Metroid: Dread diary 3

I’m exploring Artaria, I am starting to explore the new area that I opened up by lowering the water level in the room guarded by the EMMI-025M, when a section of the floor gives way, like a trap door opening, and before I know it I’m sliding downward.

Somehow, I stumbled into a new area, and before I knew it, I slid into a low corridor that lead to a chamber with a boss fight. I wasn’t expecting this and I feel off-balance and unprepared, but there’s no turning back. I have to fight.

I love this. So many video games prepare you for a boss fight by making it very obvious that there’s a difficult fight ahead. They practically put a billboard on the pathway to the boss’s arena that says “BOSS FIGHT AHEAD LAST CHANCE TO SAVE AND TOP OFF YOUR HEALTH AND POWER.” This time there’s none of that, and without warning I have to do battle, survive or die.

A robotic-looking metal eye occupies the room, and when I fall into the arena it wakes up, looks at me, and then moves upward to the top of the room. It’s on.

But it’s a bit of a letdown from there. Weak-looking lasers shoot at me lethargically every few seconds, and what looks like the rinkas from the original Metroid’s Mother Brain chamber emerge every few seconds as well and slowly float towards my location. Both are so easy to dodge by just stepping aside, there’s barely even a need to jump.

The eyeball is up at the top of the room, in the center, and I can aim upwards and blast away at it with my arm cannon. Regular shots don’t seem to affect it, but missiles and charge beams do. Dodging its fire is easy. I just walk right and left every so often when I need to get out of the way of one of the slow-moving attacks, and aim up and blast the eyeball when I’m under it. My current missile capacity is 21, and I shoot all of them. After a few shots, the armor plating on the eyeball blows off, and it’s exposed. A few of my shots miss, but mostly I hit it. The very last missile does it, it blows up, and I’m rewarded with the Omega Beam again.

I need to use the Omega Beam to blow open the only exit to the boss fight chamber. The EMMI-025M that has been stalking this general area is alerted to my presence, and is apparently drawn to the Omega power. I guess I have to fight it now. I’ve done this once before, how hard can it be?

EMMI-025M is at full strength, while the first one I had defeated was damaged when I encountered it. EMMI-01P was dispatched with an Omega charged blast to the face plate, but this time the attack doesn’t seem to phase EMMI-025M, and it keeps coming. I run and get more distance, then charge up my shot and hit it again. It still keeps coming.

Due to the imprecision of the Joycon thumbsticks, it’ not very easy to aim the Omega beam, and I’m not sure if I’m missing, barely, or if the EMMI just needs to take a few hits before I can defeat it and move on. I reason that since this one is in better condition, it would make sense if I need to blast it a few times, but I’ve run up against it a dozen times and on my best runs I’ve managed to hit it maybe 3 times, and it doesn’t seem to have taken noticeable damage.

My major criticism of the Switch hardware is that the joycon analog sticks are terrible, so I’m feeling handicapped by the hardware. I can Switch to docked mode and use a pro controller and maybe get a bit of advantage, but it’s frustrating not to be able to get the most out of the Switch by being able to use it as a handheld due to the poor control offered by the Joycon thumbsticks, when this hybrid console/handheld concept was the main selling point of the system.

So it seems that the way to do this fight is to keep your distance, charge up an Omega shot, and nail the EMMI in the face with it, then run, get more distance, and repeat. All you have to do is avoid screwing up and getting caught, and ideally not miss your shots when you take them. It doesn’t seem that hard, and if it weren’t for the imprecision of the joycons, I’d probably have done it on the first try.

After about a dozen or so attempts, I finally figure out what I’m doing wrong. The door to exit the boss room is actually a mini-tutorial for the way to fight the EMMI. I didn’t realize it at first. The door takes two types of Omega blast to open. First you have to hit it with a sustained burst of rapid fire, which blows off some kind of shielding. You can see the shielding heat up with an orange glow before it fails. After that, you hit it with the charged Omega shot that you used to take down the first EMMI you encountered. Because I thought I had learned from the first EMMI encounter, I didn’t realize that the game was trying to teach me a new mechanic with the Omega blaster. But apparently with an EMMI at full health, hitting it with the charged shot at first doesn’t do it; you have to hit them with a sustained blast of the rapid-fire Omega stream shot to blow off the face armor, then hit it in the face with an Omega charge shot.

After realizing this, it only takes me 2 or 3 tries, again, thanks to the crummy precision of the joycon analog sticks. But I do finally defeat this second EMMI, and it’s not really too difficult.

My reward for defeating this EMMI is a new ability called Spider Magnet. This allows me to climb special walls and ceilings. I’ve seen a few areas with these surfaces already. The ability makes sense to get from the EMMI, because it has the ability to climb walls, but it ability to do this isn’t limited to only special surfaces.

Of course, now that the EMMI is no more, my Omega cannon has run out of power again, and reverted back to the normal cannon. This feels a bit artificial, especially now that it’s happened twice. Why the Omega power and the EMMI’s life force should be linked with one another isn’t explained, and doesn’t make sense, other than as an artificial rule for the game to force you to be able to deal with the EMMI only when the game wants you to be ready to do it. Realistically, it should be possible to exhaust the Omega energy without killing the EMMI, resulting in the game soft-locking you into having to die in order to start over. And as well, it should be possible to kill an EMMI with some energy remaining in the Omega gun. The designers could have easily made it so this left-over Omega energy would never be enough to kill the next EMMI that you encounter, and doing so would have given you a bit of false hope, or an ability to deal a tiny bit of bonus pre-damage to the next EMMI encountered, which would be a nice way to reward the player for making an efficient kill on the previous encounter.

While I’m on the topic, I don’t understand why I can’t disable an EMMI by taking out its arms and legs, or at least slow it down. The knees, elbows, and hip and shoulder joints look like they should all be vulnerable to damage, and it would be cool to have another way to deal with them, and render them less of a threat on their way to being permanently deactivated.

Anyhow, I now have a new ability that I can use to explore Artaria. I make my way back, trying to ascend upward toward the surface of the planet, which is after all my mission objective. I find it difficult to move in a direction that feels like progress though. The most of the direct pathways out of the area are still the one-ways — ramps that I can’t climb up, and low-height corridors that I can’t slide into because the entrance on my side is not on ground level, and there’s no mechanic to enter the slide from a wall climb or fall, until I find the morph ball ability.

I do find some magnetic walls and get into some new areas that I couldn’t get to previously, and find a missile upgrade or two. My capacity is now up to 29.

But I’m still trying to find a way out of the immediate area, and go upward, trying to reach the surface, and I’m having a hard time. I need to study the map more and try to read the markers so I now which routes I can really make use of, and which are locked to me because of one-ways and abilities that I don’t have yet. And this is not easy.

One thing I find frustrating is that whenever I switch back to the map, it resets the zoom level to its default, and I have to repeatedly zoom back to the detail level I need in order to see the immediate area I’m in, and trace my path. I hope some future quality of life update addresses this, because it sure gets annoying when you are lost and need to examine the map every few seconds.

I also would like it if you could plot way points on the map and then the in side scrolling action view, you’d get a HUD display indicating the path you’ve plotted out from the map. That would be super handy and help you to avoid wrong turns. Obviously this should only be available where you have already explored or downloaded the map data from a kiosk. If I had this capability I’d be able to spend much less time switching back and forth between map and action views, and get on with making progress.

It’s possible to explore and find the way out, of course, I just need to take time and figure it out.

But right now it feels like a good stopping point. So I find my way to a save point and log my progress.

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