Friday, November 25, 2011

GamesTM 116 – History of Metroidvania

I take a look at the latest issue of GamesTM, which includes a 6 page feature on Metroidvania games.

This month’s issue of GamesTM features the following (copied from NTSC-uk, courtesy of PrinnySquad).

Skyrim - 9
Battlefield 3 - 7
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary - 8
Uncharted 3 - 9
Assassin's Creed Revelations - 8
Batman: Arkham City - 9
Dance Central - 360 - 8
Shinobi - 3DS - 4
Kinect Sports: Season 2 - 360 - 5
Modern Warfare 3 - 8
Saints Row: The Third - 7
Rayman Origins - 7
Ultimate Marvel Vs Capcom 3 - 7
Kirby Mass Attack - DS - 8
Sonic Generations - 7
Real Steel - 360 - 6
The Adventures of TinTin - 6
Raving Rabbids Alive and Kicking - 6
King of Fighters XIII - 8
Disney Universe - 3

2012 Preview Special
Chat With Naughty Dog about the past, present and future
A Look at the new SSX
A look at the trend for remakes, reboots and rebirths

Operation Raccoon City
Backstage with the people behind Zelda's 25th Anniversary Concerts.
Chat with Tood McFarlane about work on Kingdoms of Amalur
Tim Schafer on his new thing and the merit of Kinect
thatgamecompany talk about Journey.

Behind the Scenes: Legacy of Kain Soul Reaver
Year In Review 1985
Conversion Catastrophe - Kung Fu Master on Speccy
The History of Metroidvania - the forerunners to the genre.

My main reason for posting though is my 6 page article on Metroidvania games. No credit as usual for the writer of said piece – though I was technically asked to write it as a favour, so I don’t begrudge this too much. The first dps is hi-res enough to read, though seeing as I’m getting paid for the article (at least I hope I get paid!) I don’t think I can get away with making the entire article free to read online – at least not until they put it on their website or the next issue is out. Of course if someone else, somewhere, has put hi-res scans up, by all means read it and pass the links around.

With it being the 25th anniversaries of Metroid and Castlevania, it seemed time to cover the portmanteau they went on to create later with Super Metroid and Symphony of the Night. Ironically most entries predate these two titles, showing that the genre classification is erroneous. But it’s still fun. There’s 24 entries, one for each year of the anniversary, with the 25th title to be voted for on GamesTM’s forum, or discussed here. I also quote Jeremy Parish, which I’m sure he is not pleased about! Sorry Jez, but at least you got credit whereas I did not. I also included interview quotes from several key people.

The list (year of release, then alphabetically):

Pharaoh’s Curse (Atari 8-bit, C64)
Below the Root (C64, DOS, Apple)
Brain Breaker (Sharp X1)
CrossBlaim (MSX)
Sacred Armour of Antiriad (Spectrum, C64, Amstrad)
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (NES)
Codename: Droid (BBC)
Legacy of the Wizard (NES)
Zeliard (DOS, PC88)
Zillion (SMS)
Blaster Master (NES)
Euphory (Sharp X1)
Exile (BBC)
Predator (MSX)
The Scheme (PC88)
Wonderyboy III: DT (SMS)
Takahashi Meijin Boukenjima IV (Famicom)
The Divide: Enemies Within (PS1)
Vigilance on Talos V (DOS)
Cave Story (PC)
La Mulana (PC)
Aquaria (PC)
Treasure Adventure Game (PC)

It’s not perfect, but I had around 80 titles on a rough list covering anything even remotely similar, which I whittled down to about 50 series entries, then 40, then 35, and then it got tricky requiring many redrafts.

My goal: differentiate the list from everyone else’s.

That’s why I’ve got silly stuff like the MSX release of Predator, and lots of obscure games. The trend? Metroidvania style games are predominantly on computers, followed by the NES. A reflection on the perception that console titles need to be simpler? Could be why console Metroidvanias are so well loved – they filled a desperately empty gap. Because admit it – how many other games like Super Metroid are on the SNES? Very few.

As for omissions, I left out some popular titles because I just can’t stand them. I absolutely hate Tombi for example – the jumping, where your guy flails forward in an uncontrollable belly flop, is unbearable. How can anyone stand playing that? It feels broken and uncomfortable. Metroidvanias are all about the jumping, and with Tombi every time I press the jump button I want to break the controller. Another omission was Shantae. I don’t care what anyone says, it looks great but the level design is dull, linear and really not much fun. Shadow Complex was on the list, but then I thought: that’s a little obvious. Why waste space on something people know and are enjoying, when something like Treasure Adventure Game can do with the publicity instead?

My big regret?

I never included Link: Faces of Evil, or Zelda: Wand of Gamelon, for the CDi. They just slipped my mind, but they actually follow the Metroidvania template quite nicely. And I love them dearly. For starters, for all the complaints about the controls, when using a wired controller (as opposed to the crappy infra-red remote) the jumping is more comfortable than the jumping in Tombi. I can actually dictate the direction for Link and Zelda, and they don’t lunge forwards with that moronic belly flop.

The rest of the world continues to spout vitriolic hatred for the Link/Zelda games, and people on various Zelda forum boards openly state that they 1) absolutely hate the games for existing and 2) will never, ever play them because they’re not true Zelda games. Their kind of passionate, blinkered, refusal to accept any other-point-of-view mentality, is something I’ve mainly seen with religious extremists. You know, the kind who claim dinosaur bones were put in the earth by the devil to deceive humanity.

How can you claim to hate something, and then refuse to examine it on the grounds that it’s inauthentic, when in that same sentence you admit that you have no idea what it’s even like? That’s like me saying: I hate apples, I’ve never eaten apples and I never will eat apples or even think about what apples are because I know that apples aren’t really fruit and so don’t even need to know what they are because I already know what they are not (ie: not fruit).


Bottom line: obsessive Zelda fans who claim to hate the CDi titles while simultaneously refusing to play them are retarded. To form an educated opinion on something you need to understand it first. Otherwise it’s just a mob mentality, no better than those crowds who wanted to burn women for witchcraft.

I suppose I would have removed Below the Root to fit Link/Zelda in. Interestingly, they were both by the same man, the late great Dale DeSharone. May he rest in peace.


  1. I see that you dont like Tombi :(

    I have finished game many times and for me its verry good mix between 2 D Adventure / RPG game. Its nice game with good graphic and had unique enemies ( Koma Pigs ). And in villages you can walk in 3D. Well I didnt had problem with jumping in game. Game world is coherent and you had location like Phonenix Mountain, Haunted Mansion,Dwarf Forest, Masakari Jungle and varous villages.

    Boss battles are original (throw evil pigs into bag! ). There are lot of events in game and there lot of equipment, weapons and other secrets ;)

    Have you ever finished Tombi?

  2. Lay off Tombi Sketcz, especially if you're going to defend the CDI Zelda games immediately after! The funny thing about it is chances are if you're having trouble with something, you get/do something later on that makes it much easier. Plus jump on pigs all day.

    Seems like an enjoyable article else ways. Although it's unlikely I'll pick up GamesTM I don't know if we even get it here in AustraliaTown.

  3. I put Tombi on my PSP and put about 3 or 4 hours into it, I think? Which from what I've heard is substantial because it's not the longest game.

    But after spending a weekend afternoon with it, I had to switch it off because I just wasn't enjoying the fundamental controls of it. If I had the had the hacking skills I'd hack the ISO to remove the flop and make him jump normally.

    Just my 2 cents. Lots of people love it.

  4. Well for first time I finish Tombi in 8 - 10 hours. And my fast speedrun in game was 1:50 hour :D

    well for me controls in Tombi were normal and jump was ok :)

  5. "Their kind of passionate, blinkered, refusal to accept any other-point-of-view mentality, is something I’ve mainly seen with religious extremists."

    Or Sketcz posts!

  6. If you are getting the irony, then you are doing it right! :p

  7. I'm relieved that you forgot to include the Zelda CDi games, so you could include the unfairly forgotten Below the Root. For a 1984 game, it's amazing. Also, it's kind of funny that some people call it the first graphic adventure game. I believe it plays more like a simplified version of Metroidvania meets Shenmue, what goes on to show how ahead of its time the game was.

    Thiago Simoes

  8. Er, can you play the cd-i games without actually having a cd-i?

  9. Derboo was emulating them at one time I think, since he mentioned updating the article with new screens.

    Not sure how far it's come.

    Hopefully that should correct some problems with the controller (hardwired for the win).

    I am certain that once it's easily emulated, and everyone can download an ISO and emu pack, and complete it with save states, we'll see attitudes change.

  10. No love for the Koumajou Densetsu (Touhouvania) games?
    KD2 was quite exemplary, especially for a doujin title.

  11. I don't think the Touhouvanias qualify as Metroidvanias, do they? They look and control like SotN, but they're still linear, level based platformers based on what I've played.

  12. So glad to see someone else not love Tomba. At least you didn't have to play the 3D sequel, it's HORRIBLE (both games made me a pretty penny upon resell a few years back at least). I thought I was alone in not being in love with it, but I also HATE Vagrant Story, finding it unbearable (not just the two-save-slots annoyance or the battles or the fucked-up progression or how boring it all is... there's a lot more to it; I like being alone in a castle -- ICO is my favorite game ever, btw -- and the atmosphere was alright at times but all in all? Meh... then again, I hate the slow boring Final Fantasy Tactics -- rendered obsolete by exciting games like NIS' Disgaea and whatnot -- and I HATE FF12 with all my heart; I guess that team in general just made games that were too boring for me), which I DO seem to be alone in, completely.

    I played the CDI Zeldas some years back as I was friends with the brother of the webmaster of a pretty big Zelda site... anyway, there were some crappy things about them but after the shock/joke of us sitting around laughing about shit wore off, I actually saw some things about it that were better than the "regular" series. Since every Zelda game has been exactly the same for a long long time now, it would be awesome for them to go back and revisit some of those ideas, heh...

    Anyway, thanks for the article, these are some of my favorite games ever (mainly thinking of Super Metroid, Cave Story, Dawn of Sorrow, and so on).


  13. Hey could you possibly scan a picture of page 132 for me?

  14. Good troll with the Tomba and CD-i Zelda comments, otherwise this looks like an interesting feature I wouldn't mind reading provided I found some scans around the Internet somewhere.