Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Super Metroid: Limitations, Challenges, and Progression

Largely, Nintendo's Super Metroid from 1994 epitomizes Juul's theory of progressive challenges.  In short, the game describes an intergalactic bounty hunter, Samus, and her quest to rid an alien planet of space pirates (led by the dragon Ridley, pictured on the right of the cover) and uncover the purpose of a recently discovered species, the Metroids.  Appropriately, the game state is shrouded in darkness, only to be illuminated as the player approaches a far-off, undisclosed objective.  In what Juul designates as imperfect information, the player can only uncover the constants, and thus a sense of security within the game, by traversing the dangerous, underground network of the planet, suffering multiple bouts of trial and error while doing so.
Samus encounters the Morph Ball upgrade.

In tandem with this, the player may only progress by acquiring various upgrades and weapons.  Early in the game, Samus must relearn her morph ball ability in order to navigate several nooks and crannies, those of which are pivotal to reach necessary objectives.  In addition, Samus must arm herself with missiles to tear down well-fortified walls.  As Juul discussed in the second chapter of half-real, traditional games, such as Super Metroid, may provide a plethora of options in overcoming a particular challenge, but the outcome is always consistent.  Likewise, the boss fight I partook in gave me a myriad of ways to deal with the foe.  Since the enemy was limited to combat rolls and straightforward projectiles,  I could either A)  evade the mutant hedgehog while in ball form, take pop-shots at the creatures rear and conserving missiles; or B) send a rocket straight down the monster's gullet as it exhales flaming mucus, slaying it quickly but expending valuable resources.  Regardless of what route is chosen, the monster will always be terminated, and a new path or upgrade will be revealed, ultimately progressing the narrative.  Though contemporary games fancy multiple outcomes, distorting the notion of a "positive" outcome, Super Metroid's conclusion is incredibly consistent, save a few random ammunition drops.  


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