Things I Hate in Games I Love, Part 1: Metroid Prime

As I often see demonstrated on these boards, it's all too easy to rip apart games that you are not at all invested in; it's somewhat more difficult, I think, to level criticism at games that you genuinely love. So I'm embarking on a five-part adventure of shitting on games for which my affection, perhaps, extends into the realm of irrationality. As these are all games I have a very high opinion of, my criticisms simply cannot be sweeping, numerous or comprehensive. Therefore I've instead chosen to focus on specific design elements, or maybe even singular moments, that I find to be the sole blight on otherwise flawless games.

Which leads us to my first thing I hate in a game I love...

Late-Game Collectathons

To understand the late-game collectathon, first you must understand the thing in its entirety. I would define a "collectathon" as any portion of a game in which you are tasked with collecting three or more objects of the same type and function in order to progress along that game's critical path. These objects will often be fairly arbitrary except for the fact that they somehow clear a path that was previously impassable. These will often operate by the Rule of Threes--as in, collect three magic stones to slot into the ancient door to make it open. Still, as tiresome as the Rule of Three has become, you should actually be thankful when it goes this way--it could just as easily be the Rule of Nine.

I find collectathons incredibly aggravating when they appear, not because they are padding, but rather because they are nakedly obvious padding. I can withstand, and even enjoy, a certain amount of padding in my games. I wouldn't be able to play nearly any game otherwise. The collectathon is really just the more shameless cousin to the fetch quest, anyway. But when developers grow too lazy even to convincingly disguise these mechanisms, then padding becomes a larger problem--a problem that stretches me to the very edge of endurance.

Two words: TRIFORCE SHARDS

And so we come to the late-game collectathon, perhaps the most nakedly obvious padding of them all. So, picture this: you've waded through dozens of hours of game to get here, but you're finally here--the final boss's chamber. The story has reached its crescendo, so naturally you're just itching to rip the guy's fucking head off, but wait, there's this thing you've got to do first... Backtrack through the entire game world and collect a bunch of shit.

How Metroid Prime Applies

In Metroid Prime, the shit to collect were Chozo Artifacts. Upon arriving at the crater that houses the final boss, you are prompted to backtrack through the world and collect nine of them, if you hadn't already. When you've collected all nine, which are scattered throughout the world, then and only then can you move on and kick Ridley's mecha-pterodactyl ass.

I fucking hated this part. Even young as I was, the artifice of the game design was just so apparent to me. After wandering the same rooms I'd already explored in my previous adventures, I hopped on Gamefaqs, printed out a guide and banged the whole thing out in about an hour. Not a game-breaking ordeal, ultimately, but I can't say it added anything of value to the overall experience. In fact, I'd say it actually detracted from my experience by sapping the endgame of its forward momentum. One bad design choice turned what should have been a glorious base assault into an interminable slog.

Gotcha! Only eight more to go, sucker!

Frustratingly, Retro made the same mistake again in Metroid Prime 2 (Keys), and yet again in 3 (Energy Cells). If Other M did the same thing, please let me know in the comments, because I've only played the Prime games, and at this point I'm beginning to think it's just a Metroid series tradition.

But even if it is, fuck tradition. Stop it. You're not fooling anyone, Metroid . I know there's not much of you left, so stop jerking me around. Just let me blow up Ridley, please.

So, what about you guys? Can you think of any games you've played that have a late-game collectathon? Do you dread them as much as I do, or do you relish the chance to take one last victory lap around the world before leaving it?

- Jon

11 Comments
12 Comments
Posted by Encephalon

As I often see demonstrated on these boards, it's all too easy to rip apart games that you are not at all invested in; it's somewhat more difficult, I think, to level criticism at games that you genuinely love. So I'm embarking on a five-part adventure of shitting on games for which my affection, perhaps, extends into the realm of irrationality. As these are all games I have a very high opinion of, my criticisms simply cannot be sweeping, numerous or comprehensive. Therefore I've instead chosen to focus on specific design elements, or maybe even singular moments, that I find to be the sole blight on otherwise flawless games.

Which leads us to my first thing I hate in a game I love...

Late-Game Collectathons

To understand the late-game collectathon, first you must understand the thing in its entirety. I would define a "collectathon" as any portion of a game in which you are tasked with collecting three or more objects of the same type and function in order to progress along that game's critical path. These objects will often be fairly arbitrary except for the fact that they somehow clear a path that was previously impassable. These will often operate by the Rule of Threes--as in, collect three magic stones to slot into the ancient door to make it open. Still, as tiresome as the Rule of Three has become, you should actually be thankful when it goes this way--it could just as easily be the Rule of Nine.

I find collectathons incredibly aggravating when they appear, not because they are padding, but rather because they are nakedly obvious padding. I can withstand, and even enjoy, a certain amount of padding in my games. I wouldn't be able to play nearly any game otherwise. The collectathon is really just the more shameless cousin to the fetch quest, anyway. But when developers grow too lazy even to convincingly disguise these mechanisms, then padding becomes a larger problem--a problem that stretches me to the very edge of endurance.

Two words: TRIFORCE SHARDS

And so we come to the late-game collectathon, perhaps the most nakedly obvious padding of them all. So, picture this: you've waded through dozens of hours of game to get here, but you're finally here--the final boss's chamber. The story has reached its crescendo, so naturally you're just itching to rip the guy's fucking head off, but wait, there's this thing you've got to do first... Backtrack through the entire game world and collect a bunch of shit.

How Metroid Prime Applies

In Metroid Prime, the shit to collect were Chozo Artifacts. Upon arriving at the crater that houses the final boss, you are prompted to backtrack through the world and collect nine of them, if you hadn't already. When you've collected all nine, which are scattered throughout the world, then and only then can you move on and kick Ridley's mecha-pterodactyl ass.

I fucking hated this part. Even young as I was, the artifice of the game design was just so apparent to me. After wandering the same rooms I'd already explored in my previous adventures, I hopped on Gamefaqs, printed out a guide and banged the whole thing out in about an hour. Not a game-breaking ordeal, ultimately, but I can't say it added anything of value to the overall experience. In fact, I'd say it actually detracted from my experience by sapping the endgame of its forward momentum. One bad design choice turned what should have been a glorious base assault into an interminable slog.

Gotcha! Only eight more to go, sucker!

Frustratingly, Retro made the same mistake again in Metroid Prime 2 (Keys), and yet again in 3 (Energy Cells). If Other M did the same thing, please let me know in the comments, because I've only played the Prime games, and at this point I'm beginning to think it's just a Metroid series tradition.

But even if it is, fuck tradition. Stop it. You're not fooling anyone, Metroid . I know there's not much of you left, so stop jerking me around. Just let me blow up Ridley, please.

So, what about you guys? Can you think of any games you've played that have a late-game collectathon? Do you dread them as much as I do, or do you relish the chance to take one last victory lap around the world before leaving it?

- Jon

Posted by BisonHero

Other M actually didn't have any collectathon, perhaps because it would be too obvious; the game has a story cutscene or radio conversation with your allies at pretty regular intervals as you progress through the game, so if you suddenly had a bunch of open-ended backtracking to do across all areas, the game wouldn't know at which doorways to trigger a cutscene. However, Other M had a whole host of other problems with its game design and writing, so "collectathons" were the least of its worries.

I actually thought the Energy Cells in Metroid Prime 3 were a slight improvement, as you don't need all of them, since there are branching paths in the ship and it's usually fairly obvious which ones are just dead ends that give you an upgrade. Nonetheless, yeah, it was kind of lame.

Posted by Hailinel

That aspect of the Prime series doesn't apply to any of the other games. The item collection in the non-Prime series is based purely around weapon power-ups, health and missile expansions.

Posted by Sbaitso

That is actually why I never finished metroid prime. And yeah, collectathons are quite annoying, especially since they often break the flow and tension of the story for me. By the time I can get back to the critical path, my interest level is often noticeably lower, when I wouldn't have minded a slightly shorter game with tighter pacing.

Posted by BoG

Metroid Prime is, without a doubt, one of my favorite games of all time. Since finishing it, I think I've consistently placed it in my top 3. I love the game to pieces. I wholeheartedly agree with this criticism, too. When I first played Metroid Prime, I couldn't put it down. Every day after school, I would come home and play it until I fell asleep on the couch. I remember one weekend my family went to grandma's for dinner, and I packed up my Gamecube just so that I could play Metroid Prime. The game sucked me in like few other games before it. Then, I was given the task to collect artifacts. I had stumbled upon maybe one prior to this point. I set off to gather them, but it didn't last long. I stopped playing MP for a month or two. After being unable to put the controller down, I got bored, frustrated, and just quit. I eventually convinced my self to return, but found the collecting to be really tedious. Fortunately, the fights with Meta Ridley and Metroid Prime are so epic, that I forgot all about this section that almost spoiled the entire experience.

I just want to add that I really love this idea. I've considered writing about why I hate Shadow of the Colossus, another game that's in my top 3 of all time.

Oh, and The Wind Waker's collectathon was the worst collectathon of all time, and I'm glad you mentioned it.

Posted by Hailinel

@BoG said:

Oh, and The Wind Waker's collectathon was the worst collectathon of all time, and I'm glad you mentioned it.

You never played Star Fox Adventures, I take it?

Posted by pyromagnestir

I'm this [] close to playing Metroid Prime again. I barely remember having to collect the artifacts at all. And I believe all the Prime games would give you fairly explicit clues in the data log thingy, which were basically something like blah blah blah engine room... blah blah, which I always appreciate.

But I do remember Beyond Good and Evil had some point where you needed a certain number of those orb thingies to progress that really stuck out to me. Especially because the game is less than 10 hours long even with the padding. Somehow that made the padding seem worse, to me.

Posted by kgb0515

Nice post, but you should have titled it "Things I loathe in games I love". Has a nice ring to it.

Posted by Little_Socrates

I actually think the artifacts might be one of the most fascinating things about Metroid Prime. A moment of insane, pure exploration, that, yes, loses all its meaning when you have a walkthrough out.

Posted by ImmortalSaiyan

I unfortunate never got that far in Metroid Prime. It remains the best game I stopped playing for an inexplicable reason. I like this blog idea and I will be checking out the rest for sure.

Posted by linus_south

It's kind of funny, I don't remember that part of metroid prime at all, But it maybe possible that I got them before reaching the door if they were available before that. I play metroid games at a slow pace, Looking for anything and everything I can get. I honestly don't remember it though.

Wind waker on the other hand. I loved that game, I would say it's my favorite game of any generation minus the sailing / fetch / collectathon at the end made me completely quit the game. When I thought about going back to it. My save data was lost by way of a stolen memory card. So I had to start over. I still have never beat wind waker.

This maybe just me, But the original Y's on sega master system had something in it that drove me insane at that time. There's a room about half way up a tower that has a guy dying in it. When you talk to him he basically says , "I may die soon" or something of the sort. I continued on my journey. I got to a door that was, "Sealed with dark magic." I think was the wording. I back tracked talking to everybody in the game at least 2 times, Including the near death guy. I spent about 5 or 6 days after that playing and thinking, "what the hell could I of missed." The 4th or 5th time I talked to the near death guy he finally said something different like, he'd give me something to break the magic seal. I went up to the door and beat the final boss in about 20 seconds. I laughed, but I still don't know what exactly triggers letting you open that door to beat the game. *That was in a time before gamefaqs.

Edited by BoG

@Hailinel said:

@BoG said:

Oh, and The Wind Waker's collectathon was the worst collectathon of all time, and I'm glad you mentioned it.

You never played Star Fox Adventures, I take it?

Nope. That's a game I must find for the ultimate collectathon of all time, collecting video games in real life.