The Anatomy of Super Mario II: Concrete design

Donkey Kong‘s second level has become something of a legend thanks to its omission in nearly every home port of the game ever released. See, Nintendo (and ghost-writer development house Ikegami Tsushinki) went a little crazy with the game’s design, cramming four different stage layouts into the arcade board. While these mostly shared assets amongst […]

The Anatomy of Super Mario I: It’s on like….

I had originally planned to follow up The Anatomy of Metroid with a series on Kid Icarus, but after thinking about it a little more I feel perhaps I’d be wise to go back to basics and look at some of the games I keep referencing in these features. The Anatomy series dissects the design […]

Anatomy of Metroid: XII. Breaking Badly

So that’s Metroid done the right way. Part of what makes Metroid so fun, though, is the way it lends itself to being played the wrong way. Like a lot of games at this sort of mid-grade 8-bit technology level, Metroid contains a fair few glitches and bugs that don’t render the whole thing unplayable […]

The Anatomy of Zelda: Now compact and cheap

How unfortunate that the subject line of this post leaves so much open to misinterpretation. Alas. Anyway, it’s a little late, but The Anatomy of Zelda Vol. I now has a tiny B&W paperback counterpart for those who (understandably) dig the content but don’t want to shell out $40-60 for the large format. In its […]

The Anatomy of Metroid: XI. Shafted again

With the Mother Brain defeated, Metroid ends up back again where it began. The final sequence of the game doesn’t involve combat or exploration but rather a tense escape sequence up a seemingly endless shaft — an echo of the game’s first sprawling vertical area, the one that definitively set Metroid apart from a legion […]

Anatomy of Metroid: X. Mother do you think she’s dangerous

Tourian is as close as Metroid comes to having “levels” in the traditional video game sense. You make it through the gauntlet of Rinkas and Metroids a screen at a time and arrive at last at the boss. Even the doors in Tourian say “serious business” — they’re orange instead of red, soaking up ten […]

The Anatomy of Metroid: IX. Eponymous

The player’s arrival in Tourian (the final zone where the Mother Brain awaits) is accompanied by a shift in tone. The visuals are stark and mechanical, a contrast to the natural formations and ancient constructs of the rest of Zebes’ underground. Even more strikingly, the background music ceases to be musical and instead adopts the […]

The Anatomy of Metroid: VIII. The hard stuff

Most of Metroid centers on the process of exploration, eschewing the arcade-borne concept of difficulty (death and restarting as a penalty) in favor of something more esoteric. Samus certainly blasts her fair share of enemies en route to the end, but Metroid lacks bottomless pits or instant death traps, and the more gear you acquire […]

The Legend of Zelda: The Anatomy of: The Book

…The Ride: The Book: Etc. The latest in the GameSpite Journal series has just body-checked the Blurb store with two available versions: Hardcover and paperback. As usual. Like The Anatomy of Castlevania Vol. I, this edition is the larger 10×8″ landscape format and isn’t available in black and white, so the price is a little […]

The Anatomy of Metroid: VII. Norfair’s secret

As I mentioned yesterday, Metroid looks and plays like an action game, a superficial child of the arcades. But the core challenge of the game rests not in sheer combat difficulty, as it provides players with a huge arsenal, a considerable amount of life energy, and no (overt) timer to force you not to farm […]

The Anatomy of Metroid: VI. The six-billion dollar woman

Metroid did a lot of really innovative and interesting things for a game of its genre and period, but perhaps the most important idea it brought to the table was the concept of power-up permanence. Samus didn’t simply collect items that made her more powerful; once she acquired them, she kept them. The only impermanent […]

The Anatomy of Metroid: V. Frozen assets

I’m back in America, on the Internet, and at a computer. As such, I’ve updated the past two entries with images! Read them again… for the first time. Hope you’ll forgive the way Samus flips back and forth between armored/unarmored, and the occasional emulator cruft — these screens are generously provided by Rey at VG […]