Metroid II: Return of Samus (is Unfinished)

Metroid II is a great game… but it’s a mess. The more you play it, the more it feels like it was released a good 6 months before it should have been. Every step through the corridors reveal obnoxious and obvious errors and design flaws. You should avoid playing Metroid II: Return of Samus unless you want to experience a wonderful game of solid mediocrity.

Inactive Off-screen Enemies

Maybe he had an invisible shield?

Enemies are invincible when “inactive”.

One of the first annoyances you will notice is that enemies can only be hurt when they are on the screen. This means that the instant an enemy leaves the visible boundary, it becomes “inactive” and stops functioning in every way. This means that it stops moving, cannot be hurt, and cannot supply any fun. You are unable to shoot and run  because if you scroll the enemy off the screen, your shots will not hurt it. This occurs rather frequently and, considering how much of the screen Samus takes up, is incredibly frustrating. As a result, you have to be very close to enemies to even hurt them. Shown to the right, is one of the most blatant offenders. The Gamma Metroid is a very large creature who takes up about 1/4 of the screen width. Once it becomes “inactive” it does not become active again until it is entirely on the screen. You can argue that this is a result of memory limitations but I chalk it up to lazy programming and poor design.

Getting Hit Resets Jump State

It's actually faster to do it this way than to use spider ball.

Thanks for the boost, wall-face!

This is one of the most mind-boggling programming oversights I have ever seen in such a high-profile title. For whatever reason, any time you are hurt, for a brief moment you are able to jump. Using this, you can jump into an enemy and jump again reaching heights you are not yet supposed to reach. In the example shown here, Samus is supposed to find the spider ball power to scale this wall. Instead of bothering to use spider ball, you can simply jump, get hit, and jump again to reach the ledge. This “technique” can be exploited in many, many places throughout the game. Being able to do this makes no logical sense, is incredibly easy to do, and potentially ruins the intended item progression of the game by allowing players to skip certain items such as the high-jump boots. Clearly, this is another example of inept programmers at work.

Morph-ball Resets Jump State

Whoooaaaa!

I cannot logically explain this pre-Super Metroid phenomenon.

In what I can only guess is a related programming oversight, any time you exit morph-ball state, you are able to jump. For the same reasons listed above, this is a silly, easily exploitable “technique” that can be used to reach areas you aren’t normally supposed to. In combination with the spring ball item, you can effectively jump twice, jumping while in ball form, exiting ball form in mid-air, and jumping again. Interestingly enough, the same exact bug was present in it’s predecessor, Metroid for the NES. Perhaps the programmers intentionally added this bug (or neglected to fix it) as a kind of throwback to the original game? Or maybe it just happens to be the exact same programming oversight as they did in the first game? I’d like to believe it’s just a an example bad programming at it’s best… twice.

Missle-Only Tiles

I like the spinning action!

This is the only time these cool blocks are every used.

This isn’t a programming error but rather an example of poor game / level design. On exactly one occasion about 3/4 of the way through the game, Samus will encounter a block that can only be destroyed by firing a missile into it. It’s actually a cool block that has a interesting spin-then-explode effect. I like this block. In fact, I like this block a lot. I think it’s really awesome and I am the president of the “You Must Shoot a Missile At the Block to Destroy it in Metroid II” fan club. No, but seriously, this block is disappointingly underused. This sort of block would have had tons of applications, especially earlier on in the game. By utilizing this block more creatively, it would have considerably spiced up level design. It could even have been used to create more of a missile management scenario. It would have been interesting to require the player to use more missiles on these blocks which would leave less for the metroids. Instead, it appears as if the developers almost forgot about this block entirely. At one point, one level designer remembered it, placed two of them down and then forgot about them once again. It’s a shame because the blocks are just so freakin’ cool.

And that’s Not All

In addition to these, Metroid II is filled with even more programming errors and strange, illogical design choices that I don’t have the time to cover. It feels as though they had the base game down but never took the time to refine it. The entire game is a mesh of good and bad experiences which leave me feeling a bit perplexed. It’s an addictive, genuinely fun experience but lacks a certain polish that should be expected from a first-party game.  Metroid II: Return of Samus is a interesting game and if you can bear with all of its issues, it might even be an enjoyable game.

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Don’t Ever Stop! (Hit Reset)

I previously explored a few video games bugs that had no major impact on the game. They were fun, interesting and were generally something that had to be done on purpose. There is another category of video game bug; it’s a category that doesn’t rear it’s head that often. I am talking about the dreaded game ruining bugs. These are the bugs and glitches that, once they go into effect, give you no choice but to reset the game. There are many different ways this could happen but today I am exploring one particular phenomenon.

Endless Auto-running

While there are probably more, these three games all exhibit a game halting glitch which causes your character to travel endlessly to the right. There is no way to recover from this once the glitch has taken effect. Even more unfortunate, all three can theoretically be done accidentally!

Donkey Kong (Game Boy)

When you gotta go, you gotta go...

Climb up the ladder at the wrong time and it’s game over.

Ah, yes. Mario is one heck of guy! Year after year he goes out and saves all sorts of ladies from all sorts of animals.  One dreaded night, Mario was on the chase after Donkey Kong. That rascally ape have kidnapped Pauline once again! With Mario in pursuit, Donkey Kong leap and hollered with Pauline under arm. Suddenly and completely by accident, Donkey Kong’s ape-like howling precisely matched an ancient incantation designed to aid marathon runners. Donkey Kong jumped away with Pauline, not knowing what he had done. Mario, now under a powerful spell stopped his pursuit. Without any control of his body, he levitated mere feet above the ground and ran to the right. When he ran as far as he could, he found himself 20 feet behind where he was! He ran and he ran and he teleported and he teleported. Later that night, Donkey Kong, having escaped with Pauline, made a delicious soup out of her bones.

Mario ran on.

Metroid II: Return of Samus (Game Boy)

Naw, guys. It's cool. She knows what she's doing.

In morph ball form, turn around the same time you cause a screen transition and it’s roly poly time.

Samus has been directed to destroy all remaining metroids on planet SR-388. She landed, explored the surroundings, and gathered data. Little did she know, the foreign planet’s natural defenses, an invisible airborne poison, was slowly penetrating her suit. After a rather lengthy time in one of the tunnels, Samus started to feel a little woozy. The poison, bonding with her DNA, began to alter her… for the worse. Her body began to contort and force itself into morph ball form. Samus, unable to break the control of the poison, was thrust to the right. Fully conscious, Samus could do nothing but think to herself as the true, endless journey began. “This is what I have become. This is what I must be. This is what I deserve.” Her body, now one with the planet, freely moved though air, land, water as it traveled toward some unknown goal. She knew. Samus knew, for the rest of eternity, this would be her life. She was sure of it.

That morning the metroids ate her for breakfast.

Ghosts and Goblins (NES)

Round and round he goes, where does he stop? Nobody knows.

Collect a key in the wrong way and it’s bye-bye Arthur.

Arthur was tired. He was really tired. He had just battled though graveyards, cities, caverns and finally to the top of some ominous looking tower, all in his underwear! With the cross in hand and the captive Princess Prin Prin just ahead, Arthur entered Satan’s chamber. In an absurdly easy battle, Arthur destroys Satan in a matter of seconds. This was it! Arthur has saved the day! Suddenly, Arthur was transported back to the graveyard and a voice boomed overhead, “Har har, Arthur! It was all a trick… but this time it’s for real! Do it again and you can have you’re little princess.” Arthur was pretty upset but he knew it must be done! Once again, through the graveyard, city, cavern and up the tower. Arthur, now with dagger in hand, reaches the doorway to Satan’s chamber. Arthur reaches for the door, grips the handle and pulls.

The door does not open. The voice of Satan boomed again “Everybody knows the dagger is totally cheap and unfair. It’s cross or nothin’. Sorry chump.” Arthur, knowing he would have to go back down to the bottom of the tower to recollect the cross, lost his mind. “Whelp… I’m going home.”

And off he went.

And Then it Stopped

Useless Bugs and Glitches (are Fun)

As a computer scientist, I understand that as the complexity of a computer program goes up, so does the chance of bugs. Especially when it comes to video games, it is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible,  to consider every single scenario of user input during every single possible state of a program. Many video games are plagued with bugs and glitches whose effects can range from “helpful” to “progress destroying”. These are all nice and exciting but what about the bugs that can be described as “not useful nor hurtful”? Before I go on, I define a bug or glitch as “an unintended effect of a programming error or oversight”. This might actually be the exact definition of a bug or glitch… whatever!

This post is dedicated to all those video game glitches out there that don’t particularly do anything yet I am still compelled to perform them. In honor of these programming errors, here are some notable examples:

Legend of Zelda: Links Awakening (GBC) – Forest Mystery Tile

Those moblins will have nightmares for years.

Link has no qualms with tearing the world apart piece by piece.

Whats happening:

Link picks up a piece of the forest scenery and it instantly becomes a rock. The rock behaves like normal rocks and can be thrown at enemies.

How to perform:

While in the forest, any top-right corner tile acts this way. There are several occurrences of it in the forest. Just walk up to it and pick it up using the bracelet.

My best guess as to why it happens:

This is most likely an simple oversight when configuring the tiles. For whatever reason, the specific type of tile was set to act like a rock and a normal wall. This may have been used in this fashion early in the game’s development or may just have been a mistake. At some point, that tile was changed into a normal forest tile and nobody remembered to check the attributes. The probably didn’t catch the error because it operated correctly as a wall tile. It’s not a very technical guess but it may be somewhat correct.

Why it’s Turbo-Awesome:

Have you ever got so mad you just wanted to take a chunk out of the world and throw it at someone? This glitch lets you do just that… as long as you’re in the forest.

Marvel vs. Capcom (ARC) – Spider-Man’s Anti-gravity Attack

mvc_spiderflip

I bet hit spider-sense didn’t see that coming.

What’s happening:

First, Spider-Man throws Captain America and then performs a normal standing roundhouse. Next, Spider-Man throws Captain America and performs an aerial version of the roundhouse even though he never jumped.

How to perform:

With Spider-Man, perform a throw using the heavy kick button. As soon as the throw completes, hit any attack to perform the aerial version while floating slightly above the ground. The timing is extremely difficult and is easier if you just repeatedly press an attack as the throw is ending. I believe it works with any attack but the kick shown looks the funniest, in my opinion.

My best guess as to why it happens:

The fighting game genre is incredibly complex with thousands of combinations of inputs, states and reactions. There is no way for me to know exactly what is happening. If you watch the throw, it puts Spider-Man into the air as he spins the opponent around. During this time, the game sets Spider-Man to a “aerial” state. When Spider-Man finishes the throw, he lands and then it resets his state to “standing”. I believe there is a brief period between “throw” and “standing” where the game sets the speed and position of a “standing” character but is interrupted by performing the kick, leaving Spider-Man in an “aerial” state. Due to this, Spider-man does an “aerial” attack even though he is on the ground with no vertical velocity. After the attack is finished, it rechecks Spider-Man’s position and correctly sets his state as “standing”.

Why it’s Turbo-Awesome:

It’s really easy to do and looks awesome. It’s almost like a secondary way to taunt your opponent! After a spinning your opponent around, you spin your self around just for the heck of it!

Super Mario Bros. 2 (NES) – POW to Heaven

I know Luigi can jump high but not <i>that</i> high.

This is most certainly not the Mushroom Kingdom.

What’s happening:

Luigi is launched into the air via log until he hits the top of the screen.

How to perform:

Throw a POW block and have it hit the ground while you are standing on a falling log.

My best guess as to why it happens:

I have no idea. POW blocks have always done strange things. Honestly, I have no clue why this would happen. It doesn’t make sense at all. Nintendo, you so craaaazy.

Why it’s Turbo-Awesome:

FLY, LUIGI! FLY! No further comments.

Blaster Master (NES) – The Suicide Mobile

Those damn Lightning Beings are getting crafty...

Jason must have pissed off the wrong people…

What’s happening:

When Jason enters the tank, it immediately explodes, killing poor Jason in the process.

How to perform:

While in the tank, take damage until you have one hit left. Then, while on the ground, take one more hit and immediately exit the tank. Jason will jump out before the tank gets a chance to explode.

My guess as to why it happens:

When you get hit, you have a brief period of invincibility. This allows you to some breathing room if you are surrounded by enemies. Many games implement this feature as it would be unreasonable to have your entire health bar drained in a fraction of a second for colliding with an enemy. As far as I can tell, the game only checks to see whether the tank should explode when it is not in the invincibility state. Thus, when you get hit, you have a brief moment during the invincibility state to have Jason jump out. When Jason jumps back in, since it is not in the invincibility state, the game checks if the tank have any health, confirms it does not, and explodes it.

Why it’s Turbo-Awesome:

Every single time I plays Blaster Master, I have to perform this glitch at least one time. It is always hilarious to see something suddenly explode. Just watch that GIF a few times. Poor Jason has no idea what’s coming and then BOOM! Pure, useless, buggy satisfaction.

So, What’s the Deal?

Video games are designed to be fun but remember that these games are designed. People sat around and planned and programmed how they want you to play their game. What I find to be incredibly fascinating are the things you can do that the game was never designed to do! Most games have several of these oversights in them which allow the player to escape the designed rules of the game. Some of the most interesting times I’ve had with video games is when I am testing and pushing the limits of what the developer intended.

I am compelled to perform these glitches whenever I play these (and other) games as it reminds me that video games do not just a belong to the developers. They belongs to those who want to experience it. It belongs to the players. Video game players willingly enter the worlds created by these developers just to experience the world the game can offer. These little glitches and bugs represent a portion of the game world that the player experienced before the developer even knew they existed! Video games developers work extremely hard to give us a chance to have these experiences, intended or not. So remember, when you’re playing a shiny new game and something a little out of the ordinary happens, sit back and enjoy it. With all the quick patches and updates that come out for games these days, these experiences might not last.