October 4th, 2009
Areas Covered: Cliffside Airdock (Revisited), Firey Airdock (Revisited) Thorn Jungle Airdock
Discussion Points: Golumn subtext, backtracking, segregated area qualms, Korakk boss battle, Thorn Jungle, final two generators
Cliffside Airdock (Revisited)/Firey Airdock (Revisited)
After gaining the ice beam, the player must backtrack their way to the Cliffside Airdock area and mine a little deeper with the ice beam. This opens up a hidden sanctuary with the overbearing presence of a giant golem hooked up to tubes of that volatile yellow substance seen all throughout the Firey Airdock area. Another possible subtext. The lore scans throughout Bryyo tell the story of struggle between science and tradition within the culture of the extinct Primal race. The Chozo, who had first sparked the interest of science among the Primals, encouraged a balance between science and cultural tradition. Unfortunately the divisions of thought turned against each other and ultimately brought the demise of the civilisation. This story is best told through the scarring of the visual landscape. The war of ideologies has seen the falling of prominent structures in place of furnished technologies such as elevators, generators, transmission receivers and transport mechanisms. The golem is a highlight of this visual metaphor, an icon of the past bounded by the wrath of future industrialism and development.
Free the golumn from his boundings and he opens an underground passage into a landing pad area for Samus’ ship. Here she can upgrade her ship to do something or other with the shields blocking access into the third area. I’m honestly not too sure. As mentioned, the objectives don’t sink well with me. Whatever happens you head back to the Firey Airdock and then eventually trek out to the Thorn Jungle area. So with all relevant upgrades finally gained, we can map the progressive structure so far like so;
Arrival at Cliffside Airdock -> Grapple Beam -> Arrival at Firey Airdock -> Ice Beam -> Return to Cliffside Airdock -> Ship upgrade -> Return to Firey Airdock -> Objective Complete
Hopefully this paints a clearer picture of the amount of required backtracking for this predominate section of the Bryyo area. Considering the next two parts on Bryyo are completely linear and (thankfully) require no planet-hopping it’s worth discussing my qualms with this dynamic now.
Maybe I’m blindingly stupid, but I frequently sent my ship to the wrong areas of the map*. You see, the planet-hopping dynamic tinkers with the play methodology in which the Metroid games have always comfortably facilitated. In prior Metroid titles, the entire world was overtly and in-overtly connected. Processing the entire world map mentally is therefore inherently challenging, hence when moving from one area to another my travel itinerary would be based on a linear path of recollected (often visual) set pieces within the environment chained together with a reliance on the room-by-room map system (ie.corridor, large room, corridor). My consciousness of the map is vague and reliant on “feeling out” the environment. Metroid Prime 3, in instances where the ship is used, forces me to assign these vague depictions to the fixed co-ordinate of a landing zone. I don’t get the opportunity to feel out the landscape and validate my hazy memory, rather I must make a preemptive decision based on invalidated recollections. I therefore feel that this system is counteracting with a piece of habitual comfort which the previous games formerly nurtured into growth.
Thorn Jungle Airdock
Shortly into the Throrn Jungle Samus duels with the Korakk Beast. So far, most of the boss battles have felt clumsy and the Korakk certainly conforms to this assumption. In fact, the process required to defeat Korakk is derivatively similar to the Rundas battle and the later battle with Ghor. You pinpoint a weakness, attack it (you need to enter morphball mode for this part), a “tug me” icon appears, you tug away with the grapple lasso, and then with weak spot revealed you whittle down the health. All of these bosses can be downed in the same formulaic fashion: weaken the outer layer, use the lasso to reveal the inner core and then attack that, with a few minor variances per battle.
The battle itself is clumsy for three reasons: the weak spot around the mouth is tricky to judge and regularly flicks off when the Korakk prepares to tongue-grab you, the Korakk always attempts to lessen space between you and it which feels intrusive, and it’s awkward having to maneuver underneath him to bomb his under-belly region. The latter point is a result of too much overhang when the Korakk slouches in his weakened state, this knock backs the morphball and makes it awkward to slide under.
I probably should have mentioned the bizarrely amusing space pirate riding Korakk too. Very cute.
The following area of Thorn Jungle steps out of the jungle environment, and into a channel of confined areas wrought with dense technological and industrial impact. If prior areas were scarred by the mild influence of industrialisation, this part is the central core. We’ve seen this marked transition into the core; the Cliffside Airdock is the cultural hub of civilized life on Bryyo, the Firey Airdock is more industrious and features a couple of transmission centres. The Thorn Jungle is then the final visual chapter of the Primal’s story, a place where science rules. As you can see the story behind Bryyo is told on many levels: the visual story, the lore scans and the local flora and fauna. It’s the layering of each narrative piece (which to the player hardly comes across as narrative, and therefore feels very natural) that makes Retro’s artificial worlds so engrossing.
This area is headlined by a crossroads; a circular loop of connected corridors with the two remaining two generators on either side. Samus must destroy both generators, with the design allowing for a welcomed degree of non-linearity. Destroying each generator requires you to dismantle the power sources by flicking levers and attacking weak spots. You have to co-ordinate the event while fending off the defending space pirates. This scenario provides an open platform for players to flex their muscles; new players will dawdle and make mistakes, veteran players however can complete with relative ease and finesse. The pirates roll in thick and fast which makes hyper mode suddenly seem all the more useful.
This quality, fat free chunk of gameplay with a lack of backtracking and some neat diversity, feels like a reward for the somewhat arduous sections earlier on. I was in a different mood during these sequences, which accommodates the closing of this chapter nicely. Now, to Landing Site Delta for the final boss battle on Bryyo.
*On second thoughts, I am blindlingly stupid. There were only two options, I just couldn’t figure out which area I was already on. The point still stands and becomes more significant later in the game as you’ll see.