Sunday, February 7, 2010

Feb 7 -- The best game I ever played

If you've gamed with me, it's no big secret. It's 8-bit Metroid on the NES. That's right, not Super Metroid. The original. It came out of nowhere, it was (looking back) mind boggling hard, and it was kryptonite on my homework for a couple of weeks in 1986. I remember cajoling my sister into blessing the purchase of this one--it had to be a shared game. I don't think she played this for more than about ten seconds--this thing was mine.* There has never been another game that has so infatuated me. Not only that, but it delivers two of the biggest "Whoa" moments in my gaming life--a random bomb blew a hole in the floor and a whole world was down there, and the shocking (at the time) moment when the protagonist is revealed to be a woman. 

The former is a design decision that is almost never seen nowadays--it's "too hard." Spots that allow the player to advance are colored differently, revealed by in-game goggles or a flashlight, or just look cracked or fragile or different somehow. In the 8-bit days, they didn't have a world's worth of sprites to select from, so it's entirely forgivable--until you recall that Metroid did have "bombable" blocks that looked different. They really were hiding those places, and I thank them for that. In the era before strategy guides and, I looked over every inch of that game. I played it again about 15 years later and I still knew my way around--it was like going home.

After beating the game, which is a crazy hellbent for leather experience, the little armored dude you've been running all over place drops the armor and lets her long hair flow in the alien breeze. This was stunner number two--I had "been" a girl while wrecking shit on Planet Zebes. This is still a stunner, sadly. Games and the characters in them are inordinately by and for adolescent boys, and all that entails.

Speaking of easy, sexist Metroid...

Game of the Day: SHADOW COMPLEX
I have put some hours into this thing lately, and it's delivering. It feels no compunctions about being a shameless Super Metroid clone. You're Jason or some other Guy Whitey Cornbread character, your girlfriend is kidnapped and is helpless for most of the game (hello, sexist! Seriously--she's paralyzed by drugs and can't do anything without you. While you tear shit up in underground caverns she's hiding behind a cabinet. Man, I wish I was making this up.) Crouch-replaces-rollball, save rooms, super armor, missile doors, &c. How's about Kraid? He's there, pretty much. He's called an AS-04 Walker or something, but it's Kraid.

*Let the record reflect years of shoddy treatment of my little sister. I used to crush her in Monopoly, obviously lie to her to get games I wanted, and make her team up with the little kids in the neighborhood to again, administer crushings in Whiffleball. That I am still welcome in her home is testament to her good character.

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