What I'm Playing - No. 10
Image source: Tomasz Filipek

What I'm Playing - No. 10

Welcome back to another weekly wrap-up of the games I’ve been playing over the past week!

Be warned, minor spoilers may be contained within. Generally, I do try to keep things spoiler-free but this isn’t always possible/practical! In fact, I am telling you right now that I basically spoil all of Metroid: Samus Returns (though the plot is never a big part of Metroid games anyway) and The Sims 4: StrangerVille. I also make small references to Netflix’s Stranger Things season 2.

If you want to totally avoid all potential spoilers so you can play these games yourself in a blind run, you shouldn’t continue reading! Games contained within this post:

  • Pokémon Ultra Moon (3DS)
  • Metroid Samus Returns (3DS)
  • The Sims 4 (PC)

Pokémon Ultra Moon (3DS)

I’ve explored more of Poni Island this week. There’s strong trainers and wild Pokémon to fight there, so it’s been pretty cool. I also found another Z Crystal while exploring there. Man, there are a ton of Z Crystals in this game.

Found another Z Crystal
Found another Z Crystal

My Murkrow evolved into Honchkrow, they’ll be part of the all Dark-type team I’m working on. Here’s my current lineup for the all Dark team, every Pokémon here has Dark as its first type.

My Murkrow evolved into Honchkrow Here's my current lineup for the all Dark team

I always wanted to try out a type-themed team, even though it’s almost definitely a bad idea because each member will likely share at least one weakness since they all share a Dark typing. But hey, it’s just for fun that I’m training them up, they don’t need to be a seriously competitive team! They might still be good enough to beat a lot of the trainers in-game.

Metroid Samus Returns (3DS)

I started and finished Metroid: Samus Returns this week.

looks great

I’ve been itching to play this game for a while. I’ve enjoyed many of the 2D Metroid titles, but one I never had the pleasure of playing was the Metroid II: Return of Samus on the original Game Boy. Metroid: Samus Returns is a complete re-imagining of Metroid II. It’s still a 2D game, but Samus and the rest of the game elements are rendered in full 3D now, and it looks great, probably one of the nicer looking 3DS games I’ve played.

The premise of both games is the same, Samus Aran is tasked with destroying all the Metroids on their home planet SR388. Along with Samus, the classic Metroid gameplay elements of exploration and gradually finding new powers have returned as well.

Samus Aran is tasked with destroying all the Metroids on their home planet SR388 gradually finding new powers

Spider Ball

One cool power-up introduced in Metroid II is the Spider Ball, which allows Samus to stick to walls when in morph ball mode. I originally thought this power-up was new, but apparently it was in the original Game Boy game as well. The Spider Ball would later return in the Metroid Prime series, which is where I always assumed it originated.

In Metroid: Samus Returns, progression is gated at certain points by requiring a certain number of Metroids to be killed before the player can advance. I’m not sure if this is different than the original game or not, but the general flow of gameplay in Samus Returns is you explore all you can in an area, kill a few Metroids, then you’re allowed to proceed to next area.

One thing I heard a bit about before trying the game that I know for sure is new to the franchise is Samus’s new melee attack/counter ability. When an enemy is about to charge you, simply press X to parry their attack. This leaves them vulnerable and open to a counterattack, and they take way more damage in that state. This is a pretty big change in the flow of combat, as in other 2D Metroids all you do is shoot until the enemy is dead, and evade their attacks by running and jumping. Not all enemies charge you, some behave just as in previous games and just kind of wander around, but the majority of the enemies do charge you.

I’ve found that the new combat can be pretty tough. I don’t know if I’m just bad it at, but I died a bunch of times when enemies were attacking me and others were charging at the same time and I just panicked.

I died a bunch of times
I died a bunch of times

I also died to this boss a handful of times before I finally learned its patterns. This one was cool for me to see because although I don’t know its name, I recognize it from Metroid Fusion.

This form of Metroid also took me down a few times.

This form of Metroid

Omega Metroids

Omega Metroids also gave me a lot of trouble, I died to the first one you encounter many times before I became familiar enough with its patterns. That’s the only Metroid form I know the name of, Omega Metroid, only because you fight one in Metroid Fusion. Luckily, Samus Returns’s approach to Game Overs is nice. When you die you get the chance to continue from the last Checkpoint, which could be the last time you saved or, more likely, it’s the last time you collected an upgrade, or right before you challenged a boss. It works really well, and keeps Game Overs from being too frustrating. Metroid: Samus Returns brought a fair bit of challenge, at least for me. On the Normal difficulty I played at, enemies take a big chunk of health away if they hit you, so you need to stay cautious and avoid getting hit as much as possible.

There was also a really heart-pounding chase section mid-way through the game. In one of the areas, you enter a room and wake up this big red-eyed robot thing. Of course, I expected a boss fight. But instead, the robot just wanders away into the background. Little did I know this was the beginning of an epic rivalry.

this big red-eyed robot thing

Fast forward to a future area where you find a Chozo Statue that usually holds an upgrade for Samus, except this one’s been destroyed and the upgrade is nowhere to be found. You advance slightly further…and suddenly, your robot “friend” has returned and is chasing you down with its drills. The screen auto-advances here, so you have to be fast. There’s a few sections like this in a row with small breaks in between that act as checkpoints if you die. I was caught crushed by the drill many times during one of these stretches, and I was super grateful for the checkpoints.

your robot friend has returned and is chasing you down with its drills

At the end of the final section, your heart races as you come to a dead end, and there’s just a small niche in the wall big enough for Samus’s morph ball form. The drill stops just before before it hits you, and it seems the driller robot either can’t reach you there or doesn’t see you, because it gives up after this but accidentally leaves behind the power-up it had gotten from destroying the Chozo Status. Surviving that ordeal, Samus claims the Space Jump.

and it seems the driller robot either can't reach you there or doesn't see you Samus claims the Space Jump

I really enjoyed that section, it was intense but fair. Every time I died it was my own fault, and it served to provide some nice variety to the normally less intense gameplay. That’s not the final encounter with the drill robot though.

The final encounter occurs after Samus witnesses the drill robot stealing another power-up away from her. This time, it actually takes the entire Chozo Statue with it. Shortly thereafter, you enter a room and the robot emerges and stands in the background, briefly observes its rival Samus with its crimson eye, and proceeds to attack, beginning what was the hardest boss fight in the game for me.

the robot emerges and stands in the background briefly observes its rival Samus with its crimson eye

Honestly, there aren’t that many bosses in Samus Returns. There are all the Metroid fights, but those are mostly the same, and don’t feel like boss fights after you’ve taken down several of each form. Outside of those, there are only a few unique boss fights. This robot boss, who I learned is called the Diggernaut since I had to look up a guide to beat its final phase, gave me so, so much trouble. I even went in with mostly full health, and it still obliterated me time and time again. Eventually, once I learned from the guide how to damage it once it enters its final phase, I finally took the Diggernaut down. The cutscene after the fight was quite satisfying. Defeated, the Diggernaut collapses to the ground, but is still moving. Samus casually points her arm cannon at it and fires one last shot to bring it down for good. With that, the Power Bomb is in Samus’s hands at last.

Samus casually points her arm cannon at it and fires one last shot Power Bomb

You get the Power Bomb upgrade so late in that game, by that point there wasn’t much left until the end. It seems like only moments after getting the Power Bomb, I was going face to face with the Metroid Queen and her toothy maw.

face to face with the Metroid Queen Metroid Queen's toothy maw

The Metroid Queen was an enjoyable fight, I still died a handful of times, but after each one I knew the attack patterns a little better, and in the end Samus and I prevailed. Immediately after the fight, Samus witnesses a baby Metroid hatch from its egg, and it seems to imprint on her as its mother and is docile toward her.

Baby Metroid hatching from its egg
Baby Metroid hatching from its egg

Thereafter, the Metroid hatchling follows you around through the final leg of the game. It serves sort of as the final power-up in the game, as it has the ability to eat through the impassable crystals that you’ve seen a number of times throughout SR388 by then. I imagine you need this ability to reach some of the power-ups in the game if you’re going for 100% completion, but I didn’t do any backtracking to try for that.

Eating through the impassable crystals
Eating through the impassable crystals

It seems like Samus and the Metroid hatchling will get to leave SR388, but before they can, Ridley shows up out of nowhere and nabs the hatchling.

seems like Samus and the Metroid hatchling will get to leave SR388 Ridley shows up out of nowhere and nabs the hatchling

Enter the true final boss battle: Ridley. This is the first we’ve seen of any Space Pirate member in the all of Samus Returns, as they are not really involved in Metroid II at all. The Ridley fight here is new, I think, and wasn’t present in Metroid II on the Game Boy. It’s a pretty straightforward fight to be honest, feels a little fan-servicey since Ridley is a long-time nemesis of Samus and it’s kind of just catering to those who want to see Samus give the dragon-like pirate another beatdown. I’m included in group, I guess; I enjoyed fighting Ridley.

The fights ends, seeing Ridley crushed by rocks and the light leaves his eyes, but as we know from the Metroid games that are chronologically after Samus Returns…he survives, somehow.

Ridley crushed by rocks and the light leaves his eyes
Ridley crushed by rocks and the light leaves his eyes

7:51:25

Samus and the Metroid hatchling enter her trusty ship to fly away from SR388, and the credits roll. My final clear time was 7:51:25, which was fast enough for me to get a helmet-less Samus ending. It’s basically tradition for Metroid games to feature various ending scenes for Samus depending on how fast you were, and how thorough you were at collecting all the items. Samus Returns only cares about how fast you completed it for these scenes, apparently. Item collection doesn’t matter for the ending.

Metroid: Samus Returns was a lot of fun. I’ll admit, when I first started it I wasn’t quite hooked. After about the first hour though, the gameplay and atmosphere had drawn me in. I think the problem was that I’ve been playing mostly RPGs lately, and had to shift gears a bit to enjoy a Metroid game.

Look forward to a full review/thoughts post on Metroid: Samus returns in the near future!

The Sims 4 (PC)

I returned to The Sims 4 this week to finish the storyline in the latest Sims 4 Game Pack, StrangerVille.

My Sim quickly made it into the depths of the Secret Lab, and found the source of the infection: the enormous Mother Plant.

The enormous Mother Plant
The enormous Mother Plant

I don’t think I mentioned it last week, but StrangerVille seems to be parodying/referencing Netflix’s Stranger Things quite a bit. In some ways, StrangerVille is like a goofy Sims version of Stranger Things. The mood that sets in over the town as you progress through the mystery is certainly reminiscent of Stranger Things, that cloud in particular reminds me of the ending of Stranger Things Season 2.

Certainly reminiscent of Stranger Things
Certainly reminiscent of Stranger Things

After discovering the Mother Plant, Kayleigh knew what she had to do. She had to stop the infection by defeating the Mother Plant.

Stop the infection
Stop the infection

The first step was to create a vaccine against the infection. Doing this required collecting spores and strange fruit, which was a little tedious to be quite honest. It’s not difficult, but each vaccine you create requires 5 spores and 1 fruit, it’d be nicer if you at least got 2 or 3 vaccines from those raw materials.

Create a vaccine against the infection
Create a vaccine against the infection

In any case, Kayleigh created the vaccine, and went out to test it on infected Sims. There were certainly enough infected roaming around the streets to try it out on.

There were certainly enough infected roaming around
There were certainly enough infected roaming around

After testing the vaccine on 3 infected Sims, you’ve gathered all the data you need to produce a true vaccine against the infection.

team

Once you have the true vaccine at your disposal, you can vaccinate whoever you want with it, and ask the vaccinated Sim to join you in your fight against the Mother Plant if you so choose. I gathered my team, which included the great Demario Covarrubias, vampire extraordinaire, and we ventured into the depths of the Secret Lab once more.

infection level

My team seemed kind of useless in the fight against the Mother Plant. Either that or the orders I gave them were bad choices. During the fight, your team’s infection level rises as Mother Plant and her minions fight back against you. We almost didn’t make it, but I managed to defeat the Mother Plant on my first try just before our infection level reached critical levels.

One neat moment during the fight was when Kayleigh became Enraged when I gave the order to have the team charge. Since she’s a vampire she loses control when severe emotions strike, causing her to reveal her Dark Form. I thought that was pretty cool because it was like she was raging out against the Mother Plant. I like to think it helped turn the tide, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t affect the battle.

So, in the end, the infection crisis in StrangerVille was resolved, and it returned to “normal” once again.

The infection crisis in StrangerVille was resolved
The infection crisis in StrangerVille was resolved

At that point, I decided Kayleigh should move into a nicer house, found a nice one in the online Gallery, and moved her to this lot.

Moved her to this lot
Moved her to this lot

I really like the new house I downloaded, the person who made it is way better at designing homes in The Sims than I am! I made a few tweaks such as adding a basement, but mostly I left the layout the way it was.

The new house I downloaded I left the layout the way it was

I decided it was time to start Kayleigh’s lineage, so I had her hook up with her new neighbor. It should be noted that they don’t really have a friendly relationship, he actually kind of hates Kayleigh. A short time later, Jack Covarrubias was born! After I took a screenshot of the family thumbnail for Kayleigh and Jack, I immediately moved Jack to live with the father. Generally, I don’t play families in The Sims, so I didn’t want to the raise the baby through childhood. Maybe when he’s a teen I’ll bring him back into one of my played households.

short time later Jack Covarrubias was born

The next steps for Kayleigh will be to return to her career as an Actress, and climb her way from being a 4 star celebrity to a 5 star celebrity!

Ben

(bsinky)
Ben
The self-proclaimed "Guy with the Backlog", as of this writing his Steam backlog is slowly growing to the point of consuming him. Meanwhile, he spends most of his time trying to catch up on the retro classics he missed, as well as replaying the games he grew up with.

What I'm Playing - No. 59

I played 4 very different games this week, all the way from Hollow Knight to The Sims 4! Continue reading

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What I'm Playing - No. 58

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