Tag Archives: vintage gaming

Fez and the Metroid We Loved

There’s a lot out there about Zelda’s relationship with Fez, but during my first playthrough I was reminded of playing Metroid as a kid. The sounds and organic feel make it like you are participating in the existence of a living thing. Eery at least, loving at best.


An orange and yellow figure against a silver backdrop. Simple enemy, architectural example, arm cannon extended in a prepared posture. I was too young to finish Metroid, looking back I probably explored less than a quarter of the map. But when Gunpei Yokoi and co. designed Metroid 1, “completing the game” iterated on the vague definition of exploration, story, and wonder that had yet to be fleshed out in games. When I saw the box on the shelf I had to know what it was.

img_0028Story is a given now, the creative clans that tackle our humble technology with the financial and diversified force of a big budget film offer up whatever research says should be there. If it’s good, good, if it’s bad well, it’s a game, some story telling elements are hard to fit into a game. With cinematic cutscenes, narrative dialogue and a cast of characters pages long, sometimes it’s a wonder that a game is ever released.

Fez isn’t like that, Fez is more akin to Metroid 1 than Zelda 1, and more than both, Fez adds community and life without shoving it down your throat. The world is not averse to you. Ambient chatter, environmentally phased music, weather and idle critters, either are what they are or stand as slim slices of a thick puzzle piece. Every detail matters. There are no enemies, dying is like going out of bounds, check the ball and play on. Fez takes out everything that makes the difficulty frustrating. No super low health cap up front, none of the retro “impossible bosses.” Beating Fez is like dedicating yourself to seeing every exhibit in every museum in DC. Stare long enough and you’ll start to see things you didn’t see before, a blinking star, a pattern in the architecture. Like handling a Rubik’s cube, you turn and stare, turn and stare, until at last a piece of the puzzle is solved. That’s where the difficulty lies, Fez woos you, and only after you have fallen completely do you begin to see that you saw nothing before, and you start drawing strange shapes on scrap paper for your family to find and ask you “why?” Or worse, say nothing at all but add them to the pile they know you keep them in.



One of the first puzzles, these little dudes hang on the wall in a picture in an old man’s house. They represent a code, but they also add to the life of the place. He lives there and he has these pictures, family, students.


The poster of Zelda 1 hanging in Gomez’s room sets the tone. I realize that if Fez is a tribute to any game its Zelda but the longer I played the more I came to associate the atmosphere with the planet Zebes. Finding the bits and cubes I thought, “it doesn’t matter what’s hidden, everything else is stripped down, Gomez is a simplified Samus Aran.” Gomez is all that Gomez is going to be, the drive isn’t to find an ability laden suit of armor, the drive is to put the world back together for civilization. A home like place that wants you to chill and trust it. And like all of Samus’ powerups, the cubes you find unlock further parts of the world.

In Zelda the art and music come together to create the very earth-like world of Hyrule. The art and music in Fez complete an other-worldly picture. Lonesome but not alone. Close but obtuse. Zelda makes me feel like I’m in the woods where I grew up, Fez makes me feel like I’m  watching moon exploration footage, expecting some horrible something to come out from behind a grey silt hill. No other game captures the eeriness like Metroid. Fez, inadvertantly or not, nails that on the head. Something happened and Home glitched out and now its dangerous and we’re the ones to figure it out.

When I was eight years old and I rented Metroid and somehow found my way to the vertical white corridors and chozo statues, I felt like I was being watched. The place was very much alive to me, the whole thing, the tunnels and architecture, and my presence is either of no concern at all or greatly unwanted. Not quite threatened, not quite safe. That was the whole point, the sounds, the music, all engineered so that player, Samus, and environment phase in and out of each other, belong to each other and exist off each other. Fez conveys the same feeling but with warmth. With a creative flair more like a candy store than a hostile planet, you just want to look at it, and then maybe lick it.

A great game takes you away and holds you captive. It isn’t that World of Warcraft does it, Call of Duty whatever, or Mario, Art does it. And when a game realizes the art plateau its worth your love, its worth a touch of your existence.

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Super Star Wars: Oh the Pit

It took some time for me to get back into the Sandcrawler after a long break from Super Star Wars on the SNES. My last go around with it I wasn’t playing much else but the few SNES games I had, and that was also when I first encountered Super Meat Boy. SMB was frustrating to me at the time so I stuck with the old stuff.

Why on earth I thought SMB was frustrating compared to SSW I have no idea. SMB is hard but perfect, SSW is hard because of limitations. Super Star Wars sets traps for you that are going to kill you your first time through. The level, Inside Sandcrawler, has a falling floor into a pit where you have to jump off at the right moment, but you can’t see at all so your first few times it’s going to be a loud event, was for me anyway swearing at the TV.

After that pit though is the classic Nintendo make-this-perfect-jump-or-die teaching events where near the end of a difficult level they designed a jump where the ceiling seems to low to get the height you need to clear the gap. I don’t remember how I passed it and I was at the end of my play time when I cleared the board up to where I was before. Just ahead of that last evil jump is an equally evil boss fight that I have yet to down.

But I will, oh I will…


Super Star Wars 2

Super Star Wars, Inside the Sandcrawler. The boss is just to the right to be fought on platforms like the bottom pic. Best strat seems to be to have more health and bigger dps. Dodging the attacks causes more problems than it solves.


One thing I do appreciate are the secrets, tucked away to be found when hugging a wall too close. Near the end of Inside the Sandcrawler, after I had died many simple deaths and lost all my extra health and power ups, I found this, a glorious nook stuffed with goodies. If only I would have made it to the end.


Super Star Wars 1

This was the first real secret I found in the game. I won’t tell you where it is just in case.


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Inside the Sandcrawler

Not far into Super Star Wars (SSW) it becomes apparent that this game is a lot like the early Castlevania carts. Once I got the knack of not dying to the learning curve and picked up on the blaster upgrades gaining power and sticking with you through the levels, the game really started to be fun.
Part of the learning curve for me comes because I’m trying to beat these games with no research at first, so I’m not looking up cheats or skips, or even instruction manuals; I know they’re out there but I don’t want to risk seeing a hint, I feel like it would ruin the authenticity of the project. Not knowing makes it difficult, finding out where the blaster upgrades stop, figuring out what the swords and helmets and other emblems actually do when I pick them up has taken some time. Took me all the way up to level 4, which I can get to without dying now, should tell you how much time I’ve put in.
Level 4, however, is where I stopped. Again, game over, and over and over, continues gone, and gone and gone. I quit for the day after many failed attempts to make those three or so little jumps to the boss. How do I know that there’s a boss after those jumps without doing research you ask? Because I jump far enough to make it’s name and health bar pop up, but die instantly in the lava pit where the fight takes place. I’ve never seen the boss, just the health bar.
The difficulty of the game brings me back though. I totally understand why Nintendo ported this to the Wii VC.
Anyone else playing this?


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Super Star Wars

After slipping through my latent 3G iPhone 4’s crappy lag, I chose to forego ebay for one of our local flea markets to acquire Super Star Wars from the 91-100 chunk of the top 100. This one set me back eight bucks, the guy I bought it from was sitting behind the counter taking apart an Xbox controller to clean it so I didn’t haggle. Odds are he cleans his pieces.
I’ve been binge playing in a rotation. About 2 hours at a time every chance I get. It doesn’t take long for me to get locked in, dry mouthed, and frustrated when I’d slip up and game over. And over, and over. These games are hard.
Super Star Wars reminds me of the incomplete control over most characters in early games. Especially early games, and this one counts, coming out in ’92, seemed to take that clunky feel from the previous generation of consoles.
Compared to the feel of the other games, TG2 is lacking, though at the time, the depth of upgrades and variable weather make it a game that would be cool as an iPad port. UMK3 feels the best, though again, at the time, the Mortal Kombat franchise was well through the tweaking phase of development. They way Midway was doing graphics compared to Gremlin Interactive was night and day. TG2 and Super Star Wars don’t compare to UMK3 in animation or feel.


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