Metroid Planets

Edit the Frog is still taking a break from covering romhacks, there’s thousands to sift through on, but in the meantime, here’s a fan-made, browser-playable version of Metroid! Although it looks a lot like the NES game, it’s no hack, but a from-the-ground-up reimplementation.

We all know what Zebes looks like by now, right? All of the screenshots in this post are from the early areas of “Novus,” the new world to explore in Metroid Planets.

It was made specifically to help overcome the limitations of the NES platform, so Samus animates much more smoothly, there’s particle effects, multi-directional scrolling areas, built-in mapping, and the music uses later, more orchestral versions of the original’s music, although with an option to switch to the 8-bit originals. (I find that the music is a bit reluctant to play in the current version, though.) There’s other interesting features new features to find as well.

Freed of the NES’s dire memory limitations, Novus’s world can be a lot more colorful.

Most interesting is a built-in randomizer mode, and a second, alternate planet to explore! It’s designed along the lines of the original Zebes (here called “Zebeth,” a nod to the on-screen Romanization of Zebes in the NES game), but has some new elements, including areas that scroll in all directions, and new bosses!

Metroid is approaching 37 years old, and it was looking a bit long in the tooth three decades ago. Yet it’s still remarkably atmospheric for its age, and I find there’s something evocative about how the game’s world doesn’t feel designed like a challenging obstacle course for the player, like it just exists on its own and doesn’t particularly show any care for the player. There are some item gates, but like the original NES Legend of Zelda, many fewer than you’d expect, especially compared to their SNES sequels.

Just another day… IN SPAAAACE.

Screed time! Will Metroid still be played 20 years from now? I think so, although I find that most of the internet energy around these classic NES games now is focused on speedrunning, randomization and romhacks, and two of these three things Nintendo is actively fighting against. It’s a good example of how copyright law and corporate control has the potential to hold back both fan interest and property longevity. The rights to these games should be released to the public, while there is still a public that cares about them. Nintendo would probably get more money out of it, in the long run, from making sequels anyway.

Novus has much more item gating than Zebeth. A place like that, where I’ve fallen (and I can’t get up), and can’t go down either because of a low passage… I wonder if the Maru Mari, a.k.a. “Morphing Ball,” is somewhere close? It would be a fan-made Metroid world if the designer didn’t try to be a bit tricky with hiding it, now would it?
Freed of the NES’s limited tile space, areas can be a lot more varied. The elevators on Novus are a lot more interesting! The lava here is animated, and it hurts to move through those flows!

Metroid Planets

Kenta Cho’s Paku Paku

Kenta Cho, also known as ABAgames on Twitter and the web, has been at this for a good long while now. He has an amazing way of distilling the essence of gameplay down to its absolute barest essentials. He’s especially known for bullet hell, but my favorite games from him are his many many gameplay experiments. This is one of them: Pac-Man boiled down to its very essence, with the whole maze being a single corridor. It’s Paku Paku:

The single control, any keypress, reverse the direction of travel of Pac-Man’s green cousin up there. The single ghost chases Paku single-mindedly, slowly getting faster. Paku can wrap around the screen at the edge, which causes Blinky to chase them directly. (They’re not that bright.) Eating the large blinking dot that I insist on calling an Energizer makes the ghost vulnerable for a few short seconds. If the ghost is eaten, they regenerate if their eyes made it off the screen. Clearing the whole board of dots instantly produces a new set.

You only get one life, but new games start rapidly. The nearly five minute video above contains dozens of plays. No one gets you over losing and into a new attempt like Kenta Cho does.

Think you can do better? You might! Give it a try!

Paku Paku (Github, browser-playable link)