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Metroidvania

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Metroidvania (also known as Castleroid), also known as platform-adventure, is a genre of 2D platformer games with an emphasis on an exploratory action-adventure structure.

Many games fuse platformer fundamentals with elements of action-adventure games such as The Legend of Zelda or with elements of RPGs. Typically these elements include the ability to explore an area freely, with access to new areas controlled by either the gaining of new abilities or through the use of inventory items. Metroid and various 2D games in the Castlevania series are among the most popular games of this sort, and so games that take this type of approach are often called by a portmanteau of these two games, either "Metroidvania" or "Castleroid". Other examples of such games include Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap, Mega Man ZX, Tails Adventure, Cave Story and the recent Shadow Complex.[1][2][3][4][5]

History

Some of the underlying elements of Metroidvania gameplay appeared in earlier titles, such as Donkey Kong (1981, Arcade).[6] Early examples of side-scrolling Metroidvania gameplay include Xanadu (1985, PC-8801)[7][8] and Brain Breaker (1985, Sharp X1).[9][10] Metroid (1986, NES) is generally credited as the game that set the template for the Metroidvania genre.[11]

Early examples of free-roaming, side-scrolling, 2D platform-adventures in the vein of "Metroidvania" include Nintendo's original Metroid in 1986 and Konami's Castlevania games Vampire Killer in 1986[12][13] and Simon's Quest in 1987,[14][15] as well as Enix's sci-fi Sharp X1 computer game Brain Breaker in 1985,[9] Pony Canyon's Super Pitfall in 1986,[16] System Sacom's Euphory in 1987,[9] Bothtec's The Scheme in 1988,[9] and several Dragon Slayer action RPGs by Nihon Falcom such as the 1985 release Xanadu[7][17] and 1987 releases Faxanadu[7] and Legacy of the Wizard.[18]

However, it was the Metroid series that blazed the trail for the Metroidvania genre, popularizing the idea of a non-linear side-scroller. These games were based heavily on exploration with areas that could only be reached after attaining items in other areas of the game. These games also required the player to discover the next available path on their own and frequently backtrack over previously-explored areas to further their goals.

This manner of play was popularized in its current form by Nintendo's Metroid and has subsequently been adopted by 2D games in the Castlevania series (starting with Vampire Killer and Castlevania II: Simon's Quest).

During this time, the gothic/horror-themed platformer series Castlevania was gaining popularity. The initial games in the series featured discrete levels that the player completed in a sequential manner.[19] The Castlevania games Vampire Killer (1986, MSX)[20][21] and Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (1987, NES) experimented with Metroidvania gameplay, but the series later returned to a more linear platforming gameplay style.[21][14][15]

The term has been used in numerous publications such as the Australian PAL Gaming Network review to refer to the Metroid-style gameplay elements that are present in the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS Castlevania games.

On gaming websites, the term has been used to refer to numerous games, including games in the Metroid series, as well as Terraria, Eternal Daughter, Cave Story, and Mega Man ZX.

Nature of a Metroidvania

Distinct features associated with the Metroidvania formula are side-scrolling, exploratory, action-adventure gameplay, power-ups, and a map that is filled in automatically as the player progresses through the game.

A strong element of this genre is that the map is largely contiguous, offering no breaks in play aside from the occasional load screen. Some purists refuse to acknowledge a game as a Metroidvania unless it meets these criteria though others will include games which feature small breaks in play, such as Clash at Demonhead.

Game Elements

Typical gameplay involves exploring the game’s world and discovering paths that can not be accessed with the players' current abilities. Finding an item (either a key or a power-up) later on grants the ability to traverse the obstacle, allowing the player to backtrack and explore the new area at their leisure. Some power-ups are needed to obtain others, lending a sense of structure, sequence, and linearity to the game. This structure is often vital in creating a coherent plot by ensuring that events that progress the storyline are triggered in the proper order. An integral part of the experience is in the exploration of the game world: It is rare for the player to be told exactly where they have to go.

Instead, the player must rely on their own sense of exploration to discover new areas and goals within the game. This can lead to frustration for even experienced players as sometimes the proper path to take to trigger the next event or gain a new power-up to avoid an obstacle is not readily apparent, requiring the player to traverse the majority of the game’s world in search of an item or path they've overlooked.

One key part of the various abilities the player gains is that they afford the player more options in the way their avatar may be controlled. These upgrades invariably allow the player to directly circumvent an iteration of the barriers mentioned above. Often, the same sort of abilities make an appearance across the genre with different names and appearances: The Cleansing item in Castlevania: Circle of the Moon has the same effect as the Varia Suit in Super Metroid: Both negate damage from an otherwise hostile environment, allowing the player to traverse the previously hostile area at will.

Invariably, the same sort of barriers will make themselves apparent to the player:

1) Ledges or platforms the player cannot yet reach due to the length or height required for the jump. Often the power ups which allow the player to bypass these obstacles improve the player's jump height or allow the player to jump again in mid-jump. Other power ups may allow the player to use nearby walls to jump, allows the player to actually climb the walls, or in some cases they can fly.
2) Environments the player cannot yet traverse without taking some ill effect or having their mobility severely hampered (or possibly not at all). The power ups associated with this obstacle invariably remove the ill-effects associated with the environment.
3) Destructible barriers the player cannot destroy with their current abilities. The sort of barriers are frequently associated with weapons power ups the player acquires, allowing the player to more easily kill their foes as well as bypass obstacles.
4) Indestructible barriers the player must acquire a key to unlock or perform a task elsewhere to remove. Generally these barriers are associated with boss fights, though occasionally the serve to form a shortcut: The player must reach the other side of the barrier to press a switch which removes the barrier and allows subsequent passage, often for the purpose of allowing the player to traverse the game world more quickly.

Though the name of the method by which these four barriers will be removed inevitably changes from game to game, these four core concepts remain at the heart of any Metroidvania.

In many cases, Metroidvanias are only distinguished from top-down, 2D, non-linear exploratory games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past by the fact that the view is from the side as opposed to top-down. This small change drastically alters the manner in which the game is played: The simple fact that side-scrollers possess gravity adds an additional barrier to exploration which must be overcome.

Sequence Breaking

Despite the implicit structure governed by the obstacles in a Metroidvania's level design, industrious players often pride themselves on sequence breaking these games, exploiting bugs or using more resources than designers accounted for in order to traverse lethal or supposedly impassible areas: One example is traversing the Underground Waterway in Castlevania Circle of the Moon before receiving the Cleansing item which purifies the poisoned water that fills the level. Without purification the water damages hero Nathan Graves, but the area is traversable with enough preparation. This obstacle was intended to prevent players from prematurely progressing to an event in which Camilla (the level's boss) reveals storyline information and subsequently obtaining the Roc Wing (an item that allows access to several other castle areas) with her defeat.

Such sequence breaking has lead to a very active speed running community, with some players finishing games with under 10% of a game's total area explored, or fighting only a couple of the game's many boss characters.

RPG Elements

Metroidvanias typically take the Metroid formula a step further, allowing the player to gain levels and advance their character's statistics through the defeat of enemies in a manner most commonly found in a console rpg. This was introduced in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and all subsequent 2D Castlevania games have followed this trend until the WiiWare release Castlevania The Adventure Rebirth.

This change has a drastic effect on the difficulty of a game. In a Metroidvania lacking these RPG elements the means by which a player can reduce the challenge of any given foe is finite, based entirely on the number of power ups available to the player. A game featuring these elements has a more mutable difficulty range, allowing the player to avoid combat with minor foes to increase the difficulty or kill excessive numbers of minor foes to decrease the difficulty. Players can also choose to sell equipment they've found to purchase items which refill their health or magic bars, further diluting the challenge. Some purists find these RPG elements unwelcome, while others contend that they add an extra dimension to play which expands the game's longevity.

List of Metroidvania games

Year Title Developer Original Platform(s) Notes
1985 Xanadu[7][8] Nihon Falcom PC-8801, Sharp X1, PC-8001, PC-9801
1985 Brain Breaker[9][10] Enix Sharp X1
1986 Metroid Nintendo Nintendo Entertainment System
1986 Vampire Killer[20][21] Konami MSX
1986 Super PitfallGamasutra-Gems/> Micronics PC-8801, Nintendo Entertainment System
1987 Castlevania II: Simon's Quest[21][14][15] Konami Nintendo Entertainment System
1987 Faxanadu[7] Nihon Falcom Nintendo Entertainment System
1987 Legacy of the Wizard[22] Nihon Falcom MSX, Nintendo Entertainment System
1987 Rygar Tecmo Nintendo Entertainment System
1987 Euphory[9] System Sacom Sharp X1
1988 Blaster Master Sunsoft Nintendo Entertainment System
1988 The Scheme[9] Bothtec PC-8801
1989 Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap Westone Sega Master System
1991 Wonder Boy in Monster World Westone Sega Genesis
1991 Metroid II: Return of Samus Nintendo Game Boy
1994 Super Metroid Nintendo Super Nintendo Entertainment System
1997 Castlevania: Symphony of the Night Konami PlayStation
1997 Tomba! Whoopee Camp PlayStation
2001 Castlevania: Circle of the Moon Konami Game Boy Advance
2002 Shantae WayForward Technologies Game Boy Color
2002 Metroid Fusion Nintendo Game Boy Advance
2002 Metroid Prime Nintendo, Retro Studios GameCube
2002 Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance Konami Game Boy Advance
2003 Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow Konami Game Boy Advance
2003 Samurai Jack: The Amulet of Time Virtucraft Game Boy Advance
2004 Metroid: Zero Mission Nintendo Game Boy Advance
2004 Kirby & the Amazing Mirror Nintendo, HAL Laboratory Game Boy Advance
2004 Shaman King: Master of Spirits Konami Game Boy Advance
2004 Metroid Prime 2: Echoes Nintendo, Retro Studios GameCube
2004 Cave Story Daisuke Amaya Microsoft Windows Considered the first independently developed Metroidvania title
2005 La-Mulana GR3 Project Microsoft Windows, Wii, PlayStation Vita
2005 Shaman King: Master of Spirits 2 Konami Game Boy Advance
2005 Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow Konami Nintendo DS
2006 Metroid Prime Hunters Nintendo Nintendo DS
2006 Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin Konami Nintendo DS
2007 Odin Sphere Vanillaware PlayStation 2
2007 Metroid Prime 3: Corruption Nintendo, Retro Studios Wii
2007 Aquaria Bit Blot Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS
2008 Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia Konami Nintendo DS
2009 Shadow Complex Chair Entertainment Xbox 360
2010 VVVVVV Terry Cavanagh Microsoft Windows, OS X
2010 Hero Core Daniel Remar Microsoft Windows, OS X
2010 Shantae: Risky's Revenge WayForward Technologies DSiWare, iOS, Microsoft Windows
2010 Astroman[23] StarQuail Xbox 360
2011 Aliens Infestation WayForward Technologies, Gearbox Software Nintendo DS
2011 Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet Shadow Planet Productions Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, Xbox 360
2011 Monster Tale DreamRift Nintendo DS
2011 UnEpic Francisco Téllez Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, Microsoft Windows, Wii U
2011 The Iconoclasts[24] Konjak Microsoft Windows
2012 Dust: An Elysian Tail Humble Hearts Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360
2012 Bunny Must Die![25] Rockin Android Microsoft Windows
2012 You Have to Win the Game Pirate Hearts Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux
2013 Guacamelee! Drinkbox Studios Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One Brawler-based Metroidvania
2013 Dragon's Crown Atlus, Vanillaware PlayStation 3
2013 Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate Armature Studio Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360
2013 Teslagrad Rain Games Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, Wii U, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita Puzzle-based Metroidvania
2013 Valdis Story: Abyssal City Endlessfluff Games Microsoft Windows, OS X
2014 Strider Double Helix Games Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
2014 Shantae and the Pirate's Curse WayForward Technologies, Inti Creates Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, Microsoft Windows
2014 Xeodrifter Renegade Kid Nintendo 3DS, Microsoft Windows
2014 Super Win the Game Pirate Hearts Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux
2015 Ori and the Blind Forest Moon Studios Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, Xbox 360
2015 Axiom Verge Tom Happ Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
2015 Chasm Discord Games Microsoft Windows, OS X Procedurally-generated Metroidvania.[26]
2015 République Camouflaj Studio Microsoft Windows, IOS
2015 Environmental Station Alpha[27] Hempuli Oy Microsoft Windows, OS X
2015 Mystik Belle[28] Last Dimension Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux
2017 Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night Koji Igarashi, Inti Creates Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox One Kickstarter-based spiritual successor to the Castlevania series by Igarashi

References

  1. Parish, Jeremy (2009-07-23). Metroidvania: Rekindling a Love Affair with the Old and the New. 1UP.com. Retrieved on 2009-07-25.
  2. Alexander, Leigh (2009-07-09). Microsoft Confirms 'Summer Of Arcade' XBLA Line-Up. Gamasutra. Retrieved on 2009-07-25.
  3. Cook, Jim (2009-07-14). Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (XBLA). Gamers Daily News. Retrieved on 2009-07-25.
  4. Parish, Jeremy. Metroidvania. Game Sprite. Retrieved on 2009-07-25.
  5. Caoili, Eric (2009-05-01). Commodore Castleroid: Knight 'n' Grail. Game Set Watch. Retrieved on 2009-07-25.
  6. Jeremy Parish, Metroidvania Chronicles #003: Donkey Kong (Nintendo, 1981), YouTube
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Jeremy Parish. Metroidvania. Metroidvania.com. GameSpite.net. Retrieved on 2011-03-25.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Jeremy Parish (August 18, 2009). 8-Bit Cafe: The Shadow Complex Origin Story. 1UP.com. Retrieved on 2011-03-25.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 John Szczepaniak. Retro Japanese Computers: Gaming's Final Frontier. Hardcore Gaming 101. Retrieved on 2011-03-16. Reprinted from "Retro Japanese Computers: Gaming's Final Frontier". Retro Gamer (67). 2009. }
  10. 10.0 10.1 http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/brainbreaker/bbreaker.htm
  11. Nutt, Christian (February 13, 2015). The undying allure of the Metroidvania. Gamasutra. Retrieved on February 13, 2015.
  12. Jeremy Parish, Famicom 25th, Part 17: Live from The Nippon edition, 1UP.com, August 1, 2008
  13. Kurt Kalata and William Cain, Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest (1988), Castlevania Dungeon, accessed 2011-02-27
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Jeremy Parish, Metroidvania Chronicles II: Simon's Quest, 1UP.com, June 28, 2006
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Mike Whalen, Giancarlo Varanini. The History of Castlevania - Castlevania II: Simon's Quest. GameSpot. Retrieved on 2008-08-01.
  16. Gems In The Rough: Yesterday's Concepts Mined For Today, Gamasutra
  17. Jeremy Parish (August 18, 2009). 8-Bit Cafe: The Shadow Complex Origin Story. 1UP.com. Retrieved on 2011-03-25.
  18. Harris, John (September 26, 2007). Game Design Essentials: 20 Open World Games. Gamasutra. Retrieved on 2008-07-25.
  19. Video: Koji Igarashi explores what makes a Metroidvania game. Gamasutra (February 23, 2015). Retrieved on March 14, 2015.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Jeremy Parish, Famicom 25th, Part 17: Live from The Nippon edition, 1UP.com, August 1, 2008
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 Kurt Kalata and William Cain, Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest (1988), Castlevania Dungeon, accessed 2011-02-27
  22. Harris, John (September 26, 2007). Game Design Essentials: 20 Open World Games. Gamasutra. Retrieved on 2008-07-25.
  23. Joystiq Staff (December 27, 2013). Twenty Developers You Don't Know but Should. joystiq.com. Retrieved on 27 March 2015.
  24. Burns, Michael (April 15, 2013). Metroidmania: 12 Great Games to Satisfy Your Craving for Open-Ended Platforming. indiegames.com. Retrieved on 27 March 2015.
  25. Staff (September 17, 2012). Indie Royale Profile Bunny Must Die. indiegames.com. Retrieved on 27 March 2015.
  26. Parish, Jeremy (April 23, 2013). CHASM: CREATING AN INFINITE METROIDVANIA. IGN. Retrieved on March 17, 2015.
  27. Walker, John (May 1, 2015). Wot I Think: Environmental Station Alpha. Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved on May 12, 2015.
  28. Couture, Joel (May 22, 2015). Mystik Belle Review - A Wonderful Brew. IndieGames.com. Retrieved on May 24, 2015.



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