Aesthetics of Play.
I find this topic very interesting because it leads me to look at games I like from a different angle. It also contextualizes why there are certain reactions to famous games.
For example the Metroid Series. The games were universally well regarded with the exception of Metroid: Other M
a game that fundementally changed the core aesthetics of the series and ended up being heavily polarizing. The latter is notable because mechanically it more closely resembles the original series than the 2D Metroid games in some respects, but the aesthetic core is radically different.
The original 2D games were built on Exploration, Fantasy, and Challenge. You were stranded in the middle of nowhere in a wide open alien planet and your goal was to survive long enough to escape. There were hints of other interesting elements but they didn't really detract from those core three. This is where the Metroid Prime
series really shined is taking those core elements and transferring them into an entirely different set of mechanics.
Metroid: Other M
on the other hand, though Mechanically similar to both the original series and the Prime series in places gave a HUGE focus on Beauty and Narrative with exploration almost entirely de-emphasized. I think it IS possible to have a game that includes both a strong narrative and a freely explorable world but it takes a less cinematic style of story telling without the flashy cutscenes.
That game also shows how different mechanics can clash if there isn't a solid plan. Team Ninja is a big fan of Nintendo Hard
games meaning that there would inevitably be a huge increase in the Challenge which in some ways was a detriment to the Narrative ambitions of the game. Who's willing to bet that the "Adam forgets to authorize Samus's Varia Suit" thing was a result of Team Ninja saying "We want a lava level where Samus doesn't have her Varia Suit for a good chunk of it" and Ishimoto said "Sure." without thinking of how that weakens that narrative. On the other hand Ishimoto's narrative focus meant that he wasn't willing to let the player skip the cutscenes which when combined with the Challenge of the boss fights meant that difficult bosses were an exercise in frustration.
On a lighter note does anyone else want to group their favorite games by these aesthetics?