Sunday, December 4, 2016

Final Fantasy XV: In Honor of the Unseen

Final Fantasy XV is a beautiful mess of a game. Its troubled development shows in the way its story is told, with characters disappearing abruptly and many important events seemingly happening off screen. Nobody can say they didn't expect a haphazard game - that's what happens when you try to take an entirely different game (Versus XIII) and merge it with a new project (XV). To top it off, Versus XIII was meant to be an "epic," or a series of games, and its condensed nature also shows in the sudden loss of an open world in the latter chapters. The story is rushed and, while not necessarily poorly told, is simply outright missing many elements.

Before I continue, let me say that, as a whole, I adored the story in the game. The ending and the villain in particular were fantastic, and the entire affair was far darker and more depressing than any narrative told in other Final Fantasy games. After beating it, I was having a conversation with my brother about how much I loved its concept, even if its execution was severely lacking in places. My brother - a metal head, bassist, and music afficionado - responded with "sounds like when I can appreciate what a band is going for, even if I don't like their music." Yeah. Yeah, actually, it is sort of like that.


To elaborate on what I think of the game's narrative, the idea of the empire killing gods and screwing over the entire world in the process, only to get screwed over themselves by essentially zombifying their own people, is one of the boldest stories ever told in a Final Fantasy game. When you hear on the radio that the empire has killed Shiva off screen, and you later come upon her broken corpse beside the train tracks... it's utterly chilling. Pun intended. Here is a deity, a protector of the world, and its massive, lifeless face stares vacantly back at you as you exit the train. The repercussions of its death are immediately apparent. The desert you're travelling through has begun to freeze over. The nights are getting longer. The entire world is going to hell, and this is the moment it hits you.

The main cast has it rough, too. Ignis going blind was unexpectedly very tragic, more so than you'd expect if you had read that bullet point in a spoiler, and the tragedy is sold by the group's soured interactions with each other in Chapter 10. Watching Ignis struggle to fight without his eyesight only to fall into a puddle, Prompto's failed attempts to cheer up the group, Noctis' more aggressive voice acting during this chapter - it all comes together in a way that makes you feel for the characters and their loss.

Noct's entire story arc is about coming to terms with his destiny, and he not only fails to save Luna, but never manages to come to terms with it. The night before the final battle is essentially him being really broken about the whole affair and not wanting to go through with it. Then he dies. It's a constant downward spiral after Chapter 9, and while the good guys do succeed in their mission, it's not a clean victory. Luna dies. Ravus dies. Ignis goes blind. The bad guy accomplishes what he set out to do, and the world falls to ruin for ten years. Noctis awakes after losing ten years of his life to a long sleep, only to sacrifice himself in the end.

Another chilling scene was when Noctis enters the Insomnian throne room, only for Ardyn to taunt him by dangling the dead corpses of those who sacrificed their lives for him from chains in order to taunt him. This is shockingly explicit for a Final Fantasy game.

The after credits campfire scene that takes place before the final battle is what wholly subverts typical expectations for a fantasy narrative: Noctis has not accepted his destiny, he does not want to die, and he does not want to leave his friends behind. He is broken and depressed, and that doesn't change until his death. The game avoids going into overly edgy territory by placing an emphasis on Noct's bonds with his friends and fiance. Even at the very end, when everything is literally and figuratively as dark as it can be, he never stops cherishing his loved ones.

It's a new and daring direction for a Final Fantasy game, and it manages to tug at the heartstrings in a bittersweet way. And I love it.

I had an inkling the story would be dark in chapters 1-9, but it was more of a creeping feeling than anything else, like a bad premonition. I certainly didn't expect it to be so consistently devastating from chapters 9-15. Even the big evil bad guy is tragic. He got screwed over in the past so badly that you can't really fully hate him.

But the game isn't without its flaws. It has gaping holes in its story, and many of these holes are related to how it treats its side characters. I've decided to list the shafted characters in order of least shafted to most shafted, while attempting to give more insight as to why these characters were so important despite their criminally small amount of screen time.

Starting up, we have... RAVUS NOX FLEURET!

Luna's brother, Ravus is actually fairly omnipresent both in Kingsglaive and in the game proper. The only problem is that his motivations are never made clear (it made more sense when he was a straight up bad guy) and he, like the others, doesn't get screen time when he needs it. However, he is one of the few characters to make an appearance in the movie and the game, and he gets multiple cutscenes with him as the focus. He's also the subject of a fair amount of radio banter and newspaper clippings found throughout the world. On top of that, he gets his own boss fight and posthumously hands off Regis' sword to Noct. Ravus feels like a secondary antagonist - much like Final Fantasy VII's Rufus Shinra - who never truly got to fulfill his purpose. Despite this, he got treated better than everyone else on this list.

Next up is... COR LEONIS!

He joins the party in the beginning of the game and then vanishes. Where did he go? What is he doing? You hear about "the marshal" throughout the rest of the game, but his absence is striking. He gets bonus points for joining the party at one point and maintaining a ghostly presence throughout the game via mentions from other characters. He apparently survived through the World of Ruin, as well.

And next on the list is... LOQI!

Forgive the gigantic text. He is a boss fight, in case the text did not alert you to that fact. This was the best image I could find of him, and I did not take any of my own.

A high ranking soldier of the empire, he's the first true boss in the game. You blow up his magitek armor, but he returns in a sidequest later on. He has multiple speaking lines, a bombastic introduction, and a second appearance - not bad for a game where some people only show up in one cutscene.

Next up is... DINO!

Fetch me fifty million gemstones. For reasons. Capische?

Just kidding, screw this wannabe Italian gangster guy. However, he is a part of the problem. He's right up there with Dave and Jared as one of the characters who got an obscene amount of overexposure, often at the expense of other, far more important characters. The game could very well be called "Dave and Dino's Tag and Gem Collection" and be mostly accurate with how often these guys show up.

The real next character is the emperor himself, IEDOLAS ALDERCAPT!

The main antagonist of Kingsglaive, the leader of the empire, and the supposed big bad of FFXV proper until you learn that it's Ardyn manipulating him behind the scenes. Why is he more shafted than Loqi if he got a movie to himself, as well as multiple chase sequences and a boss fight involving his daemon form? Easy - he deserved a lot more for who he was and what he represented. He is absent for most of the game, and only reappears after his tragic transformation into Diablo. A very conceptually interesting character with an equally interesting fate who was relegated to the background, and quite unfairly so. Nevertheless, he shined in Kingsglaive, unlike...

PRYNA! Umbra's white counterpart died off screen. Poor doggo.

And last, and certainly least, is VERSTAEL!

"Who?" You might ask. Who, indeed. This is the man responsible for daemon research, the MT troops, and the empire's head scientist. He's also Prompto's father. "WHAT!?" You say. "The game didn't even HINT at any of that?" No. No, it did not. R.I.P. important non-important old guy whose name most people won't ever know.

The fact that he's Prompto's father is revealed in the official guide.



Guess what? This guy isn't Ardyn's lapdog. It's the other way around. Ifrit is a traitor to the six, and the one responsible for the Starscourge. That's right - he is the one who released the parasitic, light drinking clouds into the air. Seems like an awfully important piece of info to leave out of the game, doesn't it? Ardyn agrees to help him because he also wants to screw things up as much as possible. It's likely why he was given focus in the cold open of the game, and likely why he was treated much more like an antagonist than the rest of the six. Where do you learn this? In the official guide, suckers!

That's my list. Some runners-up were Aranea, other empire guy that's not Loqi, and Ardyn himself (for his unimplemented backstory as a previous generation's savior). In the end, though, those three got sufficient screen time and did not feel incomplete. May the DLC breathe life into some of you.

As an aside, here's some Ardyn art from the official art book. It seems to be depicting his time as a hero, healer, and savior. The game glosses over this aspect of the story, but the art shows that the development team had a somewhat detailed idea of what kind of hero Ardyn was. Ardyn wasn't "shafted," really, but his story, like many other aspects of the game, deserved to told more clearly.

Ardyn Lucis Caelum, the god's original chosen, was a great healer and saved the world from darkness thousands of years ago.

The savior is demonized and made into a villain by Noctis' ancestor, Izunia. Izunia then took the name Lucis Caelum, and Ardyn in turn took the name Izunia, in the hopes that his now terrible acts would dirty the name. Ardyn was also denied ascension into the afterlife by the gods, now considered tainted for absorbing the darkness and daemons inside of himself in an attempt to save the world. The despair he must have felt at being cast out by both those he saved and those he served is captured very well in this image. The "former Jesus" allegory is fairly heavy handed here.

I have the highest hopes for Prompto's DLC. The Verstael connection is begging to be explained. Maybe we'll get to see the empire fall?

I hope this post was as enlightening as it was entertaining. In the end, I stand by my original statement: Final Fantasy XV is a beautiful mess - a mishmash of fantastic concepts, many of which do not get the chance to shine as brightly as they could have.

Monday, November 7, 2016

A Place to Return To

In the year 2000, as a fan who was introduced to the Final Fantasy series with the relatively unique diesel-punk setting of Final Fantasy VII, I hated this game and its generic fantasy world and characters. In 2016, with a fresh set of eyes and a different set of expectations, I find that I loved the game my second time through. The game I speak of would be Final Fantasy IX, the last of the series to appear on the original PlayStation console.

Back in the day (and to this day) I was a huge fan of FFVII and FFVIII's modern aesthetics. I absolutely loved the dystopian, conglomerate-driven, sci-fi fantasy fusion that VII was, and VIII's much cleaner, slightly futuristic setting was equally appealing. Then IX came along. The setting reverted to knights, bandits, and Victorian-esque nobility. The first thing we see is what is essentially a Shakespearean play. The character design is weird. Zidane is some sort of monkey man, and many of the NPCs are heavily caricatured, super goofy looking versions of animals. Even the humans look off. Eleven year old me's first response was indifference at best, distaste at worst. I thought the story was... ok, at best, but I never got past the drastically awkward shift in design.

The big headed, oddly designed characters came as a pretty big shock, even after the lego-like models of VII. The art style, setting, and tone of the story were much different than I expected.

Fast forward to today. After spending a good amount of time with this game again, I've really come to appreciate its unique setting. The fun loving rogue with a heart of gold that is Zidane is a nice change of pace from VII's serious Cloud, or VIII's brooding Squall. The setting is full of charm and oozes atmosphere. The scene in the very beginning when you barge on stage, interrupting the performance, and Garnet proceeds to go with the flow and improvises - extremely well, at that - made me instantly fall in love with the characters. The chemistry between all of them is very well done. 

What a charmer. I mean that sincerely. Zidane's wise guy personality was one of the highlights of the game's story, and his relationship with the sheltered princess Garnet - while cliché - was one of the most purely entertaining romance stories told in a Final Fantasy game.

The world design is excellent - the decision to go back to traditional high fantasy let Square show off some truly pretty, fantastical environments that are arguably the best among the FF trilogy on PSX. The ice cave, in particular, stands out as a personal favorite. Even walking through the streets of Alexandria as Vivi is impressive, even though you are only able to see a small portion of the environment. When you compare this to a similar section in VII, where you explore a small segment of upper Junon, the level of detail present and the quality of the rendered backgrounds is an immense leap from the previous two entries. 

The streets of Upper Junon looked nice, especially for the time, but they can't compare to...

The streets of Alexandria. Square's rendering technique had vastly improved by the time this game was made.
NeoGAF member Mama Robotnik has compiled several high resolution assets that were used while creating the world of Final Fantasy IX here, which I highly suggest that you take a gander at, as they show how beautiful the world that Square created truly is.

The slightly deformed designs have a purpose, too, contributing heavily to the game's unique charm. They're almost reminiscent of what you'd see in a cartoonier game, such as Secret of Mana or Chrono Trigger - heavily stylized, yet appealing in their own distinct manner. The ability system is fun to fool around with, and it's nice having four party members again after VII and VIII restricted you to three. Party members return to being unique in this entry, as well, as opposed to the relatively blank slates the cast of the past two games were. Much like the earlier Final Fantasies, each character has their own set of abilities, strengths, and weaknesses, which is something that the game absolutely capitalizes on. For example, the character Steiner is essentially a stylized version of the Knight class from the original Final Fantasy, where Vivi is likewise a newer rendition of the Black Mage; the game allows the two to work in tandem to utilize elemental sword attacks, such as by wreathing Steiner's sword in flame. I found the characters' uniqueness to be one of the highlights of the game from a mechanical perspective, and something that breathed additional life into the game's cast. 

ATEs, essentially little vignettes that show what the game's side characters are up to at any given moment, are a great addition to the series, and let you have a more complete view of the world and what the relevant people in it are doing. The game also boasts what might be one of Nobuo Uematsu's best compositions to date.

However, there is some stuff that I still have complaints about:

-Slow, slow battle system. And I mean slow. The game will take every opportunity it has to bombard you with fancy camera angles and long animations. The PC version has an added (and much needed) fast forward option, but the PS1 and PSN releases are stuck with a system slower than molasses.

-Trance is kind of a lame mechanic. Limit Breaks were far more streamlined/effective.

-Sometimes the character designs can get a little too weird. Kuja and Brahne come to mind...

Seriously, what the hell is this?
-The final boss is still as left field as ever, has no relation to the story, and is one of the most anti-climactic "twists" I've ever seen in a game that doesn't outright harm the story.

-Speaking of story, Amarant could have used some more of it - amidst the other fleshed out and well written characters, he's just kind of "there" for most of the game. 

Sup. I'm cool and mysterious. I also have big hands. I'll just hang out with you guys for a while, if that's cool.
-This is more of a matter of taste, but I think that Blank should have been a permanently recruitable, hidden character. It still annoys me that VII was the last FF to have hidden characters.

Overall, I really enjoyed this game on my second go through, and I have much more appreciation for the story and visuals this time around. This is mostly because my expectations weren't colored by the comparative disappointment that I felt after loving VII and VIII's styles, and expecting more of the same here. Appreciating IX for what it is makes it much more enjoyable. Oh, and Beatrix is one of the best female characters I've seen in a game, and one of the coolest characters I've seen, period.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Palette Problems

The Briefs family is the victim of a colorful identity crisis.

I'm talking about the characters from Dragon Ball, of course.

In an attempt to unravel the relatively complicated story behind the hue of their hair, let's look at the problem backwards. The most recent Briefs character to appear in the series is Future Trunks in Dragon Ball Super. Super Trunks (not to be confused with Super Saiyan Trunks) is the same character from the original run of the Dragon Ball Z anime and the Dragon Ball manga, now in his 30's. Aside from looking a lot thinner than his previous appearances, as all characters in Super do, there's one glaring difference that has been throwing people for a loop.

His hair is blue, as opposed to lavender. I mean, it looks cool enough, but why change such an iconic piece of his character? His bright purple hair was his most prominent physical trait. And to make things even more confusing, his kid self - the Trunks from the present timeline - still has his original hair color, with the characters even standing right next to each other at times!

Toei, the animation company behind Dragon Ball Super, even went the extra mile to tell us that this was a deliberate change in the story. Bulma identifies Trunks by his blue hair, and the flashbacks we see of Trunks from Z are either in black and white, or recolored to match his newer head of hair.

The flashback originally seen in History of Trunks and Trunks: The Story was reanimated in Dragon Ball Super to show our future warrior with a blue, as opposed to purple, head of hair.
So what's the deal? Why the sudden and inconsistent change? Let's break it down piece by piece.

All lines lead back to Akira Toriyama himself, the man who designed the character in the first place. For the uninitiated, Toriyama was only directly involved with the manga run of the original Dragon Ball, and was only a supervisor in regards to the Dragon Ball Z anime and its related movies. There's one key difference between the manga and the anime: the manga is black and white. We may identify Trunks by his lavender hair, and Toriyama may have colored it that way himself at one point in the past, but for Toriyama, the hair color was less ingrained in his mind than one would be led to think. This is fairly common in the manga industry - JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is the most extreme example of characters being colored in all sorts of different ways, a trend that was even carried over into its modern anime adaptation. This was the original drawing of Trunks Toriyama handed over to Toei for Battle of Gods, which Toei later corrected to his trademark purple for the movies and in Super.

However, when Toriyama came to Toei with the design for Future Trunks' appearance in Dragon Ball Super, his hair was once again blue.

This time, Toei went with Toriyama's rendition of the character, without changing his appearance. However, they had already decided to run with purple for the other version of Trunks, leading to a conflicting sense of continuity between the characters. It could be that Toei did not want to argue with Toriyama's input, or simply did not care about the discrepancy between the two characters - a different hair color would be easier to classify as a new character and to sell toys with, after all, so the decision may have had a business-oriented element to it as well.

But wait. There's another layer to the character's change in design. Trunks' hair has always been colored to match his mother, Bulma. But wait, didn't they have different colored hair in Dragon Ball Z...?

I love this picture. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because Trunks' facial expression is the very definition of "screaming Internally."

This is where the rabbit hole extends even further. In the original run of the manga, Bulma's hair was most frequently shown as purple - it was colored green for her first appearance, which was likely the reason behind its coloration in the anime, but for most of her manga-related appearances, her official hair color was purple.

It was even changed back its purple color for the TV special, Path to Power.

However, her hair color had already been established as green in the mainline show, so it remained as such in all of her future appearances. However, her father and her son retained their "correct" manga coloration of purple. This persisted until over a decade later, when the series was rebooted with Battle of Gods, where it changed to a different color altogether. Blue.

The light blue hue seen here was made a bit darker in Dragon Ball Super, showing a gradual change from her Z colors to her Super colors. A much less drastic change than with Trunks.
Perhaps it was because the change was less noticeable than it was with Trunks, as blue and green are closer together on the color wheel, but Toei stuck with Bulma's blue haired design, while still reverting Kid Trunks back to his usual purple color. However, when Future Trunks appeared, it was clear that his hair had been designed to match his mother's, and Toei decided to go with it, leaving us with two inconsistent versions of Trunks.

There you have it. The blue hair dilemma is a multi-layered issue with roots in how manga is adapted to anime, and a lack of consistent communication between the animation team and the manga author. It wouldn't bother me as much as it does if they had decided to make both Trunks have blue hair, but as it is, it's a bit jarring. However, the change got at least one thing right; mother and son finally have the matching color hair that they were originally intended to have.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Glory Days of Valve

At this time every year, I replay The Orange Box. And it still holds up. The Orange Box was an amazing collection of games, both new and old, and it came with some of the most groundbreaking games that the industry has seen to this day. Celebrating its ninth anniversary a couple of months ago, this compilation of sorts left me so dramatically floored that I feel the need to attempt to recapture the initial excitement of its release every year.

Before we get into the real meat of things, let's back up a bit: What was in The Orange Box? Five games released for the price of one, it included two games that were the previously released fan favorite Half-Life 2 and its expansion Half-Life 2: Episode 1. But the real heart of the collection were its three new games. Yep, that's right — two games that were, at the time, still relatively new, and three that were brand new, all for the price of one game. That's how you hook the fans, folks. "The best deal in video game history," indeed. (Remember, Steam sales didn't exist yet).

So let's take a little trip down memory lane.

It's no wonder Valve would later be known for Steam Sales. This was only the beginning. At the time, a deal like this was unprecedented.

Flashback to 2007. I had just graduated high school. I was sort of aimless, unsure of what I wanted to do in life, and was attending a local community college while trying to figure out my future. I had vague notions of majoring in psychology. Ha. HA! Oh, you young fool. Anyway, that's not what this article is about. That fall, a miraculous collection of games was released on PC under the inconspicuous title of The Orange Box.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two

This was the big game that everyone was waiting for. The direct continuation of the previous expansion, Episode One, Episode Two advanced the Half-life 2 story and featured some very impressive technical enhancements along with the new campaign. Most of the game took place outdoors, which was a very big change of pace from the cramped dystopian cityscapes of the first two outings, and the environments were absolutely gorgeous.

Episode 2 featured new enemies and outdoor environments, making it feel fresh coming off of the reiterative cityscapes and tunnels of the last two entries.

The campaign itself was fast-paced and gripping, and held the player's attention from beginning to end. Episode Two featured a new Hunter enemy, which had only been seen briefly in a recorded message in Episode One. The Hunter was a dangerous and intimidating enemy which could follow you, indoors and out. Here, the story set in motion over the previous two games was in full force, and it ended on a massive cliffhanger that deeply affected fans everywhere. We're still waiting on the resolution to that cliffhanger, but I digress. The game met, and even surpassed, fan expectations, becoming a critically acclaimed success.

Team Fortress 2

The second new game in the box was Team Fortress 2, a cartoony, team-based shooter. TF2 had a rocky development cycle, even starting out as a traditional realistic army shooter, but the final release was unlike anything anyone had seen at the time. Each map was brimming with style, and the Source engine certainly did the game a few favors in both looking nice and running very smoothly. You did not simply choose your class in TF2; each class was a distinctive character with its own voice quips, looks and personality.

What other team based shooter at the time had a class dedicated entirely to healing? With a gun? Go ahead, I'm waiting for an answer. TF2 felt entirely unique at the time of its release.

Classes, such as the Medic or Pyro, were highly specialized and offered new forms of gameplay. Sure, we'd all seen flamethrowers in an FPS before, but to design an entire class around the concept was something innovative, not to say anything of the concept of a strict healing/support class. The highly stylized art, characters that brimmed with personality, innovative map design and streamlined, fast-paced gameplay all came together to create a massively addicting experience. The game was, in many ways, the precursor to Blizzard's highly successful Overwatch.


The real shocker, for many Orange Box aficionados, was Portal. This is the game that I think everyone expected to be nothing more than the bonus game of The Orange Box; a short and sweet fan-made romp that would be enjoyable, but ultimately forgettable compared to the big names it shared a box with. Boy, did it surpass everyone's expectations.

The clean and sterile art style allowed the game to work together with its deceptively innocent concept to tell a gripping story with a very dark undertone. The plot was one that was accentuated greatly by nonverbal storytelling techniques, such as writing found on the walls of Aperture Science labs, and GLaDOS proved to be a villain as memorable as the bone-schilling SHODAN from the acclaimed System Shock 2.

While the real star of Portal was its colorful antagonist, the puzzle based gameplay was fairly revolutionary at the time, as well. Portal took full advantage of its 3D rooms and portal gun to offer an engaging experience unlike any other game that was out there.

GLaDOS was an effective villain due to how she was both eerie and completely in control, but she also served as comic relief, a blend of supposedly opposing character attributes that was near flawlessly executed. Who doesn't remember the ominously innocent voices of the actually very deadly turrets scattered throughout the labs? "The cake is a lie" persisted for years after the game's release, and the Companion Cube's loss was comically lamented by fans everywhere.

Portal wasn't just about the story, however. The game itself also proved to be wonderfully new and experimental, and offered a puzzle-based experience like no other game had done before. It was so successful, it led to a full-fledged sequel years later.

While you can't step in the same river twice, all of the games included in The Orange Box collection hold up extremely well and remain very enjoyable, even nine years after their release. Hats off to one of the biggest and best releases in gaming.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Back to the Beginning - Samus Aran's "Zero Mission"

Short post today. I've been updating this blog less and less, as I am wondering if it is worth continuing to do so. As such, I've been on an unofficial hiatus for quite some time. The future of this blog is up in the air - I'd love to continue with it, but time will tell if that is feasible or not.

I'm a huge fan of Metroid Prime, Metroid Fusion, and Super Metroid, and I rather enjoyed the second two Prime games as well, even if they fell a bit short of the greatness of those three. I'd never touched the original Metroid or its sequel, so I decided to fire up the Wii U VC and give the first game's remake, Zero Mission, a fair shot. I can safely say it ended up being just as good as what I consider to be the Metroid Trinity.

First: it has all the snappiness of Fusion with all of the exploration of Super. Super was always a very lumbering, very floaty game, while Fusion's animations and inputs were quick and concise. Zero Mission goes for the Fusion approach, which is much appreciated. Fusion was a wonderful game - I even liked its narrative focus - but it was a bit too linear for my tastes, so it was nice to see the franchise return (in more ways than one) to the open ended nature that it's known for. Zero Mission was a perfect Fusion (ha ha) of the two.

Second: it's beautiful! There's dazzling plasma animations for Samus' cannon and every area looks unique, is full of color, and pops out at you. What I love about this is how well it ties into Super, whether it was intentional or not - this is Zebes under Mother Brain's control, alive and full of energy. The return to Zebes has it almost in ruins, and it's much darker and more dismal. The upbeat soundtrack was also a plus for me. Did I miss the "grittiness" of Super Metroid? Yes, I did, but the game's brightness ended up being a positive for me regardless. It's not like Zebes was suddenly a happy place because it was bright, either; it still felt very alien and hostile.

Third: The Zero Suit segment at the end was exhilarating. It took the adrenaline from the SA-X segments in Fusion and upped it tenfold. Crawling through tiny spaces with Space Pirates right on your tail as you stop to shoot the blocks blocking your way had my blood pumping like no other Metroid game has managed to do. It went from stealth to INTENSE action at the drop of a hat. Getting the Power Suit at the end was a nice touch, and Mecha Ridley was appropriately creepy and menacing (if not a bit too easy).

I very much enjoyed my time with this game. It was a bit short, as was to be expected, but it was overall a great experience. I loved seeing where the Brinstar theme in Smash Bros. came from! I haven't spent much time with Another Metroid 2 Remake, yet, but it seems like a worthy successor to Zero Mission. It's a shame Nintendo pulled it down, but at the same time, it's good that it managed to get released.