Samus Aran made her grand return to video games last week following a seven-year absence, and if you’re wondering why that’s such a big deal, Kotaku Splitscreen is here to help.
First we jump right into the news of the week (2:39) which includes Steam review bombing, Fortnite accidentally getting cross-play, and the Nintendo Direct. Then we bring on Kotaku boss Stephen Totilo (26:59) to talk about his love for Metroid, the new game Metroid: Samus Returns, and the remake of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. Finally, Kirk and I reconvene for a big ol’ Destiny 2 spoilercast (58:02) to dig into the campaign, the raid, and the crazy rollercoaster ride that is the Destiny community.
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Stephen: I remember playing the original Metroid as a kid, and loving it. It was very mysterious, and it was one of those games like the original Zelda where you’d benefit from talking to somebody about where things were hidden. There was that famous black Nintendo strategy guide that everybody had—I don’t remember if it had Metroid pages, but that was the type of gaming that I liked doing on the NES, where I needed a guide or needed handwritten notes or something. Or I’d talk to my brother, or classmates.
Jason: Draw maps!
Stephen: Yeah! You had to, to figure out where everything was. And it had this virtual sense of empowerment that these days I sometimes worry is me falling for a trick, but I like it, and I can’t deny that I like it. I like this idea, this mechanic that happens in Metroid games with progression, where you start out weak. You’re shown that you are weak—in the first Metroid game your little laser gun can’t even shoot all the way across the screen, and you can’t jump very high. And then bit by bit you get upgrades. This is one of those things where if only life worked this way, and it supposedly does. You get a college degree and that should be the upgrade. That is your morph ball of life. And then it should be able to let you get through more obstacles in life. What is real life’s Screw Attack, that is the question I’m building to.
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But life isn’t always so predictable. And yet a Metroid game, and other games that have an empowerment element to their progression, have that. Sometimes now I worry that this is kind of artificial, it is being brought through experience of self-aggrandizement, self-importance, self-growth. And it is perhaps less pure and noble a game design than a skill game that requires practice and personal improvement to be achieved by the person playing it rather than to be handed improvement. But I’m a sucker for it. I really like that, I like the sci-fi world. I loved how in Super Metroid, it began with me re-exploring the end of the first game. That was the first time I can remember a sequel really connecting to an earlier game, building on that sense of geography and landscape mapping that it had done in my brain years prior when I played the NES Metroid, and there I am in the beginning of the Super NES Metroid, walking through those areas I had blasted through in the first game. And as those games built, they continued to have those elements—exploration, backtracking, some sense of nostalgia for the earlier ones. And all that has connected really well.
For more, listen to this week’s episode. As always, you can find Splitscreen on Apple Podcasts and Google Play. Reach us at email@example.com with any and all questions, requests, and suggestions.