Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Great Playthrough - Game 28: Metroid AND Game 29: Super Mario Galaxy

Yes, once again today you are getting value for money with a double-game blog post. It's a double-dose of Nintendo goodness, contrasting the old with the new...

Released on: NES
Played on: 3DS Virtual Console (Ambassador Game)
Release date: 1986

So let's start with the old.


As I've banged on about in these columns before, I'm a big Nintendo fanboy. Couple that with the fact that I got this as one of my 3DS Ambassador Games, which meant I didn't really give it a fair play at the time, since I got 20 games at (almost) the same time, so didn't have time to try them all, and I was excited to try this.

Picture, if you will, a balloon. A Helium balloon. That represents me. The helium inside? That's the excitement I had to play the game. Now imagine this tiny pin represents reality. As the pin touches the balloon, the helium slowly seeps out and the balloon falls, dejectedly, to the floor.

If you didn't follow my frankly bizarre metaphor, here it is in simple terms.

I was really disappointed with Metroid.

This was especially gutting as I did, in my teens, own and thoroughly enjoy Super Metroid on the SNES, so I was hoping that this would be the same experience. But while it shares various traits with that game, I didn't warm to this at all.

There are a few problems - some of which would have been technical limitations from back in the day, and some of which are just, well, design flaws.

Firstly, the levels are rather sparse. Now, I didn't initially take this as a bad thing, because I am fully aware the point of Metroid games is to explore the setting, not to be in a fire-fight every 2 minutes. But the problem with this original game is simply that because all of the areas look very alike (occasionally undergoing a palete change), I found quite quickly that I was bored of walking around the same areas over and over again.

The game's also quite hard, although not as bad as a lot of the retro games I've played on this blog, but the frustrating thing is that whenever you die you start from the beginning. Granted things you've picked up (like the morph ball) stay with you, but still. For a game that encourages exploration, to go back to the beginning when you die and have to fight your way through the same enemies is (for me, at least) just irritating. And yes, I know that this is a partly due to me being so used to modern games where you have save points all over the place and instant respawns etc etc, but still, this blog is supposed to be honest, and that is one of the things that kept putting me off.

And yes, I know that I've only played the beginning, and maybe these flaws get fixed over time, but I'm not going to spend my time playing through a boring game in the hope it gets better. That's like people who tell you to watch a TV series because it gets really good from mid-way through season 3, but you have to watch from the beginning to understand it all..

My final criticism is not the fault of the game designers at all. But because I'm playing this on my 3DS's small screen, and it was originally designed to be played on a big TV (OK, maybe not THAT big, since it was released in 1986 and most people had TVs the size of a hardback book at the time, but you take my point), it's just not designed for portable handheld play. It's too small.

So all in all, Metroid was a real disappointment for me. I played it for 15 minutes, and I was happy to stop..

Rating: 3/10
Time played: 15 minutes
Would I play it again? Unlikely.

Super Mario Galaxy
Released on: Nintendo Wii
Played on: Nintendo Wii
Release date: 2007

Now I know what you're all thinking..

"Oh no. It's Brawny reviewing another Mario game. He's going to insist it's amazing and praise it to the heavens just because he's a Nintendo fanboy."

Well, I have pre-empted this reaction, and prepared my mature, adult response as follows.

*Takes deep breath*

*Blows raspberry*

Are we clear?

OK - here's my even more mature, adult response. I am a Nintendo fanboy, yes, and I make no apology for that. However, that doesn't mean I'm just going to love the game unequivocally, does it?

No, it doesn't.. As hard as it may be for me to be critical of a Mario game, Super Mario Galaxy does have it's problems, and sadly for this blog, a lot of these problems occur in the first hour of gameplay.

For years I was distrustful of 3D Mario games. I put off playing Mario 64 for years because I didn't like the idea of it, only eventually playing it when I got the DS remake, and Super Mario Sunshine is a stupid brave attempt to f*ck up evolve the gameplay...  (I may be being too harsh on Super Mario Sunshine, I haven't played it for ages - we'll see how I feel when I get to that playthrough). Super Mario Galaxy, on the other hand, I warmed to on my first playthrough, and was therefore looking forward to revisiting it.

And sadly? I was slightly disappointed. Unfairly so, in fact, because I know that this game is full of brilliant and innovative levels, and I know that before you can get into the more complicated ideas, new players have to learn and understand the mechanics of the game but the opening is very... how can I put this?

It's very .... meh.

(Note - In the Braunton Dictionary, "Meh" translates as "That noise you make when something is disappointingly average.")

The problems start at the beginning, with the cut scenes. Seriously, who needs backstory with a Mario game? Peach is Kidnapped. That's all you need to know. Three words. In fact, for Mario Galaxy it should have simply stated "Peach is Kidnapped... IN SPACE!". In fact, they could have hired the announcer from the Muppet Show to announce "PEACH. IN. SPAAACEEEE!" And then, the game just starts.

But anyway, once you've spent about ten minutes in cut-scenes and pointless tutorials, you finally get to visit your first galaxy.

And it's very pedestrian.

Again, I know that the opening of the game is designed to teach newcomers, and as I've played both this game and it's sequel to death, then maybe I'm just spoilt and too used to it, but...

Well, let's put it this way. I can play Super Mario Bros World 1-1 and I enjoy it immensely. I love the design of Green Hill Zone in Sonic 1, and it entertains me every time I play. So why does the first level in Galaxy have to be so dull?

"But Brawny," I hear you say, "It's a modern game. The player needs time to learn the controls etc."

OK, that's definitely an argument. But it's still possible to do teach the player how to play the game ina  fun and interesting way - take the opening of Batman: Arkham City for example - that's a modern tutorial level which is also gripping at the same time.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that we should have started Super Mario Galaxy with Mario handcuffed and walked through a corridor of guards and prisoners (That'd be an entirely different game - Super Mario Vigilante maybe?) I just want a first level that's gripping and fun. Is that too much to ask?

In this game, sadly, yes. Apparently it is.

It gets better. The 2nd and 3rd missions in the first galaxy get a little more exciting, although still rather bland, and then from the second galaxy, enjoyment begins to occur more frequently.

But in my first hour, that's as far as I got. Obviously there's a lot that is good about the game (the music is great, graphics are very pretty, controls are exceedingly intuitive), and I know from prior experience that the game has some wonderful sections. Sadly though, the slow start meant that more of this hour of gameplay ended up being full of frustration rather than enjoyment. It's still fun, but it could have been better.

Rating: 7.5/10
Time played: 1 hour
Would I play it again?: Yes - but probably not from the beginning.

As for what I play next time? That's a surprise. Why not tune in and find out?

No comments: