Is Shadow Complex responsible for the Metroidvania boom?

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regularassmilk

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Now that school is canceled indefinitely, my young son had me go through the games in my PS library and download some stuff for him to try out. Shadow Complex was free on PS+ a few months ago, so I pulled that down having never played it myself. I do remember it being a huge smash hit when it came out, though. I think people were even comparing it to the first Metal Gear Solid, which seems wild.

Was this game the spark for all of the Metroidvania games that have followed? Was it effectively the re-launch point for that kind of game, or did something precede it?

And does it hold up? Because it looks kinda sick and I'm thinking about playing it myself.

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Stephen_Von_Cloud

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I think it was the mix of lots of developers obsessed with Symphony of the Night coming of age with the right market for a growing smaller and 2D games.

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bigsocrates

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I don't think so. I think it was more part of the vanguard of something that was going to happen rather than the 'cause' of the boom. There have been booms in a lot of older genres over the last 10-15 years, and I think a combination of XBLA and the rise of middleware that made game development more economical (along with more developers coming into the market) really drove these booms.

Basically it became possible to make money making smaller 2D projects and relying on digital distribution and a lower price point, and that led to a lot of old genres being revitalized because suddenly they didn't have to compete with AAA super-expensive games, or fight for space on retail shelves. Thus we had booms in 2D platformers of all kinds, and twin-stick shooters, and adventure games, etc..

Shadow Complex is also pretty different from most of the Metroidvanias from the recent boom because it was non-traditional in its setting and its combat. You sometimes shoot into the screen, you aim and use guns, it has a pretty big budget and comes from a major publisher... There really haven't been that many games like it. It's even a tie in to some Orson Scott Card project and I think he penned the (extremely forgettable) story.

I played it on release and really liked it. I can't imagine it's aged THAT poorly so it's worth trying out (especially if the price is "free.")

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cikame

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I feel like the release of Metroidvanias has been pretty steady with the rise of modern indie devs, but it's not quite a "boom" like roguelikes are. When SOTN came out big studios were more likely to make a big 3D game, it was the tail end of the PS1 with the Dreamcast on the horizon and the PS2 soon to follow, a sprite based adventure wasn't the focus.
Now that gamers have become developers making use of user friendly engines and online marketplaces, their favourite genres, or at least game designs that are achievable, have risen up.
Shadow Complex is a great game, and it was a surprise at the time that someone would make a great looking downloadable Metroidvania with a high budget, it definitely came at the start of huge growth in the indie space, but i don't think it's the cause of the genre's re-emergence.

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bigsocrates

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@cikame: I agree with most of this, except SOTN was released in March 1997, which was squarely in the middle of the Playstation era, not the tail end. By comparison Final Fantasy VII was released in January of that year, (U.S. dates were September for FF and October for SOTN.) Gran Turismo wouldn't even release until the end of that year. The Dualshock wasn't out yet. Spyro 1 didn't even release until the next year. It's pretty hard to call this the end of the Playstation era when so many of its biggest games and even series hadn't been released yet.

In fact Sony disfavored 2D games from the beginning. There obviously were some, especially because developers didn't know how to do 3D well for quite some time, but they were many fewer than on the Saturn, and fewer still came to the U.S.

This meant, ironically, that the vast majority of the 2D games that DID come to the U.S. were better than most 3D games. They tended to either be heavy hitters (like Capcom fighting games or major 2D RPGs) or really good niche games like Alundra. It's much easier to find horrible PS1 3D games than 2D games.

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Tevor_the_Third

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Here's my pitch. I think at best Shadow Complex was a bit of a wake up call for indie devs in the sense that it showed them that they were "allowed" to make a game like Metroid.

I know that might seem silly but the human experience is silly

Obviously people have been making games like this forever but sometimes you need a flash point for it to hit home with people. Think of every big thing in games and you'll generally find the starting point, the thing that spawned copycats, didn't invent it. They just sold the most copies.

Shadow Complex did an incredibly 1:1 adaptation of the Metroidvania formula, where as classically games in that loose genre (Faxanadu, Monster World, Blaster Master, etc) tended to be a little more bespoke, that got tons of attemtion, made lots of money and received no push back from Nintendo or Konami.

I can see the case being made that overnight a hundred indie devs who had been saying for years, "Why don't they make another 2D Metroid/Castlevania on console" just going, ok, I'll do it myself too then.

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cikame

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@bigsocrates: Whoops, i was looking up a lot of dates and for some reason thought it was 1999, thanks for correcting me.
At that time developers would be dipping their toes in 3D or daring to try and compete with Tomb Raider, Quake and Crash, Castlevania wouldn't attempt 3D for another two years.

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csl316

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I feel like Cave Story was one of the frontrunners on the indie scene, even if its structure is a little different. And then Shadow Complex kind of felt like a triple-A game, when the divide was a lot bigger than it is now, which solidified it as a genre that can be embraced by the mainstream. Both surely inspired a ton of indie devs.