Is the Noid really the villain this time? Or is he the true hero we all need?
It’s late at night, as I sit here and pen this editorial. E3’s just wrapped up, and I’ve submitted my contributions for Chooch’s picks of the show. Even though I wasn’t lucky enough to attend on this, my first year in the press, E3 was still an incredibly hectic, and somewhat life-affirming experience. For a long time I’ve looked in on the industry from the outside – like most of us do, and this was the first real taste I’d gotten of an industry that I hope to be involved in in some form or another for the rest of my professional career.
Over the course of the week, two things really stood out to me – both announcements, but for differing reasons. Revolving around two franchises that mean more to me than any others in games ever have – and maybe ever will – those two moments in time brought back fond memories, and reminded me why I love video games so much in the first place.
The first, as you might already expect, was the reveal of Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst. At the time the original Mirror’s Edge came out, my love for the medium had begun to wane, fairly significantly. Maybe it was the pressures of preparing for college entrance exams that school year. Maybe it was just that until that point the then incumbent console generation had yet to grab me on the back of what I personally had thought to be a severely disappointing couple of years. Whatever the reason, I wasn’t spending much time in front of my TV with a controller in hand. I’d more or less stopped paying attention to the industry, and when in fact I’d seen the game gracing the cover of Edge Magazine (I think) some months before it’s release, I had remarked “well, that sounds like a stupid idea for a game”.
But then the demo hit, and I downloaded it on the same half-baked whim I downloaded every demo at the time, most of which I never played or outright canceled before they ever installed. That demo, however short it was, was transformative for me – it sparked something in me. Playing the full release that Christmas morning ignited that spark, turning it into a flame that’s scarcely wavered ever since. Mirror’s Edge was an incredibly flawed experience – I’ll be the first to admit that – but it connected with me regardless, in a way that no game ever quite had, or has since. At least, not before this week.
Seeing the long-awaited rebooting of the franchise, as it finally burst into life on EA’s stage Monday afternoon felt like validation of sorts. Here it was, the game I love so dearly, more than any other, returning in the form I’d always hoped for, but never dared to dream possible. Every word that came out of producer Sara Jansson’s mouth on stage was music to my ears, the visuals a sight for sore eyes, and hearing glowing reviews from those who got to actually play the game ramped my excitement up even further.
Like I said, the original game was intensely and significantly flawed, and I’ll never pour scorn on the not insignificant number of people who felt that it wasn’t quite worth finishing. Yes, the controls were a little more finicky than they should have been, and yes, the game suffered badly from flow-breaking trial-and-error platforming, but deep down, there was an inherent charm to the experience. The original Mirror’s Edge arrived at a time when games were gritty, dark, and – to me – joyless. We’d had the first Modern Warfare, F.E.A.R, and Condemned 2, with a second Modern Warfare on the horizon. Gears of War and Resistance had just released sequels, and most of the big releases in the future were set to continue along those same lines tonally. Mirror’s Edge was a breath of fresh air – it’s bright, bold colours, sharp, angular aesthetic, airy electronic music and emphasis on movement, rather than combat was illuminating, and stood out amidst a medium whose contemporaries felt like they were going through their goth phase in unison.
The experience of stampeding across rooftops, bullets whizzing by, and leaping, stretching to catch the landing skids of a newscopter was unlike anything we’d seen before. The sensation of speed as Faith slid down the angled side of a building, having to time that final jump perfectly or meet certain doom an exhilaration that hasn’t quite been matched to this day. For all it’s flaws, Mirror’s Edge touched me in a way I hadn’t thought possible.
On the other hand, there was the announcement of Metroid Prime: Federation Force. Much like Mirror’s Edge, Metroid means a lot to me, for similar but different reasons. As a young child, I’d received my cousin’s old NES and SNES as castoffs, as he moved on to new hardware generations. While I played and enjoyed both, it wasn’t until receiving Super Metroid one year – I guess my sixth birthday – that I really fell in love with video games as a medium. The PlayStation era had already well and truly begun by then, but I was no more than peripherally aware.
It was Samus’ adventures on Zebes that captivated the young me like nothing ever had – and over the next year or so I played the game the game relentlessly, until a PlayStation finally did arrive in my house – complete with the walking tragedy that was Croc: Legend of the Gobbos. But even the disappointment Croc left me with couldn’t damage the fanaticism that Super Metroid had given me, and from there, things grew and grew, until Mirror’s Edge came along.
To see Federation Force – which I’m sure will turn out to be a great game – be the big new Metroid release, and not a full-fledged sequel to Prime: Corruption, or even a brand new Metroid series, left me with a strange, difficult to pinpoint sense of disappointment. Much like with Faith and Mirror’s Edge, it’s been forever since Samus’ last adventure, and I suppose that seeing Catalyst gave me a subconscious hope that this E3 would offer Metroid a rebirth of it’s own, even if I wasn’t aware how much I wanted it until after Federation Force had been unveiled.
As the world of games has settled down now that E3 has passed, I’ve taken the opportunity to rediscover Super Metroid, and even 21 years later, the game holds up phenomenally well. I write this as I celebrate victory over Phantoon, the Wrecked Ship’s boss, and approach the endgame for the first time in a good fifteen years. Okay – so maybe the platforming is a little bit clunky compared to what we’re used to today, but the sheer detail put into Super Metroid’s world design is unparalleled. That’s not to say that the rest of the Metroid series isn’t just as good – with the possible exception of Other M, naturally – but Super Metroid, for me, is still the peak of the series.
If anything, playing the game again just makes me want to go out and take on the rest of the series once more – I’ve already managed to get my hands on copies of Fusion and Zero Mission – and I honestly can’t remember ever being as excited to revisit old games as I am to relive Samus’ tale from the beginning. Federation Force may not be the most exciting announcement of E3, and may not be the full-fledged addition to the series that Samus deserves, but just playing Super Metroid has warmed me to the idea of this latest instalment.
In the wake of E3, I’ve been left reflecting on just how much these two series, and their respective heroines mean to me. In Samus, and Metroid, I see what amounts to the closest thing I have to childhood love – the foundation of my passion for games, one that will likely span my lifetime. In Mirror’s Edge, and Faith, I see the present, and potentially future – the maturing of my adult tastes and ability to recognize the art and deeper meaning behind games; even if that happens to be unique and solely personal to me. That is, of course, not to say I don’t appreciate the artistry behind Metroid, or that I consider it juvenile, far from it. If anything, Mirror’s Edge showing me what a game could be in an artistic sense opened my eyes up to even further appreciate Samus and her adventures.
Whatever the deeper reason may be, Samus, Faith, and the games in which they star connect with me like no other games. E3 has helped to highlight that for me, and I can only hope that, in the future, more games will strike me in similar fashion.