Welcome to this inaugural edition of "Moments in Games," where I'm going to be discussing well-remembered occurrences that didn't quite fit into the framework of my "Memory Bank" pieces. These "Moments" might entail any of those stage portions, storyline twists or sudden discoveries that became a staple of my interaction with a game--any instance that fascinated me, turned my world upside-down, or otherwise resonates as a sentimental link.
This first entry is dedicated to Metroid and specifically a curious obstruction found in lower Brinstar (also known as "Kraid's Hideout"), where it served as just as much a mental barrier as a physical one. It was at one time the game's most tantalizingly microcosmic element and the perfect encapsulation of what the Metroid experience meant to a younger me.
I have to admit that the early days of my love affair with Metroid, when the game's world still seemed so immeasurably vast to me, were tinged with feelings of nervous hesitance; though I found the game's observed space to be endlessly captivating, I was always reluctant to initiate a larger exploration effort in favor of traveling a well-paved path whose direct route carried me through the fewest number of doors necessary to gain access to mini-bosses Ridley and Kraid. The thought of deviating from this path in search of additional power-ups weighed on me as an emotional burden, which I tried to convince myself was nothing more than my mind's logical assessment of the game's construction: "Why put in all of that effort to track down extra missile packs when the 150 earned for defeating the mini-bosses was more than enough to take down the Metroids, the Zebetites and Mother Brain?"
In retrospect, I'm not surprised that I clung so tightly to such a weak rationalization. After all--fear of the unknown was my biggest stumbling block when it came to Metroid and, for that matter, games in general. There was many a time, though, when I'd speed along the same ol' predictable purple- and gray-colored route but allow my eyes to wander, their gaze sometimes bringing into focus a normally avoided blue door or a conspicuous-looking block formation; suddenly, I'd find that my mind was being invaded by thoughts of what it was that could be hiding behind those temptingly brittle organic surfaces. But for the time, there was only what I could imagine, since I didn't yet possess confidence enough to nourish my curiosity.
For the longest time, that's how it went: I couldn't bomb-jump my way over the obstruction, so I all I could do was theorize as to what lay beyond it. My only hint came in the form of an unsubstantiated claim made by Dominick, who told me that he managed to bomb his way over and found only a similar-looking obstruction in following. I would have been disappointed had I not interpreted this information as an assurance that the game was now going out of its way to hide something from me. "So what could it be?" I wondered. "Is it untrodden sacred ground housing the very secrets to Zebes' existence? Or, as I'm partly fearing, is there only a succession of L-shaped obstructions, each taunting me with more in the way of subdivisions than the last, creating for a monstrously intricate labyrinth from which I'll never be able to escape?"
Twenty-five years later, the physical and mental images of Kraid's Blockade (as I lovingly refer to it) no longer carry with them that same sense of wonder to a guy who knows the game's world inside and out, but they remain a nostalgic reminder of the time when Metroid's world was so mysterious and new to me. When even after defeating Mother Brain there was still an incalculable amount of unexplored geography hidden from my stare. These days, it's true that I prefer to take the more easily accessible alternate route when attempting full exploration of lower Brinstar, but it always seems appropriate to stop and give Kraid's Blockade a quick look, if not to lose myself in the music then to bring to mind memories of my younger self and that perception of unimaginable depth the anomalous Metroid once conveyed to me.
See more of my Metroid writings in the following sections: