Make Mine Metroid Axiom Verge VS Samus Returns

first_imgStay on target Two games I’ve been playing recently, 2015 indie hit Axiom Verge now on Nintendo Switch and remake of 1991 Game Boy game Metroid: Samus Returns on Nintendo 3DS, share a lot in common. They’re not only both textbook examples of the nonlinear, exploration-heavy, 2D sidescroller Metroidvania subgenre, but specifically descendants of the “Metroid” half of that equation. Axiom Verge’s art, atmosphere, and gameplay all evoke retro (not Retro) Metroid whereas Samus Returns straight-up is the newest, long-awaited 2D Metroid from Nintendo and former Castlevania developers MercurySteam.I was concerned that playing two very similar games at the same time, games that require a lot of mental effort and methodical memorization as you learn their labyrinthine layouts, would make me sick of both of them. But because I’m such a fan of this genre, instead I began to enjoy picking out the ways in which the games are similar and different. And just like my story on Snake Pass vs. Yooka-Laylee, I think those comparisons are worth discussing.Level DesignAxiom Verge takes place in a huge, interconnected alien world that owes much to the original 8-bit Metroid and its 16-bit follow-up Super Metroid. Even the pixel art (12-bit?) is somewhere in-between those two on an aesthetic level. While your progress is limited by your current set of skills, you’re still free to get loss in crisscrossing corridors and expansive spaces with no idea of where to go next until you just start poking at everything.Being a remake of Metroid II: The Return of Samus, the Game Boy game released in-between Metroid and Super Metroid, Samus Returns uses that game’s more level-based approach. As Samus fulfills her mission to exterminate all Metroids, she can access deeper parts of the planet. Each part is a small, self-contained chunk of traditional Metroid nonlinear exploration. But unless you want to find early extra items with later tools, you progress through the chunks in fairly linear fashion.Both of these styles are valid. Samus Returns marries standard Metroid progression with a more digestible, handheld-friendly structure. Axiom Verge’s world is initially much more confusing, but the later satisfaction you gain from mastering the space is much more rewarding, just like Super Metroid.Axiom Verge also makes its backtracking more approachable in subtle, smarter ways than just breaking the world off into discrete pieces. Aspects of the level design slyly prevent you from leaving certain areas until you find and master the right tools. The creepy yet colorful art style and music (Kur!) also do a fantastic job at making each area memorable in your mind for later revisiting. Samus Returns has a smooth 3D graphics engine, but its environments quickly begin to blur together since they have no motivation not do.PlotAxiom Verge’s minimalist plot involves a spooky alien world full of giant lady robot heads and gross, glitchy monsters. You play as a pretty bland scientist dude named Trace terrified but fascinated by this world he’s been thrust into before learning a BioShock Infinite-esque twists about his relation to the main villain. It’s fine.Metroid: Samus Returns takes full advantage of the fact that it is set in one of Nintendo’s most beloved, long-running, hardcore, sci-fi universes and stars its iconic leading lady. Collecting new armor for Samus is just so much cooler than getting new lab coats for Trace. I can’t get enough of those alien bird elders. Nintendo themselves have said they see Metroid’s lore and Samus herself as things that separate the series from its legion of indie imitators. And even among Metroid games Samus Returns features a pivotal plot. This is the Metroid with by far the most Metroids in it as Samus is tasked with eliminating the entirety of the parasitic space species.However, whereas Axiom Verge’s plot gets out of the way of its fantastic gameplay, Samus Returns’ plot seems responsible for one of its more annoying gameplay decisions, a decision the developer chose to include from the Game Boy original. While there are a few bosses, most of the major enemy encounters are fights against the 40 Metroids you track down across eight areas.There are a handful of different Metroid evolutions, and among those evolutions different Metroids have different elemental attacks, but the Metroid genocide gets repetitive fast. It feels like filler in a genre known for especially lean gameplay. By necessity, Samus Returns is a radical reinvention of the squashed, ancient monochrome Game Boy game, but this is one area it could’ve been improved by even more significant streamlining.What They Add To MetroidAs much as they want to make you think about old Metroid games, Axiom Verge and Samus Returns are both new games in their own right and also want to stand as such. Therefore, they both add things to the Metroid formula to give themselves distinct identities.Axiom Verge has a wide variety of guns to choose from with radically different shot types like quick-dropping flame pillars and electric shotguns. It puts an emphasis on wacky, Mega Man or Contra-style gunplay Metroid typically avoids with its more modest ice and wave beams. And speaking of pulling from other games, you’ll soon find a Bionic Commando-grappling hook along with a Drill Dozer personal drill.As for more unique skills, you can warp through walls, launch a tiny drone much more versatile than a Morph Ball, and change enemy and environmental properties with a gun that glitches them out. That last tool is especially creative, doing everything from turning acid into hard platforming surfaces to changing monster lasers into your allies.My preview of Samus Returns already touched on the game’s smart tweaks to the traditional Metroid experience. But to recap they largely revolve around admirable attempts to give the player optional ways of making the game easier, while harder difficulties are trapped behind amiibo toys.The tactile and satisfying, if repetitive, melee counter leaves tough foes vulnerable to large amount of cinematic damage. The new Aeion abilities can cover you in invulnerable armor or reveal nearby secrets. The game’s controls are also just really fluid. Axiom Verge handles super tight, but Samus Returns’ forgiving ledge-grabbing, floaty jump physics, and analog free-aiming and shooting in particular take great advantage of the fact the polygonal game isn’t technically locked to a 2D grid.Choice of PlatformIt’s petty, but I honestly prefer the physical act of playing Axiom Verge on my new Nintendo Switch than playing Samus Returns on my aging 3DS. The Switch looks better, feels less cramped, and is a handheld device I still plan on carrying around with me for a few years. I just think the Switch is a better device than the 3DS by every meaningful metric, and that’s even before the home console functionality. The sooner Nintendo shifts all of its development to the Switch the better.Samus Returns has some convenient second screen features like managing weapons and your map, and folks insist the stereoscopic 3D is somehow worthwhile. But I would toss those features in a heartbeat if I could dump this 240p resolution Circle Pad gameplay for 720p and Pro Controller support instead.And while I hate to quantify a game’s price and value based on length or whatever, Axiom Verge and Samus Returns are similar games of about the same length, even for speedrunners. As an indie game largely made by one dude (Thomas Happ), Axiom Verge doesn’t have the name-brand appeal or production value of Samus Returns (even if that production value is hamstrung by 3DS hardware) but it is half the price for comparable quality. However, Axiom Verge is only $20 digitally. The forthcoming physical Switch version is $40, just like Samus Returns.ConclusionIt sounds like I’m leaning more toward Axiom Verge over Samus Returns here, and I am, but both games are worth playing. And depending on what platforms you own, your choice of Metroid homage may have already been made for you.But to me the real fun in this comparison to me is how it illuminates the bind the Metroid series has found itself in. Like Zelda, it’s an example of a franchise becoming so influential it limits the original’s capacity to evolve. I mentioned how Nintendo said Metroid’s lore is what would help it attract fans, but is that what fans want? Is that what the developers want? Do any of them even know what they really want?Axiom Verge didn’t need to surpass Super Metroid to be considered a success. It just had to come admirably close. Just look at all the praise the mechanically sound but aesthetically drab Metroid-like Shadow Complex got in its day.But Metroid has now built up all this baggage and insecure need to reinvent and top itself without undoing the specific reasons folks like the games in the first place. It’s a tough tightrope! The only time it really happened before was with Metroid Prime, the best Metroid game, and “jump to 3D” is a card you can only play once. Just look at all the drama between fans and Nintendo after the underrated Metroid: Other M (its problems are largely imagined and/or all anime’s fault) and inoffensive spin-off Metroid Prime: Federation Force. No wonder the franchise went dormant for years trying to figure out what to do next.The good news is that Zelda managed to answer this dilemma earlier this year with the absolute masterpiece that is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. So there’s hope Metroid can also deliver a new game that brilliant. Maybe that game will be the upcoming Metroid Prime 4. Maybe that game will be some other future interpretation of the series.But for all of its positives, that game is not Metroid: Samus Returns, which is just a cool and appreciated new(ish) 2D Metroid you already know and love. Heck, it’s arguably not even the best Metroid II remake if you’re a fan of the forbidden fan game AM2R. I want Metroid to have a bright future ahead of it, but in the meantime, I hope the games growing in its shadow remain as great as Axiom Verge.Buy Metroid: Samus ReturnsBuy Axiom VergeView as: One Page Slides1/51. Metroid: Samus Returns supports the Samus amiibo and the squishy Metroid amiibo.2. The European special edition of Metroid: Samus Returns is way cooler than its American counterpart.3. At last, 2D sidescrolling Metroid is back with Metroid: Samus Returns.4. Samus returns to planet SR388, the home of Metroids, in this remake of a Game Boy classic. 5. Make use of new features like a smart map and melee countering.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. 25 Years Later, How ‘Super Metroid’ Defined a GenreRetro Studios Is Now Making Metroid Prime 4… Eventually last_img

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