't be hard to find a version of it to play on a current system, if you're interested to try it.
The game features a really nice soundtrack as well.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FA7JFbKCIE&feature=youtu.be


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CVhb-VCtOE&feature=youtu.be