Beat Super Metroid in under 3 hours: Completed...WITH A VENGEANCE
For the uninitiated, Super Metroid is a 1994 Super Nintendo game and the third entry in a series about intergalactic bounty hunter Samus Aran's struggle against the Space Pirates and the life-sucking Metroid creatures. It opens with Samus responding to a distress signal at Ceres Space Station (which doesn't at all look like a floating space anus) and arriving just in time to see the last living metroid, an infant, being taken away by the space pirate Ridley.
Samus follows them to planet Zebes, where you spend the rest of the game exploring, collecting power-ups, and fighting super sweet bosses. The world is set up like a giant open maze, and as you get new items like the High Jump Boots or the Wave Beam, you're able to reach new areas. It's a gameplay system that works so well it's been used countless times since then, from last year's XBox Live Arcade game Shadow Complex to pretty much every good Castlevania game released in the last thirteen years.
This challenge was a real blast, and kind of depressing at the same time. I've never really done a serious speed run on any game before, so I read through a walkthrough on GameFAQs before I got started to give me an idea of what to do. You basically have to break the natural sequence of the game and get a few items earlier than you may have normally, either by using advanced techniques like wall jumping and speedballing, or by ignoring obvious danger signs and toughing your way through something, like running across a spiked floor to get to the Wave Beam power up super early in the game.
You've definitely got to already have lots of experience with the game before you attempt something like this, as prior knowledge of item placement and boss fighting strategies are a must for doing things quickly. A lot of the replay value for games like this comes from people trying to shave another minute or two off their fastest time, plotting new routes through the labyrinth, loading and reloading your last save if you miss a crucial jump. I used to think speed running a game would take all the fun out of it, but I actually had a pretty good--albeit, often frustrating--time with this.
The depressing part came when I realized how effectively the game's story was presented--and how, in the sixteen years since its release, very few games have even attempted, much less pulled off, this kind of minimalistic presentation (the notable exceptions that spring to mind are Team ICO's Playstation 2 games, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus).
Super Metroid's got a brief text crawl at the beginning, detailing the story so far, and that's all. No dialogue, no overblown animated cutscenes, nothing like that gets between you and the experience. The game's story is told through the atmosphere, and you become more involved with it through your own actions. The final battle sequence, where the infant metroid swoops in and shields you from Mother Brain's attacks at its own peril, still gets to me after all these years.
But I suppose it's easier now for developers to try and mimic cinema than it is to play to the strengths of their own media. Hell, even the latest installment in the Metroid franchise, this year's Other M on the Wii, tried to go the Hollywood-knockoff route--which went disastrously. Speaking of, here's a 2010 Gaming Challenge you can do yourself: try to watch this collection of movie clips from Metroid: Other M in its entirety without cringing!
I digress, though. I'm not here to critique the direction of the gaming industry, I'm here to get stuff done. And with that...
Next time, I take on the baffling Tofu scenario in Resident Evil 2. Can a sentient block of tofu survive a zombie-infested Raccoon City with only a knife? Find out in:
CHALLENGE 3: Beat Tofu's scenario in Resident Evil 2