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The Simple Genius of Super Mario Bros 3 Maps

There's something cool about video game maps to me. When speaking about maps, I don't mean those that show your position in an open-world or a dungeon, but those that creatively showcase the world around you in games that consist only of levels or missions.

Nowadays maps like that are common and mostly used in platformers. Not surprising, as they're often stylish and interesting, and are way better than plain menus. They offer players a natural stopping point and make the levels, which are usually quite abstract, feel like they belong to an actual world.

Of course, not all games do that perfectly. Some, like Super Meat Boy, offer just a more interesting version of a level select screen. However, games that do map screens well usually nail them. Take Kirby's Epic Yarn, for example. Upon beating each world the player is returned to a room that looks and plays much like a normal level. The player will have a badge that they can drop to reveal a new level. Simple enough. However, the presentation is so unique, that animations of levels opening could be described as rewards. For example, one of the badges that you obtain is a clock. Upon throwing a clock, it goes to a specific spot near a sleeping bear. Clock rings, wakes up the bear, bear stretches and moves the ground above him just enough so that you could reach the door to the next level. Adorable!

One of the most famous series that uses map screens is Super Mario. That is no surprise, since not only did Super Mario Bros. 3 introduce the concept to a lot of gamers, but also evolved it over later games.

Amidst all this, it's easy to dismiss Mario 3's maps as something similar and something that we've all seen too many times. A level select with a themed board around it. However, I would disagree. I think maps in Mario 3 are quite unique even nowadays since the game did so much with such a basic concept. So let's explore it, shall we?

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The map screens of Mario 3 look and behave a lot like a board game. Mario can move along the paths to spaces with a level on them, and go further upon beating a level. There are bonuses on the map – Toad Houses and Minigame Houses – which the player can travel to at any time as it's possible to walk through them. The boards are themed, so each World looks and sounds different from its predecessor, which adds to the charm. In World 1 you walk along hills that dance to the beat of the music, while in World 6 you’re moving through a frozen land covered in ice.

The first thing such a map presents you with is choice. In the very first world, you can go to 1-3 and 1-4, or skip them entirely. Clearing one of the levels can open up a path to a Toad House. Better players can go to both levels, while collecting coins, power-ups, and lives along the way. Players who aren't experienced, however, can just go ahead and skip levels they find too challenging or try just one of the levels to get a reward. Failure doesn't always mean you're stuck on one level.

Then we get to Fortresses. They act much like Castle levels from Super Mario Bros. and feature a boss at the end. However, what's interesting about Castles in Mario 3, is that they provide you with a checkpoint. Once you clear a Fortress, a path opens up on the map, allowing you to move through it even once you lose all your lives, and all previously cleared levels become roadblocks again.

There is an obvious parallel to recent Mario games, where a Castle level would allow you to save and just continue your progress from the point as you game over. However, there is a bit of a difference with Mario 3. That difference lies within the last level of the world – the Airship. Once you get to the King’s Castle and board the Airship, death on the level will cause the Airship to fly away to a different point on the map. That way the last level of the world becomes its ultimate test. If you can’t beat it in one go, you’re punished, and if you game-overed and used a shortcut, or skipped levels before, you might have to replay levels to get to the Airship again.

I’m one of the people who think that game overs aren’t needed in games, but I must admit that it’s a pretty creative use of them. Levels in Mario 3 are short, so if you’re good, you can clear them in a minute, especially if you’ve beaten them before. Replaying the levels isn’t the challenge. Playing through levels you’ve skipped over because they were too difficult, though, is. That way you're also provided with a bit of training. If you're good enough, just chase the Airship and board it again. If you're not, maybe play a different level first.

Another curious thing on the World 1 map is an Enemy space. Every time you exit a level, either via death or beating it, a little Hammer Bro moves around the map. They don’t walk too much and stay near where they started, though. The enemy space triggers a short level, different in each world, where Mario needs to defeat all the enemies and gives you a chest with a power-up. Speaking of...

There is a helpful feature that is only available on the map screen: the Inventory! The inventory stores all the power-ups you get from chests. Those chests appear in Toad Houses, Enemy spaces, and sometimes other places, some of which are hidden. The items you get can only be used once, but they can help you in many ways. There are a lot of simple power-ups that give you transformations, from a simple mushroom to a Star, that gives you invincibility for a short time when a level starts. However, there are also some rare ones. Cloud lets you move over a level space (without clearing it, so you have to be really careful so you don't need to come back through it), Music Box can make enemies go to sleep, so you can walk over them, P-Wing can give you infinite flight within a level, etc.

Now we’re getting somewhere. Pretty much all the features I’ve mentioned have become common for Mario games. However, Mario 3 doesn’t stop there.

Super Mario Bros. was a game with many secrets, so it’s pretty obvious that a sequel would have them, too. However, Mario 3 also differs from lots of games that came after it, because it had secrets not only inside the levels but also on the map.

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World 2, the Desert Land, is the first one where you can obtain multiple rare power-ups, including the hammer. Hammer lets you break a rock on the map to reveal a secret screen with an Enemy space on it which rewards you with a Warp Flute. There are also secrets which you can get in almost every world by performing a highly specific task within a level (or just being lucky and stumbling across them), such as the Treasure Ship or a White Toad House.

There aren’t any actual secret levels on the map, which might be disappointing nowadays, but it’s understandable. The game already has a lot of optional stuff with the ability to skip levels, so secrets that allow you to gain more lives, power-ups, or straight-up skip worlds might be more useful to players who find the game too challenging as opposed to secret with an extra-hard level.

World 2 also has a few unique things. Well, it’s just levels, but they are not numbered spaces, and instead, they’re depicted as a quicksand spot and a pyramid on the map. They don’t really differ from other levels, but they should pique your curiosity when you first see them, which is neat. The Quicksand level famously features the Angry Sun, while Pyramid is less gimmicky and mainly exists to provide you with a context for where you are in the world. By placing a little pixel icon on the map it transforms a simple underground maze into something else!

Next, there’s World 3, which is a whole different beast. Water Land introduces bridges that rise up and come down every time player dies or clears a space. When the bridges are up, you can’t cross them. Simple gimmick, but fitting for the world. With the introduction of pipes on the map in World 2, some Map screens start to feel like a maze that you have to navigate and think about. It won't ever matter for an experienced player, but, as with Airship level flying away, a newbie might want to think about how to traverse the land. Also, there’s a little boat you can ride from the dock, which is charming.

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World 3 also might be the first place where players realize that position of Level spaces on the map can tell you a fair bit about the level. If the space is on land, it’s going to be another ground level. Opposite when it’s in water, of course. There are also spaces that are only partly in the water, which means that level most likely won’t have any bottomless pits but will feature a water segment, even if you mostly walk along the ground. This might help you avoid levels you don't want to play just by looking at them. I'm not that intimately familiar with Mario 3 and can't tell you what type of level 3-5 is, but by looking at the map, I can see that it's a water level. Like many, I'm not a fan of those, so it helps me choose certain levels that I like less when I'm in the mood for them.

Considering the map was a new idea, I wouldn’t be surprised if developers got some of the level ideas while designing the map. Might sound farfetched, but I like to think that way about a level in World 5. World 5 starts on land, looking much like the World 1 map. However, it only has 5 levels, 2 of which are Fortress, and a Tower, which uses a new sprite for a level image. The Tower is a first vertical level, and it has multiple floors. Once you go through all the floors, get to the roof. Then you can go even higher, and finally, you reach the second part of the map. Suddenly you’re in the sky, on the second part of the map, and you can see the small part of World 5 which you just beat way below. The Tower Level doesn't even have a proper end. You don't get a card or collect an orb, you just go through a pipe.

Of course, I don’t have any proof that the Tower level was designed after developers decided to break up Sky Land into a ground and a sky portion, but the way it surprises you with a sudden theme change is still very cute. Also, I quite like that on the Sky portion of the map you can see star icons, much like images of power-ups that you could always see in the sky of above-ground levels.

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There is a similar situation in World 8. The game’s last world is broken into four sections, the third of which is covered in darkness. The two numbered levels on this map are also the only non-special levels, and they take place during the nighttime. The dark section of the map provides a bit of a challenge in a form of a small maze. It’s not hard, but it might confuse you for a second, since it has two pipes, one leading to the other, at the same screen. They aren’t far apart, but since visibility is so low, you might think that you’ve gone to a different screen altogether.

The entirety of World 8 is quite interesting. Bowser’s World is covered in fire. It also contains lots of skulls, including a dirty lake in the first section of the map. A shame that this theme, only with more lava, will be reused so many times in the series, and by different games. Mario 3's final world is almost entirely different from any other in the series. There's almost no lava in it, aside from Fortress and the final level. I suppose there's a bit of a secret too. You might assume that the lake on the first screen, which also appears in the ship level is deadly since it looks different from water (and the lake itself is a skull!), but you can actually swim in it, and skip the level from underneath! Another difference is that this world has almost no numbered levels. The only two normal levels are placed on the dark map, which doesn’t have any fire, and the levels themselves take place at night.

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The rest of the levels in World 8 are all unique levels. The only familiar one out of all of them is a fortress level, while the rest are all new. The first map contains a Tank and a Ship level. The second one has Airboats, and the fourth one has the Bowser’s Castle, which uses a unique sprite. All of the aforementioned levels, except for the final castle, are really neat auto scrollers that feel like you’re finally in the enemy territory, and that you’re the one being attacked. In fact, there is a small tweak to how the map works in regard to those new levels which helps the atmosphere. When Mario moves to them on the map, the level starts automatically, without the need to press A. The only times you saw that before would be with all the Enemy challenges and Bonus spots.

I would like to think that this was done on purpose, to make the player feel like Mario is being attacked, and doesn’t have any more choice but to push forward. He can't just stand where the tanks are, as they are moving towards him. After all, aside from a few shortcut pipes, the map is very linear, especially in the final screen, which is a straight line. There’s no way to skip a level in World 8.

Another thing of note in World 8 is a weird set of squares on the second screen. While moving on them, Mario stops on three out of five squares, and there is a chance that a hand might appear and grab him. If that happens, you will be teleported to a small challenge level. All three levels are different, and if you beat them, you’re rewarded with a chest and can pass through it freely, much like a beaten level.

Those levels aren’t my favorite, but the idea behind them is neat. Of course, Bowser would have traps, why wouldn’t he. It makes sense in-universe. It also provides another surprise for the player. By this time you figured out how levels work, even if they have unique spots on the map, so it's unexpected, especially if nothing happens on the first of those squares. When I was a kid, it was quite scary when one of those arms suddenly reached out on what I thought was weird, but a safe path.

Surprise feels like a constant theme with Super Mario Bros. 3. Almost every level has a new gimmick, and almost every map has something unexpected and new. To recap, Super Mario Bros. 3’s maps have: Level Spaces, Toad Houses, Game Houses, Bonus Game spaces, Treasure Ships, White Toad Houses, Enemy spaces (Hammer Bros. and Munchers), Pipes, Fortresses (including a Tower and Bowser’s Castle), King Castles, Unique Level spaces (Quicksand and a Pyramid) Tanks, a Ship, Airboats, and Hand Traps. Beyond that, there are secrets on almost every map, and there is a special map for the Warp Zone.

That is ambitious. I can’t think of any game that puts so much care into something that, on the surface, is just a level select. Even later Mario games never evolved the concept. While 3D Mario games have introduced large hubs for you to run around in, 2D games never improved on it. Super Mario World focused more on secrets within levels and levels having multiple exits, which was understandable. The New Super Mario Bros. series, however, stuck with most of Mario 3’s ideas and themes in terms of maps.

The latest game to introduce something new to the formula was Super Mario 3D World. It added the ability for players to move freely around the map. However, it never really did anything with it. You could find coins and lives, and there is a secret or two. Maps in 3D World also ditched any semblance of geography and made all levels into floating cubes. Of course, the game also supports up to four players, so it’s not surprising. Four people waiting for one person to move or pick a level wouldn’t be fun at all. Still, I wish it wasn’t so familiar.

I’m just rambling at this point. It might seem like I’m disappointed with newer Mario games when it isn’t the case at all. We’re talking about something as insignificant as maps, after all. Still, as great as newer Mario games are, Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World were the last surprising 2D Mario games for me, I can’t deny that. But, lucky for me, with Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, it really seems like Nintendo wants to move away from familiar and into new and unexplored territories, and I can’t wait to see what comes next!


How I learned to love Pathologic (2), or my game of the year

In September of 2017 weather was as crappy as my mood. I was going to the other town to meet with my boyfriend, sky was grey, and the trip was long. He was talking about a game called Pathologic for a while, and I knew he wanted to show it. I didn't complain, of course. It seemed like an interesting game, a sort of a Russian Twin Peaks.

The graphics might not be good even for it's time, but the weird art direction is a marvel to look at.
The graphics might not be good even for it's time, but the weird art direction is a marvel to look at.

When he started playing it, I was intrigued. The game had a strong atmosphere, even if graphics were really dated even for 2005. Out of three characters he chose to play as Bachelor Daniil Dankovsky, a camplaign that many consider ideal for the first playthrough. The premise is simple: a city doctor comes to a small steppe town in search of a miracle. His dream is ambitious: defeating death itself, and the rumor goes that an immortal man lives in the Town. It's obviously not as simple. The man is dead, and the Town falls to a mysterious plague very soon. You have 12 days.

The game is an open world title with survival mechanics. You have to deal with hunger, exhaustion, and later, your immunity to the plague. It's not a forgiving game, but one that gives you freedom in how you approach your problems. You can be a good person and barter with people on the street, kill bandits at night and do every quest roleplaying as a kind doctor. Or you can steal, murder and only care about yourself. Of course the latter is punishable, and the game has a Reputation meter. If it gets too low, every man starts chasing you, and of course, killing normal civilians that just want to stop a murderer, is another blow to your Reputation.

The only meter that you can't do anything with is time. Aside from dialogue windows, time constantly moves forward. So what do you actually do with your time? What's the goal? Well, it's quite simple. Do quests for people, talk to them to unravel the mystery, and do some doctoring when they fall ill (and major NPCs CAN catch the plague and die)

Surviving is the goal, and perhaps you will need to sacrifice something
Surviving is the goal, and perhaps you will need to sacrifice something

Pathologic is an interesting game, but it's not fun to play (or watch). There are games that scare you, or put you under constant stress, games that make you feel miserable, and while Pathologic does all three, it's also a pretty junky game. Combat is deliberatly awful, walk speed is incredibly slow, some tutorials are non-existent, and HUD has some big issues. Combine that with everything else that makes the game hard, and you've got a pretty unpleasant experience for newcomers.

The story, however, is brilliant. All NPCs are strange in their own ways, and the premise itself is incredible. Unfortunately that wasn't enough. Somehow me and my boyfriend got through Bachelor's campaign, but after a few days into the second one (campaigns share events and happen at the same time, but are different storylines) I fell out. Doesn't help that the third campaign, unlocked after the first two, is rushed and repetitive.

I didn't feel too bad, since the remake has already been announced and been a while in development. Various screenshots looked promising, and blog posts from developers hinted that mistakes will be fixed.

Ok, let's actually talk about Pathologic 2.

You play as Artemiy Burakh. You were born in the Town and are familiar with all the strange rituals, rules, and creatures that inhabit it. You were away for about 5 years studying, so you still need to be re-introduced to all the weird things going on. Oh, and you're also wanted for murder right after you arrive. The plague will soon start consuming the town, and you will have to survive while trying to help others. You have 12 days.

I fell in love with the game almost immediately. While it's still a harsh experience, it's made so much more clear, that you no longer feel lost not knowing how to actually play the game.

As you progress through the story and fight off the same problems, you're actually given a quest log! And what a log it is. Pathologic 2 presents you with probably my favorite quest log of any game. It's a one-screen "map" of your thoughts with bubbles connecting to each other. Events that you've seen turn into bubbles with a picture and a desctiptions. The ones you didn't remain empty.

The Mind Map lets you easily see which events led to what, and if you've completed your tasks for today.
The Mind Map lets you easily see which events led to what, and if you've completed your tasks for today.

It's easy to see whether you've completed the quest, took one of several branches, and what path led where. Some bubbles become locked after you miss the timed event or choose a different path, with the game explaining the reason for locking out events.

The original had a pretty rough HUD, but it also wasn't an eventful game. There were a few things you could do every day, and that's it. Pathologic 2 is one of the games where multiple playthroughs will benefit you A LOT. There are so many missable events, that you feel like you're missing half the story when you beat the game. It adds a certain layer of stress the original couln't provide - an actual race against the clock as you choose what events to follow, and try to complete as many as you can.

The plot follows a pretty linear path. NPCs can die and some events can be bothced, but every day there's a Story Quest you have to complete (in the image above, as in with every other Map you get, it's the big circles right in the center), and overall you're working towards one goal: defeating the plague.

The path towards this goal, however, is something you choose. Want to turn down any event and try looting houses where everyone is dead? Go ahead. Want to let an NPC die from infection because you're saving medicine for someone else? Sure.

The game isn't as depressing as some think, and is actually quite funny
The game isn't as depressing as some think, and is actually quite funny

As for quests, you're given pretty standard dialogue options. The dialogue is absolutely fantastic and is the best part of the game hands down. Full of dry wit and unusual, at times somewhat theatrical delivery, it's a joy. The responces themselves remind me of Monkey Island a bit, because you can play your character as rude, sarcastic, or compassionate person. Of course, some choices actually matter. "Choices", however, might be the wrong word. You're not given a clearly "evil/good" options, and there is a reason for that. You choose what to say, but not what happens next.

Do you want to buy a bull for 200 steppe dollars? That's a choice you can make. Do you need a bull? Who knows.

NPCs have their own lives to live. They don't exist for your sake. They can lie, or not listen to you. Choosing what seems like a right option might actually fail a quest. As an example, in one of the quests you can promise to deal with a person who other characters want dead. You can go and find said person and warn them, but the they end up dead. You did a good thing, but you were followed. Your inaction would save the character.

Some dialogue options are funny, and allow you to roleplay a complete moron, while others can lead to irreversible consequences.
Some dialogue options are funny, and allow you to roleplay a complete moron, while others can lead to irreversible consequences.

Failure is a big part of the game, and it's as entertaining as success. There's a lot of content for what happens if you fail to do something, so it never feels like you were robbed of a significant chunk of the stoty. In the quest mentioned above, there is a lot of content if you "fail", so you still feel like you witnessed a story, and not just a glorified "Quest Failed" screen.

The gameplay itself is mostly the same. Walk (and this time you can run!) around, talk, and try not to die as you barter with NPCs for useful items, giving some of yours in exchange. It's all been streamlined, but not made easier. You just feel like you have more control in the game, which is a good thing.

Some people complain that this game is too hard and unfair, but honestly, if there's ever a "Dark Souls of..." metaphore that fit, that would be it. As in Dark Souls, you need to think ahead, both in combat, and in dialogue. Sometimes you will lead NPCs to unexpectedly die, but that's ok. The game likes to pull some pranks, but none of them feel overly mean or catastrophic. And unlike Dark Souls, there are difficulty sliders! If you're completely unfamiliar with the game, I recommend turning most of them to easier experience. There are even some notes from the developers about which difficult things they consider a crucial part of the experience.

All the characters from the first game return, mainly unchanged. Bachelor is still an insufferable smartass
All the characters from the first game return, mainly unchanged. Bachelor is still an insufferable smartass

As you progress through the game, you have to deal with more and more issues. As mentioned before, NPCs become sick, and the plague isn't just a story thing. Some districts become infected (and then boarded afterwards), so you have to plan your path ahead. Do you risk going through the smog that lowers your immunity, with infected people trying to grab you for help, or do you want a safer path that might cost you some time?

The game doesn't have any jumpscares, but it can be really creepy at times
The game doesn't have any jumpscares, but it can be really creepy at times

There's an opinion floating around that Pathologic 2 isn't a "fun" game. However, I disagree. The gameplay, once you get into it, is stressful, but also engaging. You're not bored when you're not talking to people, and you have plenty to do while just running around.

The combat is still a bit weird, but feels a lot more manageable, and getting into fights this time doesn't feel like a random chance.

Pathologic 2 is a great game, and comparisons to Twin Peaks don't just end on the strange town. The Lynchian atmosphere of dread and hope, surrounded by questions that will never be answered, strange characters, and things beyond your comprehension keep you on your toes throughout the game. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, but always weird and unique, Pathologic 2 is a blast. First game is dated and messy, but this remake/sequel I will recommend to everyone. You have to experience it.

I don't know if it's my game of the year. Or, rather, if it's JUST a game of the year for me. It's most likely a game of the decade, and might just be one of my favorite games of all time.

There is also a strange impossible tower looming over the Town, and if that doesn't intrigue you, I don't know what will
There is also a strange impossible tower looming over the Town, and if that doesn't intrigue you, I don't know what will

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Ranking The Tetrominos

Tetris is one of the few, if not the only game, that we can describe as perfect. However there are things in Tetris that are better than others. The music comes to mind, of course. Or graphics... But what's more important are the characters themselves - Tetrominos!

So today I, as a long time Tetris player and a certified Russian, will put a definitive list of which tetris pieces are the best, and which suck!

  • 7. The Square Block. This one sucks. Cumbersome and annoying, square blocks barely fit anywhere. If you have a good place to fit a square block, you will probably be fine as long as you don't get another square block soon. For many players, those fuckers will just end up standing on one another, creating a useless yellow tower. What's more, even if you have a 2x2 empty space, there are still pieces that could fill that in quite well! What really puts this awful block in the last place is the fact that it's boring. Tetris is a game about dropping and rotating, so square block removes HALF the gameplay from Tetris. Awful.
  • 6. The Z block. Much less useless than its sqare friend, Z block is an interesting fellow that, none the less, can cause lots of trouble. However, it's a tough block to get used to if you're a new player. Even harder than the square block. While our previous friend may be hard to place, it's not hard to learn. Square's a square. This guy, however, can give a lot of problems to people who aren't used to how it looks vertically vs. horizontally, and which buttons rotate pieces in which directions.
  • 5. The S Block. I hear you, I hear you. "They're the same! Why is it better?" Ah, but they're not! The S block is just a reversed Z block, that's true. It has same advantages and disadvantages, but there is a difference! It's green! The Z block, on the other hand, is the scariest-looking block in the game: it's red and sorta looks like a frowned brow. S block, however, is friendly green color. You can almost hear it whisper "it's ok to make mistakes".
  • 4. L Block. While sometimes hard to place, it can be used for simple triple lines, it can be placed horisonally or vertically fairly easy, and it's great for flattening out your terrain! This block also has a double, so let's get to why the next piece is clearly the superior one.
  • 3. Г Block. As with previous twins, Г block has a major advantage with color, sporting a fancy dark blue instead of orange. However, it also represents a much better letter! Г is the 4th letter of Russian alphabet, pronounced mostly like G in "Gorilla" (but can also serve as "K" or "H"). L, on the other hand, makes you think of worlds like "Loser" or "Luigi". Gah.
    Now that you know that this is a real letter, please draw your Waluigis correctly.
  • 2. Line Piece. Didn't expect a controversy, did you? Well, let me explain... Yes, Line is the only tetromino that allows you to clear 4 rows at once, but that's it. It's not incredibly useful other than that. Plugging some holes you've dug for yourself is its secondary feature, but on a fairly normal structure it's annoying! Putting it vertically on top of some blocks just creates an unreachable tower that wastes your precious space. Placed horizontally it's either going to fit your 4-block flat surface (which really doesn't help aside from maybe making a single line), or you'll be placing it over a lot of uneven ground, making it as dangerous as a few square blocks.
  • 1. The T Piece. This piece is used as a game's logo for a reason. Yes, it doesn't let you form a Tetris, you greedy child, but it fits almost anywhere! It can create a little bit of terrain on a flat surface, so that Z and S pieces could be placed there! It can fit in holes without much trouble! And let me tell you about those T Spins! It looks good, has a nice purple color, and it's the only tetromino I would hang out with.
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Looking back at Metroid: Other M

Metroid: Other M was first announced back at E3 2009 and it looked amazing. A new Metroid game led by the original co-creator and developed by a group consisting of members from Nintendo, Team Ninja and D-Rockets seemed interesting, and Nintendo certainly knew it. The game received pretty big marketing push, focusing on the story and the character of Samus, which seemed exciting and fresh.

Unfortunately, the game released to mixed reviews, mediocre sales, and some really negative feedback from the fans. Negative reception for this game only grew larger as people thought it was the last entry in the beloved series. Thankfully, now we know that it wasn't, and with recently released Samus Returns and upcoming Metroid Prime 4, let's look back at the weird entry that was Other M. Was it really that bad?

In short: yes it was. Unfortunately, there's no way around it. From poor story to questionable gameplay desicions, Metroid: Other M is by far the woest title in the series. How did this happen? Nintendo is usually pretty strict with their IPs, so it would be weird if Team Ninja were left unsupervised. Weirdly enough, they weren't, and most of bad decisions came from within Nintendo.

When a bad game comes out, it's usually easy to blame one particular thing in its faults. You've probably seen opinions such as "Mass Effect Andromeda concentrated on being Polititcally Correct, and look what happened!" Of course, most of the time it's not true. Unless the game is a one-person indie project, there is a lot that can go wrong. Metroid: Other M, however, seems like a unique case of its lead developer making most of mistakes. It's especially strange that the man in question is Yoshio Sakamoto - co-creator of Metroid series, and a man with a pretty long history at Nintendo. At this point it's well-known that most of poor decisions about the game come from him, but how and why were those decisions made?

Back in the day, Nintendo had a series of articles called "Iwata Asks" on its website. Those articles contained interviews with various game developers about certain video games. Thanks to those interviews, there are some crucial pieces of information we can gather about game's developement that can only be described as massive red flags. For example, here's Yoshio Sakamoto's quote on game's questionable controls:

"SAKAMOTO: Metroid was originally a game for the Family Computer Disk System, and so could be played using just the +Control Pad and two buttons. Back then the game had simple controls: Move with the +Control Pad and use the two buttons to jump and shoot.

ARAMAKI: As you can imagine, there was a lot of trial and error involved with making the game controllable with just one Wii Remote. Every time a new member of staff would join the project, they'd inevitably ask 'why aren't we using the Nunchuk controller?' Of course, there are only a few buttons that can be used on just one Wii Remote, so we had many, many button meetings about how Samus's diverse movements should be controlled.

SAKAMOTO: One Wii Remote doesn't really have enough buttons, though. There were times when some problems, such as trying to implement special actions, could potentially have been solved by connecting the Nunchuk. Even then though, we had an understanding that we would never 'resort to the Nunchuk'."

According to developers, and Sakamoto himself, he was not willing to find compromises. While some Wii games would let you switch between several control schemes, Other M would use NES-style horizontal Nunchuck because, according to Sakamoto, "controls beyond moving with the +Control Pad and jumping and shooting with two buttons is unthinkable."

Interviews about the game seem really sad because you start to realize that no one besides Sakamoto was interested in some of the more bizarre ideas that ended up in the game. Game's controls are just one example of Sakamoto's vision of how the game should play, look and sound, and it clearly shows that nobody from the team that made countless action games could convince him that some of his ideas were just bad.

Change isn't bad, and if Other M had better direction, it probably could've pulled off a new gameplay style with a story about a more human and more emotional Samus. Unfortunately instead of focusing on one task, Other M jumps around so much that the both story and gamplay feel way more busy than it actually is. And while the gameplay was generally fine due to Team Ninja's involvement, the story really took a hit.

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Trying to summarize the story of Other M is an extremely hard, and, frankly, meaningless task, so we'll focus on just some examples. One of the more infamous moments of the game is the Ridley cutscene. In the cutscene, Samus is scared of Ridley. She's scared of him so much that the game depicts her as a literal crying child for a few seconds. It's a weird scene, and while it's easy to criticize it for ruining the character of Samus, who's usually been tough, that scene alone describes most of the game's problems.

Other M was advertized as a game that will explain the story of Samus, and it definitely tries that. Samus spends dozens of minutes remembering some boring facts of her life, thinking about The Baby and Adam. However, let's ignore all that and go back to square one. Why is she afraid of Ridley? Well, he is a beast that killed her mother and is seemingly immortal.

I wish Ridley would talk in the games.
I wish Ridley would talk in the games.

Not a bad reason to fear him, frankly. Unfortunately, the story gets so wrapped up in ridiculous little details that it forgets to mention that fact. Most of the players will not know that Ridley killed Samus' mom, as it's only mentionedin in a comic that was never released outside in Japan. The game that wants to redefine Samus so badly forgets to tell you crucial information about her past!

Of course it should also be noted that Ridley in Other M and Ridley in other games are two different beings, so none of that would make any sense anyway.

There is also a part where Other M wants to be a crime mystery. One of the Adam's squad is murdering other people on the station. Samus calls him "The Deleter" (yes, really), he tries to kill her using some sort of tractor, it's fun. Unfortunately soon enough game grows tired of The Deleter, so it just ends the plotline. The Deleter dies, we never learn who it was. While the mystery of The Deleter was so easy that it probably could've been solved by Scooby-Doo gang, the game certainly could've used a satisfying conclusion in one of the plotlines to its advantage. Instead, it awkwardly moves on to Metroids, evil Galactic Federation, Adam and whatever else it can talk about before throwing it away.

It should be mentioned, however, that there is one consistent thing that Other M really wants you to know. For some reason one of the game's main focuses is a Metroid that Samus is supposedly feeling attached to after it killed itself at the end of Super Metroid. While it's not the most absurd ideas of Other M, the game really doesn't want you to forget that fact by using ridiculous symbolysm. What's "Other M"? Well, it's an anagram of "Mother"! Also, game takes place on a BOTTLE SHIP (like a baby's bottle), one of the bosses' screams have crying sound effects vowen into them, etc. The game has all sorts of mother and child imagery and it's all fairly dumb. Of course it's not just symbolysm - Samus will mention "The Baby" in every situation she can.

Interviews show that Sakamoto was in charge of most of the ideas on the team, from music, to poor voice acting, but ultimately the problem with the game can be summed up quite easily: Metroid Other M doesn't know what it wants to be. Just like Other M doesn't know whether it wants to be a modern or an old-school action game, it can't devote its attention to story, characters or gameplay before switching to something new. It's a very unique sort of mess, and saying that it's bad just because it made Samus shorter or beacuse Adam "authorizing" Samus' power ups is insane doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of how much Other M fails on almost every level.

So, is there a reason why that happened? Well, it seems the reason is quite clear: Sakamoto wasn't ready for that kind of project. It's probably just that simple. Everyone makes mistakes, and saying that he wanted to ruin Metroid or that he was envious of Retro Studios is just giving in to a conspiracy. According to Iwata Asks, Sakamoto is a talented director who's often in charge of projects. "Even when he was making the light-hearted WarioWare series he was always ready to axe any minigame which didn’t reach the standard, saying ‘this one’s no good’." It's no surprise Other M felt apart. Nothing Nintendo made came even close to the narrative presented in Other M, and it certainly wasn't close to something like WarioWare (although that would be amazing). According to Sakamoto, he tried to create suspence of Other M by using know-how that he gained while working on Famicom Detective Club, and that was 22 years before!

There is also one particular rumor I would like to adress, and that is Sakamoto's opinion on Prime series. Apparently lots of people think Sakamoto is literally the devil of Metroid dev teams, and that he declared Prime games to be non-canon, which isn't the case (and even if it was, who cares about Metroid canon anyways?!). Every time he was asked about Primes' connection to Other M he compared them to a side-story, which they were, and said that Retro were incredibly talented.

When Metroid Other M was still the most recent game in the series, I hated it. As a big fan of the franchise, like most, I was afraid that it would be the death of Metroid. Now that we know it's not the case, it's easier to accept that some experiments just don't work out for one or many reasons. And as you start to accept it, the stories of those failed experiments are probably the most interesting ones. You're starting to ask "What could've gone better and why didn't it?", and, in my opinion, it makes for much more interesting reading material than games where everything well. Besides, I don't want to read about Mario Galaxy, I want to play it! Now let's hope playing Metroid Prime 4 will be a lot more interesting than reading about its mess of a developement.

The Baby.

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Future Konami Games

After escaping the deadly labyrinth of Konami HQ and fighting off at least three ninjas, I have arrived here to warn you of the nightmares that are future Konami releases. Please stop them while you still have the time!

Disclaimer: this list is absolutely real, and if one or all of the games on this list don't get released, that means that we, as a humanity, have stopped Konami. Congratulations!

Sudoken (2019)

A Suikoden-themed free-to-play sudoku puzzle game. Player can recruit up to 60 different numbers by watching Metal Gear Survive 2 trailers. Each time the player places a wrong number on a grid, somewhere, a Konami employee’s e-mail gets randomized.

Metal Gear Solid 6: The First Chapter (2019)

A demo mission for the new MGS game that’s said to have as much content as any full game on the market. Set between MGS1 and 2, this game puts player back in the role of legendary hero Solid Snake. Snake can perform a variety of actions, such as running into untextured walls and buying a Power Slide™ for $0.99/min

Bomberman: Act One (2020)

A sequel to critically acclaimed Bomberman: Act Zero made only by your favorite and most hungry Hudson developers who agreed to work for food. Game features up to 3 (three) exciting power ups and 4 (four) different color options for the arena.

Castlevania (2020)

It’s just Castlevania for $60. Enjoy the classic, motherfuckers.

Hideo Kojima: The Pachinko (2021)

Through a legal loophole, Konami acquires Hideo Kojima. Using the same machine as Silent Hill 2 Pachinko game, the device now has a steel glass cage, which proudly rotates Hideo Kojima. While playing, the player can listen to the classic lines from the man himself such as “Please, I don’t want to make Metal Gear Solid 3″ and “Please, I don’t want to make Metal Gear Solid 4″

Half-Life 2 (2021)

They don’t even give a fuck anymore, somebody stop them!

An empty DVD case for season 16 of The Simpsons with the “Silent Hills” logo duck taped to it (2022)

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