Smart games use smart short-cuts to fool our eyes. Hidden assets. Camera tricks. On-the-fly rendering. Yes, every video game is an exercise in perception, and Nintendo’s Metroid Dread is no exception.
This article was first published on Kotaku Australia on November 18, 2021. It has been retimed as a weekend read.
A new video in the fascinating Boundary Break series, made by the YouTuber Shesez, has pulled back the curtain on Dread. It shows a whole lot that you can’t see in the main game, including the upsetting revelation that EMMIs can essentially teleport (sometimes).
Metroid Dread, developed by Mercury Steam and released last month for the Nintendo Switch, is the first mainline 2D Metroid game in nearly two decades, and is somewhat of a return to form: Save for a handful of moments where you fire high-yield weapons in 2.5D perspective, the bulk of the game plays out as a side-scrolling platformer. But thanks to a camera tool created by Postposterous, another YouTuber, Shesez was able to pause the game and swivel the camera around its rendered space. The results are fascinating, though by rights we have to do one of these:
Warning: Spoilers for Metroid Dread.
First and foremost: The EMMIs. In addition to their Superman-like suite of abilities — they’re invincible, can move at supersonic speeds, can kill you in one hit, and always seem to know exactly where you are — they can apparently teleport. During the cutscene that introduces the first EMMI, you see it ominously creep into your field of view. But zoom out, as Shesez does in the video, and you’ll see that it’s hiding off-screen before zapping into view. The yellow one, which you meet later on, does the same thing.
Going in the exact opposite direction is the Zero Suit, the base layer Samus has famously sported for many games (including an alternative version of her character in Super Smash Bros.). In Metroid Dread, you only see Zero Suit Samus during the (many, many…many) moments you die. Per Shesez’s video, Samus’ model is obscured by a bloom effect the instant you die, effectively preventing you from seeing the whole thing. But rather than this being a trick to hide imperfections, the renderer Finalizer has a complete version, and it proves to be incredibly detailed:
dread zero suit samus has been ripped pic.twitter.com/mT8uBq5ZH9— Finalizer (@Finalizer14) November 6, 2021
Shesez’s video reveals plenty of other tricks. For instance:
- Samus’ fully powered omega cannon, which shows up as an orb, is actually just a flat circle.
- During that fight against the first boss, the moment where you view things from first-person isn’t technically first-person; rather, the devs at Mercury Steam simply put the camera in front of Samus’ character model, then slapped a heads-up display over the frame.
- When a robot chozo soldier stabs Quiet Robe in the back, the two models aren’t anywhere close to each other. (Hey, we warned you about spoilers!)
If you’re a fan of the game, it’s definitely worth taking the 20 minutes to watch.