August is Metroid Month!

In case you live under a rock that blocks all wi-fi reception or you don’t care about things that are badass, you already know that August marks the 30th anniversary of the Metroid series. And while the Big N might be giving Samus Aran the red-headed stepchild treatment, I’ve been looking past this, and instead focusing on Metroid Prime: Federation Force, due to drop the 19th of this month. Amazon Prime Day One shipping better deliver too, let me tell you. I mean that literally and figuratively. But on the interim, I’ve been readying myself by getting into the Metroid spirit.

In preparation of Federation Force, I’ve been playing through Metroid Prime: Hunters for the first time, on the Nintendo DS. I managed to score a complete-in-box, mint-condition copy for $10.50 shipped (it can go for around $20 depending on the market). I’ve been absolutely loving this game. I wrote about Metroid Prime last week and raved specifically about the controls, and I am quite pleased with how they managed to make Hunters work on a touch device.

As a mouse-and-keyboard gamer for many years before jumping back to Nintendo handhelds, the highly sensitive and natural motion of rotating your character with a flick of the wrist was what turned me off to first person shooters played with joystick controllers. It simply took too long to move around and was not precise enough. Enter the stylus on the Nintendo DS. I honestly did not expect it to work so well with Hunters, but I was zipping around floors and taking out enemies immediately; there was a learning curve of about five seconds, and that’s saying a lot for someone who generally hates touchscreens.

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Source.

I had no idea how they could get Metroid Prime action on to a handheld, but now all I can say is that I hope Federation Force plays this well. They’ve also done a great service to making a game work on a portable device, where long periods of playtime between save points act more as an inconvenience than a challenge. The levels are designed in such a way that roughly half-way through each planet, the player can warp back to base (Samus’ ship) to save and re-charge. Overall I’ve logged 3 hours in it so far and it’s a blast.

The thing about Metroid games in general that makes me like them so much, especially as with the 2D scrolling games, is the sheer speed and frantic nature of the gameplay. It really sucks you in because it requires such attention and focus that it because extremely immersive. My fiance walked in on my playing the next game I’m about to mention, and beside the fact that I didn’t even hear her standing next to me, after she watched me jump through several rooms quickly for a few seconds, she had to turn away because it was making her dizzy. Badass!

Back to the controls, there’s only one main issue I’ve run into with Metroid Prime: Hunters. In other words, holding the DS (or the 3DS XL, in my case) for a long period of time while controlling the game with the stylus is extremely straining on the wrists, I found. Due to the tense nature of the game, your hands can get slightly sweaty as you inadvertently press harder on the screen, and while this already causes some minor issues holding the non-retractable stylus, the other side effect is a loss of aiming precision. For this reason, I’ve generally limited my playing sessions to about 45 minutes. I don’t see this as an issue of course, as 45 minutes in this game is plenty of time to get a lot of things done.

Moving on to the next order of business, if you’ve been following the Metroid news at all, you’ve probably found it hard to ignore the release of a long-awaited project known as AM2R, or Another Metroid II Remake. Hell, this is the first remake I’m hearing about, I didn’t even realize people ever finished these types of fan projects! I caught wind of this a few days ago, and immediately downloaded the binaries, knowing full well it was only a matter of time before the project got the Nintendo treatment, that is, a healthy serving of a cease and desist with a side dish of promised legal action for non-compliance.

I finally got around to loading it up and playing it yesterday, and I’ve logged a good couple of hours in it so far. It just plays so perfectly, and it feels like a Nintendo game. And that’s not an easy feat to pull off. Regardless of the fact that the bulk of the assets were ripped from actual Nintendo games, the controls were done perfectly, and it works great with an Xbox 360 Controller, my PC controller of choice.

It’s hard to say much else about this game, other than the fact that it is extremely well done, from the menus to the audio, the graphics to the performance. My hat goes off to the team that put this all together over the past few years.

Of course, floating around the rumor mill today were hints of a takedown issued by Nintendo towards the AM2R project, so if you’re interesting in a great callback to Metroid II in the style of Super Metroid, it’s not a game you’re going to want to miss. Drop what you’re doing right now and go download it!

So there it is: my plan to get ready for Federation Force. 1) Beat the Metroid II remake, and 2) Beat Metroid Prime: Hunters. I’ve still got 11 days to do it, and I think I can make it happen.

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