Thursday, October 6, 2011

Top 50 Video Games: Number 31

Stats of Import

Platform: XBox 360
Absurdly Specific Genre: Metroidvania
Difficulty: It was pretty easy, I'd give it a 4 or 5
Beaten: Yes, I'm actually closing in on 100% completion, which I've only ever done with one other game.

In Christmas of 2009, my brother-in-law's gift to me consisted of a sheet of paper with this image printed on it, along with a download code. I had heard of the game Shadow Complex, but downloadable content still seemed an odd gift. My brother-in-law sensed my questioning and simply gave me a little smirk and said "trust me".

Several dozen hours later, I would say my trust in him was well placed.

The story of Shadow Complex has a bit of interest to it, but most of it is manual fodder, and the overarching themes that are presented in game boil down to the standard "bad guy wants to conquer the world, power up over the course of several gameplay hours and stop him". It's an old formula, but the second half of that formula is what makes this game so glorious. At the beginning of the game, you're essentially a hiker who has a handgun, what you become... is a bit more badass.

This image does a good job of describing how shiny you become, but a poor job of describing badassitude.
Indeed, the powering up is half the fun of the game, and like Metroid before it, each new powerup allows further exploration of what is actually a pretty huge world. The gameplay morphs from the player sneaking around, using the terrain to his advantage to fearlessly walking up and punching a bad guy into oblivion. Some players found that to dull the beauty of the game...  I found it to be liberating and cathartic.

Yeah, we're dancing right now. If you would have met me in 15 hours, I would've rocket punched you TO THE MOON.
Factor in the actually kind of awesome speedrun training missions and the massive replayability (trust me, you want to complete the armor suit... make sure you do this), and Shadow Complex easily stands on its own as a pinacle of its already excellent genre.

Not bad for a downloadable arcade title.


  1. "Metroidvania?" You've essentially described Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

    Yes, I'm actually closing in on 100% completion, which I've only ever done with one other game.

    Wow. Suddenly I feel like a huge nerd. I've done that with at least 40-50 games.

    This must be XBLA only. From what I can tell the far richer exclusives are on the PS Store, but this is one I really wish I could get.

  2. Yeah, I don't know why, but I've never gotten very far in any of the Castlevania games. They're fun... and then suddenly they're not. I obviously stole the "Metroidvania" term, which I've actively tried to avoid with the 'absurdly specific genre' thing, it just fits so perfectly.

    I don't usually have the attention span to 100% a game. I'll do a bunch of the side stuff (obviously, I'll do more and more the more I like a game), but 100% absolute completion just doesn't have that grab to me for most games.

    I do believe that this one is a XBLA exclusive, btw.

  3. Yeah, "Metroidvania" is definitely one I've heard.

    Have you ever played Symphony of the Night? The series is pretty decent, but that game is head and shoulders above the rest. It's a blast, and and as a bonus, also contains some of the worst voice acting and scripting (don't worry, there's not enough for it to be a game-killer) you'll ever hear/see.

    There's one I've hundred-percented...twice...

  4. I actually haven't played SotN. I think it's available in the arcade, so maybe I'll pick it up when I finish Super Meat Boy and Deus Ex.