Category: Nintendo

Metroid: Dread epilogue

Metroid: Dread is a fantastic return to the 2D Metroid franchise. Nintendo and MercurySteam have succeeded in producing a sequel worthy of the series’ previous highlights, Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion.

Fundamental to its success is the world design. The different areas of Planet ZDR are deeply interconnected, yet each is distinct and has its own feel. The level designers did a fantastic job of providing the player with a defined path, not an easy thing to achieve with an open world design. This is accomplished by ingenious use of one-way points of no return which commit Samus to exploring “forward” when it might become tempting to backtrack.

The game soft-locks from backtracking you frequently, and at first you might feel unready, even trapped, but each step of the way the design ensures that you have the capabilities needed to continue.

Samus’s character design fits hand-in-glove with the world design to provide a move set and tech tree that work with the world design to create these locks. Each ability that Samus acquires is well realized, with multiple applications, in terms of both movement and combat. Your missiles, bombs, and beams aren’t just weapons, they can unlock parts of the world that are blocked by obstacles that these weapons can eradicate. Likewise, your power suit augmentations aren’t just useful because they provide new ways for you to get around the map, but are effective moves to use in combat: the Flash Shift, especially, but also the Space Jump being essential for the later boss fights. I especially like that immediately after obtaining a new power, you can immediately use it (and often need to in order to escape the room you’re in) to make new progress in the “forward” direction.

I started the game feeling clumsy and awkward with the controls, but by the end I had gotten so practiced that I felt fluent in most of the moves, able to pull them off at will, when needed, and improvise reflexively without having to think about which button does what. There’s certain things that I’m not very good at, chief among them the Shine Spark parkour moves that unlock many of the advanced movement puzzles to earn extra Missile Containers and Energy Tanks, but overall I find moving around in Metroid: Dread to be delightful and empowering.

The challenge curve in Metroid: Dead is amazing. You smoothly ramp up in power as you explore and open up new parts of the world, but the game is always right there with you, providing a level of difficulty that matches well with your current power level in the regions where you need to go in order to make further progress. There were times when I’ve felt like the challenge level was a little beneath my current power level, but they were mostly transitory, and seemed to serve a purpose, such as pacing the challenge level so that I could relax a bit between the bigger challenges represented by the boss fights. Mostly, if the game feels like you need to concentrate and take things seriously, you’re moving in the right direction, and if it feels like it’s a walk in the park, you’re backtracking in the wrong direction (although you might be able to find some useful powerups this way.) When it takes one charge shot or less to destroy an enemy, it’s a fairly trivial threat, but in large numbers, or if particularly aggressive, they can still hurt you.

The enemies in the game have the right feel for a 2D Metroid: you’ve got a decent mix of:

  • “wall barnacles” (enemies who attach themselves to the wall and (mostly) don’t move,
  • “perimeter crawlers” (enemies that climb along the walls, floors, and ceiling, patrolling their platform or room along its edge.
  • “flyers” (enemies that fly about the room or hover, presenting a territorial threat to the space they fill)
  • “large animals” (creatures about Samus’s size, which can take a bit more damage to defeat)
  • “swarms” (clouds of tiny creatures, which present mostly a nuissance threat)
  • “respawners” (enemies that keep re-generating in an area, creating a space of constant, if low-level threat, or depending on how you want to look at it, farms for replenishing energy and ammo.)

They run a gamut from low power to high power, and as their power levels increase, their aggression towards Samus likewise increases. Mostly they provide a routine challenge, nothing special, but enough to keep you engaged and wary when you’re entering a new area, especially for the first time.

Most of the enemies are biological organisms, alien fauna, but some are robotic, and a few are intelligent. By “intelligent” I mean that they react situationally to your presence and respond in different ways, using a variety of tactics. Most enemies are not very intelligent, and will only vary between a passive mode where they ignore you, and an active mode where the respond to either your presence, or to being disturbed by you damaging them or getting too close, and always in the same, predictable way. Robotic enemies are resistant to blaster fire, and often missiles work better on them.

The boss fights provide a lot of variety, and each of them is well done and provides an appropriate level of challenge for your current power level. The only boss fights that I felt were disappointing were the Control Rooms where you’d have to blow up an armored robotic eye in order to temporarily obtain the Omega Beam in order to deal with the local EMMI threat. These were entirely too easy, and never seemed to get much more challenging as the game went on, despite being repeated in each world.

EMMI fights are a highlight of the game, and one of the things that makes it stand out as different from a lot of other games. It’s hard to think of another game where you have a similar setup of hunter and hunted, and then turning the tables. These fights remind me of movies, especially the 80’s sci-fi action trinity of Alien, Predator and Terminator — and in a good way. Your opponent is much more powerful than you physically, and you have to use your wits and resources to find a way to turn the tables and overcome it. It’s a little unfortunate that these encounters are so similar to one another — each time they do get a little more challenging, because the environmental obstacles become increasingly a factor, and because each successive EMMI has some additional power that makes them even more of a threat. But otherwise these encounters become repetitive enough to start to seem routine — you build on your knowledge from your previous fights to know how to approach the next one, which is good, but it’d be nice if there were different ways of dealing with them apart from the Omega Beam. Like, couldn’t I dunk one in lava, using a trap door platform that I can manipulate with a recently acquired movement power? Or couldn’t I crush one by caving in the ceiling? Or couldn’t I just trap one, neutralizing its threat, by getting it stuck in a one-way area that it can’t get out of? Or couldn’t I get trapped by one, and rather than it being “Game Over” I’m taken to a new area where I’m imprisoned and have to find a way to break out before it comes back?

There’s a lot of potential variety in the ways they could have employed EMMI, and to have a single basic paradigm for these encounters, with the only variance being that each one is slightly more difficult than the one before, seems less imaginative.

Still, they do have the scene in Ferenia where Quiet Robe intercedes and deactivates the EMMI before it captures you, and the last fight, when your latent Metroid energy-draining power awakens and you defeat it with your bare hands, are here. These are small bits of variety, but hint at what more there could have been.

Otherwise, I found the boss fights to be great. Little room for improvement, no obvious criticisms.

One does wonder why they brought Kraid back again, but not Ridley? I think you can have a Metroid game without re-hashing the original minibosses, and I understand why there usually are callbacks to these classic characters, but to me it seems unnecessary to constrain the series to having the same bosses return again and again, as though they didn’t die in the last battle. So I can accept no Ridley, and no Mother Brain — that’s fine. But why then did they bring Kraid back? I liked the Kraid battle, mind you, I just wonder why, from a story perspective — what was he doing waist deep in lava, chained to a wall on Planet ZDR?

I liked the new Chozo Mawkin tribe soldiers, and found them to be a nice challenge. Fighting them felt like playing a classic 2D fighter game in the arcade, like a Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. Indeed, these fights had a bit of a Smash Bros. feel to them, I felt. These were really well done, and forced me to put my move set together in creative and agility-based ways, rather than just standing still, taking aim, and dishing out firepower, as I could in many of the other early boss fights.

Given how much skill and knowledge I’ve gained through playing the game, it would be appealing to run through the game a second time to see how much better I can do certain encounters. Most of the difficult spots in the game, I had to learn by playing through them multiple times, failing, trying again, and getting a little better each time, and now that I’ve done that, it seems like I could probably get through them much more readily than on my first run. And this seems like a fun, enjoyable thing to want to do again. So I think that the game has repeatability.

There’s also the fact that I’ve only managed to get a 68% completion so far — there’s a lot of secrets still to be unlocked, and I’m not sure I even know how to tackle them all. Some, the solution may be more or less obvious, just difficult to pull off. Others might require some study to puzzle out the deep mechanics that I’m supposed to understand and be able to use in order to navigate the obstacle keeping me from the secret.

The game also, obviously, offers a lot of replayability for speed runners and sequence breaking. I think it’s a great game and maybe the best 2D Metroid game yet.

One thing that is interesting to note about this Metroid game is that it seems that Samus has become a bit like Mega Man, in that she acquires abilities by defeating bosses who had them. It’s a bit more subtle in this game, but if you look closely, most of the bosses employ a power like the one you get from defeating them. From the EMMI, you obtain ice missiles and wave beam, and those EMMI can freeze you and shoot at you ignoring walls. And so on with most (if not all?) of the other bosses, as well. Even Corpius has a stealth cloak ability that you seem to extract from its corpse as it disintegrates after you defeat it.

Metroid: Dread diary 24

Raven Beak, round two.

On the first encounter with Raven Beak, I got good enough to beat his first form reliably, often with full health and full ammo. But the second form would take me down quickly.

This time, I focus on how to dodge his attacks. Mostly, Raven Beak stays in the air, and sweeps the room with a stream of laser machinegun fire. He sweeps a full 360° arc, and the only way to avoid it seems to be to jump over him using the Space Jump. My problem with this is that ever since I got the Screw Attack, my Space Jump timing seems to be screwed up, and I can’t always reliably chain together jumps in mid-air. So sometimes I end up jumping into Raven Beak when i’m trying to get over him, and this does me damage, disrupts my evasion of the machine gun fire, which does even more damage, and generally messes up my day.

His other attacks aren’t that difficult to avoid. Keep moving, and dash rapidly when he looks like he’s about to rush me, and the only time he really has a chance of hitting me with these attacks is when he’s low to the ground such that my only effective move is to slide or morph ball, which I never do because I’m never thinking of making those moves, and am not prepared.

He also has a super laser charged shot, which I can mostly avoid, just a last second dash after he freezes his aim, and I can avoid it.

While I’m dodging these attacks, it’s important to keep up the offense, and I manage to get good at painting him with the targeting laser in order to hit him with swarms of Storm Missiles every chance I can get. I get good enough at this that every time he’s attacking me, I’m winding up my next volley, and I can ever launch counter attacks at him while he’s got me on the run from that machinegun, or just after he misses with his rush attacks.

I try and try, maybe a dozen fights, and each time I get a little deeper into it. Finally, I manage to blast his wing off, bringing him back to the ground. It takes a lot of damage to bring him down.

Chillingly, Raven Beak looks at his other wing, and then tears it off to continue the fight. Like… that was a part of him, wasn’t it? Holy shit.

This enters a third phase of the boss fight, which I was not expecting. But his attacks in this phase are basically like the first, with the exception of a new attack, which consists of a giant golden-orange orb that shoots fire arcs out in a 360° spread. These are hard to avoid, and while it’s going he continues attacking with his other attack modes. I find that a super bomb will blow up this orb, and more importantly, it drops some missiles and life energy, which I badly need by this point.

I get to the point where I have to do another scripted melee counter, and mistakenly think that this signals that the combat is at an end, and I have won. Wrong! I fail to counter, he hits me, and takes me down. Fuck.

I almost did it, I can do it. I’ve gotten so much better with only a few hours of work.

Another hour and a half, and I manage to defeat the third form. The melee attack comes and I don’t miss the cue this time. The action goes back into cutscene, and Raven Beak monologues that I was a fool for thinking I could ever win. He has me in a strangle hold, and I’m helpless. I try to break free but this is apparently scripted and there’s nothing for me to do but watch. Raven Beak declares that he intends to clone my DNA and doesn’t need me anymore, and prepares to snuff me out, when I rally at the last second and use my Metroid power drain ability to suck the life out of him. Somehow this causes the entire orbital station we’re fighting in to crash.

We both survive impact with the planet, and my suit is again transformed, somehow looking more… Metroid-like? It looks like we’re about to show down for the final time, when an X-parasite suddenly appears, infects Raven Beak, and transforms him into a giant monster. Is this scripted? What am I supposed to do? Charge shot? Too late, I miss my chance and he eats me.

The end.

This is too much. I’m annoyed that the game doesn’t tell me when I have control and need to do something and when I should just watch. Because of this, I’ve ruined my finest performance on the final boss fight, cheaply. I’m pissed.

I almost quit playing.

I decide to give it another shot. I’ve beaten the final boss, I can do it as many times as I want to.

I start again.

The game does not force me to re-fight the Raven Beak boss fight. Instead, I’m right back on the planet just after the crash landing.

This time I know what to do.

I shoot it in the face while it slowly creeps up on me, in a callback to the EMMI fights where I hit it with the Omega Beam. This time I’m shooting what looks like Raven Beak’s super laser. I guess I absorbed the power from him when I broke free of his choke hold.

The giant X-beast finally dies after a sustained barrage. I’m ale to absorb the X-parasite that emerges from it.

Suddenly, there’s a countdown timer and it seems that the planet is getting ready to explode. What caused that? I have no idea, and no time to figure it out. I have to find a way out.

I try scanning, I try shine spark jumping. But the way out of the area is to Space Jump out. Somehow or other we ended up in a deep hole with a ceiling, did we punch through the surface with our impact and fall into a cave or something?

I don’t know. I just start running. It’s hard to find the path, there are walls everywhere, and no obvious direction to take. I just start firing, and wow, that hyper beam shot really destroys everything in its path. It destroys life forms, it destroys walls, it destroys any kind of block you can destroy. It shines a path, it shows me the way.

I run and run, I barely make it to the ship with seconds to spare.

I’m about to take off when the voice of ADAM warns me against touching the control panel in my current state, as I’ll just drain the ship of its energy.

I turn around and see a Chozo standing behind me. It’s Quiet Robe?! He turns into an X-parasite, which merges with me, and my suit transforms again. I look… more normal, now. Does this mean that Quiet Robe somehow fixed my DNA, turning me back into a normal human again?

Clear time 15:05:48. 68% complete. I finish the game with 1099 max health, 195 max missiles, and 5 power bombs.

As the credits roll, I note that apart from a few Japanese names, almost all the names in the production team are Hispanic. I don’t know anything about the studio that Nintendo worked with on the project, so I look them up: MercurySteam, out of Spain. They did an outstanding job producing this game. The design of the levels especially is fantastic, and the boss fights are top notch. They really understood what makes a 2D Metroid adventure great, and executed brilliantly.

Hard Mode unlocked.

Oh.

Metroid: Dread diary 23

They pretty much get down to it in Itorash. I bomb through a dead end and find an elevator that takes me to the final boss fight.

Big Spoiler: at the top of the elevator, we cutscene into a final(?) comms session with ADAM. ADAM reveals that my Metroid DNA’s activation has triggered a metamorphosis, that I have become a Metroid. I’m now a danger to the Galaxy, but ADAM assures me that I can still bring peace to the Galaxy if I do the right thing and follow his instructions. ADAM lets slip in mentioning “our first encounter” a bit too much information, and I deduce that “ADAM” is not what he seems to be. It turns out that ADAM is really Raven Beak. This whole time, I’ve been tested to see if I’m worthy, and these tests have triggered the activation of my Metroid DNA, transforming me into what Raven Beak wanted — the ultimate weapon.

I blast the communications console, destroying it, and Raven Beak is revealed to be literally behind it.

We fight.

This is a tough boss fight. Raven Beak uses attacks that fill almost the entire screen with a red laser energy. The only safe spot is to get very close, but this puts you at risk of his melee strikes, which are lightning quick, have considerable range, and are thrown at you in volleys of three or four strikes. You can Flash Shift away from these, and if you’ve got enough distance to get a high enough jump you may be able to get over and onto the other side of him — otherwise, he’ll pin you in the corner and hit you hard several times. I’ve tried sliding under and it doesn’t seem to work, but it may be that there’s a very tight window where it will. I can’t be entirely sure. During one of his red laser attacks, you can duck under a massive blast, and if you do so you’re rewarded with an opportunity to get into a melee counter that triggers a sequence where you can pound away at him with your weapons for a few seconds.

Another of Raven Beak’s attacks is a sphere of black energy that slowly homes in on you. You can shoot it down but it takes a full volley of Storm Missiles to do it. If you can’t knock it out before it hits you, it hits you for a lot of damage, but if you manage to disrupt it you can get some missiles and life energy back. But Raven Beak will usually follow up very quickly with a melee rush.

If you can survive long enough, and do enough damage, Raven Beak will beckon for you to come close, another melee counter opportunity, and this time you have to successfully nail two counters, and then you can deal even more damage.

If you do this, it’s still not over. Raven Beak’s wings break free of his armor, and he starts flying above you, shooting at you with the same accuracy as the Golden Chozo soldier with his black energy vomit attack. He has the aerial advantage, and if you jump you’re usually setting yourself up to get hit and knocked out of the sky.

This is as far as I get after fighting him a dozen, perhaps 20 times. Each time I’m getting a little more dialed in on my tactics, my timing, my observation of his patterns. Sometimes I just screw up and get destroyed, other times I last longer. I’ve gotten to his winged flight once, but that was the last time I fought him before taking a break, so it seems like I’m doing a little better each time.

Despite how fast he is and how much damage he can take, I think I can get him if I keep trying.

I keep trying, and I can reliably get through his first phase, but when he breaks his armor and the wings come out, there’s no stopping him. His attacks can’t be avoided, and I can’t deal enough damage on him fast enough. He has a laser machine gun strafe, a charged laser shot, dive attacks, and swoop attacks, and they’re pretty much all impossible to dodge. I hit him a few times with ice missiles, but I can’t get enough time to charge up a Storm Missile volley. I have it in mind to try a power bomb, just on the off chance that it might knock him out of the sky, but I haven’t been able to get one off. When I finally do, it doesn’t do anything special, hopefully some heavy damage but it doesn’t knock his wings off or anything.

The worst thing about it is, to get up to him, I’ve gotten so good that when I beat his first form, I’m still at full health, full missiles, or very close to it. So he’s taking me down quickly from full health, because I can’t dodge his attacks.

Worst of all my right shoulder button on my joycons seem to be intermittently failing to register that I’m pressing it, which prevents me from charging up my Storm Missiles, and I end up shooting a lot of unguided regular ice missiles, one at a time, which is a poor way to deal damage. I might have to dock the Switch and go at it again with the Pro Controller. Up until now, I’ve completed the whole game in handheld mode, with the handicap of having to use the joycons, which just are not as good as they ought to be for the main controllers that come with the Switch.

My battery’s low, and my hands are cramping, so it’s time to take a rest.

Metroid: Dread diary 22

Now that I’ve rid Ferenia of the EMMI threat, I feel like I can go anywhere without fear, and can explore this zone fully. I find a number of secrets, including a few partial E-Tanks, and some Missile Container+, but most of them are very difficult to get to, if I can even figure out how to get to them at all. I do manage to get to a few Missile Containers and I think two of the E-Tank parts, but a lot of these are beyond my skill level, or even my comprehension. Some of them require split second timing with multiple abilities in order to navigate some obstacle. They are almost fiendish in their construction. This is a good challenge for high skilled players, with some nice rewards. But I can’t figure out half of them. The ones I can figure out, I still have to try many times before I manage to get it. It’s tough to drop a bomb while in freefall to destroy a block, then fall through a pitfall block and have to try to get back up to where you fell from so you can try to fall again before the block you destroyed on the first pass regenerates. It requires almost perfect execution, so very difficult indeed.

A few of the Ferenia secrets appear to require Super Bombs, which I don’t have yet.

After getting what I can, I decide the remaining challenges here are too much for me, and decide to head back. I take the elevator back to Hanubia, and wasn’t sure what I’d be able to do here. On my first visit, this area seemed mostly closed off to me, but it seems to have opened up somewhat. Due to my practice with uncovering the more difficult secrets in Ferenia, I find a new way forward, using my Cross Bombs and the Wave Beam. Finding a passageway to the right, I move forward, walking into a cutscene wherein I encounter some sort of science lab full of biological specimens in jars. One of the creatures in a jar is alive and breaks out to attack me, but I fight it off with a melee counter, and notice that my left hand does something strange, glowing purple with some weird energy. Next I come into another room, and then encounter an EMMI, this one orange. It’s a cutscene, and I don’t realize it at first because when an EMMI captures you it looks like a cutscene. I try to fight it off, and then to my surprise my left hand grabs its spike, and I’m fighting the thing. A brief struggle, and I seem to short the thing out and it dies. Again my odd power emanating from my left hand seems to be responsible.

After destroying this EMMI with my armored bare hands, I’m attacked by a Chozo solidier robot, armed with shield and spear. I manage to take him out on the second attempt — on the first run I get hit too many times because the Screw Attack seems to make triggering multiple Space Jumps a little less reliable, resulting in me failing to dodge too many of his attacks. The second fight, I almost die, too, but manage to pull out a victory with just 10 units of life energy remaining. I hit the finishing melee counter grab on the first try and for killing him it gives me so much health back that I’m suddenly back up around 700 again. The defeated EMMI’s wrecked body is still here, and I take from it the Power Bomb ability.

I next come to a communications room and ADAM briefs me, saying that my powers are now complete, and that my newfound ability to absorb energy must mean that my Metroid DNA has fully awakened. Now I am capable of taking on Raven Beak and prevailing.

The Power Bombs unlocks the rest of the map, and I’m able to continue exploring Hanubia.

I probe a bit and find some more places where I can break through walls and continue making my way in a “forward” direction, mostly going up and to the right. I come to another cinematic boss fight with a Chozo soldier in gold armor. This one is tougher than the last one, and it takes me a good dozen tries before I can manage to beat it. It just does a massive amount of damage when it hits, and I can only screw up maybe 5 times. It seems like each time it touches me, I lose two Energy Tanks worth of life energy. It’s a bit faster, but it’s initial attack modes are all familiar and easily dealt with: jump, flash shift, storm missiles to the back before it can bring its shield around, repeat. After I destroy its shield, is when things get more difficult. The thing has the same black vomit attack as the previous X-infested Chozo robot soldiers did, but this one is super accurate with its aim, rather than aiming at the same spot on the floor each time, it aims right at me and I have to move very quickly to get out of the path of its beam. I’m unlucky about half of the time, if not more so, and each time it hits it does so much damage I can afford to maybe take 4-5 hits before I drop.

I just concentrate and practice and learn the pattern and get good. Eventually, I get it into the melee finisher, and in this one I just grab it by the head with my glove hand and drain its energy away. So at the end of the fight, I’m still at full health, and full ammo.

The next thing I come to is a transportation pod that offers to take me to Itorash. Hanubia is on the surface, Itorash is up in the sky. It looks then like I’m about to take it to Raven Beak’s doorstep.

It’s on.

Metroid: Dread diary 21

Artaria is still as easy as ever, no real threats of any kind as I traverse the map at will, barely pausing to kill enemies who happen to get in my way. I find a number of Missile Containers, and perhaps another Energy Tank. It’s getting hard to remember all the details, as I’ve mostly been revisiting old areas and it’s gotten hard to remember what I got before, and what I just unlocked. I scour the map, looking for places I haven’t been able to go to before, and I find a Power Up Ball that is in a corner of the map that I haven’t been able to get to before. I head that way, and it takes a while, it’s clear on the other side of the map. Along the way, I find as many secrets and previously inaccessible power ups that I couldn’t retrieve earlier. By the time I’m done, I’m about 89% complete. I make it to the area where the Item Ball is, and figure out how to get to it. It’s tricky, but I know most of the tricks by now.

The item is the Screw Attack, which enables me to break Screw Attack Blocks, and enables me to damage enemies with spin jumps, including electrified enemies. So that should come in handy sometimes.

There’s a transport pad nearby, which goes to Burenia. I figure there’s not much more that I could hope to find in Ataria, and make the trip.

Upon arrival, I find a Communications room, and get a new message from ADAM. He tells me that since I’ve restored heat to ZDR and obtained the Screw Attack, I can now get to many places I couldn’t reach before, but that I’m still not powerful enough to face Raven Beak yet. There’s not much more power that I can get, according to the status screen in the pause menu which tells me most of my item slots are filled. Still, ADAM does tell me that I stand a slim chance of victory, which I think is more than he had given me previously.

I explore Burenia, and find a tall chimney behind a ceiling made of Screw Attack blocks, and at the top of this, I encounter another twin Chozo Soldier room. I defeat them on the first attempt. The same tactics I devised for the first twin Chozos work against these two: constantly run in a circle around the arena, use Flash Shift to jump over them when surrounded, turn and fire volleys of Storm Missiles at every opportunity. When one goes down, the next one is soon to go as well. I’m proud of myself for successfully handling a boss fight on the first try. I think it’s the first time I’ve done so.

ADAM didn’t really say what my next goal should be, so I guess for now I will continue to explore and try to pick up as many additional Missile Containers as I can find, and try to find all the Energy Tanks I can. And I still haven’t found the Super Bombs, which is the last thing I think there is for me to find to round out my arsenal. I note there are a number of orange blocks that I’m sure must be Super Bomb blocks in this zone, so I hope I can find the Bombs here, and soon.

The next thing of note that I encounter as I explore Burenia looking for things is a Green Transport Pad to take me to Ghavoran, so I mark it on the map, figuring that’s likely where I’m meant to go next, but before I do I want to take a tour around Burenia and see what more items I can find.

I find a Missile Container, and then two or three more, but no Super Bomb power-up ball. I also find another secret, a transport pad that will take me to Ferenia, hidden behind a Storm Missile block.

I take the transport pad to Ghavoran, hoping that this will be the right path to take me to the next piece of the puzzle that will lead me closer to the end of the game.

Immediately upon arrival in Ghavoran, I’m puzzled by two Missile Containers that I can’t seem to get to. One is behind a row of pitfall blocks that I can’t traverse, and the other is behind a Storm Missile block that doesn’t appear to have any target points. I try a few things, but nothing helps me, so I give up and move on, exploring as I go. There’s a lot of Screw Attack blocks that I can bust through, opening new areas of the map to me. I find a number of Missile Containers, and a partial Energy Tank. I now have something like 183 missiles and 1099 maximum health. I explore and quickly come to a “monster door” that, as I’ve come to recognize, heralds an upcoming boss fight.

I go through the door and see a ball-height tunnel, so I slide through it, and end up getting dropped into a boss fight. It’s the most deceptive fight yet. At first, it’s just an ordinary-looking monster, a giant armored crab. I take it down easily with a couple of missiles, and it releases an X-Parasite. But instead of being able to pick it up for health, it turns into another, larger crab monster. This one looks serious and I can tell that this must be the boss fight that the “monster door” warned me about. I take this second crab creature down pretty quickly as well. It’s tougher, and immune to frontal attacks, but when it rears up I can hit it with Storm Missiles, and then I can Space Jump over it and attack it from behind. It doesn’t take too many attacks like this before it’s defeated. Then, the X-Parasite that releases from its body morphs into yet another giant crab monster. This one is huge and nearly as tall as the room. I can’t seem to get over it with the Space Jump, and it pounds me into pulp in short order.

I try several times to defeat it, but it’s too tough. I notice it seems to release a flashing ball that homes on me and does a ton of damage. It feels unfair. I can’t stop it, can’t avoid it, can’t destroy it. It’s like a free attack that does automatic damage to me every second until I die. The best I can seem to do is try to run from it, but there’s not enough room, and while I’m running I can’t get attacks in on the crab. The glowing ball thing still hits me, just maybe half as much as it did when I stood still.

Jumping over the creature just isn’t working, so I try a different tactic, and try to slide under it. I haven’t used slide moves on a boss since Corpius back in Artaria, the very first non-EMMI boss fight I had. The slide move works, and I find that as I’m sliding under, I can still get off a volley of Storm Missiles, at point blank range, and it seems like this is an effective tactic. Once on the back side of the crab beast, I can Flash Shift to get more distance, then whip around and launch a series of missile attacks, hitting it in the vulnerable spot on the rear. Two or three repetitions of this, and it is done. The fourth form of this boss is a giant X-Parasite blob, which I hit with more missiles and quickly take it down.

It drops a power-up for me, which is a new ability called the “Cross Bomb”. I don’t know if this ability is in any other Metroid games, as I haven’t played them all, but it’s new to me. Cross Bombs are like regular morph ball bombs, only they explode in a wide, linear horizontal row of explosions, which can take out a row of Bomb Blocks, or I guess hit enemies from a bit of a ranged distance.

I try to get out of there, and find that I am stuck because the only way out requires traversal of pitfall blocks, and there’s no way to do that. But that can’t be, there’s no way the level designers would do that to me! Turns out, I’m right — they trapped me here with pitfall blocks in order to force me to learn that the Cross Bomb can blow you over a short series of pitfall blocks. Now I know how to handle those spots! I can now collect a few more power-ups that I couldn’t before and probably access a few other areas that were previously unreachable, although I can’t think of any offhand.

Right near by is a new shuttle platform, that takes me to a new world I haven’t been to before: Hanubia. I decide to explore Ghavoran more before I do that, though. I retrieve one of the Missile Containers near the transport pad I entered from, and then discover that the Ghavoran map is bisected by one-ways and walled off areas that I can’t get to from this place, but could only get to if I looped around and came back in through a different entrance. So I guess Hanubia is my next stop, then.

Hanubia turns out to be the surface of ZDR. I’m only here briefly. There’s a communications room, where I get a briefing from ADAM. ADAM tells me that we’ll need to destroy the planet in order to contain and eliminate the X-Parasites, but that Raven Beak won’t just let me do that, and needs to be dealt with. I still don’t have much of a chance against him, according to ADAM, but it must be done.

I try to find my way around Hanubia, but the only way I am able to find takes me directly to a transport platform to take me to Ferenia. So I take it.

There’s still an active EMMI in Ferenia that I haven’t dealt with yet, and I’m immediately put into an EMMI zone where I need to get through while avoiding detection or being caught. It’s the unexplored area that I was trying to get through before, where the ice cold temperatures and the water made it impossible for me to get through. This time, I can do it. I see a save room to the right of this area, and run that way, and once I get to safety, I save my game. Only then do I consult the map to see the route that I should have taken: up and to the right, in the uncharted direction, toward the Control Room where I’ll be able to obtain the Omega cannon again. It takes me a few tries, but with the stealth cloak, gravity suit, and space jump, I’m able to get through the area quickly, even with the EMMI chasing me.

I get into the Control Room and have no problem whatsoever in destroying the Robot Eye. I get the Omega Cannon, and now I just have to find a good spot to ambush the EMMI.

This EMMI is purple, and it launches a circular ring of purple energy which ignores walls and stuns me if it hits. I’m going to need to dodge this attack if I’m going to have any hope of dealing enough damage with the Omega stream to blast the face plate off. This will be tricky, but if I can find the ideal spot in the room to hit the EMMI, I’ll have a chance.

This time the game throws me a curveball, though, and I’m forced to improvise. Rather than going back the way I came into familiar territory, this time I emerge from the Control Room to find that my way is blocked by another door. It seems I have to blast this door with the Omega charge shot, but when I do this, instead of opening the door, it activates an elevator platform, which takes me down. There’s a tunnel to my right, which I have to use, and then it shoots me into a room I’ve never been in before, with the EMMI right behind me. This room is an obstacle course, with blocks that I have to destroy with the Charge Beam, and bombs, and then I have to use Flash Shift to get through two consecutive sensor gates, only to reach a dead end where there’s a Spider Magnet panel on the ceiling that I can use to ride over the EMMI to get around it, but if I screw that up, I’m caught.

This obstacle course puts me into a panic, since I don’t know where I’m going or what to do, and I’m just a few steps behind the EMMI, creeping up on me slowly. My first run through, I barely keep ahead of the EMMI, and end up looping around and try to set up a shot, but I end up getting caught instead. I fail the next two attempts, as well, but on the fourth try I manage to do what is needed. It’s just a matter of knowing what to expect, and being able to deal with each obstacle quickly. I manage to stay well ahead of the EMMI, and get to the end of the long corridor at the end, with plenty of time to turn around and have my shot lined up perfectly. I blast its face off from far enough away that I’m able to charge up the finishing cannon blast without having to use the ceiling rail, which is probably good because after you blow the EMMI’s face shield off, it tends to stand upright rather than crawl low to the ground toward you. I nail it, and it goes down.

The power I gain from defeating this one is the Wave Beam, which has the power to ignore walls. I should have known, based on this EMMI’s attack, that I would gain such a power. I know there’s a few more destructible walls that I’m going to be able to finally open now with this new ability.

I’m eager to complete the game, but I’ve been playing for hours at this point, and I am tired, and the battery is down on the Switch, so I decide to take a break here, just as soon as I get to the nearest save point.

Metroid: Dread diary 20

Cataris, normally a fiery place, is cool. I proceed from the elevator through the caves, blocked in most directions and only able to make progress along one route. This takes me directly to the best boss fight I’ve had yet.

This boss is like a giant version of the first boss in Artaria, the Corpius. The Artaria Corpius must have been a juvenile, or something, because this one is gargantuan. It is so big it fills the screen as though it were the background.

I die on it a bunch of times, but each time I learn a little bit about its attacks and figure out how to dodge and counter them.

During its first phase, it has two attacks: a breath of superheated plasma, and claw swipes. The claw swipes always come two at a time, but sometimes it’s left first, sometimes it’s right first. To evade them you need to use the Space Jump to stay above the ground. The swipes come in a very wide arc, and from the side the attack comes from, the damage zone fills the entire screen from top to bottom, diminishing in a parabola-like arc to the opposite bottom corner. It’s easiest to dodge if you’re on the opposite side of the screen as the attack is coming from, and move toward the side it came from so that you’ll be in position to be well above the second swipe. The hardest thing is being in a good position to start, and recognizing when the attack is coming.

The other attack mode, the plasma breath, is very difficult to dodge. The beast starts at either the left or right side of the room, and slowly paints the floor with plasma. The floor gets coated with a residue that does damage if you’re on the floor. You can’t really get over the beast’s head, because its hitbox will do you damage if you try, and the plasma beam is solid from mouth to the floor, so there’s no way to get through it without taking damage. The way to avoid the attack is to stay in front of the oncoming plasma beam, and then wait for the beast to pause for a very brief inhale. You can use this time to hit him with Storm Missiles. Then, in the split second when he’s re-charging for a second plasma shot to fill the rest of the room from where he left off to the opposite corner, you can use a jump, then flash shift to get past the danger zone, and land on an empty patch on the floor where you’ll be safe. Again, once you’re safe on the floor you can target and send another volley of Storm Missiles at the head, or you can hit him with individual, aimed shots from the ice missile if you don’t have time to charge up the Storm Missiles.

Like the other bosses, any of these hits will inflict mega damage on Samus, such that you can only survive maybe 4-5 hits before dying from full health. So you really can’t afford to make any mistakes.

After dealing enough damage, the creature enters a new attack mode, where it brings its head down closer to the floor, and turns sideways, and then streams plasma breath from ceiling to floor in an arc. This is a pattern attack, not directly aimed at you, and so you can easily avoid it, while launching volleys of Storm Missiles at the head. The safe spot to stand in during this attack is below the beast’s chin — it stops the plasma beam just short of where you’ll be standing if you are close enough. This puts you in danger of it biting you, but this is what you’re waiting for. As soon as the monster stops emitting plasma breath, get ready for a melee counter. Watch for the spark, and then hit X when you see it. This will enter you into a Grab phase, during which you can do a huge amount of damage. Mash the missile button and hit it with everything you got, while you ride the beast for as long as you can. Eventually you’ll be thrown back into the room, but if you’re good you can probably pour on a good 20-30+ missiles during this sequence.

When you’re back in the room, standing on the floor again, get ready. Either the monster will come at you with a left-right swipe combo, followed by a double swipe from both sides, or it will latch onto the walls and ceiling with its tentacles, to ready a new attack. If it does the tentacle wall grab, target each tentacle with Storm Missiles and hit them all, and this will disrupt its attack.

It will then go into a new attack mode, a wind-based attack where its plasma breath will shot walls of plasma at you from right to left, coating the left wall with damaging hot plasma residue. You have to run to the right and Space Jump over the plasma that’s flying towards you. This feels a great deal like Flappy Bird, so if you’ve spent some time playing Flappy Bird, you’ll be in good condition to dodge this fire. Toward the end of this attack, you’ll need to run on the ground using the super speed boost to keep the wind from blowing you into the wall.

Finally, you’ll get one more opportunity to melee counter into a Grab sequence, and you can finish it off.

The monster probably killed me about a dozen times before I did it in, but each time I got a little bit deeper into the fight, and made observations and adjustments that gave me a tangible sense of progress. I felt challenged but not frustrated as a result, and really enjoyed this fight. It was my most enjoyable boss fight of the game thus far, and might be the best one in the game — we’ll see. The developers did a fantastic job with this one, and I salute them.

After defeating this boss, I reactivate the thermal pumps that restore heat to the whole of Planet ZDR. It seems like the easiest path offered is to loop right back to the elevator to Artaria. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to go that way or not, but the whole world is open to me right now. I see a lot of flashing areas on the map for Cataris that indicate secrets, and there’s lava filled areas that I couldn’t explore previously because I didn’t have the Gravity Suit. There’s also a few missile containers out in the open that I couldn’t access before due to lacking abilities that I now have. I have about 38% of the items from Cataris, so I decide to take a tour and see if I can get more.

I study the map and try to explore everywhere I haven’t been to yet, and find a bunch of Missile Containers, and a couple of orange containers that I’m guessing are containers for Super Bombs, but I don’t have the ability to use those yet. By the time I’m done, I have 80% of Cataris cleared out, and two flashing zones remaining to be figured out, one of which looks like it requires Super Bomb ability. There’s only one place on the map that I can’t get to yet, it looks like a lava zone.

I also found two more transport pads, the first of which was a blue one near the elevator that connects Cataris and Artaria, and it was the first thing I came to after the boss fight that wasn’t a normal power-up, so I’m guessing that maybe this is the way I’m meant to go. Once I’ve scoured Cataris as much as I can for now, I head back there, and travel back to Artaria to see where it will take me.

Metroid: Dread diary 19

Artaria is frozen. The water areas are frozen up solid, making travel through them difficult. I can’t wade, only cross on the surface of the ice. You’d think my beam weapons would be able to melt it down, but no. Also many of the doors are frozen, and won’t open.

I make my way through as best I can, and again, the level design creates a mostly linear path and I can’t really make any choices that would put me off the path I’m supposed to be taking to move the plot forward. Along the way, I try to find as many secrets as I can, and I do find several. I end up picking up a couple more Missile Containers, and a Energy Tank. I now have max health 999 and about 131 missile capacity.

The creatures here are a mixture of weak and tough. The weak ones I can take out with a single hit from the normal beam cannon. The tough ones, I am best off melee countering and then one-shotting, or else hitting with multiple volleys of Storm Missiles. At one point, as I’m exploring, I fall down into a chamber and face another Mawkin Chozo soldier. This one seems like a higher level one, and is armed with a large shield and a long spear.

I fight him effectively, though, using much the same tactics as I’ve developed against these enemies: Stand off at a distance, fire Storm Missiles, jump and use Flash Shift to get over him while he’s winding up his attack, land behind him, and hit him in the back with more Storm Missiles. Timing the shots so that I can hit him from the front when his shield is out of the way, or hitting him from behind is the only way to do damage. I have to learn not to waste my shots because of the time it takes to wind up the Storm Missile volley, you don’t want to miss or get blocked.

It only takes a couple volleys and he’s already into his second phase, where he loses the shield, grabs onto the wall, high up, and spews a black cone of energy from his mouth, which does heavy damage. Dodging this isn’t easy, as his spew is prolonged, such that if I merely jump I will come down and land in it. So a multi-jump dodge seems to be the ticket here.

I only die twice fighting this guy, and despite the fact that he seems more powerful and elite than the previous Mawkin Chozo I’ve faced, my skills and tactics that I’ve developed serve me well enough that I feel like taking this one down was the easiest so far.

Beyond the chamber where I defeat the Chozo, I find the Energy Tank, some more missiles, and a communication room where ADAM instructs me to proceed to Cataris. The thermal flow there has been disrupted, and this is the actual cause of the planet’s rapid cooling. ADAM suspects a “massive” X-parasite is to blame, and urges me to be careful.

I’m always careful, but I feel confident that I can handle what’s ahead of me. I have little problem dealing with any of the threats in Artaria, and I’m not expecting Cataris to be much worse. I make my way to the elevator, and prepare to ascend.

Metroid: Dread diary 18

I haven’t played in a few days. Last time I played, where I left off I couldn’t figure out where to go. It seemed that the only unexplored places in Ferenia were icy zones that I couldn’t traverse.

The only exit from Ferenia that’s accessible to me is the train platform back to Ghavoran. I figure that with some of these new abilities I’ve picked up, I should at least be able to explore further and obtain some of the power-ups that I couldn’t get to previously if I return, and maybe I’ll find something that will enable me to deal with these cold zones.

So I go back to Ghavoran. I see nearby my arrival point there’s a Missile Container. I couldn’t reach it before because I couldn’t jump high out of the water, but now that I have the Space Jump, I should be able to get to it. I go to its location, and just before I can grab the missile container, the floor gives way beneath me, and I’m dropped down through a one-way Pitfall Block that reforms immediately after I fall through it. There’s only one way to go forward, so I proceed. Before long, I find a transport platform that will take me to Burenia.

I have little choice but to take it, so I do. I arrive at the green transport platform that I had found earlier in my run through Burenia, but couldn’t get into due to a blocked door that I couldn’t figure out how to open. I’m in the vicinity of the large, mostly-open water filled area, and my new abilities afford me mobility I lacked previously to get to the doorway high up on the left side of the chamber.

It turns out this area is fairly large. I find a Missile Container, an Energy Tank, and the Gravity Suit. The Gravity Suit is a big deal — it gives me the ability to move at full speed underwater, which means that I can now charge up a Speed Boost underwater. It also confers resistance to cold and lava, which means I can go through those cold areas and also I can now explore some areas in hot zones that were full of lava and therefore mostly still blocked off to me even with the protection of the Varia suit. It also reduces the damage that enemies do to me, and it increases the damage I do with melee attacks.

Getting to the Gravity Suit involves a lot of secret-finding techniques. It’s a long, twisty, but mostly linear route with many false dead ends that you have to use different abilities in order to proceed. I think you end up using almost everything you’ve found so far: the space jump, the stealth cloak, the grapple beam, bombs, storm missiles, and the charge shot. I don’t think I needed the flash shift, or the speed boost or shine spark, but everything else I’ve acquired from the start of the game came in handy. Toward the end, the “climax” of this exploratory jaunt is a section where I have to destroy sections of wall, causing a massive piece of machinery to fall, crashing through the floor of the chamber below, opening the way forward.

After I obtain the Gravity Suit, I’m free to go pretty much anywhere in the game. There’s still blocks that I can’t blow up — I haven’t found super bombs. I’m not sure what else there is to get in the game, but it seems like there must be at least two different types of blocks that I still can’t deal with. It’s possible I’m mistaken about that, and just haven’t realized what some of my powers can accomplish, though.

I continue to explore Burenia, and find a communication room where ADAM informs me that the X-parasites have taken over the entire planet, and I should assume everything I encounter is infected with X. This bears out with what I’ve been finding since I first encountered the X, so it’s not a surprise. ADAM also tells me that the planet is cooling, possibly due to the X-parasite (which seems weird that it would be related to that, and not, say, the changing of the seasons). This means it’s a good thing I acquired the Gravity Suit, then. But I think the real explanation for the planet cooling is that I just picked up the ability that makes it possible for me to endure the cold. I make my way to another transporter platform, this one will take me to Artaria. I haven’t been there in such a long time, and I’m sure there’s a lot of new areas that will be open to me now.

Given all the new areas I’ve unlocked and the progress I made toward opening up the icy regions of the Ferenia map, it feels like I was meant to go this way. It’s remarkable that the level design for the game can feel as open as it is, and yet still steer the player along the intended path through signposting, hinting, and the occasional one-way softlock.

Metroid: Dread diary 17

It turns out beating Escue isn’t so hard. I was close to having it down, but the lack of enemy healthbars gives you a false impression of how tough the bosses are.

I hit it with missiles, and learn through a few fights that when Escue is electrified, don’t bother attacking, and just focus on dodging. When it’s not electrified, it’s vulnerable. It’s not just when the carapace is open. Dodging the black worms attack is hard, but if you jump and move you’ll only get hit by one or two of them, saving you a bunch of damage. Dodging the big black ball attack is more critical, and getting out of the way of the rush attack is also important. But mainly, pouring on missiles when you can is what gets the job done.

Escue has a second form, a large X-parasite blob, which takes a few more missiles to kill. Each time you hit it, it drops a bunch of X-pickups, which replenish your health some, which is important because it’s big enough that it’s tough to dodge or jump over, and you’re usually going to be close to death from the first phase of the Escue fight.

After defeating it, it drops an X-blob power-up, which turns out to be a multi-missile volley called the Storm Missile. You have to charge it by holding a button down, then sweep the area with your aim beam to target any available enemies in the room, and then it will unleash a volley of missiles at all of them. It’s a pretty neat ability. It also enables me to blow open those large blocks with the glowing green energy in them, which I previously haven’t been able to get past.

I find another missile container, a secret hidden one in the area just before the Escue fight, and then I go to the save point and save.

Looking at the map, there’s a large area of the map that I haven’t been to yet, and that’s where the Control Room is marked, and that’s obviously where I must go. I head in that direction, and before I get halfway there, I get locked into a large room, where I encounter two Chozo soldiers.

It feels like a Smash Bros. arena, as I run around trying to dodge their attacks. There’s a lot of room to move, but it’s tough to keep track of both enemies. Run, dodge, whip around and release a few missiles, but it’s not enough, and I go down again and again. I manage to deal out some damage but don’t have the moves to take even one of the pair out. But for all I know, I’m getting them close. But nah, they hand my ass to me repeatedly.

Finally, I manage to take them out. I just run and dodge, jumping over them and using the dash move to get extra distance, dodge, and to make sure my attempts to jump over them don’t result in me touching down on them and taking damage.

One of the most unfair feeling things about the boss fights in this game is that any touch at all, no matter how slight or incidental, with these bosses, seems to deal heavy damage. In this fight, in particular, the chozo’s attacks seem to have very generous hitboxes, such that if I touch even a tiny spark that flies off of their weapon, I’m dealt damage. I manage to run good in this last fight, and mostly avoid getting hit, and launch a lot of storm missiles into my foes, hitting them 3 at a time. Whenever I can, I turn back and fire as I run away, but I mostly am playing a defensive game, trying to avoid giving them an easy target. This works out pretty well, and when the first one dies, I’m surprised. I have enough time to glance at my life meter, and after picking up the drops from the first one, I’m in very good shape. With one down, it’s about 10 times easier to dodge and get around the room safely, and I have almost no problem taking down the second one. At one point I screw up a jump and end up toe to toe on the left side of the map. But I manage to hit him and then dump-dash out of there, turn around, and blast him for the final time on the top level, and watch him crumble into dust.

Fortunately, there’s a save room to the left of this chamber, and it’s one that I’ve been to before — previously the doorway connecting it to this boss fight room must have been blocked. I run in and save.

I have another look at the map, because I’m not sure where to go next. I see that nearby, through the area to the left that I’ve already been through, there was a storm missile block that prevented me from going into a room where the map shows there’s a power up ball. No hesitation, I head that way, and get the Space Jump ability. This is like the Spin Boost ability, but an infinite jump instead of a double jump; so it makes the Spin Boost obsolete, and effectively enables me to fly by jumping repeatedly.

Now the only areas left for me that are unexplored in Ferenia are both ice rooms, and I still don’t have an ability that will enable me to survive for more than a few seconds in these areas. The one to the right seems to be the path to take me to the Central Control room, where I know I’ll need to go in order to get the Omega Beam power up to deal with the EMMI from this zone. I think maybe if I run quickly I can get through it without dying, but the way is blocked by bomb blocks, and I can’t bomb fast enough to get through it. I don’t even know for sure that this is the right way.

I get up a full health charge and bomb through quickly, enter a door and get to the next room, which is also frozen, with almost no life left, and die. I’m not going to get through this area unless I can find a way to shut off the cold, or protect myself against it. And presently I know how to do neither.

Metroid: Dread diary 16

Getting further in Ghavoran requires mastery of the double jump move. I am forced to learn quickly. I make it back to the tall cavern room with the organic platforms that drop you after a second when you touch them, and try to use the Spin Boost to get up and out of the room. It takes many attempts, but eventually I make it happen. While trying to get the double jump to work, I learn that you can’t do it unless you’re in a spinning jump. I guess, hence the name “spin boost”.

Up and out to the right, I run through the EMMI zone, and this EMMI has a new capability: its radar beam seems to do damage and stun me when it hits. This makes running away from it all the more difficult, as you can’t really run away when you’ve been stunned. Its a wide, cone-shaped beam, and it seems to hit automatically if I’m in its range, so it’s really tough. Adding to the challenge, you need to Grapple Beam swing across several magnetic panels in order to cross the ceiling of the room to get out.

I die several times, but eventually I get through, and make my way to the unexplored portion of the map, where I find the Control Room. I defeat the eye robot here, again it’s an easy fight, but for some reason I’m terrible at dodging the Rinkas and laser shots this time, and lose about half my life energy during the fight. It doesn’t matter, though, because your life energy doesn’t matter in a fight with the EMMI, since they will always one-shot you.

I obtain the Omega Beam and run out to find the EMMI and put it down. This proves tricky. For some reason the EMMI doesn’t try to hit me with its stun power this time, though. It just homes in on me for the kill. I run right, then jump up and loop back left. There’s a magnetic ceiling panel on a sliding track, which I use do get across the ceiling to a platform on the upper left of the room. This is a good place to hit EMMI with the Omega Beams to melt its face plate off. It takes a slow crawl across the ceiling, presenting a perfect target the entire time. It seems like this one is tougher because I seem to have to hit it a lot more to get its face off. By the time I manage to do it, it’s crossed the ceiling and is nearly on me.

I have to use the break-away move to avoid getting killed, and run for it, to the bottom right corner of the room, where I turn around and charge up my Omega Beam cannon to finish it off. It crawls toward me slowly, and I’ve set up a perfect shot just as it comes into view, and I let loose a blast that stops it dead in its tracks.

The reward for this fight is the Ice Missile. So instead of Ice Beams in this game, they give you Ice Missiles. I can freeze enemies that don’t die from one hit with an Ice Missile, and maybe that means that I can use them as a platform, like in old Metroid games I’ve played. I’ll have to test that out if it ever seems necessary.

I find that Ice Missiles also can be used to destroy these large, organic looking red pillars that I’ve seen growing here and there about Ghavoran. Some of these things are obstacles blocking corridors. In one spot, after clearing them out, I am able to use the Grapple Beam to pull a large block out of the way, opening up a new area. Beyond that, I find another power up: the Pulse Radar. This lets me scan the area for special blocks, which should help me figure out how to find hidden secrets more easily.

I continue exploring the rest of Ghavoran, until I find a new train platform, this one takes me to Ferenia. So it’s back to Ferenia, then.

In Ferenia, the X parasites are rampaging, making all the creatures there more dangerous. They do more damage, and take more hits to destroy. Melee counter is the surest way to take most of them down, as it still only takes one shot after a successful melee counter to destroy an enemy.

Not too far into Ferenia, I come to another EMMI zone. I was hoping I might get a break from the EMMI for a little bit, but it looks like I have to face another one right away. Fine by me.

This area is difficult to traverse. The bottom half is filled with water, which makes you slow and you can’t outrun the EMMI if you’re running through water, you can’t jump over it, either. I try to get through the area several times, but run right into the EMMI most times, and get caught. However, I am starting to get enough practice with the melee counter move to get away from the EMMI that I’m starting to pull it off reliably. I’m still only hitting it about 1/3 to 1/2 of the time, but that’s a big improvement over my skill before. My problem is that I always hit the button much too early, but I’m starting to overcome my instinct and waiting the extra beat necessary to pull it off.

It doesn’t help much, because once you’re caught, you can’t get away when you’re underwater unless you’re very lucky and have some stealth cloak energy. But mostly hiding from the EMMI with the stealth cloak is delaying the inevitable. It patrols and almost finds you, then walks away, and just when you think you’re safe, it doubles back and re-investigates the spot you were hiding in. Usually you run out of the energy that powers the stealth cloak and then it starts draining your life energy. Your movement speed is reduced even further by having stealth mode active, which means you can barely move underwater, and can’t jump to the underwater platforms that you need to climb on to escape when you’re cloaked, making the cloak next to useless.

After about 10 or so tries, I finally figure out that the best route to take is the upper route, and that now that I have the spin boost move, it’s a lot easier than it looks to go this way. Remembering the newly acquired ability is important! I make a run for it, and get to the second room, where I briefly do need to cloak myself in order to throw EMMI off the trail, fortunately in this room you can make significant progress through it while cloaked. I get to a door on the opposite side and escape the EMMI’s territory, and find myself next to another door that leads to the Map Room for this zone. I download the map data and also save.

The only way out is back the way I came, through the EMMI zone, and into harms way again. I instinctively don’t go back by the same route, instead opting to go upwards and to the left, into an area of the map I haven’t explored yet. I find a false ceiling that I can bomb through, and take this route up and then go to the right as far as I’m able to, and find another save point. Why they put another save point so close to the Map Room, I don’t understand. But I’ve seen it many times in this game that the save points seem to be clustered in certain areas of each zone.

There’s a door to the right of the save room, but it’s locked an I can’t open it, so the only way to go again is back left. This time I have no choice but to go back into another EMMI patrol zone, this one vertically above the one I came through to get to this point. I have to move quickly, the EMMI is on my tail almost immediately, but I am quick and make it up, where I have two doorways. I notice that the left is an EMMI zone door, so if I take it, the EMMI can’t follow me; I decide this is the best option for now, and take it. Here, I find an energy recharge station, which I don’t need, and a glowing green block that I can’t move or destroy by any known means. I’ve seen a number of these blocks and I still don’t have the capability to move them.

I can see then that my only way forward is to the right. I go back into the EMMI zone and take the right door, and I have a long run through an underwater area. I move as quickly as I can, enabling my cloak at the last second before the EMMI latches on to my trail. Then, cloaked, I move to the right as far as I can, until I have to start making jumps to climb up on to platforms that I can’t reach while cloaked. I de-cloak, and just hope I’m fast enough. The EMMI starts giving chase almost immediately, but I’m far enough ahead of it that I’m able to get out of the water. At this point, there’s a door to my left, but it only goes back into the room I just came though a moment ago. Above me is a sliding track magnet panel on the ceiling. Grabbing this, I zip across to the right end of the room, right over the EMMI as it’s about to close in on me. I jump down and to my right is an exit to the EMMI patrol zone. I’m safe, I did it.

I get through the door and find the way leads downward. There’s a door to the left, which I blast open using a charge shot. It’s the right side door to the save room I was just in a few minutes ago. So now I have opened it, and this makes it a shortcut that avoids that whole area I just had to survive.

I save again, and then proceed to the right. There’s a tunnel that I have to turn into morph ball to get through, and it takes me into an area where I find a full E-Tank, a Total Recharge Station, and an empty room with a large statue. I expect a power-up to be given here, but it’s just an empty room, apparently. I can continue going to the right, and since it seems to be the only other unexplored area, that’s what I do.

I go through a short tunnel and emerge into a room that appears to be along the outer walls of the building. Outside I can see sky, and there’s a lot of wind, and some X-infested creatures flying around outside. But there doesn’t seem to be a way to get outside. I use the Pulse Radar ability and see that there’s breakable blocks above and below. Above turns out to be a dead end, but below I make progress, and find a boss room.

This boss is called Escue. It’s an X-corrupted scarab-like creature, that flies above and is invulnerable to attacks when it has its shell shut. When it attacks, it opens its shell, and is vulnerable to charge shots and missiles, briefly. Its attacks are all but impossible to dodge, and deal tremendous damage such that I can sustain only about 4 or 5 hits before I drop. It’s not easy to aim at it while I’m dodging, and if I don’t focus 100% on dodging, I get hit, and even when all I do is dodge, I still get hit most of the time.

Escue has a few different attacks: A black ball that launches out at me, then if it doesn’t hit me directly, it sits on the floor and does damage in a burst of energy after a few seconds. It also has a stream of black worm-like things that fly out at me. Finally, it can rush at me, and when it does this it doesn’t seem to have a counter. There’s no distinctive white flash that tips off a melee counter is possible, or if there is it’s so hard to see I can’t pick it up.

This is the toughest boss I’ve had to face yet, mainly due to its mostly invulnerability and how hard its attacks are to dodge.