On franchises and Metroid

A week ago, Gamasutra had a story about maintaining a popular franchise. I didn’t bother linking to it then, because even though it was well-written (as most Gamasutra articles are), it was sort of a long rant for reaching an obvious point that written for gamasutra was more or less preaching to the choir anyway. It did bring up the issue of Metroid, however, and I’d like to expand on that on a personal level.

Super Metroid was released 1994 and was the last Metroid seen for 8 years – meaning it skipped the N64 generation completely. Before that, only a single Metroid game had been released to each of the three Nintendo consoles, so it didn’t seem like Nintendo would make them just to milk the franchise. Series mastermind Gunpei Yokoi had long since left Nintendo (and, sadly, died in a car accident shortly after), so when Nintendo revealed that they would be creating the new Metroid as a first-person 3D game, a lot of fans got kinda angry, as said article points out.

Metroid Prime was generally thought of a digital masterpiece (and subsequently led to Nintendo milking the franchise a whole lot more than they had previously), and though it took me awhile to admit, I personally believe it was one of the very few games where a great original concept was actually improved when converted to 3D. Simply enough, Metroid Prime wasn’t just a better game than Super Metroid was, it did the “Super Metroid thing” better than Super Metroid did.

Of course, some people don’t agree with me on this and think it sucks – I’d like to think that most of those haven’t played the game. I instinctively want to quiet voices saying “well, Metroid is supposed to be 2D” by quoting Nintendo and saying that if anyone has the right to decide, it’s them, but – arguing about such things being childish aside – it isn’t really correct either way.

First of all, I know that I have been like that – still am, in some respects, and having things to dislike isn’t all bad. Second – and countless designers have already said this – the game medium is unique in the way that the creator and the player create the experience together; if there is no player, there is no game taking place. Metroid is about exploration for me, and if it had all been a bunch of linearly laid-out levels with no secrets, it wouldn’t have been Metroid even if it took all of the graphics, sounds and objects from earlier games – I guess you can argue in a similar way about dimensionality. This sort of explains why the tone in game discussions is often so rabid, since your own input means so much when playing you might as well be posting about different games. But that’s a bigger topic altogether.

It occurs to me know that most of the articles I link to come from Gamasutra. I read other feeds as well, but Gamasutra has a lot more features that are insightful enough to remember. And I just didn’t want to rant about Jeff Minter only to point out that another visionary faced the internet and lost it when I could simply say so in a sentence at the end of a real post.

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Posted on Nov 26/07 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture, General game development | No Comments »