Submitted July 6th, 2012
by SPK

Metroidvanias We'd Like to See

While I'll admit I've had my qualms with Castlevania games continuing the formula set in motion by Symphony of the Night, that's mostly because I expect something new from the series. The Castleroids generally have a working formula - create a big map with a few interesting puzzles and interactive environments here and there, give you a system that acts as a companion to your main weapon, allow you to collect items throughout the game and unlock new areas while returning to old ones and getting once unreachable items, all the while an RPG-worthy story unfolding before you. Recently, they've tried to deviate from previous Metroidvanias after they perfected the magic system with Dawn of Sorrow with Portrait of Ruin's partner system or Order of Ecclesia's overworld map, but they can only go so far away within a complicated formula.

And while the Symphony-esque titles offer lots of playtime, it's in their sheer size that they do this. But there's a certain magic to the classics you can just pick up and play for short periods of time and be entirely immersed, or party games like Super Smash Bros. that you can rent for a night with friends which can be played over and over with only minor alterations to gameplay allowing for a brand new experience each time. That's why I put forth A Call To Action concerning ideas for new Castlevania games. The Castlevania series has been in ruts before - a slew of straight linear platformers like Dracula X for the SNES or Castlevania Legends for the Game Boy are considered some of the series' worst. As for other series, they could experiment with the Symphony formula the way it experimented with the Super Metroid formula, and if history's lessons come through it could bring just as much freshness to the genre as SotN did in 1997.

Kirby, Sonic's Miles "Tails" Prower, Spider-Man, Spyro the Dragon, Mega Man X's Zero, and more have already come to the dark side, but there still lies potential with other series. So these are my ideas...

Metroidvania Super Mario Bros.

Mario games are usually safe and experimental in just the right doses. With the New Super Maio Bros. series as well as Mega Man 9 and 10, it seems Retro Fever is in the air, and any winter now it could escalate to something like this. They can keep it within the realm of Mario's straightforward platforming while adding an interesting new system like Super Mario Sunshine's FLUDD device. It could also feature such of Mario's buddies as Luigi, Toad, Peach, Yoshi, Wario, Waluigi, and a brand new female plumber. The characters' different abilities would work well to make them useful for accomplishing different tasks, as seen in the Paper Mario games. This would become the everyman's Metroidvania - not appealing only to lovers of Castlevania's gothic tone or Metroid's sci-fi aspects, but to gamers all over the world.

Metroidvania Sonic the Hedgehog

The recent Sonic the Hedgehog games have turned out too much like race tracks, the levels designed to get the player to the finish line as fast as possible rather than hindering progression so one can interact with the puzzles and obstacles the stages have to offer. So if a Metroidvania Sonic the Hedgehog within a contained map were to be made, the emphasis would not be on going over-the-top with Sonic's and his friends' speed so as to open up all the other physical possibilities the earlier games allowed for. Not that there'd be no speed-crazy moments, which would definitely set it apart from Tails Adventure - currently the closest thing to a Sonic Metroidvania. Playable characters would include Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy, Shadow, Silver, and possibly others. The Sonic the Hedgehog series, with its loopty-loops, peach-and-brown checkered walls and emerald-scavenging, would be perhaps the most interesting venture into Metroidvania Land of this list. See My Sonic the Hedgehog Metroidvania for further details on how this game would work.

It's worth nothing that both Mario and Sonic have already been featured in the Metroidvania-style last level of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, "The Great Maze".

Metroidvania Starfy

The main draw of the Starfy games is the underwater platforming. You don't just walk left-and-right and jump, you swim in all directions - this simple quirk is one of those minor but fundamental changes that turns a game from just good to golden. This allows for more non-linear gameplay, and is the main reason why Starfy should go Metroidvania. In recent games one collects items like clothes and gachapon toys, and collecting is certainly a satisfying feature of Metroidvania video games. Though Aquaria already nailed the underwater Metroidvania experience, Starfy's adventure would be a little different, with a whimsical tone and kid-friendly gameplay.

Flight Simulator/Metroidvania Hybrid

As any true authority on my personal opinions and tastes knows, F-14 Tomcat is one of my favorite video games. It has given me a love for vehicle simulators, second in this respect only to platformers. If I could have my say on a future flight simulator, I'd of course have the scenery and sky look more detailed and realistic, the themes varying and songs played on missions randomized, the controls smooth so that the player feels nice and comfy in the cockpit, and solid gameplay with exciting missions and an intriguing story promoting national pride against an opponent bent on some sort of anti-Western ideal. I'd have the developers do this all as they see fit, but that wouldn't set it apart from any other great flight sim. Since I like Metroidvanias so much, and since lately developers seem to be enjoy mixing genres with games like Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night and Monster Tale, I'd also include a Metroidvania world to explore between missions.

That world will be the inside of the aircraft carrier. On the carrier, the main character will complete several training missions as he explores the map in order to prepare him or her in the event of capture or isolation in a hostile locale. As you complete missions, you'll receive security clearance cards that open up new places and special weapons/gear to use in training (bullet proof vests that raise defense, special kinds of guns, etc.) and gear that helps you make your way deeper into the ship (grappling hooks to latch on to things hanging from the ceiling and other innovative government technology such as boots that allow you to bounce into the air higher than normal). Though the game will leave a lot of room for going about one's way at his or her leisure, the stories in both the flight simulator mode and the Metroidvania mode will be interlinked, and there will only be so far you can go in one without keeping up the pace in the other.

MMORPG Metroidvania

This game could go in any number of directions, but here are the basic steps: It's a 2D non-linear platformer with a massive map or many sizable maps; players can converse throughout (messages are sent via a keyboard that can be pulled out onto the screen, while messages go on top of each player's head) and fight solo or in teams in certain places; players' characters are customizable in appearance and attributes; the game will be updated as time goes on; the basic features to it will be entirely FREE!

This game could be a Metroid by Nintendo, a Castlevania by Konami (Harmony of Despair is a little bit different), or something entirely its own. Personally, I'm not sure if the Metroid series has as massive a universe to allow for different kinds of characters and varying environments. Thus, Castlevania would be a better franchise to try and do this. Ultimately, though, I'd be more enthusiastic about an independent Metroidvania that has its own theme, albeit leaving room for variety so that the game doesn't get boring after a few hours. This would be accomplished with an abundant amount of character appearance/attribute possibilities and many fresh environments. Heck, to make it even more varying, why not allow people to create their own maps? This game would absolutely rock if done competently. For any up-and-coming developers, or ones simply trying to keep their game (no pun intended) strong, this concept would be a new domain and would earn its creators praise for innovation. And hey, if done right, it'd be kickin' fun as well.

As a personal note, I'd just like to say that I've been wishing for a game like this ever since I first got into Circle of the Moon and saw how elements of games like Runescape could be incorporated into an all-new breed of platformer. Of course, I didn't think of it in those exact words. So sue me.

"Metroidvania" - Literally A Metroid/Castlevania Crossover

So the first thing one might think is how to make sense out of it. Easy - don't even try. You don't need to. In fact, make it as brain-racking and confusing as possible. I mean, straight up convoluted. The dialogue could also be entirely nonsensical. And the manual might even contain recipes for Ted Nugent-themed parfaits. Perhaps people can pay for the game with the extra 'F' and 'J' keys they might have lying around! Oh, and don't forget to advertise for the game on PBS commercial breaks.

Wha...? Nevermind. My point is the story isn't as important. Maybe Simon Belmont and Samus Aran can have restrained romantic feelings for one another. Maybe they'll clash due to their aggressive personalities. Or maybe they'll get along fine. Basically, Dracula and the space pirates will have joined forces and Samus and one of the Belmonts will team up to put a stop their plans.

The game will have a team dynamic similar to Portrait of Ruin, mixing gameplay from the Castlevania series (the Belmont whip action and sub-weapons, double jumping and kicking off of walls) and the Metroid series (Samus's bullets and missiles, screw attack and morph ball), either or both characters being used to pass certain obstacles - based on who has the necessary abilities - and defeat bosses that one character has an extra edge against. There will be enemies from both universes throughout Drac's castle, which has been remodeled in places to the space pirates' liking and as such will contain bosses and features of the levels of both series. Themes from both the series will be used throughout the game, and for all those who can't live without it, there will be a Boss Rush Mode.

Enemy-less Metroidvania

I'd be very interested to see what could be done with this sub-genre without baddies present. The Metroidvania's prime components are exploration, upgrading of abilities, and backtracking, right? So taking away enemies would strip this type of game down to its most basic form. The focus on interacting with the levels and their puzzles, collecting items both necessary to advance and just plain fun, interacting with non-player characters, and wandering about at one's complete and utter leisure would be put in a whole new perspective.

I'm not saying having enemies is a crutch, but a game that's interesting and new at its most fundamental level - whether or not the graphics are flashy or the bonus content provides a nice distraction - always has a timelessness to it that cannot be surpassed by great, big, empty time killers. This game would be like the anti-Super Smash Bros. Brawl's The Great Maze, which was hyper-focused on the fighting and simply used the open-endedness to set it up.

Chozo Metroidvania

All of Samus's abilities come from the Chozo race that raised her, so for a change of pace from playing as said bounty hunter, a Chozo bird-person would make for a perfect protagonist. The game could present the tests and rituals that the Chozo are expected to go through in order to earn adulthood, thus bringing in the need for learning their staple abilities and facing the trials always present in a Metroid game. It could introduce Samus's childhood mentor, whatever his/her age may be, and document Samus's earliest years and explore her psyche more successfully than in Other M. Since the Chozo were the creators of the Metroid species, you just know those little guys will be involved. Perhaps this game could even detail exactly what happened to the Chozo race. Did they get wiped out by the Metroids, or move on in another, more transcendental kind of way? If Samus can wipe out the Metroids on her lonesome, certainly the entire Chozo population can handle them, so it's more likely either the Chozo progressed to a higher state or came into conflict with an even more formidable foe. With everyone recovering from the controversy surrounding Other M, this would be the perfect way to return to the series' and Samus's roots while trying something new. Because you know you want more Metroid.

Make-Your-Own Metroidvania

While at the time being all those of us with no programming skills can do is make utterly non-self important lists like this one, I foresee a day when a Metroidvania Maker (name pending) will be available to people on all sides of the console/handheld wars - or maybe just the Nintendo faithfuls. It'll have a layman-friendly sprite creator for both protagonists and enemies, a background and foreground scenery designer for everything around them, of course a level editor for the maps themselves, and lastly a story writer for everyone who wants to create an even more immersive experience. There'll probably be a lot more to it than just these things, but then what did you expect from someone with no programming skills - and on the Nintendo side of the console/handheld wars? There'll just have to be some way to share these masterpieces (we're non-self important, remember) with other Metroidvaniacs online. And hey - maybe this whole thing could be one important aspect to the previously-described MMORPG MV. That'd certainly give everyone playing it something to kill time on - they can waste their afternoons becoming enveloped in conflicts involving vampires and space bounty hunters if they want to be traditional, or explore shopping malls, attend nightly video gaming school, and sing ritualistic chants with other Mothra worshippers if they want to get creative. When this game gets brought to life, you can find me hanging around Prince Alagrhbl's Maddening Cornflake as studman274.

Pinball/Metroidvania Hybrid

Many series famous for their platforming have mixed their defining qualities with that of one of the world's premier interactive one-player games - pinball. These include the Sonic the Hedgehog, Kirby, and Metroid series, all of which are known for having their protagonists go into ball form. If the pinball-Metroidvania hybrid route were taken, it'd work something like Sonic spin ball, but with more platforming elements. Some areas - especially boss arenas - will be like very involved pinball boards, while others will be like Metroid-esque corridors and rooms but with flippers situated cleverly all about. As the main character defeats the game's bosses, different-colored flippers become operable and allow access to new places. At one point, charging up flippers will become possible, and they'll be released stronger and launch the one in question higher into the air to places previously beyond reach. There will also be health upgrades, and possibly attack and defense upgrades. Maybe a few additional abilities beyond the ability to jump, like different offensive tactics and upgrades that allow him/her/it to maneuver flipper launches some degree leftward or rightward. And we'll all sing, "That silly SP kid sure got a lot of gall" in response to my thinking I know how to conceptualize a video game.

An MV With Destructible Environments

Imagine how much you could shake up the Metroidvania formula simply by making use of destructibility as a greater element to the game. Exploring the map would be so different, as the rules would change so that not only new abilities and clever experimentation with the set surroundings will progress the player, but changing the surroundings themselves will get him or her further. Circle of the Moon is the closest thing to this what with its abundance of crumbling walls leading to secret room, but this is still far from my vision. My idea entails all sorts of different kinds of walls, floors, and things in-between and outside that require different approaches - and even then multiple ways of getting through these obstacles can be taken; it entails different weaponry that breaks down the joint in different ways and destroys different parts of said joint; it entails permanent, massive damage finally, it entails varying rewards for exploring in this way, from ability and stat upgrades to progression to another section of the map, from fun and unnecessary stuff to secret treats - and maybe a punishment here or there. So if it seems like a door's been closed between developers and creative new ideas, blast open a window and take the design in your own hands.

Economics: The Metroidvania

I'll just start this one off by saying I don't think I'll ever get my head around the stock market. Does anyone know how it works? Probably not, beyond the people who know how to misuse it. To put this into context, I've only recently opened my own bank account, and I never intend to invest in the stock market on my own time or dime given its unpredictability. But wouldn't it be cool to have an involved crash course on how to make, manage, and invest money especially geared toward the video gaming demographic? While there may be programs that allow people to make mock-investments online, the thing I propose would be a full-blown experience. It would give the player a set amount of money to multiply or waste completely and put him or her in the fray along with countless other players. Each player must buy a home, which regularly requires payment of bills equal to the average amount people generally spend right out of college, and which changes as they gradually - though much faster than in realtime - progresses through a lifetime with different needs depending on gender (this also gives players several tries at the economic system and prevents anyone person from amassing so much wealth that other players are utterly defeated; of course, they'll have to sort their finances out by paying virtual bills with some help and an in-game calculator - getting a bill wrong will bring about due consequences). A job must be kept up with, and the player must commute on a regular basis through the side-scrolling world, and then perform whichever task the job ask, which could be a puzzle or a challenge of some sort (it doesn't have to be totally realistic), maybe yielding a continuous but meager flow of money or an unpredictable and varying cash intake. One can climb in a career if earned.

And then there's the stock market, which is based on the real life original version. Here my idea becomes hazy, but there'll definitely be a city with a Wall Street-based section where one can participate in the many goings-on of the economic center of this particular Metroidvania.

There will have to be plenty of fun things to do aside from these things that will make amassing mulala worth it (besides for the experience), like parts of the world that requires money to enter and/or travel to, snazzy extras like a radio or library membership, and engaging mini-games which use or require money to play. It's still a video game, after all. Since they don't teach managing a checkbook in public school, why not incorporate these lessons into something that the kiddies would be willing to spend their downtime on?

Metroidvania Transformers

In order to bounce back from the mind-bender that was the last entry on this list, let's start with something simpler. Seeing as the Transformers are monumental on their own, the only Metroidvania setting I can think of which could hold them post-Cybertron's destruction would be inside the planet-sized, sentient robot Unicron. One could swap between different Transformers with different abilities - a helicopter Autobot which can fly to hard-to-reach heights, a bull-dozer Autobot which can move obstacles out of the way, a submarine Autobot which can move around in water - possibly, the player could pick one of these characters at one entrance to Unicron's body, and thus start off from a different front depending on which one one starts with, then the game could take even more paths depending on which of the Autobots one then finds. Maybe some sort of hyper Transformer with the ability to accumulate multiple transformations could be introduced to the series, if there hasn't been one already. The Transformers franchise certainly has enough to it to make its own mark in the new frontier of Metroidvania Land.

Classic Simon Belmont Metroidvania

My complaint of the 3D Castlevanias is that they try too hard to be like something else - Devil May Cry, God of War, ect., what have you. They just don't make a point to embrace their roots and capture the same atmosphere and Halloween goodness of the classic-style games. The Metroidvanias keep that atmosphere. But, these super complex systems seem to be distracting Team Iga from using what's there to its fullest. My idea is to use Simon Belmont's fundamental abilities from Super Castlevania IV - the whip and sub-weapons, namely - as the basis for a Metroidvania experience.

Simon will start with a short leather whip which he can swing in eight directions (up, down, left, right, and inbetween), which is only serviceable for a modest amount of combat; later, he'll get a chain upgrade with a spike at the end, rendering his whip attack more powerful and giving him the ability to latch onto hooks and swing over gaps; finally, he'll get a length upgrade which gives him further range when battling enemies and allows him to reach further-away hooks. He'll also collect sub-weapons: the Knife, which flies horizontally at enemies and can be sent at doors to pick locks, and then an upgrade which allows Simon to whip out more knives at once, makes them zip across the screen much faster, and makes them more piercing; Holy Water, which burns on the ground to roast wickedness from below and destroy certain floors, and can be upgraded to burn longer, wider, and hotter; the Axe, which is thrown over Simon's shoulder and can reach up to and shatter chains holding back drawbridges, and when upgraded allows Simon to throw several at a time and makes them more powerful; and the Cross, effective for turning switches on and off to activate level features, an upgrade allowing Simon to spin more than one at once and making them spin more rapidly for extra effect. These all cost one heart to perform. (I'm not sure how to implement the Stopwatch...) Simon also learns to spin his whip rapidly in a circular fury, creating a solid defense against enemy bombardment; he also learns the crouch walk, granting him access through low-down openings; he increases his health bar from 5 units to 25 with 20 upgrades scattered across Castle Dracula; and he increases his maximum hearts stock from 20 to 100 with 20 upgrades adding 4 heart points each. The control scheme is: the D-Pad to move, 'A' to jump, 'B' to attack, and some other button to use the sub-weapons. Simple as that.

Obviously, this idea's very dependent on clever level design. If it's just a typical Metroidvania map without any ingenuity, it'll do nothing to set it apart. But stage design on par with the pre-Symphony 2D games and you have something.

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These are my ideas. Don't like 'em? Write in with your own. Come on - is this a full-blown Call to Action or just a minor Fall Distraction?!