The Anatomy of Metroid: II. Shafted

Once you make your way beyond Metroid‘s very clever, very brilliantly designed introductory moments, the game wastes no time in becoming promptly, well, weird. Beyond the low-hanging wall that blocks the opening area from the remainder of the game, the first vertically oriented room of the game (or at least the first that you can […]

The Anatomy of Metroid: I. Welcome to Zebes

Metroid!         I’ve written about Metroid‘s opening moments before. As a matter of fact, I wrote about them nearly seven years ago, making this the game that set me on the path of thinking about how level design works. (That article isn’t dated here, but the crossposted version on says “June 24, 2006” — […]

The people have spoken

And what the people have said is, “We would like to see Anatomy of a Game write-ups on a good many different titles.” Some interesting suggestions in there. Thanks to the dozens of people who responded! As it turns out, two series were name-dropped most frequently… and, not surprisingly, they’re Nintendo’s other “big” franchises. Mario: […]

Whose anatomy should we look at next? [REDUX]

Now that I’ve finished with The Anatomy of Zelda II — wherein I learned that Zelda II is in fact quite good — it’s time to move on to new ventures. But… which? I had some thoughts in mind for what should go under the microscope next, but I can’t settle. Honestly, with as many changes […]

The Anatomy of Zelda II: XIV. In Conclusion

I won’t lie: Zelda II surprised me. Based on my vague memories of being stumped by its obscure clues and opaque design for weeks on end as a young teen, and given the fact that its successors have only connected with its design concepts on oblique tangents, along with its general deprecation among gamers… well, […]

The Anatomy of Zelda II: XIII. Into the Breach

You know what I miss about games of late? That sense of finality, of crossing some threshold of no return. Say what you will about the ending of Mass Effect 3, but for me its most disappointing aspect was that it lacked a sense of trepidation. You hit a certain point after which you had […]

The Anatomy of Zelda II: XII. The Great Palace

I am so glad that you are here with me, here at the end of all things. No, seriously: Check the Zelda timeline. Officially, this is the furthest point ahead in the series’ longest story branch. Future Hyrule, as we’ve seen, is kind of grim. Case in point: The path forward to the end of […]

The Anatomy of Zelda II: XI. One last nuisance

While making the trip from the Maze Palace to the Ocean Palace proved to be a snap — basically as simple as walking directly south from one to the other — Zelda II has one final nasty surprise in store for players. The final standard dungeon, the Hidden Palace, is, well, hidden. This should feel […]

The Anatomy of Zelda II: X. The seaward

After completing the Labyrinth Palace — by which I mean accomplishing its more difficult goal of acquiring the treasure inside rather than simply besting Carock — the player acquires the latest in Zelda II‘s series of funny-shaped keys. The Boots from the fourth Palace allow you to walk on water… but only a little bit of […]

The Anatomy of Zelda II: IX. Gonna meikyuu sweat

The path to Zelda II‘s fourth dungeon incorporates my absolute least favorite area of the game: The eastern labyrinth. The labyrinth contains a number of key points of interest, including the Labyrinth Palace and a fetch quest item, a small lost child. I don’t know why Link has to rescue the kid; any child capable […]

The Anatomy of Zelda II: VIII. Pear-shaped

The midpoint of Zelda II may not have been the smartest break point I could have chosen. Once you make the journey to Hyrule’s eastern continent, the difficulty level spikes dramatically. And it’s not necessarily a good spike. On the contrary, it frequently feels unbalanced and poorly considered.    The random encounters in this half […]