Category: Nintendo

Metroid: Dread diary 8

In Artaria, I find things much as I left them. I’m much more powerful now with the energy tanks and wide beam, and the enemies here weren’t much of a threat to begin with. I know I saw another Energy Tank somewhere that I couldn’t get to without Morph Ball, and a few missile containers as well. I’m here to grab them and see what else I can access, and what else might happen when I revisit areas.

The Energy Tank turns out to be another partial, so now I’m 2/4 of the way to having my 3rd Tank. I pick up one Missile container, and then decide to explore a part of the map I couldn’t get to before, but can now that I have the wide beam.

This feels casual, I’m not really worried about threats, and I know the map well enough.

Near one of the missile containers I pick up, there’s a platform I couldn’t reach, but now can thanks to the morph ball. I go up there, and find a teleporter that can take me back to Cataris, to what looks like a new space I haven’t been to before. Since Cataris has a lot of high heat areas, I’m nervous about going that way, and decide to stick to Artaria for now and try to explore it thoroughly and pick up everything I can here before I go back.

I cross much of Artaria and make it to a door I couldn’t open before, and shoot it open with the wide beam. I begin exploring a new section of Artaria, and eventually come to a pressure plate. When I stand on it, the familiar message that thermal flow has been redirected comes up. Then something unexpected happens, and the area I’m standing in suddenly gets superheated. I’m taking damage, and there’s flames spewing everywhere. Aaaaa!

I try to run for it, and briefly escape the flames, but I make too many bad jumps and the fire catches up with me. I keep trying to escape, but end up taking too much damage and drop from my injuries.

I try again, and this time I’m successful. Just knowing to expect it is all I really needed. This time I avoid taking much damage at all, staying well ahead of the flames for most of the run. As I get to safety, I am still in unfamiliar, new territory. Here, I find another Chozo statue, holding an orb. I grab it; it’s the Varia Suit power-up. This gives me heat resistance, some damage reduction, and slightly boosts my melee damage. It notes that I’m still vulnerable to damage from lava, and doesn’t protect me from cold, but now that I have this ability, there’s a lot more regions that have just opened up to me for further exploration.

I continue on, coming to a now-safe fire zone, and as I make my way through it, I discover a Missile Container+ in a lava pool, which I grab. Doing this does a lot of damage, leaving me weak, but the container adds 10 to my capacity, making it well worth it.

The only way out leads back to a tunnel that I roll through, and it ends up taking me to that teleporter to Cataris. And this time, thanks to the fiery cataclysm I unleashed, the way down from this platform is blocked by rockfall. I guess that’s it then, the only way forward is back to Cataris.

I enter the teleporter, and arrive in a new area that I hadn’t explored previously, but it’s an area adjacent to a small chamber that I could see from my previous trip, but couldn’t figure out how to reach. I discover a tunnel complex, and proceed into another fiery zone. As I go deeper and deeper, I start hearing a roar, like an immense beast is nearby. I expect another boss fight in the near future.

As expected, I eventually come to a large room, and a transition into cutscene mode. I find myself face to face with… if I’m not mistaken, Kraid. He’s gigantic, as he was in Super Metroid, and sitting waist deep in lava, chained to the wall by his neck and both arms.

The cutscene again shows me what I need to do: shoot him in the mouth.

I spam missiles into his mouth, and my capacity is up to around 57. Sometimes he spits out a bunch of balls, and I switch to wide beam to shoot them down; they drop life and missiles which helps me keep from running out. He also flings claws at me, and they do pretty heavy damage, so I definitely need all the health I can grab, but more to the point I need to figure out how to avoid getting hit more.

After shooting about 2/3 of my missiles, he switches to a new phase. He breaks free with his arm, and in doing so damages the platform I’m standing on, making it smaller, giving me less room to dodge. Now I have to shoot at his belly oriface. It seems I can do damage here with my regular wide beam shots, and at this point he’s shooting so many blobs at me that I need to use the wide beam as much as possible to try to shoot them down before they hit me, and hopefully pick up some health.

His next attack mode is a purple cloud that runs along the ground, and I can’t get out of the way in time. It happens to do enough damage to bring me down. I see that there’s a magnetic panel on the wall now, which I’m evidently supposed to grab on to.

On my second attempt, I manage to grab on to it, and it runs me up to where I can again fire into Kraid’s mouth. Unfortunately, I take too much damage again, and don’t win the fight.

I try two more times, and then give up for the time being. I figure maybe there’s more Energy Tanks around, and if I can pick up one or two of them, it might make the difference. I feel like I might be close to having him beat, but I can’t really be sure.

There’s several other fire zones in Cataris that I might explore and pick up more powers, so I break off, backtrack, and decide to try exploring.

I go through each of the hot zones, and don’t really find much of anything. No energy tanks, no missile containers, at least none that I can grab right now. There are some locked away in small pockets in the rock, but I either can’t jump to them or can’t blow them open with my current armaments.

Giving up on trying to find more items, I head back to fight Kraid again. I work on my technique and try to observe more closely what’s going on, as this is the only approach that really works in video game boss fights. You don’t win any boss fight by brute forcing your way through the encounter, a stand-and-deliver strategy will only get you killed quickly. I had previously tried to just hold my aimpoint and spam missiles into the mouth as quickly as I could, but I took too much damage this way.

I refine the technique over my next dozen or so runs, and get better each time. During Kraid’s first phase, he has four states, starting with mouth closed. If he’s in this state, hitting him in the mouth with a missile won’t do damage, but will cause him to open his mouth, which is the key to doing damage to him. With his mouth open, he has three other phases: gaping, during which he’s not really attacking, and you can just spam as many missiles into his mouth as you can; spewing, during which these round balls that look sort of like apples shoot out of his mouth and rain down toward you, along with the occasional ball of flame; and clawing, during which he flings his claws at you, they sort of shoot off and fly at you. During the spewing phase, it’s best to switch back to your beam shot and run back and forth, free-aiming upward and shoot as much of the balls as possible, while trying to avoid touching them or the fireballs. The fireballs are the only ones that are hard to dodge — you need to move as soon as you see one emerge, as they are targeted directly at you and will hit unless you move almost immediately. Shooting the balls down means most of them won’t need to be dodged, and best of all they drop missile and health pickups that you can use to replenish your ammo and top off health if you do happen to get hurt.

During the claw-flinging phase, you can stay on missiles, shooting most of them at Kraid’s mouth to pour on the damage, and hitting the lower claws before they are a threat to you, again releasing more health and ammo pickups. Occasionally, Kraid will fling a high claw, which forces you to adjust your aim momentarily, taking it off-mouth, in order to hit the claw in mid-air. As long as you can hit the claws, this phase is low-risk, and you can basically recover from any damage you happen to take.

I get so good at this phase that I can get through it with full ammo and health.

Kraid’s second phase is tougher. He becomes enraged and breaks partially free from his bindings, freeing one arm. He smashes the platform you’re standing on, and steps forward, giving you less room to maneuver. Entering phase two, we get a brief cutscene which shows his new weakpoint — his belly orifice.

Phase two consists of several attack modes. These are trickier to dodge and require precise timing in order to do so. The timing for each attack mode is slightly different, making it easy to get thrown off and miss-time your jumps, and if you get thrown off it’s difficult to get back into rhythm, leading you to take damage repeatedly. The attacks Kraid hits you with are all high damage, so you can’t afford to take very many hits.

One of his attack modes is a purple cloud which emits from his belly orifice. This sort of spews out in an arc which lands about center of the remaining platform that you have to stand on, and then splits and moves in both directions, left and right. You need to use a full-height jump to leap over it, and if your timing is right it will have dissipated by the time you land, and you can avoid taking damage. If you do get hit by this attack, it does a lot of damage.

Another attack mode is spitting out more of those apple-shaped brown balls, this time again from his belly orifice. These launch at a couple of different heights and angles, and bounce toward you. They’re not too difficult to dodge, but doing so takes all your attention and prevents you from attacking. The best way to deal with this phase is to charge your beam shot, jump, and fire just as the orifice is launching a ball. If your timing is good, your charge shot will take out the ball, yielding you a health or missile pickup, and hit the orifice, dealing some damage. The timing of the ball launch and the recharge timing of your power shot are just about perfectly in sync, so you can get into a pattern and hit the orifice repeatedly, taking out the ball before it’s a threat to you, and gain health and replenish ammo all at once. If your timing’s not good, you will either get hit hit by the balls, which disrupts your power charge, or you’ll just take out the balls without hitting the orifice, losing the opportunity to do a little extra damage. The most important thing is to avoid getting hit by the balls, and take every opportunity to destroy them so you can keep your health and ammo up.

Kraid’s third attack is to launch a missile of his own from the belly orifice. This is Kraid’s classic attack, a signature move he has had from the original NES Metroid. He’ll launch missiles from all three of his belly orifices, and they will either launch bottom first, then middle, then top, or top first, then middle, then bottom, but almost at the same time. If it’s a bottom-first pattern, you can jump onto each missile in succession, as it embeds itself into the wall, becoming a temporary platform. They shatter quickly, but if your timing is perfect, you can scramble up the belly missiles, and then leap up and catch a magnetic platform on the wall, and cling to it at a height level with Kraid’s mouth, which you can shoot missiles into for a lot of damage.

If the belly missile pattern is top first, you don’t really have much time to dodge, and jumping will not escape damage. You can maybe slide or morph ball to go low enough, but I have never managed to do it, the reflexes needed and timing are just too narrow. I’m sure it can be done if you are expecting it, but I’m always hoping to jump onto the missiles and get up to the mouth, since that’s more important.

When you’re hanging up on the wall, Kraid will either fling his claws at you, which again you should shoot down with missiles in order to avoid taking damage and to spawn some vital ammo and health replenishments, and if you miss and let one of the claws hit you, it will knock you down and you’ll have to deal with the belly attacks again. Or, he’ll lash out at you with his free arm. There’s a split-second moment where you can melee counter this arm swipe attack, and if you manage to pull it off it spawns a massive burst of health and ammo pickups, and as well it enables you to counter with a huge volley of missiles right down his gullet. If you miss the melee counter, the arm attack will hit you, do a lot of damage, and knock you off the wall, back down to the ground, and you’ll have to work your way back up again.

Eventually, after about a dozen or more runs, I manage to get the melee counter timing down well enough to pull it off once, and in this run I manage to defeat Kraid. I’m just barely alive at the end of the fight, only 31 health remaining, which I’m pretty sure meant that if I took any hit from Kraid it would have finished me.

It’s a tough fight, and now that I’ve done it, I’m sure I could do it again, but I bet I’d only be successful about one in three attempts, until I practiced it enough to get even better. The first phase is easy once you get good at it, but the second phase is a lot tougher, with the timing for pulling off the strategies for countering the various belly attacks, and the timing for the melee counter being very tight to pull off.

After the fight is over, there’s no big burst of health and missile pickups, so I’m left in a pretty vulnerable state, and desperately need to find a save point or replenishing station, or a place where I can easily farm health pickups until I’m more secure.

I make my way out of Kraid’s chamber, and just past it I find another Chozo statue room, where I obtain the Diffusion Beam upgrade. This adds an explosive effect to the arm cannon’s charge shots, and the force of this explosion penetrates walls a bit. I believe this will enable me to blow open some more of the walls that I couldn’t do anything to earlier, and make a few more missile containers and energy tanks available to me.

Now I just need to get to a save point.

I continue working my way out, and encounter a few enemies, and I’m extremely cautious dealing with them since my health is so low. Fortunately, I deal with them without taking damage, and they drop a few health pickups, bringing me up to a little over 100. I still have two empty E-tank units, so I’m about 1/3 full, but at least I can probably handle getting hit once or twice now.

I try to find a way out, but the only way I can go seems to be a teleportation transport that will take me back to Dairon. Dairon has a lot of dangerous enemies, and with my weakened health I’m afraid to travel there. But there’s no other way, and so I must.

I get into the transporter, and it takes me to a new part of Dairon that I haven’t been to yet. I’m in a tiny cave, which appears to be sealed, but my Diffusion Beam opens up the way. I’m sure the designers made it this way intentionally, in order to force me to pick up the Diffusion Beam after beating Kraid before moving on. Good design to require this, as it will help to prevent situations where Samus might get soft-locked in an area where they can’t backtrack, and can’t proceed without the Diffusion Beam.

Not too far into this area of Dairon, I find a save point. It’s a comms console, and I can talk to ADAM again. The AI informs me that Dairon appear to be a bio research facility, and that there’s a power outage. I’ve already reactivated one of the power sources on my earlier visit, but there’s a second one that I’ll need to activate. But I’m not sure why that’s necessary — ADAM doesn’t say. I thought my mission was to survive and get to the surface. Apparently doing so now requires that I bring this bio research lab back online. Is that really a good idea? Do you want Metroids? Because this is how you get Metroids.

Metroid: Dread diary 7

I tried to make my way back to the elevator to Artaria, but found that I couldn’t. The way I came, at one point I needed to slide through a low passage, and then dropped from a height, and there’s no way to get back up through that way. So I’m still exploring Cataris, then.

I look at the map, and see that there’s still that mysterious Control Room that was labeled on an unexplored area of the map that I got from the map data terminal. Now that I have the wide beam, I can get there. I plot a course and get there, and find another wimpy boss fight like I had in Artaria, with the eyeball robot thing. It has the same weak-sauce lazy lasers and rinkas, and it’s not at all challenging, now that I’m more powered up than the last time I fought this boss. You’d think they’d up the challenge level to match my new abilities, but this eyeball robot goes down just as easily as the last one.

Again, I’m upgraded to Omega beam, and the EMMI that patrols this area is alerted to my presence due to the increase in my energy signature.

This time, I know how to handle it, and I have a fairly easy time melting its face armor off with Omega stream shots, and then finish it off with an Omega blast to the face.

This EMMI rewards me with the morph ball. I’ve been wondering when I’d get this ability back. There’s narrow tunnels all over Cataris, which the EMMI had been using, and now I can too. As well, I know at least a few power-ups I should be able to get now.

I roam around Cataris, looking for Missile Containers and Energy Tanks that I had seen along the way and couldn’t get to previously, and pick up as many as I can. But it’s a big map, and even with checking it frequently to see where I am and note what’s around, it’s not easy to feel confident that I’ve gotten everything. So I take my time.

There’s a few regions on the map that are blinking, which indicates some secret is hidden nearby, but I can’t figure out what I need to do to uncover them. In Artaria, I managed to find one, and it was discovered by blowing open some destructible blocks, but I’ve tried shooting all over within these regions in Cataris, to no avail. I’d like to know what I need to do, but I haven’t figured it out yet. I’m sure in time I will.

As I explore, I discover a destructible wall that opens up a pathway that leads back to the elevator to Artaria, so I’m now no longer stuck in Cataris. I’m sure there’s a lot of things that I can backtrack to and get there now, too, so that will be my next stop.

Metroid: Dread diary 6

OK. I was able to get out of my softlock predicament by restoring from the last save point. Apparently there’s a distinction to be made between save points and checkpoints. I found in the game menu where I could choose which to restore from, and got back outside of the thermal door that I was locked behind.

I explored Cataris a bit and found another path, which lead to a partial Energy Tank, and a dead end.

Not knowing what else to do, I did a little reading and cheated a little bit. It turns out, I was on the right track when I went to Dairon after all. I found a shootable block floor that got me past the initial point where I thought I couldn’t proceed.

The enemies here are really strong, deal a lot of damage, and are more aggressive. They also take more hits to kill. I find, though, that the melee counter move is a great equalizer. When they charge in to hit me, I learn, I can melee counter, then finish them off with a single shot from the beam cannon. It’s risky, since if I don’t time it right, I get hit and take damage, but if I’m successful it’s the fastest way to take out the flying enemies that like to swoop at me, and when I kill them, they drop a ton of life and missles.

There’s another type of enemy in Dairon, these little laser tank guys that traverse the ceilings and floors. They’re short, and hard to hit when they’re on the ground, since your regular straight-ahead shot will pass over it, you have to aim at them, which means you’re stationary, and a sitting duck for their precisely aimed laser shots. The shots are powerful, so the best way to take these enemies out is with missiles. It takes 2 or 3 hits to drop them, though, so mostly I try to move quickly and get past them before they can get a shot off.

There’s also some ripsaw traps that spring out of the ground and zoom at you. These can’t be destroyed permanently — they’re just shots that an automatic ripsaw generator spawns, so it seems like the best strategy again is to move quickly and get through without taking damage as much as possible.

I find a save point, but I’m paranoid about getting softlocked here, still, so I don’t use it. I continue exploring, and I get to an area where the power is out. The rooms are dark, dimly lit only by little glowing LED-like lights on the powered-down equipment that’s in the area. Dairon looks like some kind of industrial zone.

I come to a room where I can turn the power on, and do so. And after exploring further, I find what I came for: the wide beam power up. Acquiring it means that I’m no longer soft-locked if I go back to Cataris. I can open new doors and move blocks with this weapon. It also hits a little harder, and because of its triple-wide spread, I don’t have to be quite as precise with my aim now. I like it.

I want to head back to Cataris now to find out what else I can find now that I have this new ability. On my way out of Dairon, I encounter another EMMI, run from it, escape, and eventually I make my way back to the train that goes to Cataris.

Back in Cataris, I find that indeed, I’m no longer softlocked near the area of the train station. So I should have trusted the designers more, and not assumed that they had made it possible for me to get stuck in a place where I didn’t have the ability I needed to move forward or backward. I just didn’t have the confidence to think I was ready for Dairon’s harder enemies, when in fact the designers of the game were offering me a challenge, pushing me forward by preventing me from going backward.

It’s actually good level design. I take back what I said last entry. In large sprawling maps where you need to backtrack at times in order to reach areas you couldn’t previously, you do need to have some one-way funnels and chokepoints that will prevent you from going too far down the wrong path and getting hopelessly lost, looking for something to help you in an area where you won’t find it. Doing it by temporarily blocking off the route you came from creates a lot of anxiety at first when it happens, because it cuts you off from where you felt safer and familiar, and forces you in a direction where everything is unknown, but likely to be even more challenging. It’s fantastic, really.

Now that I’m back in Cataris, I’m trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do next. The wide beam should have opened up a few new routes that I can explore, but the region is large and I didn’t mark the spots on the map were the wide beam is needed, so now I’m just trying to find my way back. Running through the EMMI’s patrol zone, it’s a bit dangerous. I try to run it quickly and avoid detection as best I can. But the path is a bit of a maze, and I end up taking wrong turns and going in circles at times, which lengthens my time stuck in Cataris. A few times I end up getting captured by the EMMI, but I also manage to break free of it a few times. It’s still a low percentage chance to survive, but I’m getting a little better with the timing of the countermove that you need to get away, and I’ve pulled it off several times now. But it’s pretty difficult.

I’m not 100% sure there isn’t something more to do in the EMMI zone, but right now I’m just trying to make my way back to near the beginning of the level, if I can get there now, and I’m not sure that I can yet, even with the wide beam power.

Metroid: Dread diary 5

Exploring Cataris more, I carefully inspect the map, looking for routes to areas that I haven’t completely mapped, and that aren’t blocked by impassable obstacles. I pore over every detail, and identify a few points where it looks like I might be able to make headway. Time and again, I’m blocked by Power Beam doors (I don’t have the Power Beam yet), low tunnels that I can’t get through because I don’t have the morph ball yet, and hot areas that do damage and I can’t go through because it will kill me to try.

I do find several “interactive devices” on the map and activate them when I get to them. They alter the flow of the magma that powers the place, and this opens up some parts of the map that I couldn’t access previously. I also find an Energy Tank, which is great, it’s only the 2nd one I’ve been able to collect. I keep going, and I find a download station which provides me with the map data for Cataris.

You’d think this would be just the thing I need to figure out where to do and what I need to do, but it doesn’t immediately answer any questions for me, and opens some new ones. I see a spot on the map that looks like a major point of interest — some sort of main control room, or something. I try to figure out how to get to it, but the way is again blocked by things that I don’t have the ability to get past.

I take another route, and eventually find my way to another platform that looks like a train station. I stand on it, and it offers to take me to a new zone, Dairon. Am I supposed to go there now? I haven’t defeated a boss, beaten the EMMI here, or found any useful items beyond one Energy Tank and maybe a missile container or two.

I guess if I go I can always turn around… unless I get softlocked by a one-way and end up stuck.

I get on the train and ride it to Dairon.

I can’t progress very far into Dairon. There’s obstacles not a screen or two into the area that I’m not equipped to get through. Everything is a dead end. There are some enemies here, and they’re super tough. I’m clearly not meant to be here yet. So I walk back to the train platform and get on and ride back to Cataris.

Walking back from Cataris, I get stuck. There’s thermal door, which I had passed through on my way to the train station to Dairon, which is now closed. WTF? There’s no way to open it. I go everywhere that I can access, and my only other route out is a block that I can’t move/destroy, and it looks like I need the Power Beam to be able to do anything with it.

Did I seriously softlock myself?

I go back and forth, looking everywhere, and there’s no way past the obstacles that are in my way.

I suicide, but I just respawn at the station platform for Dairon again. I am softlocked. It seems like there’s no way out, and even dying and respawning won’t put me in a location where I can continue the adventure.

Fuck.

How did I get so far off track that I exceeded the designer team’s contingency plan?

It looks like I will have to fucking start over then. Mother fucker.

The only positive about this is that the game is pretty fun to play, and the 10-15 hours I’ve put into it so far represent only maybe 2-3 hours of work for a player who knows wtf they need to do and how to do it.

I’m still pissed off about it, though. This is bad design. Someone fucked up the level design pretty bad for this to be able to happen.

Metroid: Dread diary 4

It takes me a long time to figure out where I can go next. Is it because I can’t read the map or the visual language of the level design? Or is it because these things are too subtle?

That’s a matter up for debate. While I’ve been playing, there’s been a lot of coverage in the gaming press about Metroid: Dread, and one story I read from Scott Jaffe, the guy who designed God of War is upset with the game design because it’s not apparent enough to him how to proceed through some of these areas. There’s an area in the game where you have to shoot through the ceiling in order to proceed.

I can see both sides of this. Original Metroid had tons of these destructible blocks and seeming dead ends that you couldn’t go through unless you happened to know that some of the blocks in the wall weren’t solid, and you could just walk through them. Back in the day, this wasn’t really questioned. It was simply the way games were designed, and it was the way the designers created secret areas and hid things for you to find, if you were clever and smart, or in the know. It’s part of the Metroid franchise’s legacy, and if Metroid maps didn’t have some of this, the game wouldn’t feel as much a part of the Metroid franchise as it otherwise would.

The area Jaffe complains about didn’t really present a problem for me, at all. In the area, there’s an flying alien who is near the ceiling, giving you all the reason you need to shoot at the place where the destructible blocks are, and discover the secret. If you don’t happen to miss, or you don’t bother engaging the enemy, then, sure you might not discover this right away. But there’s other clues as well — you can see that there’s a chamber directly above, the wall that separates the chamber you’re in and the chamber beyond is one “block unit” thick, and you’ve seen places elsewhere in Artaria where you can blow away the walls.

The thing is, some of these are more obvious than others. Some of the destructible terrain is permanently destructible — you’ll see a part of the wall that looks like it’s organic tissue. It’s red, it’s got some veins coming out of it, it looks gross, and maybe a threat, so it invites being treated as a target. If you shoot it, it reacts, and if you shoot it several more times, it is destroyed, and when it blows up an entire section of the wall will be destroyed, opening up a new passage for you to travel.

But other areas, you can shoot and destroy a block, and it is temporary. After a time, the block will re-spawn. Sometimes you can shoot the wall, and it will reveal a destructible block that you have to hit with a specific weapon, such as missiles. You might not have the weapon you need to destroy that type of block yet. This is the game’s way of re-using the map by blocking off areas until you can unlock them with a newly-gained ability.

This is one of the main defining aspects of the Metroid franchise. So if you don’t like it, Metroid just isn’t the game for you. And that’s fine, not everyone has to like something. But Metroid is good in so many ways, and I don’t mind this aspect of the game. I accept it for what it is, and I enjoy it.

Most of the time.

Other times, I do get the feeling that the design is a little too subtle, a little too obscure. I get stuck, and I get frustrated for a while. Sometimes longer than is enjoyable. A little frustration should be expected, or a game is just too easy. But there gets to be a point where you’re tired of being frustrated, and it stops being enjoyable. That doesn’t mean that the game is flawed, it just means that there’s a challenge curve to the game, and you need to climb up it at your pace. When you’re ready, you figure out the things, overcome the challenge, and move forward. Making progress feels good. But then you’re presented with something new, a new type of challenge, something new you need to learn in order to continue making progress, and until you learn it, you’re stuck, and if you’re stuck for too long, you get frustrated.

Sometimes the game is pretty good about telling you what you need to learn, what you need to do. These are straightforward challenges: you have to defeat this enemy. It’s hard, but you can do it. You just have to get good. Master the controls, learn the enemy’s patterns, learn what you need to do to defeat it, figure out a strategy, and execute it.

Other times, the game is less straightforward. There’s no signpost telling you “do X to proceed.” You have to put it together yourself what the solution is. You have to observe carefully, pick up on clues, what clues there are, and once you realize what the answer is, doing it is easy, but it’s discovering the solution that’s hard.

Sometimes it’s kindof both: figuring out what to do is hard, and then doing it is also hard.

I think great games offer a good mix of these elements, but it’s also fine if a game is all one type or another.

One problem with Metroid is when you can’t tell whether you’re stuck because you don’t have some ability yet, and you need to come back later, or if you’re stuck because you haven’t figured out what to do yet. It’s more frustrating when you have the abilities you need to make progress, but don’t realize it, perhaps because there’s some obscure way of using a new power that you haven’t used enough yet, or missed the clue about.

The first problem I have is with this section of the map in Artaria, where you use the Spider Magnet ability for the first time. There’s a vertical area where you can use Spider Magnet to crawl up the walls to get to a part of the room you couldn’t get to before. The top of the room splits down the middle, and the first way to go is to the left. From there, it’s not obvious what you do next.

After a long time I figure out that you can shoot the wall at the top, and get from the left half of the top of the chamber over to the right half. You get rewarded with a missile container for figuring this out. It took me forever because at first I didn’t realize you could shoot enough of the wall away to just jump over — I only hit one destructible block at first, and by convention I thought that meant that I’d have to come back when I get the morph ball ability, so I could roll through the low tunnel that I opened up by destroying that block. It turned out that there was a whole section of blocks that I could have destroyed, and if I’d just kept shooting I would have realized this and saved myself about a half hour of head scratching trying to figure out what to do.

Immediately after getting past my own stupidity on that puzzle, I couldn’t figure out what to do again. But there’s a section of wall over on the right side which is covered with the magnetic tiles. If you cling to this, your weight will pull it down to slide on a track, and this moves the wall out of the way and exposes a new passageway that is the way forward.

What I didn’t notice right away was some glowing tiles that in effect are a signpost, they make arrows that point downward and that’s the clue that you’re supposed to read to realize that the magnetic section of wall can move. Even if you don’t “read” the design of the level, you’ll probably discover it by accident eventually, if and when you climb on that section of wall and hang on it long enough for the gravity to pull it down.

But part of what makes it frustrating is that these “physics puzzles” are only in very specific parts of the game. There’s pressure plates in floors, movable platforms, destructible blocks, but they’re “special” — deliberately put there for a particular purpose of the designers of the game, who wanted to create a puzzle for you. But after playing Breath of the Wild, which had much more integrated game physics, where pretty much anything and everything could be interacted with in multiple ways, leading to no-one-solution puzzles where you could overcome the obstacles in any number of ways, some easy or obvious, others not at all easy or obvious. But Metroid: Dread isn’t like that. It wants you to figure out one specific solution to most, if not all, of the puzzles it throws at you.

There might be some sequence-breaking opportunities to get past some of these obstacles without having yet acquired the ability you’re meant to use, but I haven’t discovered any yet,

But my main complaint is that when you discover a solution to some puzzle, you can’t apply that same logic to other things in the map. If these blocks are destroyable, why can’t I just tunnel through any wall by blasting it? Etc. Obviously the game needs to constrain you in ways that make the game a challenge and a fun experience, and if you could blast your way through any amount of wall and tunnel your way out to the surface, you could just bypass the whole game, and the game would be called Metroid: Nope, and the mission would be “dig to the surface, get on your ship, and don’t get any new abilities, your normal blaster and jumping is all you need…”

So… I get it. But the consequence of this is that there’s some “now you can, now you can’t” issues with the game continuity that make it a little bit frustrating. “This ability only works when you’re solving this puzzle, but in another situation where it looks like that would be a thing to try, it won’t work.” Why? Because.

It’s not really that bad if you know all along what you’re supposed to do, but when you’re trying to figure out what to do, not knowing what you can and can’t do, and not knowing what you’re meant to do, it turns a game that could probably be played through in a few hours into a 100+ hour slog through your own incompetence, as you fumble about trying to make your way forward, hoping you don’t accidentally take a wrong turn and end up somewhere you’re not meant to be yet, or worse, that you can’t go back from to get back to the familiar area you haven’t quite fully explored yet.

Anyhow.

I got through the magnet wall secret door and start exploring a new area. Very quickly I find myself in another boss fight, before I realize it, expect it, or am ready for it. I run down a long corridor and at the end of it there’s this weird organic door that I have to blast through. It looks like a charge shot door at first, but has something growing on it. It comes alive and attacks me, and I hit it with a volley of shots and it doesn’t take too much to destroy it. The doorway now opened, I proceed.

As I walk through this doorway, I guess I should have known to expect something special after that weird encounter, because the game switches to a cutscene mode.

(As an aside, I love the way the game handles cutting from gameplay mode to cutscene mode. It’s very fluid. The camera just changes angles and behaves in a more cinematic way, but the whole time the game is presenting itself to you in one engine. It’s really well done, compared to how games used to be decades ago, where they would cut to pre-rendered full-motion video that didn’t look at all like the regular in-game graphics that the game engine churned out.

So Samus walks into a large chamber, and pauses to examine a large sculpture in the middle of it, when suddenly a creature appears behind her, and attacks! It’s a huge, whale-sized scorpion-like thing with a nasty mouth and a whip-like tail. Samus blasts it in the face with a missile, and then slides under, between its legs and gets behind it.

This scene serves as a very subtle mini-tutorial for how to fight the boss. You have to hit it in the face with charge beam shots or missiles, and dodge its tail attack. If you let it get too close it’ll hit you with a bite attack, and it will also spit globs of poisonous-looking goo at you. It has a nice mix of attack modes, and keeps you on your toes. The tail whip is very subtly telegraphed, so if you can pick up on when it’s about to strike, you can jump and dodge out of the way, but the timing is pretty tight.

After you do enough damage to it, its tail develops a weakpoint, a glowing red swell a few segments back from the stinger. You have to shot this spot a bunch of times, and I found that it’s easiest to stand still and use the aim shot and just rapidly spam out normal-power shots. It’s the one thing that it’s vulnerable to the normal shot. You can hit it with charge beam or missiles too, but it’s moving constantly and hard to target, and you don’t want to waste shots. After doing enough damage to the vulnerable spot on the tail, the game switches back into cutscene mode for a moment, and the creature turns its back, as though it’s trying to protect its head, while simultaneously lining up for a tail attack.

If you don’t take the cue, you can stay bedhind it and try to hit it more, but it’ll basically corner you and you don’t have enough health to withstand more than a few hits. But if you try to slide under, you can get back in front of it.

There’s a split second where you can use the melee counter ability just as you’re coming out from the slide, and then you’re back in front of it again, and you have to pound it in the face and the weak point on the tail again with missiles or charge shots.

If you take damage or run low on ammo, its goo globs can be shot down with the regular beam, and they’ll drop a few health or missile pickups, which really helps. The monster will also exhale a cloud of poison, which will creep toward you slowly. To get away from this, you need to jump up and cling to the magnetic sections of the wall until the cloud dissipates.

Then you have another chance to slide under it again.

If you hit it enough times, eventually it goes back again to cutscene mode and you finish it off.

I had to run this fight a good 20 or 30 times before I figured out all the different tactics and “you have to do this now because nothing else will work” aspects of the fight, but after I finally figure it out, I realize that I’ve gained some skill and that if I have to do that fight again, I’ll be able to handle myself and succeed nearly every time now. It truly feels like I have accomplished something and leveled up.

Figuring it out by myself, and not relying on a strategy guide feels especially good.

Having now defeated this thing, I gain its ability: the Phantom Cloak. This power makes you invisible and enables you to sneak past EMMI without being detected. It also enable you to walk through special doors that are triggered by sensors which lock the door if you get close to them. There’s a bunch of these doors in different places throughout Artaria, so now I have a few more places I can explore.

I pick a direction, and before I know it, I’ve come to an elevator that leads to a new section of the world: Cataris

I figure I’ll check out Cataris, and if it looks like it’s too much and I’m not ready for it yet, I’ll turn around.

I don’t get too far into Cataris before I’m stuck behind a one-way and can’t retreat to the relative safety of Artaria, though.

There’s another EMMI in this region of ZRD, of course. This one is yellow. I can put my new cloaking ability to good use. The regular enemies here are tougher, take more damage to kill, are more aggressive, and do more damage. They feel like legitimate challenges that I need to deal with, rather than bump-on-a-log targets that I can farm to top up my health if I need to.

Cataris is big, and fiery. There are a lot of things to burn yourself on — enemies that shoot fire, geysers of flame shooting from the walls, floors, and ceilings. Zones where the temperature is so high that just being there inflicts damage. I explore as much as I safely can, and find more magma flow controls, which I activate and these in turn unlock more areas of the map.

I haven’t found a lot of additional power-ups though, so far. Just one missile container that I’ve been able to grab, and that’s it.

I feel lost, cut off from the way back, and uncertain about how to make progress again. I’ve opened up a lot of new territory, and it’s time to take stock of it and figure out what I need to do next.

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.

Metroid: Dread diary 2

I got stuck in the area around where I encountered the 2nd EMMI. According to the game’s built-in progress log, this one is called EMMI-025M, for what it’s worth. The first one was called EMMI-01P. I don’t know what the names mean.

I have found an Energy Tank, and a few missile containers, but I can’t get to them. The map has a lot of areas that are cleverly designed to allow one-way transit only in places, creating bottlenecks and flows that force me to follow a route. At each of these spots, I’m forced to decide to commit and go through the one-way or backtrack or take another route. There’s a few places in this area where I encounter the one-way on the wrong side of it, so I can’t proceed through, and there I see the power-up item. And so far, I can’t figure out the right way around.

The only other thing left to do in this area seems to be to play cat and mouse with the EMMI-025M. I enter its patrol area, and mostly I’m preoccupied with avoiding the thing, hoping to not get detected and chased. This keeps me from searching the room thoroughly. I find that if I keep ahead of EMMI-025M, and keep moving, I can avoid it detecting me, but this doesn’t seem to gain me anything.

I take a few laps of the EMMI-025M’s patrol zone, wondering what I’m supposed to do, when I notice in one spot there’s some water, and the ground platforms I’ve been walking across appear to be floating on pontoons. Over to the left, I notice what appears to be a pressure plate. These blend in with the regular background pretty well, and it takes a trained eye to be able to spot them, but I’ve found a few places where they are more obvious — usually they’re save points or weapon or life energy refill points, and they generally have very obvious kiosks and machinery around them to help you spot them. This one doesn’t so much have that, so I must have ran past it a good fifty times before I noticed it.

I stand on it for a few seconds, triggering it, and the water drains and the floating floor segments drop, exposing a low passage that I can squeeze through if I use my slide.

This must be the way forward, so I take the new path. It leads me to a new area within Artaria, and I explore a bit, encountering some random weak enemies. I find a missle container, and then my first Energy Tank that I can collect. It’s not the same one that I found earlier but couldn’t get to. But this one, I can get easily, and so I do. This doubles my life energy and gives me a little more confidence. Although, so far there hasn’t been a whole lot of combat, and what there has been has either been very easy, or with the EMMIs that I can do nothing against and have to run from. So life energy doesn’t seem to be all that necessary, yet. I’m sure at some point it will become vital.

Continuing to explore, I work my way through the complex, and eventually discover a chamber with a familiar-looking statue that appears to be offering a ball-shaped item to me. I take it, and it turns out to be the Charge Beam power-up. So now if I press and hold the cannon button, I can charge up a more powerful attack, and also this charged-up beam will enable me to open certain doors that I couldn’t open previously. There’s a few of them right in this immediate area, and I go around and try to explore more.

I find another chamber, what appears to be some kind of control room, and activate it. This changes the flow of magma, which is apparently in use as some kind of power source for this area. During my exploration I had encountered a few doors that led to areas that were glowing red hot and did damage to me, and I had to retreat back to the normal-temperature area. Activating this thing doesn’t seem to have cooled down those areas any, so I’m not sure entirely what I just accomplished.

But there’s a new bit of story revealed, and ADAM tells me that my mystery assailant may have been a Chozo warrior, and that this area appears to have been a settlement of their species. Apparently they may have been responsible for reprogramming the EMMI and turning them against me. ADAM again re-iterates that I’m currently powerless to confront the EMMI and will have to be very careful, avoid them, and flee if I encounter them, and that my primary objective is to return to the surface of the planet and rendezvous with my ship.

I’ve made a bit of progress, but now I’m not sure where to go next. I guess returning to the areas I’ve been and seeing where I can go now that I’ve gotten the Charge Beam.

Metroid Dread diary 1

Posting on a 30-day delay to avoid spoilers for those who care.

The mail brought me Metroid Dread yesterday (10/14/2021).

I couldn’t rightly believe it. I found a copy in new condition on ebay for $49.99, which is $10 off retail. For a brand new release of Nintendo’s #3 A-list franchise. I expected some kind of scam, but it arrived quickly and is a real, legit copy of the game as far as I can tell. It’s not a collector’s edition or whatever, but I don’t believe in that stuff.

I played it for an hour or two and it is very good. So far I’m just figuring out the controls and what to do.

SPOILER WARNING (such as it is)

The game starts out with a lot of exposition and cutscenes. I learn that the Metroid species is extinct, and the X-parasite organism is thought to be mostly extinct, but then we learn that one has been spotted.

The metroids were created by a race of aliens called the Chozo as a bio-weapon. They drain the life energy from targets, and Samus helped wipe them out in earlier chapters of the Metroid series.
Metroids are the only known predator of the X-parasite organism. X-parasites are bio-mimic, and can merge with hosts, sample their DNA, and copy them. In a previous Metroid, Samus was infected with the X-parasite, and had to defeat one that had all the powers of Samus’s fully powered armor suit.

Samus had previously been augmented with Metroid DNA, I guess in the game Super Metroid when the last surviving Metroid sacrifices its life by replenishing Samus during the final boss battle against the Mother Brain. This was what enabled Samus to survive being infected by the X-parasite.

That’s all preface to the current adventure.

You’re going to some planet called Z-something… ZDR. I had to look it up. There’s a mission there, it’s risky, and the bounty promised for success isn’t worth the risk (according to the cutscene).

As you’re going in for a landing on the planet, suddenly the narrative cuts to you waking up on the ground on the planet ZDR. You relive an encounter with a large alien robot, who we find out are called EMMIs. Your weapons are ineffective and it kicks your ass. You contact your ship via radio and it tells you that you need to get back to the surface of the planet, and that most of your powers and abilities are offline so you’re weak and survival is a priority.

So far I’ve explored the starting area a bit. There’s a lot of places I can’t figure out how to get to. I don’t have a morph ball ability so I can’t get into low passages, but they give you a slide. The slide works for low passages if you’re on the same level as them, but there are a lot of low passages that are off the ground, and in traditional Metroid games you’d morph into your ball mode and lay a bomb, and let it boost you up into the passage and roll in, but in this game you don’t get the ability to do that yet, so I don’t know when I’ll be able to — presumably I will have to backtrack and get into them at a later time.

So far the non-EMMI enemies seem like pushovers. They’re just sort of there, to give the game world a sense of being inhabited. They’re not hostile unless you get really close to them, and you can pretty much ignore them or shoot them at your leisure.

I encountered a damaged EMMI, and ran from it, got to a room where they gave me a temporary weapons boost, and introduced a charge and aim mechanic which you use to defeat it.

Some more exploration, and now I’m in an area where I’m trying to sneak around, avoiding another prowling EMMI. If it’s in the same room as me, it’ll patrol and pick up my trail, and when it gets close it’ll initiate pursuit, and all I can do is run.

It’s not too hard to keep ahead of it, but it does keep you hopping. This aspect of the game feels like a Schwarzeneggar vs. Predator kind of thing, where you don’t have any weapons that can deal with the threat, and all you can do is run and hide. You feel hunted, powerless, vulnerable. If you escape the room where the EMMI is, you can breath easy because it won’t pursue out of its area.

So now I’m kindof stuck exploring this area looking for the way to proceed.

There are some spots in the level that I’ve found where there are destroyable blocks that you can shoot, and sometimes these open up new areas, but about as often they open up areas that (apparently? I’m not sure?) you can’t go through yet. Or maybe I can but I just don’t know how.
Things I know how to do:

  • switch to missiles and fire them
  • aim around me
  • jump
  • wall jump
  • ledge hang
  • slide

That’s about it. There’s a screen in the pause menu that tells you what abilities you have, but it doesn’t tell me what I can have but haven’t found yet, so I’m not sure what’s in store for me yet.
The game mentioned that because of my Metroid DNA infusion, I’m vulnerable to cold (in the original Metroid, Metroids could only be hurt after first being frozen by the ice beam, so it makes sense), and there are areas in the game that are cold and I will take damage if I’m not equipped to deal with that. But I haven’t found any cold zones yet.

I have found some underwater areas though. You move a bit differently underwater — you can’t wall jump, your jump height is reduced, and you’re not buoyant. There’s some puzzles where you have to blow away walls to change water flow or water levels in order to proceed. I bet at some point there will be a power-up that gives you your mobility back underwater.

I’ve found a few save points, and a weapon recharge and life energy recharge station. Mostly you don’t need them, because the enemies are easy and drop a lot of missiles and life. But it’s good to get introduced to them so you know they exist and what they look like.

There’s plenty of areas on the map that I’ve explored so far where I can see that there’s more in some direction, but I haven’t been able to figure out how to get there yet. There’s sloped floors that you can’t get any traction on and you always slide down them. You can’t even jump up them.
So until I can figure out how to proceed, I’m stuck. I like figuring out these puzzles on my own, so I’m looking forward to working it out for myself. Probably I’ll spend 10 or 20 hours looping around and around missing something that I ignored a clue about during one of the cutscenes, and eventually I’ll discover it.

I feel like I probably could have already discovered it, but the time pressure imposed on me by having to run from the EMMI when I’m in its area is making it harder to explore that particular area, and that is probably the key to this part of the game.

Also I’m still really awkward/unfamiliar with the fine controls.

Legend of Zelda Overworld Randomizer

Another awesome Legend of Zelda romhack, this one by Garret Bright. This one is an overworld randomizer.

It takes the rom file for the original Legend of Zelda (not included), and replaces the original overworld map with a completely new map. The new maps are randomly generated by a seed function, and the seed value always generates the same map, so if you find one that you find especially interesting, you can easily share it with your friends, without copyright violations, by sharing the seed.

Hyrule #25325045

The randomized overworlds seem to be well designed, for a randomized generator, in that they feel like they are following similar design principles that are evident in the original game, meaning that the maps are playable, and feel like they are broken up into zones, much like the original. It doesn’t just take the existing overworld screens and re-arrange them, it creates new tile layouts for novel overworld screens that have never been seen before, and stitches them together to create a coherent overworld consisting of distinct zones.

But, curiously, some design rules that are present in the original game, are not followed in the randomizer. For instance, in the original, most dungeon entrances have a single enemy roaming around outside, but in the randomized maps, this does not seem to be the rule. Also, enemy placement seems to be less concerned about starting Link in a part of the world that is far away from the more powerful monsters. You can expect to start on a screen with the cave to the Wooden Sword, but you may find yourself surrounded by blue Leevers, Peahats, and Moblins sooner than you’d expect to run into them in the original. And the trick where leaving a single enemy on each overworld screen prevents the screen from re-spawning enemies again doesn’t seem to work any more.

I’ve always wanted to see more games made with the original LoZ engine, so this is probably one of the best things ever. Now I can play unique Legend of Zelda games for the rest of my natural lifespan. If only there was something that created new dungeon maps and new items as well. Perhaps we’ll get something like that one day. Until then, I’ll be burning every bush, and blowing up every rock, until I find every secret there is to find in a virtually limitless multiverse of alternative Hyrules.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be in world 25325045.

You can download the overworld randomizer at bitbucket.org.