Game Analysis – Super Metroid

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Although Super Metroid is an old video game developed more than 20 years ago back in 1994, it still offers plenty of fun to modern players as if many other classics do. I want to share my thoughts on a mechanic that I find to be the most interesting as well as some benefits and pitfalls when using it in a game.

Map Reset on Revisiting

Resetting a map whenever the player revisits it is an interesting design choice because reality doesn't work in this way. Reviving monsters that we just killed or renewing environments simply because we revisit the place are not natural at all in real life; the world would normally sustain the changes that the player has made. Surprisingly, the player tends to generously accept the nonsense as a rule of the game world and adapts to the game fast. We can talk about how the tendency of fast acceptance of nonsense happens but this topic is not the theme of this article. Let's talk about the effects brought about by this design choice and what to watch out for when using it.

Effects

If well integrated into the game, resetting a map maintains continuous tension for the player no matter how many times the player visits the place. There are many reasons why the player might visit the same place more than once. For example, there could be multiple areas on a map and those areas open up based on the progress the player has made. In Super Metroid, the player acquires a new ability called "morphing" - the ability to transform into a small ball, allowing the player to travel through narrow passages - in the second level, allowing them to venture into new regions that were unreachable before. When wandering in the same map over and over again to figure out how to make progress in the game before obtaining the new ability to open up the new areas of the map, the player may become bored with the lack of interaction in the empty environment once cleared up if the map retains its state. In Super Metroid, however, the monsters respawn freshly on revisiting. This may make the player feel slightly annoyed from the tedium, but it maintains a good level of tension in the play.

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This design choice also solves a resource depletion problem if monsters and the environment drop or spawn consumable items. In Super Metroid, monsters drop rocket missiles. They can be used to destroy a gate linked to a new region and are also very effective in boss battles. If the player dies in a boss battle and has depleted their rocket missiles, they would have a painful time beating the boss if there are no other ways to replenish rocket missiles than restarting the game. However, if rocket missiles can be earned just by revisiting previous stages and re-killing the monsters there, the player would not suffer from the resource depletion problem.

Caution

We should be careful, however, because the resetting map could easily transform it into chores instead of offering tension to the player. One of the causes might be monsters that are too hard to deal with; the player may get frustrated with the revival of tough monsters in environments that they just bearly managed to pass through. Another cause could be monsters that are weak but still require time and control to go through, making it tedious. One solution to prevent this problem that Super Metroid uses is to hide paths to sneak past enemies that can be found with some extra effort and observation. Although applying this solution to each map requires much effort from designers, the player can feel rewarded and proud of themself for outsmarting the environment whenever they discover these paths.

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