Saturday, July 30, 2011

Game On: Let's Play 3.04 - Super Metroid Part 1

Game: Super Metroid
System: Super Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Publisher: Nintendo
Player: Tony Wanschura

Game Background

The Metroid series was but one creation from Nintendo Research and Development Group 1 (Nintendo R&D1). Nintendo R&D1 was formed in 1970 as one of a number of teams developed in order to compete against one another and create better products. R&D1 in particular was run by Gunpei Yokoi with a focus on Game & Watch and arcade games. From this group, Shigeru Miyamoto would develop Donkey Kong, which propelled the creation of Nintendo R&D4, which later became Nintendo EAD. The developer went on to produce Metroid, Ice Climbers, and Kid Icarus for the Nintendo among other lesser-known NES titles before the developer was pushed into developing games for the Game Boy. On top of developing spin-offs of large franchises, such as Super Mario Land and its sequels, Nintendo R&D1 would produce a number of other Game Boy games, including Alleyway and Balloon Fight’s sequel, Balloon Kid.

Super Metroid itself was headed by Team Shikamaru, which was a segment of Nintendo R&D1 dedicated to designing characters and scripts for such games as Kid Icarus, Metroid, and Famicom Tantei Club, a mystery adventure series released only in Japan. The team consisted of Makoto Kano, Toru Osawa, and Super Metroid director Yoshio Sakamoto. Sakamoto joined Nintendo in 1982, when he was hired as an artist for the Game & Watch version of Donkey Kong well as Donkey Kong Jr. for arcades. He would later design Wrecking Crew, Balloon Fight, and Gumshoe. While he helped work on the scenario and design behind Metroid and Metroid II: Return of Samus, Sakamoto’s debut director role in the series began with Super Metroid.

Super Metroid, is the third iteration of the Metroid franchise. Following the end of Metroid II: Return of Samus, Samus encounters the last baby Metroid in the galaxy, which sees her as its mother. Wanting to benefit humanity, Samus brings the baby Metroid to the Ceres Station for research on its life-sucking ability. However, just as she leaves, Ridley attacks the station and steals the Metroid before Samus can stop him. Returning to Zebes, Samus must now find the baby Metroid and stop Ridley and Mother Brain once again.

Super Metroid is a side-scrolling action adventure game in which players travel around various sectors of Planet Zebes. Starting out with no powers, Samus must collect a number of upgrades to allow her to overcome obstacles and venture deeper into the planet's deep cavernous labyrinth. Using missiles, bombs, and beams, players will have to exterminate both local floral and fauna in order to find and save the last Metroid before the Space Pirates use the Metroid to take over the galaxy. The game's open-ended nature allows for a varied experience with each playthrough, particularly with so many hidden locations and items to collect.

Since then…

Super Metroid is seen by many as the absolute best game in the Metroid franchise, if not for the Super Nintendo or even of all time. The game sold fairly well, although its long development may have prevented much of a profit. If anything, it solidified Metroid as a desirable franchise for Nintendo in the future.

However, Metroid as a franchise, despite the high acclaim, went into hibernation after Super Metroid. According to developer commentary, there were attempts to bring Metroid to the Nintendo 64, but it was not possible, especially with activity within Nintendo R&D1 focusing on the failed Virtual Boy (on such games as Teleroboxer). The series would come back into the spotlight in 2002, when Retro Studios started the Metroid Prime series. At the same time, Nintendo R&D1 completed Metroid Fusion for Game Boy Advance. Retro Studios would continue with the Metroid Prime series, making Metroid Prime 2: Echoes for GameCube and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption for Wii; meanwhile, the Prime series received two other spin-offs: Metroid Prime: Hunters by Nintendo Software Technologies (NST) and Metroid Prime Pinball by Fuse Games. Internally, Nintendo and Sakamoto developed Metroid: Zero Mission and later, Metroid: Other M, which was developed in conjunction with Team Ninja of Tecmo-Koei.

Outside of the Metroid series, Yoshio Sakamoto would act as the lead designer and eventually producer for other games by Nintendo R&D1, including Game & Watch Gallery, Wario Land 4, and the entirety of the WarioWare series (co-developed by Intelligent Systems). The micro-game concept behind the WarioWare series would be used in the music-based game series Rhythm Tengoku, or Rhythm Heaven in English.

The structure for Nintendo R&D1 has shifted since developing Super Metroid. Team Shikamaru would help design the characters and scenario for at least one more franchise: Card Hero. However, the group would not appear in credits following that release. In 2005, Nintendo started a restructuring effort, which disbanded Nintendo R&D1, sending most of the team into what is now Nintendo Software Planning & Development (SPD) Group 1. The company is currently working on Rhythm Heaven for the Wii, due for release in the US this year.

Super Metroid has been brought to the Virtual Console for Wii, but otherwise the game has not been rereleased in any other fashion.

The Let's Play

Tony is a major fan of Metroid, and deciding that he was prepared to complete the best Metroid game himself, he chose to play through the entirety of Super Metroid. While item collection percentage was not a factor, he would try to venture to wherever he could in order to beat the game in the fastest and most effective way he could based on his gaming experience.

This is the first of three episodes dedicated to the game. In this episode, Tony starts from the beginning of the game and ventures through Brinstar and segments of Norfair. Will he be able to easily defeat the monstrous Kraid and deadly Crocomire? Find out.


As a note, all three parts of the Let's Play were shot at once, and using the capture equipment, some flickering sprites did not appear in the final product. Besides that, we used a unique system for recording: a boom mic aimed at Tony rather than a lavalier. It turned out pretty well for the playthrough. Also, because the episode was made with the SD RTN channel in mind, there is extra space seen around the edges of the video.

Tony did a fantastic job running through the opening segment of the game, although he made some mistakes in attempts to sequence-break the game a few times. That is, he failed to get certain power-ups before it was expected of him. Still, he vanquished both Kraid and Crocomire with little problem, and he would end this segment about to venture into the Sunken Ship.

Commentary was quick, quirky, and altogether well-balanced between the happenings in-game and off-topic themes. The ranting near the end may have muddled it up a bit, but otherwise the episode was a smooth ride all around.

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