October 6th, 2009
This round we finally get off Bryyo and onto the next planet, Elysia. Having established a decent base of ideas so far, I probably won’t have as much to say about Elysia. On the other hand, I’ve been writing based on memory instead of writing while playing (which will change for the article after next), so it could go either way.
Areas Covered: Landing Site Delta, Elysia (Main Docking Bay)
Discussion Points: Dark World-esque visual design, Mogenar boss, Sky Town visual design, flying foxes
Landing Site Delta
Gnarly purples with a blue aura –welcome to Metroid Prime 2! The Dark World in MP2 was an intentionally ghastly place. The Dark World’s visual appearance was all the more frightening in its contrast against the charmingly rustic appeals of previous locales such as Agon Wastes, Temple Grounds and areas from the original Metroid Prime. Metroid Prime 2 took you out of the an archeologist’s environment and threw you into a subterranean abyss. This wild swing in visual design effectively pulled the rug out from under players and left them feeling in such a state.
The exact same dynamic works here too. This world is a repellent one and the eery setting prompts you along the linear corridors to Mogenar; the final boss of the Bryyo area.
Although the major boss battles in Metroid Prime 2 were set in the Dark World, the framework of these battles were so well made, so delectable for veteran players to grok, that it simply took the player away from the context and put them some place else. In saying that though, the visual bleakness only heightened the sense of drama and intensity which made the boss battles all the more exhilarating.
When the boss battle loses its edge though, the veneer falls apart and only worsens the situation, which pretty much sums up the confrontation with Mogenar.
Clumsiness is again the order of the day, but I ought to first discuss the most glaringly obvious problem I have with Mogenar – those three red balls. ‘Form represents function’ is one of Nintendo’s core design principles. If an enemy has a certain weakness, such weakness should pertain the visual design. In this regard, the Mogenar creature is a little too ambitious. Hell, it doesn’t even attempt to disguise its weak points, and as a result looks unreservedly stupid.
To defeat Mogenar the player must first damage the four red balls (three on his front, one on his back) one at a time, repeat this step in hyper mode (to overload the energy of each one) and also attack his feet with morph ball bombs when necessary. This is the first time hyper mode has become a priority, almost to the point that it cripples the player in its over reliance.
After overloading one of the balls with phazon, Mogenar will launch into a dangerous offensive such as difficult to avoid electricity stomps or by rushing the player. In the latter case, the player must enter morph ball mode and then attack his crystallized feet to return him back to his normal state. For the player, it’s preferable that they overload more than one of the balls whilst in the one instance hyper mode, since entering the mode requires a submission of health tank (or half, I can’t remember!) and doing this four times over is suicide. Either of the two reactions by Mogenar severally obscures the player’s ability to attack another ball, and hence, with the time delay involved, Samus’ suit is more likely to overload with phazon, therefore requiring her to dispel it and forfeit her chance at attacking another ball. This scenario nudges the player into a difficult position and makes the confrontation a frustrating affair.
Elysia – Sky Town (Main Docking Bay)
Design-wise, it appears that each iteration in the Metroid Prime series seems to supercede the title before it by introducing a new and continually more breathtaking and iconic piece of landscape. Metroid Prime sported the peaceful ambiance of Phendrana Drifts. Metroid Prime 2 masterfully diverged from the traditional Metroid aesthetic with the technology driven Sanctuary Fortress. Metroid Prime 3 pushes the artistic beauty a further step forward with Sky Town.
Consider Sky Town a steampunk-esque take on Sanctuary Fortress. Similarly, the two environments are a network of intricately detailed, multi-story islands connected in the sky. In contrast, Sky Town loses the cybernetic colour scheme, maintaining the rustic appeal of such areas as Chozo Ruins and Agon Wastes. It’s a design which embodies the series’ key visual strengths: the organic feel, rustic colours, minute detail and deft animation – it’s easy to feel sentimental.
Although Sky Town’s population are nothing but robot entities, the area still feels like a habitat. The worker drones are quietly working away, whilst the only enemies to interrupt your progress, the Wizard of Oz-inspired steambots, are sentries. The automation of any danger and innocuous worker drones create an environment that whilst populated is as quiet and sombre as some of the series’ best.
The floating islands constituting Sky Town are connected by an elaborate network of flying foxes. Samus uses the grapple beam to latch on to a fox and follows the windy trail to the other side. It’s a neat idea and is definitely enjoyable for the first few rounds but quickly becomes tiresome when you simply want to reach the other side without distraction.