Metroid: Rogue Dawn - Boss Keys style maps
Being inspired by Gamemaker's Toolkit's first season of its mini-series Boss Keys, which is a series that looks into the design philosophies of Zelda dungeons in terms of layout, I decided to do something similarly for the Metroid series. This idea was fueled by things like item randomizer algorithms and 100%-speedruns, because I wanted to find a way to chart out the areas of Metroid in an attempt to facilitate pathing and maybe even help Metroid fangame makers to think about design and gating in their games.
Rogue Dawn was quite a trip to do. I think this is my most favorite one yet.
The Pirate Ship serves as the hub world for the game. As one collects more exploration and mobility upgrades, more of the ship opens up, revealing access to new regions and vaults with weapon upgrades.
The surprising bit, to me, is that the designers of this hack opted to include duplicate upgrades for things like the Wave Beam and the Spring Ball. I get that they'd be secrets for nosy explorers or speedrunners, but I wonder if sometimes it messes with the progression design a little. I remember finding the Wave Beam inside the Pirate Ship, and then having no reward for the effort of looking for it in the Federation Science Ship. I wonder if somehow that could be changed or updated to allow some incentive to "do things right" the first time.
The Desolate Surface is a large area to explore, but very rewarding, providing players with pretty much every upgrade they need for progression throughout the entire game. I still can't believe that the designers picked the High Jump Boots as the first possible upgrade...
As for design, it's easy to see that the Western section of the region is devoted to the Wall Jump Boots, only found after getting the Bombs. Beyond that, there's a few expansions to find.
In the Eastern section, a lot of what can be collected branches off of a few rooms that can be traversed without any upgrades. In fact, one could get most of the upgrades in the Underwater area without upgrades also. In a randomized run of this game, I can imagine a lot of potential with these easily-available items.
A compact, intertwining labyrinth that, as I eventually found out, is dedicated to one upgrade you could find in the region... Bryyo Ice much? Also, it's significant to notice that this is the region that holds the "Tourian gate" mechanism: two access codes are needed to open up a new area. More information could be found on the Science Ship.
I think it can be clearly seen that the design of this area is meant to be mostly linear towards the region's boss battle, with plenty of goodies to find on the side. The designers made sure also to add in a warp right after the boss, back to the beginning of the level. In a sense, that's very Zelda-like. In any case, it's incredibly convenient. Especially also because you can collect everything in the region with the same items you need to actually clear the path to the boss, with only a minimal number of exceptions.
In stark contrast to the Chozo Jungle region, the Science Ship starts out as a few rooms that serve as a hub area that access the rest of the ship, sometimes in loops. As long as you have the Bombs, which you need to enter the ship anyway, you can pretty much pick any direction and find something to collect.
This region is also nifty for having certain lore spots where you receive dialogue from Federation characters. While the dialogue itself isn't important for progression, I thought that in this game, they'd be important enough for lore to add, unlike the lore in the Pirate Ship, which you can discover without much exploration needed, or the one interaction in Chozo Jungle.
Also... the designers really went all-out with warping in here. There are a few "sequence breaking" warps that can be utilized to shortcut to the regional boss quicker, or to make it to the Wave Beam room, or to make it to an Easter Egg area that still hurts my brain... for a spare Energy Tank. None of the shortcuts are required, of course.
Straightforward area leading to the final boss encounter. What I didn't add in was all of the pitfalls and the one-way-backwards traps that reward the player with loss of progress. Because there were a lot.
Also, technically the Ice Beam isn't required... At no point is it necessary to freeze the Metroids found here to use them as platforms, and you could theoretically just tank the damage until you get to a recharge station.
That being said, I don't recommend it. Just get the Ice Beam before you step foot in this area.
Here's a condensed version of the above charts, showing what the whole of SR388 looks like in terms of item dependencies:
Required upgrades for progression:
- High Jump Boots
- Wall Jump Boots
- Spring Ball
I also find it interesting that Missiles are collectible since the beginning of the game, but are not required until pretty late.