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Some Metroid Animation Struggles Led To The Creation Of Samus' Morph Ball

Samus Aran of the "Metroid" franchise has perfected a potent, deadly arsenal across her games, shooting Super Missiles that detonate in icy explosions, turning herself invisible and near noiseless, and firing charged plasma shots that pass through walls. That said, no ability or maneuver has become so synonymous with this talented bounty hunter than one: Turning into a ball and rolling around.

The morph ball debuted in the original "Metroid," and it has appeared in every game since. It even became the star of "Metroid Prime Pinball" for Nintendo DS. None of this might have occurred if not for a problem the developers faced creating the NES game — a problem only a morph ball could solve.

While the developers have issued no concrete explanation, common consensus on the internet has agreed on the oddball origins of the morph ball. Cracked on YouTube is one of those who broke down the story of the power-up that launched a thousand memes (per Know Your Meme). Apparently, it simply proved too difficult on the NES to create a quality crawling animation.

Minimizing stress for NES

Cracked shared how programmers embraced the morph ball as a workaround to developing a dedicated crawling animation in the classic "Metroid." The YouTube channel cited an IGN article explaining how the "Metroid" team faced trouble putting Samus in a basic crouching animation, let alone a full-on crawl.

The NES kickstarted a video game renaissance, but it could only stretch its own hardware limits so far. On the subject of sprites, Reddit users on the gamedev thread affirmed that the NES could only handle 8-by-8 and 8-by-16 pixel sprites, and no more than 8 sprites at a time could exist on the same scan line without causing render issues. Since the "Metroid" team has not spoken up about the exact complications it faced developing a crawling animation, perhaps the restrictions on sprite dimensions played a role. Regardless, the morph ball joined Samus' lineup of well-rounded abilities, paving the way for future variations like the boost and hyper balls.

Similar to its technical origins, "Metroid" canon has not often expanded on the lore of the enigmatic morph ball. Fans have churned out a number of theories as to how Samus manages this feat (via Nintendo Life), with explanations varying from a shrinking mechanic to technology that creates an extra-dimensional space — like that of a Poké Ball.

Until someone has scheduled an interview with "Metroid" designer Yoshio Sakamoto, fans may have to wait to roll out hard-hitting questions about the morph ball or "Metroid Prime 4" development.