Here we are at the end, my friends.
Last year’s game was something of a downer, but you know what they say: it’s always darkest before the dawn. And the dawn that’s about to break — it’s a bright one.
You know how much I love Metroid despite being less than thrilled with the most recent entries, and that for a long time the series has sat dormant with the ugly stain of Other M as the last official game to its name. Well, while Nintendo has been dropping the occasional terrible Metroid game or ignoring the series for long periods of time, fans have been picking up the slack. They’ve made ROM hacks, fan games, even short films, but one fan has created a complete remake of Metroid II, and it’s called AM2R.
I know I’ve mentioned hating remakes — and yes, I do wish AM2R was some new Metroid story that hadn’t been told before, rather than a retelling of a familiar one. But even I can’t ignore how incredible an achievement AM2R is. AM2R is the best Metroid game Nintendo never made. Heck, it’s very possible it’s the best Metroid game there is, period. And it was made not by a professional developer, but by a guy whose only claim to fame was that he loves Metroid. Love can move mountains… or make awesome videogames.
AM2R isn’t alone, either. Look at the last 2D Sonic game, Sonic Mania. Sega hired a fan to make their new game and it’s one of the best in recent memory. Meanwhile, Nintendo thought shit like Other M and Federation Force were good ideas. Blizzard has been ruining StarCraft with StarCraft II and Diablo with Diablo III. Bioware screwed up the last two Mass Effect games. Warren Spector did a bad Deus Ex game back in the day. I’d argue Final Fantasy has been off the rails for years. F.E.A.R 3 sucked. Half the Resident Evil and Silent Hill games are comical nightmares. 2K briefly tried to turn XCOM into a shooter series.
In simpler terms: big publishers, seasoned devs, industry insiders… they don’t necessarily know what they’re doing. They don’t necessarily understand the IPs they’re trying to work with. And they don’t necessarily… well, make good games. Almost every game that has blown me away in recent years has been an indie title, or at least a smaller production. The “AAA” is taking a back seat, and the little guys are stepping up. The little guys like you and me. Yes, even my dumb ass can probably make a videogame.
I’ve come a long way from believing videogames sprung from the ether, fully-formed and perfect. Or after that — believing developers were some godlike creator figures, handing their creations down from on high. No, there’s nothing special about game designers, and nothing they understand that can’t be learned.
In fact, it’s looking more and more like it goes the other way, and if they want to compete with indies, the big companies need to up their game. It does not look good when an amateur, fan dev beats you at making Metroid games, Nintendo.