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27 Reviews

Shadow Complex

Review: Super Metroid for the Xbox generation

Nintendo, are you watching? Shadow Complex is Super Metroid for the current-generation. That's it. That's really all you should need to make this a day-one purchase because, in case you didn't know, Super Metroid is (still) awesome.

We discussed in length all of its Metroid parallels in our hands-on preview; the iconic square map system, the coloured doors, the upgradeable battle suit, the new-item-new-path progression and the game's general 2D gameplay style. It IS a complete throwback to Nintendo's classic.

So, why should you buy a game that basically rips off one released in 1994? Because Shadow Complex does it with a modern-day flair that not only warrants comparisons to one of the best games of the 2D generation, but also sits high on the list of the best games on Xbox Live Arcade.


We can't fault developer Chair Entertainment's use of the Unreal Engine 3 with this one. Everything from the dark caves with water flowing through them, to the detail-filled base of rogue paramilitary group the Restoration (where most of the game takes place) is top-notch current-gen quality.

Explosions smash objects in the environment around with realistic physics. Lights and torches realistically illuminate dark areas. The lead character Jason Fleming moves with a fluidity comparable to Uncharted: Drakes Fortune. There's no wonder the download weighs in at over 800MB.

With the world looking as good as it does, exploring every new path is an intriguing prospect you look forward to each time you acquire a new ability-enhancing power-up. Add to that a well-written plot with developed characters and Shadow Complex becomes a game you won't want to put down until it's finished.

The game's weapon and ability upgrade system, just like Metroid's, makes it a constantly changing and rewarding experience. You start off as a mere man with a gun, not really knowing what to expect. But the wares you find in the Restoration's base gradually transform you into a powerful soldier.

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Soon you find yourself speeding through the base, bouncing off walls like a ninja and blasting all manner of rockets all over the place, obliterating enemies, helicopters and giant robots that were once a considerable threat. Yes, this means the game's not greatly on the difficult side (it's more about exploration and plot rather than difficulty) but it also makes you feel satisfyingly powerful.


There's also an RPG-style level-up system that improves your accuracy (narrowing a machine gun's spread), precision (for head shots) and stamina (health, obviously) as you defeat enemies. You get special rewards like new weapons for reaching certain levels. But this system adds replayability because these levels can be carried over to consecutive play-throughs.

When you finish the game, which can take a good 10 hours if you try to find all of the title's 100+ secret items, you lose your items but retain your experience, allowing you reach even higher levels of strength and earn more special rewards you never even saw the first time around.

It may be a total throwback to a 15-year-old Super Nintendo game, but Shadow Complex is one of XBLA's biggest, fully-fledged titles. It looks the part, puts a modern 3D twist on an intuitive 2D gameplay mechanic and throws you more big explosive guns and giant bosses than a Contra game.

If this, and Trails HD, are a sign of things to come from Xbox Live Arcade, we can't wait to see what else MS has cooking in its cauldron of downloadable treats. And for Super Metroid fans (which should be all of you), it's the sequel you've wanted Nintendo to cough up all these years.

The verdict

A stunningly-executed, modern-day Super Metroid.

  • Gorgeous and detailed visuals
  • A full-fat adventure on XBLA
  • It's new Super Metroid
  • A little on the easy side
Xbox Live Arcade
Chair Entertainment
Action, Adventure