Soapbox features enable our individual writers and contributors to voice their opinions on hot topics and random stuff they've been chewing over. Today, Rory how the recent release of Metroid Prime Remastered has enabled him to settle an old score. Prime endboss spoilers inbound...
It’s always felt a little bit weird to say Metroid Prime is one of my favourite games of all time, because I’ve technically never been able to beat it.
You see, when I was but a wee sprog – on the first day of school, no less – my early years teacher (big up Mrs Holland) devised an icebreaker for the class that couldn’t really have been any simpler; just get up and share what are possibly the two most basic facts about your biology.
To cut a long story short, when my turn arrived, I panicked and just started to blindly guess all the colours of the rainbow. My teacher marched me to the bathroom, tail firmly between my legs, and ordered me to take a look in the mirror.
I stared into that blighter for a good two to three minutes, but I was still none the wiser. I honestly felt so stupid that I started to cry, and as I recounted the story to my mum on the walk home, it became clear that I was colour blind.
25 years on and those wounds have obviously healed, but colour blindness is something I’ve always had to contend with, and from my experience, it tends to fall into that ‘mildly fascinating’ category for a lot of people. So, here we are!
Before we start, what even is colour blindness?
Given that ‘blindness’ literally means the inability to see, you’d be forgiven for thinking that colour blind people just can’t see any colours at all. And while there is a form of colour deficiency called achromatopsia that means exactly that, it’s incredibly rare, affecting only 1 in 30,000 people.
For the vast majority of us, it’s not quite as black and white as that, if you’ll excuse the incredibly laboured pun. Explaining colour blindness to someone who isn’t colour blind is really quite difficult; I imagine it’s like trying to describe sound to a deaf person.
Colour blindness – or colour vision deficiency, as it’s sometimes known – comes in a variety of spicy flavours, and they all affect people differently; my colour blindness could be completely different to somebody else’s. In most cases though, it’s a simple hardware issue with the cone cells of the retina, resulting in a reduced ability to see colours, and decreased confidence when attempting to differentiate between them.
Purples might look like blues, yellows might look like greens, and browns, reds and oranges often melt into an incomprehensible spectrum. You could point to a red coat, tell me it was brown, and I’d simply take your word for it.
But in reality, you and I probably don’t see the world that much differently – I’m not seeing green skies and blue grass – it’s just that I have a harder time making sense of things.
Could I be colour blind without even knowing?
Colour blindness usually rears its head in social situations from a young age, so it’s unlikely it would go undiagnosed for too long. However, it’s technically possible; you’re essentially relying on a person with normal colour vision to tell you, so if they never do, you’d never really know.
If you’re a woman by birth, then you’re less likely to have colour deficiency; the genes responsible for the condition are on the X chromosome, so while it only affects 1 in 200 women, it’s estimated to afflict as many as 1 in 12 men.
You can test for colour blindness – or simply flex on your colour blind mates – by doing an Ishihara Test like this one. See if you can beat my score of 2!
Fascinatingly, reverse colour blindness tests (like this one!) also exist, just in case you’d really like to eliminate all doubt.
How does colour blindness affect your everyday life?
Well, you can never be a pilot, train driver, or work in air traffic control, for starters. But colour blindness manifests itself in much more subtle ways, too.
Picking out clothing can be a struggle. I tend to stick to neutral colours that I know will pair well with anything; blacks, greys, whites, off-whites and creams, then the occasional touch of sandy shades. A splash of orange if I’m feeling really crazy.
Speaking of oranges (sorry) it can also be difficult to pick out ripe fruit, a fact which couldn’t have been demonstrated in a more timely fashion than when I came across the Tweet above about South Korea’s ‘one-a-day bananas’ earlier in the week.
Sounds like it could cause some problems when gaming...
Sure can. The first time I recall it being an issue in the sphere of video games, I was playing a Net Yaroze (remember that?!) puzzle game by the name of Super Bub, which was essentially a Bust-a-Move knock-off. I couldn’t for the life of me (and still can’t) distinguish between the yellow and green orbs, much to the delight of any competing players.
Over the years, my mates have developed a fairly wholesome habit of asking “Are those kits alright for you?” when playing FIFA. The strips that I’d call out as colour clashes made absolutely no sense to them, but they’d nevertheless magnanimously back out to the main menu when they could see me repeatedly passing the ball away. Get yourself mates like mine.
What’s the deal with Metroid Prime, then?
The game’s eponymous final boss requires you to switch beams depending on which colour is emanating from within the boss’ exoskeleton. If you’re not able to match the colour, you’re not able to dish out the necessary damage – a fact I didn’t even realise until I unleashed a playground rant about my game being gliiiiitched, man.
Metroid Prime is no slouch of a fight – especially when you’re the kind of player who’s too impatient to seek out additional Energy and Missile Tanks – so toss in that colour-switching mechanic, and it spelt the death knell for me.
I was around 12 years old when I first tackled the original, so, sure, you could argue it was partly a “skill issue, bro.” But in truth, the main barrier for me was something I had absolutely no control over. And that sucked.
Baby (Metroid) steps
Thankfully, with the release of Metroid Prime Remastered on Switch, Retro Studios has made history by implementing – to the best of my knowledge – the first ever colour blind accessibility options in a first-party Nintendo title.
(The Splatoon series has a ‘colour lock’ feature which is certainly handy, but it was never explicitly called out as being a colour blind thing, so I’m handing the W to Retro on this occasion. You dropped this, kings 👑)
It might seem like a small thing to most, but inclusions like this can mean the world to players like me, even if Remastered’s implementation isn't a perfect fit for everyone
Many of the biggest releases – Fortnite, Battlefield and Call of Duty, to name a few – have had colour blind modes for years now. In truth, Nintendo is still miles behind the competition when it comes to accessibility, but here's hoping this is but a small step on their mission to bring smiles to as many faces as possible.
Whatever the future holds in that regard, at least today I can say: thank you, Retro Studios. Maybe, just maybe, I can now finally beat Metroid Prime.