How’d It Age #3 – Metroid Prime

More Info from Nintendo

  • Genre: FPS
  • Platform: Switch
  • Originally Available On: Gamecube, Wii

Under normal circumstances, this would be a very short ramblings. Yes, this aged well. Yes it’s still an incredibly good and fun game. Yes you should buy it. The end.

But I have some thoughts here on the various versions, with a bit of a wild card. I’ve played all the versions of this that have come out, whether it’s the original release, the Wii update for Trilogy, or what is now the remastered version on Switch. If I look at the versions side by side, I don’t think there’s a real clear winner in terms of which one is the best. There’s things that the last two do that I think are interesting and better, so the real question is, which one should you play?

The Switch version is a pretty easy recommendation, especially if you’re a typical console FPS player. The dual-stick controls drastically modernize the game, making general traversal much better than other versions. It allows the game to just flow better, which is a bit of a surprise to me. It also drastically reduces the benefit of aim lock, which is something that surprisingly makes the game quite a lot easier. It’s also easy to recommend it because of the updated visuals, which really do a surprising amount to modernize the experience.

However, I don’t think that’s the best control scheme. I actually think it’s pointer controls, and unfortunately I don’t think that the Switch pointer controls feel as good as they do on the Wii. I noticed that they were occasionally getting out of sync which is something that I’ve seen on other pointer-style Wii ports, as well as with motion-assisted games like Splatoon. This is where the Wii version via Metroid Prime Trilogy really shines. The pointer input scheme on that version is as close to mouse-focused aiming as I’ve ever seen on a console game, and it shines in this experience. It makes boss fights in particular incredibly precise to fight, and again is something that reduces the need to really use aim lock. Combined with a heavier reliance on strafing compared to the original, this is as PC-styled as the series gets.

That said, I do have a wildcard and that comes in the form of PrimeHack. This is a fork of the fantastic Dolphin emulator that adds in support for traditional PC keyboard/mouse controls to Metroid Prime Trilogy, assuming you have a legal way to rip your discs down or feel like sailing the high seas. This can be combined with things like the Dolphin supported for HD texture packs to transform the PC experience into something closer to the remaster’s visual styles with an even better control scheme. The first time I played Prime in this way was a revelation. It transforms into a PC game so easily that I can’t believe more shooters aren’t trying to fill the adventure game niche that this series did. At high framerate and resolution combined with keyboard/mouse controls, this just feels like a modern PC game, despite being 20 years old.

I suppose I never really answered the question of which version you should play, and I think my answer really comes down to any of them. Play the Switch if it’s the easiest to get at. Play the Wii version if you want consistent shooting input. Rip your disc and play it on PC with a texture pack if you really want a surprising experience. However you play this game, you won’t be disappointed. It really does still hold up.

Game Ramblings #168 – God of War: Ragnarok

More Info from Sony

  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Platform: PS5
  • Also Available On: PS4

Being perfectly honest, you could read my ramblings on the previous game and have a pretty good idea where I fell on this one. This is every bit an iterative sequel instead of the revolutionary change that the previous entry was. However, that’s not to say that’s a bad thing. This definitely does a lot to clean up some rough edges in the series’ transition to action RPG, but more importantly it shows a drastic amount of growth in the characters. It’s for that reason that I wanted to get through the game.

The lack of core gameplay changes did end up with this one being a bit long in the tooth. Combat felt like it reached a point towards the end of the game where they kind of just ran out of ideas and started throwing more targets at you, which wasn’t particularly fun. Side quests started to get a bit samey, which meant that I was doing them purely for rewards instead of any narrative enjoyment. Despite having a lot more environments to wander through than the original game, I just kind of felt like I was at my limit. That’s the curse of sequels I guess. You’re going to have to be somewhat samey or risk alienating your audience. Unless you’re doing a years later reboot like the previous title, you are where you’re at. However, I wanted to see the end of the story.

That push to want to see the end of the story is the most important thing to me about this game. I didn’t really need or want a challenge by the end, because it wasn’t important to my enjoyment anymore. I could turn the difficulty all the way down, hammer through the repetitive combat segments, and get what I wanted out of the game.

The previous game had me in a place where I absolutely hated Atreus, and that was a huge point of celebration for the quality of the writing in place. He was a little shit of a kid that needed to learn patience and care. Kratos was a completely impatient and untrusting father that wasn’t really prepared to be the sole caretaker for his son. It was a dynamic that worked wonderfully as a reintroduction to the series after years off.

This game instead shows a lot of growth in the characters across the board. Atreus still has his little shit moments, but he’s got such a strong growth arc throughout the game that ends with him at a point where he is clearly becoming an adult. He’s more careful in his decision making throughout the game. He shows patience when he isn’t immediately getting his way. Importantly, he is able to provide a level of care to others that allows them to also grow. Kratos on the other hand is an increasingly patient individual. He shows deference to his son’s wishes while still providing growth lessons to him. He shows a clear wish to avoid war but is also willing to engage when it becomes necessary. The growth in the dynamic between the two of them is the thing that made it easy for me to push through to the end of the game, and on its own I think is a clear reason to play this.

The rest of the game is kind of take it or leave it. The combat is as solid as the previous game, but effectively unchanged if you ignore the inclusion of a spear weapon. Atreus’ role in combat is a little more flexible with some arrow powers, but in practice it acts as more of a spam when practical button than much in the way of planning. I again enjoyed the dodge/parry focus on defense that I could play with, but found enemy tells and timing of tells to be incredibly inconsistent, which could be pretty frustrating in multi-target combat. Basically, they were similar gripes I had with the original and I’m not surprised that hasn’t changed.

I guess my tl;dr here is play it if you know you liked the previous game or play it on story mode if you just want an enjoyable narrative experience. There’s really not going to be a lot of surprises here otherwise. It’s an incredibly solid first-party title for Sony that has the same strengths and weaknesses as the previous title, with just that important bit of iteration involved, leaving us with a game that is predictably great.

Game Ramblings #167 – Dragon Quest Treasures

More Info from Square-Enix

  • Genre: Action RPG / Adventure
  • Platform: Switch

When I’m travelling, I look for certain types of games to play. They don’t necessarily have to be the best game ever, and I’d honestly rather they not be since my play sessions are inconsistent. They should have a relatively short metagame loop so I can play in both 15 minutes and multiple hours as I can manage it. They absolutely need to be portable since I’m not lugging consoles or a desktop with me. Treasures ticked all those boxes. It’s definitely not going to win game of the year, but it’s a game that became so easy to fall into that I was surprised how fast I managed to complete it.

This game is the strangest mix of Pokemon and a treasure hunting game, and it somehow manages to work out alright. Your goal is ultimately to find treasure, but the other half the game can’t be ignored in the pursuit of riches. You use your party of typical Dragon Quest monsters to both fight things around, as well as to use their abilities to assist you in getting to and searching for more treasure. How that loop works out is really why this worked well for me as a vacation game.

The overall metagame is a series of treasure hunts where you go out, fill your inventory, and go back to your base. Each trip is capped by how much treasure your party can carry, and in some practical sense by the fact that the farther you get into each level the stronger the enemies are. During each hunt, you’ll eventually start getting attacked by rival hunters trying to steal your treasure. This ends up encouraging you to be fast in gathering treasures, and fast in getting back to base. As a loop this takes place in roughly 10 minute intervals and it’s incredible how infinitely repeatable this can be. If all you’ve got time for is one loop, it’s just a fun distraction but you still make forward progress. If you’ve got time for more, you can instead settle into achieving specific goals – grabbing specific treasures, finishing specific side quests, finding specific party members, etc – that you can focus on over longer periods of time.

In a lot of ways, the Pokemon aspects of it feel intentionally placed because this is one of the reasons that I really enjoyed Pokemon Arceus a lot. It never felt like my time in that game was being wasted and it also never felt like I had to really set aside time to make meaningful progress. Everything I did was valuable to my overall progress, and it allowed me to enjoy the game at any time in any situation. That is what makes a perfect travel game and this really nailed it, whether or not that was intentional on the developer’s part.

Because the core loop worked so well, the rest of the game just kind of had to not get in my way. Combat is simple, but effective. You basically attack and dodge, and that’s really all you need to worry about. There’s a neat slingshot secondary weapon that can be used for offense, but its more interesting use is to buff and heal your party on the fly. Your party have all of their own unique abilities tied to the monster design, but it’s all more or less irrelevant to the combat structure. The only one I really focused on was making sure I had a healer so I could focus my efforts on damage as much as possible. Monster collecting is more RNG-focused than I’d prefer, but you generally get monsters at a decent rate. Their ability to join your party is tied to a bit of a frustrating item trading system, but you end up getting so many items in a normal treasure hunt that it isn’t overly time consuming.

If there is one thing that I could point at as being incredibly frustrating though, it’s that your base can be attacked. It’s not that this was difficult, but the last thing I generally wanted to do after dumping my treasure back was to have to immediately be in combat. It was probably more frustrating that because it generally wasn’t challenging it just slowed down my pace and prevented me from getting back out into the field. There’s a similar annoyance while in the field where you can be attacked by random rival hunters, and it’s another case of not really being challenging and mostly just being something that slowed my pace. However, I didn’t really have major issues outside of those things.

This one I guess ends up being an easy recommendation in a lot of ways because it just kind of works pretty well. It’s got a fun core meta loop, a decent enough monster collection aspect, decent enough combat, and really tries its best to not get in your way. It’s no game of the year, but because of that I also wasn’t worried about trying to book large gaming sessions to dig deep into it. I just kind of hopped in and out as I could, and because I was having fun it became more hopping in than I really expected. Because it was a travel game, it also really just fit really well into some of the smaller gaming sessions that I had that were typical of my time availability. Given the holidays are over, there may not be an opportunity to play a kind of “travel ready” game for a while, but this is a good one to keep in mind the next time you’re doing so.