November 6th, 2009
Areas Covered: Landing Site Alpha
Discussion Points: Transition from stealth to mild combat, Scrapvault room, Metroid Processing room, Gandrayda battle, Transit Station
Landing Site Alpha (Research Facility)
The Pirate Homeworld begins very quietly and then slowly becomes more action intensive as the player mines further into the pirate’s base. As we know from last time the first sequence of gameplay, Landing Site Bravo, was primarily a stealth section and only contained a few short lapses of combat. Only a handful of space pirates populate the facility, so rather than facilitate another stealth sequence, the mood is simply quiet. Combat is still fairly lite, yet if the player trips any of the security lasers, reinforcements come rolling in. The lasers become visible with the X-ray visor, so I guess the area is designed as a tutorial, but considering you most likely won’t even flick to the visor and just step right on though (like me!) it’s not very effective. Metroids too populate the area, but they don’t elevate the mood in the same way the pirates do. (Pirate confrontations always feel like a big deal with the intrusive crescendo of the dissonant pirate’s theme, and in the case of the homeworld, the alarm system which blurs red into the already bloodshot environment).
This area, besides junction at the Metroid Processing room, is linear so I’m just going to talk about the individual rooms for this post.
The first major room of this area, Scrapvault, feels rather jarring due to the floors of architecture piled on top of each other. The centre of this room is insufficient in size, strangled and quartered off by the walkway into the environment and the levels of platforms looming over the space. It’s a room which emphasises the constricting nature of the homeworld. Space pirates will later trap you into this area, taking advantage of the room’s layout to bind you in the one spot. The ensuing battle therefore has a good deal of tension as the pirates can easily get in your face. As with the visual presentation of this area, the layout of the environments present themselves as malformed and thereby ugly and uncomfortable to play in.The pieces, both visual and architectural very much work in unison to instill a sense of confinement onto the player.
The next major room, Metroid Processing, a circular room housing several caged Metroids, puts the player in a similar predicament to that of the Metroid labs on Elysia. The player is forced to remove another energy cell and hence free the caged Metroids on themselves. The environmental artist who designed this room posted some commentaries on Conceptart.org, here’s what he had to say:
“This room was a lot of fun too. I always considered the Metroids themselves to be one of the most interesting aspects of the series, and easily one of the most original creatures in gaming. I wanted this room to feel something like a Metroid museum of sorts. I thought about the ways the pirates would test and analyze the Metroids, and different experiments they would put them through. Like the statuary room in Bryyo, I wrote many notes to correspond with some of the different things I put into the room. Many of these made it into the game actually, although they had to be edited due to text size restrictions. I made the Metroid eggs specific for this room. I watched the intro to Super Metroid again, and noticed that the fluid inside the egg dries almost instantly when exposed to the air. I created some “hatched” eggs similar to this, with the embryonic fluids hardened immediately in their dripping state. I’ll include the notes I made as well, for those interested in the fiction I created personally for the room.
When I first started working on this room, I envisioned all different types of Metroids being housed here, as if this was the main research facility where all different variations of the creature were brought and studied. Due to a number of reasons, many of these variations did not make it into the final game, but some of the write-ups mention them.”
The room acts as a junction, but acid rain cuts off complete access to the room on the right-hand side, so we’ll come back to that on our revisiting of this environment. The room on the left will take us to the federation marine who sent out the distress signal.
Samus finds the marine stranded, pinned down by space pirates. After clearing away the pirate vermin, the duo work together to activate the elevator when the marine transforms into Gandrayda that mighty-morphing bounty hunter dead jealous of Samus, she’s corrupted just like the other bounty hunters; a battle ensues.
Gandrayda uses her shape-shifting abilities to morph herself into a series of familiar enemies and bosses. In this regard the battle is a mash-up of previous confrontations. In her normal and Samus states Gandrayda’s movement patterns are akin Dark Samus’ in the duel at the end of Metroid Prime 2. Can’t remember? What I mean is she glides around the environment just quick enough to make her a bothersome target. Particularly as the battle nears its close, she can become just flat out annoying.
The premise leading into the battle, where Gandrayda takes the form of a marine and proceeds to trick Samus, was a cool, justly executed premise, I thought.
The spoils of victory for this round is the Grapple Voltage, another take on the grapple beam which drains and charges various shield generators. It’s very much another bit-part upgrade, but useful nonetheless.
If you follow the trail along you come to a transit station with a giant cargo train which Samus can ride all the way back to the start of this area. I quite liked the trains as they look very industrious and link the environments well together. The train sends you right around to a room just nearby to where we landed the ship.