By Encephalon 12 Comments
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...
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.
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.
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?