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A Night at the Met...troidvania

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Oh, hello, I didn't see you come in.

My name is Octo, and you might remember me from our annual MEGAMAS thread, where we collectively try to beat down as many Mega Man bosses as we possibly can.

Well, I recently came to the discovery that there are other genres of video game I like besides "games that look or play like Mega Man", the humble Metroidvania. Or explore-em-up, or search-action, or exploration-platformer or whatever nomenclature you prefer. Furthermore, I've also realized that a good... like... 80% of this forum also likes those just as much.

So why not combine the THRILLS of Megamas with the CHILLS of Metroid and the SPILLS of keeping score of things. And here we are!

Still kind of hammering out the rules of this thing, trying to keep it as open-ended and stress free as MEGAMAS while making it work for a different genre of video game.

1. Play as many Explore-em-ups between Now and when Old Man 2021 goes off to sleep his last time and Baby 2022 Wakes Up
2. Award yourself One Point for every Percentage of Game Completion
3. Give yourself an additional Point for every upgrade you get that increases your ability to explore (2 points for games which don't have Completion Percentages)
4. Give yourself an extra 5 if you get the Best Ending

This is a nascent Fake Video Game Holiday so there are presently NO STAKES attached to this, unlike MEGAMAS, where we have to destroy robots so that Santa can overcome his extreme *technophobia* that prevents him from delivering presents.

So let's us all go forth and put the galaxy to peace!
 

Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
Do I need to start the game within 2021? Because I just got to the inverted castle on Phone SotN, and I'm not sure I want to restart.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Is Hollow Knight a metroidvania? Because I have that sitting in my queue!

Extremely Yes. Anything you consider a Troid-em-up counts

Do I need to start the game within 2021? Because I just got to the inverted castle on Phone SotN, and I'm not sure I want to restart.

Sure, if you're midway through one you can go ahead and count that retroactively. Most games in the genre are short enough that it doesn't amount to a big difference either way
 

Beta Metroid

At peace
(he/him and such)
1. Play as many Explore-em-ups between Now and when Old Man 2021 goes off to sleep his last time and Baby 2022 Wakes Up
2. Award yourself One Point for every Percentage of Game Completion
3. Give yourself an additional Point for every upgrade you get that increases your ability to explore (2 points for games which don't have Completion Percentages)
4. Give yourself an extra 5 if you get the Best Ending

You made very clear that there are no stakes and the points don't matter, but just checking:

In, say, Super Metroid, game percentage counts the amount of upgrades you get, not the map. Do we give ourselves a point for percentage AND for collecting the upgrade in that case?

On that same train of thought, in any Metroid game, I'd feel like getting the first missile/super missile/power bomb would count as "an upgrade that increases your ability to explore," but further expanding your capacity to use that respective thing would not. I would also say health upgrades do not count. You can argue that having more health and ammo increases your ability to explore by making you less likely to die when exploring, but that feels like it's straining the spirit of point 3. But that's just my two cents, and I'd be interested in others' opinions on this.

If a game only has one ending, it's the Best Ending by default, right? Or is this a "glass half-full/empty" thing, and it reflects your own personal perception?
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
In order:
Let's say Item Completion
Yes, absolutely
I don't think too many LACK multiple endings, so sure.

For the case of the Metroid games, the content of the ending usually doesn't change, so anything that puts Samus in a bikini counts as a "Good Ending"
 

conchobhar

What's Shenmue?
(he/him/his)
The best ending of Super Metroid involves saving the animals. No points to anyone who leaves them to die.
 

conchobhar

What's Shenmue?
(he/him/his)
Anyway, I don't think I have many search actions on the docket, but it might be fun to see how many of these I end up playing just by following my whims. So far this year I've played Touhou Luna Nights (which I believe adds up to 116 points).
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
The appearance of this thread is rather opportune for me, as I just finished Timespinner. Some words about it:
  • most games in the genre look to Symphony of the Night or some other work of similar cultural weight and influence as a model to fashion themselves after, and so does the audience that interacts with this stuff. When Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth debuted last year, many comments equated it to Symphony in particular--whether the tone was fond or suspicious, the association was there despite Team Ladybug's visual style, system design and other hallmarks bearing no great resemblance to that game. Timespinner has an exact model in the Castlevania series, but it's not the one most would expect: instead it's 2008's Order of Ecclesia, through and through. In fact, I've hardly ever seen a game dedicate so much of itself to one specific work in a sort of tribute to it, patterning its very menus and interfaces down to the last detail after it, to say nothing of the larger points of commonality like the structural, narrative, musical and mechanical similarities that all follow suit accordingly too. It's one of the game's strengths, in its devotion to a comparably lesser-known work outside of the usual canon, and also part of its weaknesses as those cohesive and functional elements ensure the game is always just that, but also cast it as a perhaps too faithful of a mirror image in a lot of ways that matter, in a genre that already often feels crowded and in want of new ideas.
  • one way this game is not like its influences is that queer people exist in it, in numbers and diversity. It's the most I've seen any game in the genre depict lesbian, bi and gay relationships, trans people, polyamory, asexuality, etc. The way it goes about this is a tone that I'd use to describe the game as a whole: it's awkwardly sincere, with a lot of things to say and sometimes dropping those anvils as it does because it's worth the message conveyed. In that way it reminds me of Iconoclasts and what made that game interesting with its lack of filter, but less impenetrably baroque in intent. Similarly the overall narrative trajectory is clear in its anti-fascism and denouncement of colonialism and violent extremism, even as the storytelling communicates these things with varying grace and impact. It's also for once, not the story of white people, as the focal point or even as the majority of the people involved.
  • examining the game in contrast to Luna Nights serves a purpose other than a convenient excuse for me to yet again promote that game; there's a lot between them that's ostensibly shared yet which results in very different approaches to a shared genre. Both feature manipulation of time as a central conceit, but they end up at opposite ends of what to do with the concept: in Luna Nights, Sakuya and the player are constantly engaged with it--it's the lifeline in every instance, without which the game's design would not function. As a contrast, that game's narrative is generally uninterested in the concept beyond game mechanics, whereas Timespinner bears its name because it's entirely invested in time travel dramatics, its causes and rippling effects. Lunais can also manifest that importance through her play in being able to stop time at will, but it quickly becomes apparent that this is a very rare application for both navigational and combat purposes, and rather uninteresting to deploy when it is seldom needed, and increasingly deprecated in use as the game goes on. Thus the relative unimportance of time manipulation in Timespinner highlights the game's overall design ethos, in that it's a master of none that's just good enough at everything it does, but never strays far from the comforts of predictable reliability, and how a game of its comparably larger scale than the knife-sharp Luna Nights must by a degree of necessity be more of a relaxing wander-about experience than the intensely dense, shorter game, lest it exhaust the player prematurely. It's oddly complementary how these rough contemporaries specialize in their own niches even as the similarities abound between them, and neither negates the appeal of the other.
I dunno about tallying up a score but I think this game is a good example of the genre at its most conventional and how that alone can be enough to satisfy, sometimes.
 

WildcatJF

I would be liking that greatly!
(he / his / him)
I loved Timespinner when I gave it a go last month for many of the reasons you cited, Peklo. And now that you bring it up, it is a lot like OoE in a lot of ways. It's unabashedly a Vania clone, but I appreciated its dedication to it. I'll comment more when I'm off my phone.
 

Beta Metroid

At peace
(he/him and such)
So I decided to go back and replay Ori and the Blind Forest to properly kick off my participation in this thread! I don't really know what's fair game to talk about, so I'm just going to spoiler tag my thoughts and track what I've collected:

I appreciate the option to skip cutscenes in this game, but I find this opening so moving that I haven't skipped it yet (this is my fourth playthrough of the game). Since I became a parent, it hits especially hard, but it found my feels even before that.

Oh, there's Gumo taking a peek right there in the intro! I don't think I'd noticed that before.

Again, I can see it being annoying to speedrunners or for some people after several playthroughs, but I appreciate that you actually play as Naru and as extremely weakened Ori. It's a great use of the medium to help sell these characters and their conditions.

Even with no abilities, I love how nimble Ori is! And the little flips and acrobatics they do even if the jumps are functionally mundane.

The game's gorgeous, even in its understated, gloomier areas. I wasn't sure how it would compare after spending so much time with Will of the Wisps, but it's still a beauty.

Returning to Blind Forest's combat and save system will definitely take some adjustment. I enjoy the bit of strategy with the save system, especially once you gain the ability to heal while creating a save. But it is a bit stressful early on when just saving consumes so much of your energy. Also on the subject of energy capacity/consumption, I never liked the "have X amount of energy to get past this door" barricades in this game. Much like Zelda 1's "Master using it and you can have this," I don't like being locked out of something because I don't have enough Things. It's not a huge deal, but I'm glad they did away with these.

I dragged on the combat a bit in anticipation of Will of the Wisps a little while ago on this forum, but in the early stages, it's not so bad. The game definitely wants to focus on platforming, not combat, and with the early enemies, you can dodge and run circles around foes and their projectiles while not really focusing on offense. It works for now...I'll try to keep an open mind about this going forward.

I like how Will of the Wisps handles upgrade purchases more than this game, because you're better able to pick and choose what looks fun and interesting, while here the cool things are locked behind more mundane ones. Also, I remember thinking the combat gets REALLY tedious if you don't invest in the lower branch of the skill tree, but the upper one has all the cool traversal upgrades. This time, I'm approaching a bit differently...investing in the middle branch until I get the upgrade that increases how much spirit light you earn from pickups. We'll see how this turns out.

Sein rhymes...sometimes. It's weird. I like that each of the ancestral trees gets the tiniest smattering of flavor that connects to the ability they bestow. It's minor and unnecessary, but fun, and I miss it in Will of the Wisps.

Between the spider cave here, Hollow Knight's Deepnest, and Will of the Wisps's Mouldwood, what's up with the arms race of creepy spider lairs in Metroidvanias? I look forward to Silksong's contributions in this department.

Good stuff! I'm trying to get myself out of the mindset of Will of the Wisps handing out so many of this game's abilities in short order, and enjoying having a wall jump so early.

Exploration abilities obtained:

Wall Jump
Spirit Flame
Charge Flame
 

muteKi

say "fish don't exist" to my face, motherfucker
I loved Timespinner when I gave it a go last month for many of the reasons you cited, Peklo. And now that you bring it up, it is a lot like OoE in a lot of ways. It's unabashedly a Vania clone, but I appreciated its dedication to it. I'll comment more when I'm off my phone.

Given that Order of Ecclesia is the best of the various sequels to Rocket Knight Adventures, I'm very excited to check this out now.
 
I'm playing MONSTER BOY!

I loved my playthrough of Monster Boy. I thought everything about that game was sublime except the town square puzzle. But that part of the game is completely optional.

I hope you enjoy it.

I love that the starting music is a remix of the Wonderboy in Monsterland music.
 
I loved my playthrough of Monster Boy. I thought everything about that game was sublime except the town square puzzle. But that part of the game is completely optional.

I hope you enjoy it.

I love that the starting music is a remix of the Wonderboy in Monsterland music.
I'm currently in the volcano, which I am finding quite punishing! But i am loving it. I like that the Church has stained glass depictions of all Wonderboy heroes.

Great stuff!
 

Beta Metroid

At peace
(he/him and such)
A bit more progress in Ori and the Blind Forest:

I got to the Ginso Tree and chased Gumo around through the caves. I like how your first encounter with redirecting projectiles is an isolated incident, giving you a little teaser of something that will be used much more elaborately very soon. The game quickly invites a lot of exploration once you get the double jump...you can't necessarily get to too many new areas, but you can wrap up a lot of early loose ends, especially if you've found a few energy expansions and can open those stupid doors. But a lot of the areas you reach have corrupted water and projectile-spewing enemies, so since you both purify the water and pick up Bash in the Ginso Tree, it's probably best just to beeline toward it once Gumo hands over the Water Vein (I love the little moment of kindness Ori shows him. So often plot advancement in video games comes down to winning a fight, even if the participants end up on good terms).

I was able to unlock the Spirit Light Efficiency skill before I got the Water Vein, and it's quickly paying dividends. I already got the spirit flame's first damage upgrade and the ability to heal when creating a save point after unlocking that skill. It was a bit of a pain forgoing those skills for as long as I did, and I've died a handful of times already, but I'd say it's worth it just for how much more quickly you accumulate spirit light. The drip feed of skills are coming much more quickly, and I've arrived at the Ginso Tree, which I recall is where the game really picks up (and it's been a perfectly fine, if leisurely start), so I'm really looking forward to the next session!

Exploration abilities obtained:

Double Jump
 

Rascally Badger

El Capitan de la outro espacio
(He/Him)
I've been playing through Bloodstained. Its good, but every boss battle just kills my progress for days at a time. I am terrible at the game, I guess.

I'm at about 30% completion now.
 

Beowulf

Let the Mystery Be
(He/Him)
The appearance of this thread is rather opportune for me, as I just finished Timespinner. Some words about it:
  • most games in the genre look to Symphony of the Night or some other work of similar cultural weight and influence as a model to fashion themselves after, and so does the audience that interacts with this stuff. When Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth debuted last year, many comments equated it to Symphony in particular--whether the tone was fond or suspicious, the association was there despite Team Ladybug's visual style, system design and other hallmarks bearing no great resemblance to that game. Timespinner has an exact model in the Castlevania series, but it's not the one most would expect: instead it's 2008's Order of Ecclesia, through and through. In fact, I've hardly ever seen a game dedicate so much of itself to one specific work in a sort of tribute to it, patterning its very menus and interfaces down to the last detail after it, to say nothing of the larger points of commonality like the structural, narrative, musical and mechanical similarities that all follow suit accordingly too. It's one of the game's strengths, in its devotion to a comparably lesser-known work outside of the usual canon, and also part of its weaknesses as those cohesive and functional elements ensure the game is always just that, but also cast it as a perhaps too faithful of a mirror image in a lot of ways that matter, in a genre that already often feels crowded and in want of new ideas.
  • one way this game is not like its influences is that queer people exist in it, in numbers and diversity. It's the most I've seen any game in the genre depict lesbian, bi and gay relationships, trans people, polyamory, asexuality, etc. The way it goes about this is a tone that I'd use to describe the game as a whole: it's awkwardly sincere, with a lot of things to say and sometimes dropping those anvils as it does because it's worth the message conveyed. In that way it reminds me of Iconoclasts and what made that game interesting with its lack of filter, but less impenetrably baroque in intent. Similarly the overall narrative trajectory is clear in its anti-fascism and denouncement of colonialism and violent extremism, even as the storytelling communicates these things with varying grace and impact. It's also for once, not the story of white people, as the focal point or even as the majority of the people involved.
  • examining the game in contrast to Luna Nights serves a purpose other than a convenient excuse for me to yet again promote that game; there's a lot between them that's ostensibly shared yet which results in very different approaches to a shared genre. Both feature manipulation of time as a central conceit, but they end up at opposite ends of what to do with the concept: in Luna Nights, Sakuya and the player are constantly engaged with it--it's the lifeline in every instance, without which the game's design would not function. As a contrast, that game's narrative is generally uninterested in the concept beyond game mechanics, whereas Timespinner bears its name because it's entirely invested in time travel dramatics, its causes and rippling effects. Lunais can also manifest that importance through her play in being able to stop time at will, but it quickly becomes apparent that this is a very rare application for both navigational and combat purposes, and rather uninteresting to deploy when it is seldom needed, and increasingly deprecated in use as the game goes on. Thus the relative unimportance of time manipulation in Timespinner highlights the game's overall design ethos, in that it's a master of none that's just good enough at everything it does, but never strays far from the comforts of predictable reliability, and how a game of its comparably larger scale than the knife-sharp Luna Nights must by a degree of necessity be more of a relaxing wander-about experience than the intensely dense, shorter game, lest it exhaust the player prematurely. It's oddly complementary how these rough contemporaries specialize in their own niches even as the similarities abound between them, and neither negates the appeal of the other.
I dunno about tallying up a score but I think this game is a good example of the genre at its most conventional and how that alone can be enough to satisfy, sometimes.
I've been eyeing Timespinner for a while, but the comparison to Ecclesia concerns me greatly, because that game was so painfully hard I couldn't get past the third boss. Should I be warned off?
 

Peklo

Oh! Create!
(they/them, she/her)
I don't think there's much to worry about. It's the one area where I think the comparison doesn't track that well, because Timespinner is a very gentle game overall--you're always stronger than the enemies and can play sloppily and still come ahead in most situations. The bosses particularly suffer for it because you don't really need to learn them to any great extent, but this may be a draw for others.
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
I've been eyeing Timespinner for a while, but the comparison to Ecclesia concerns me greatly, because that game was so painfully hard I couldn't get past the third boss. Should I be warned off?
I have never played Ecclesia but I have played TimeSpinner. I mostly agree with Peklo's assessment but I did run into issues with tough enemies in the last half (or maybe third) of the game. I also ran into this one required jump which stalled my playthrough (but that could just be due to my skill level). It also has one of my pet peeves in this genre - having powerful spells but not giving you enough MP to use them as much as I would like to.
 

Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
During the escape, go back to the room where you got the Bombs at the start of the game. Shoot the wall.
 

Beta Metroid

At peace
(he/him and such)
Report from the Blind Forest:

The Ginso Tree is a superbly crafted location, letting you play around with Ori's signature ability, the Bash. There are fun puzzles built around redirecting projectiles and teleporters. And it's beautiful!

It's also home to the game's first escape sequence! I know I've gotten frustrated at some of these in both games, but replaying this first one, it's intense and a spectacular setpiece while being perfectly fair. You'll probably die, (I did once, even having played the game a few times previously), but it's nothing I'd complain about. It also has some excellent musical accompaniment, and they made the great choice to let it run uninterrupted if when you die.

And the end is a lovely triumphant/wind-down moment, that is then interrupted by Sudden Bird!

It's really nice to savor the cleansed Thornfelt Swamp at this time. Swamps are so often portrayed as dark, dank, nasty, and ominous, but I've explored some absolutely stunning swamps in Michigan and Florida, and it's great to see a lush one under a clear blue sky. You're not-so-subtly steered to the right by a very tough, rhino-like enemy patrolling to the left, and you can pick up the Stomp in no time (with another nifty Bash puzzle). And at this point, things really open up.

I went swimming for several pickups (coming from Will of the Wisps, it's nice to be able to fry enemies while swimming), smashed open some floors, and was able to clean out quite a bit of the early areas. I also gained access to the Black Root Burrows, which I feel handles the potentially frustrating "dark area" nicely. You can't really explore much until you light things up, but your path to doing so is fairly clear, if challenging. It also offers both the Light Burst and Dash (and I unlocked the air dash on the skill tree in no time), so now Ori has a ton of mobility and traversal options, just a couple hours in (and I've been playing at a pretty leisurely pace, though I do have prior experiences to rely on).

While I thoroughly enjoy the Ori games and Hollow Knight in their own rights, I really appreciate Ori's dose of warm, bright environments. The Lost Grove section of the Burrows is a reward in itself (Incidentally, the naming conventions of this game's areas still throws me. The Black Root Burrows and Lost Grove are both given similar introductory titles when you enter them, but one is a subsection of the other?). There are only a few minor pickups here, and the "final" prize of the section is simply discovering Naru's childhood home. I appreciate the game's confidence in its story and characters that the bittersweet look at her home and childhood are the ultimate finale of this area. I mean, you get two major power-ups on the way down, so there are certainly gameplay benefits as well.

Next, it was off to play with the new toys! I've never played the pre-Definitive Edition of this game, and I've contemplated skipping the Burrows to learn how the game plays without the Dash and Light Burst, but I feel like the answer would be "not as fun." It feels a little weird, because being able to bash off the Light Bursts makes the Charge Jump about 80% obsolete...but you don't even get the Charge Jump until you just have the final dungeon to go! I like being able to start reaching some of those out-of-the-way nooks and crannies in a Metroidvania BEFORE I'm done with the story.

As I was poking around, I think this was the first time I noticed that the cavern areas beneath the Spirit Tree have its roots winding through it! Very cool!

I had previously heard that a Mario-style pipe was somewhere in the game, but had no idea where, until I stumbled upon it this time. I also found some etchings of spirits, which was a nice bit of flavor.

Sein's rhymes are so bad and sporadic...they just keep distracting me every time she speaks (and sometimes she doesn't attempt to rhyme). But it's hilarious.

I'm actually appreciating the game's approach to combat more this time around. I think my beef with it before was not so much that the combat itself was not especially interesting or engaging...the game prioritizes platforming and exploration, and I can respect that. But I felt that I was being encouraged to fight everything in order to unlock skills at a decent pace. On this replay, I'm realizing that once you get the Bash, you can get a handful of other extremely useful abilities in short order, and even with Bash alone you have access to a TON of spirit light caches. I'm now almost completely done with the skill tree, and I'm barely three hours into the game and haven't done any sort of repetitive grinding with enemies. Prioritizing the Spirit Light Efficiency helped, but I didn't feel like I was being bottlenecked or forced to farm...just naturally accumulating currency through typical Metroidvania exploration.

This means I could approach enemies with less focus on depleting their HP and more on getting past them unscathed, or using them to my advantage. Using Bash doesn't hurt them, but using it tactically to gain distance, throw them off platforms or into spikes, or to reach higher areas makes enemy encounters more engaging than I had remembered, and I'd forgotten just how powerful the Stomp is, so I feel like I have more offensive options than just repetitively zapping them. It's still not the game's strength, and I think I still prefer Will of the Wisp's handling of enemies and combat, but I now see it as complementing the game's real strengths of platforming and exploration. After playing the sequel I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the original, and I'm pleased to report that I'm appreciating it even more so far!

Exploration abilities obtained:

Bash
Stomp
Dash
Air Dash
Light Burst
Water Breath
 
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