so i herd you liek metroids

I’m going off the GameSpite Quarterly 2 repost schedule today, so I hope you’ll forgive me. Today’s article has been pretty much in the bag for a week, but after my 1UP review for Shadow Complex made so many people as cranky as it did, I decided it might be best to let the furor over the game die down a bit. I suspect this article is likely to rile up a certain segment of the population, and that’s really not my intent. Then Christian had to go and stir up a hornet’s nest of controversy, which made me hold off even longer. But this here’s the Internet, and in Internet time a week is more than sufficient for people to forget about the latest, greatest, hypest, I-know-it’s-perfect-before-I-even-play-it-because-it’s-an-exclusive-for-my-favorite-console hit. At this point, you might as well consider this a retrospective rather than a review.

Shadow Complex
If this text seems to overlap my 1UP review overmuch, well: When it began life, this was my 1UP review, penned in a semi-lucid rush at 3 a.m. immediately after finishing the game. After a night’s sleep, I realized that would be a terrible idea and wrote something much less feverish. However, the results of my late-night fugue state have been polished and posted as a simple curio for your amusement.

24 thoughts on “so i herd you liek metroids

  1. Nice piece — sums up the game very well, I think. One more quirk of the game: It’s entirely possible to stumble upon the last boss and miss those final items entirely the first time through, which is what I did.

    The hookshot, triple-jump pack and fusion helmet are completely unnecessary unless you’re going for a completist run, which really seems to miss a key point of Super Metroid: that you must use ALL of your collected powers, often in combination, on the way through the game. That there are no required areas that require the hookshot or an invincible stroll with the helmet to progress is just bizarre to me.

    I am also unreasonably pleased with the link to my old Combine article.

  2. “Then Christian had to go and stir up a hornet’s nest of controversy”

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and posit that a Venn diagram of 1up’s and Gamasutra’s respective readerships would have a very, very small sliver of an intersect.

  3. When I read your 1UP review I could hear the opinions expressed in this article underneath. It seemed to me that the 1UP review was written by someone begrudgingly accepting that Shadow Complex was atleast FUNCTIONAL, despite ripping off Super Metroid so thoroughly and being very generic.

    I agree with all of your opinions on the flaws of Shadow Complex, I’m just not sure that it deserves so much anger. To me this article sounds very aggressive, as if the game has attacked you personally and you have to defend yourself by biting back. But I can’t see how that’s the case. Maybe you just resent that the game is being compared to Super Metroid as though Chair “nailed it” when to those of us who love Metroid, Shadow Complex is so clearly lacking. Maybe Shadow Complex is an affront to you because of how thoroughly generic it makes the platformer genre. I don’t know…

    I agree with your criticisms and I think you SHOULD have made them in your 1UP review instead of posting the limp, apathetic version but I don’t think the aggression is required or beneficial at all.

    I want to make one small defense before I end my comment because I do think Shadow Complex deserves some small praise; atleast it’s showing other developers that a 3-dimensional Metroid-style platformer is viable for modern audiences. Obviously there are issues (depth of field + “lens width”, collision detection, etc.) but I still think it’s very functional. Hopefully some other developer will be able to take this fairly stable foundation and inject their game with some life and possibly create a classic.

  4. “Advent Rising, which I’m told was to Mormonism what Battlefield: Earth was to Scientology”

    I’m pretty sure Battlestar Galactica serves that purpose. The old 70s series, at least.

  5. “Aggressive”? “Limp, apathetic”? Well, I guess it’s fair that criticism flows in both directions.

    I disagree that this was aggressive, though. The severity of my complaints about the aesthetics and tone have less to do with Shadow Complex specifically and a general sense of disillusionment with this generation of games as a whole. American and Japanese games alike tend to have a lot less personality than they used to; seeing that plainer-than-vanilla dullness slathered atop a familiar framework simply highlights how dull and templated developers are making their games.

  6. Incase it wasn’t clear I was calling the 1UP review limp/apathetic and the Gamespite review aggressive. The point I was trying to make was that there’s a happy middle somewhere.

    I can’t really argue with anything you’ve said… I guess my issue is what I said at the start of my last comment, when I read the 1UP review I sensed that you wanted to bash it more than you did. Obviously I don’t know you but I’ve read enough of your stuff and listened to enough Retronauts to know that you love Metroid and Castlevania and probably have a particular soft spot for platformers. I feel the exact same way and I agree with you that Shadow Complex can feel like a betrayal of those old games, especially when people compare it favourably.

    But I’m not sure that Shadow Complex deserves to be treated as the poster boy for modern creative bankruptcy because I’m not sure that Chair set out to be creatively bankrupt.

  7. Also I’m not sure that the percentage of personality-less games vs. personality-filled games has changed at all.

    Will we be able to say that there was a greater percentage of good games on SNES or PS1 vs. PS3 or XBOX 360? I don’t know. Maybe the issue is that games are simply more complicated to make nowdays. Assuming the generation lasts longer than previous console generations we might get more, better games later. For example I’ve always felt that Yoshi’s Island was alot better than 99% of SNES games, yet the console was abandoned just as that pinnacle was hit. The same is true for a game like Vagrant Story or God of War.

    My point is that if games take longer to make, maybe it takes longer to get better games but so long as the generation lasts longer there will still be time for those great games to be delivered.

  8. Your article (and the comment about this generation and how Shadow Complex’s framework highlights the flaws) is definitely what I was thinking about when I said Shadow Complex lacked character. It’s almost shocking to see how utterly bland the lead is knowing that it’s copying Super Metroid.

  9. Oh yeah, Shadow Complex. That’s the name of this game! It’s definitely one of those completely forgettable titles that was probably intended to sound so, so cool. Oh well.

  10. Eh, the name Shadow Complex makes perfect sense and fits the game pretty well. It’s referring to the Alpha Complex in which the entire game takes place.

  11. Thank you Jeremy for writing down what I’ve been thinking ever since people went ape shit over the original Half-Life. You don’t have to make a character completely bland and devoid of personality for the player to get into the action. I actually find it easier to identify with a game character and take the game’s plot seriously if the avatar I’m playing has personality, history, and motivations I can all understand. It’s precisely why I’m much more inclined to enjoy a game like Uncharted than Halo. For all I know, Master Cheif is actually just a brainwashed alien, convinced to commit genocide against his own people (which would actually be a much more interesting story). Far too many times in games, I’m never given sufficient reason by way of character motivations to justify what I’m doing other than, “killing is fun.”

  12. I would say Gordon Freeman is immune from this complaint, at least in the original Half-Life. Valve was aiming for a sort of laconic immersion, and I think it worked up until the point where Alyx started getting all moon-eyed over a guy who has never actually spoken a single word to her.

  13. Well Mr. Parish, I usually find my opinions in direct alignment with yours, but I actually disagree with almost all of your points on this one. I’m a diehard Metroid and Castlevania fan myself, so I feel like I know where you’re coming from on this one. However, I think when you compare Shadow Complex’s protagonist with most of the game heroes from the Castlevania series they have a similar level of personality. For instance, take a character like Soma Cruze. He was a waify also vampire hunter like almost every other character in the series after Alucard. Before that we had a series of unremarkable Belmonts. I think Samus on the other hand is more interesting simply because we actually know less about her than we know about Jason Fleming. The more they try to flesh her out in the series, frankly the less interesting she becomes.

    Still, I think the score you gave the game was dead on. It’s an excellent attempt that is executed well, but has some key issues that hold it back from true greatness. I feel like that summation is in direct contrast to what you have written here. I follow all your work and appreciate that you are one of the few people out there really carrying the torch for a style of game that is rarely produced any more. Please, just don’t let your love of gaming’s past keep you from enjoying gaming’s future, especially when new developers are trying to bring that lineage into modern gaming.

  14. Interesting how you say the right-stick aiming doesn’t work as well as advertised. It worked much better than at least I thought it would (when aiming to the foreground). I also think that knowing very little about Jason was part of Chair’s paean to Metroid. Making Samus this genderless semi-robot (which I thought she was a robot back in the day) was her coolest attribute. When I found out she was a female, or rather a human, she suddenly became less interesting. Less cool if you will. I gotta agree with Dane in that the more I find out about her, the less interesting she gets. She’s like the opposite of the Dos Equis clown.

  15. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Half-Life, easily one of the best games ever made. But its story was so simple and bare bones in a very Metroid manner. But I played through that game because the inherent game play was fun and revolutionary at the time, not because I had this burning desire to see Gordon Freeman escape or reunited with his family.

  16. What does Advent Rising have to do with Mormonism? Do Mormons think people will eventually develop superpowers after a near-extinction event? I don’t get it.

    Also, I’ve been playing this game a fair bit in the last few days on Hard and I like it, but your criticisms ring true when it comes to aiming and exploration – both are good, but can lead to frustration. I’ve found headshots are easy to get after some practice, though. Melee attacks are fun once you have the Omega Armor since you can send an enemy flying with each punch. The difficulty on Hard mode also seems really fair to me.

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