theuselessgod's Metroid: Zero Mission (Game Boy Advance) review

Fantastic, with one massive, crippling drawback.

The Short

Pros

- Remake of the original Metroid game for the GBA

- Same basic levels, areas, and bosses but with refined controls and abilities

- Manages to blend both nostalgia and modern conventions flawlessly

- Difficulty setting is appreciated (Metroid games tend to be easy...)

- Exploration, atmosphere, and music are all kept intact

- Can be sequence broke, which I missed from Metroid Fusion

- Adds a bit more backstory to Samus' origins, which is appreciated

- Another excellent 2D metroid game

Cons

- Introduced Zero Suit Samus, which I consider to be what essentially ruined this franchise

- Might be too familiar for those deeply rooted into the first Metroid game

- Seriously, the skanky pictures of Samus you unlock at the end? Is that necessary?

Everything's coming back to me.

The Long

After successfully bringing the Metroid franchise back to life with Metroid Prime and Metroid Fusion, Nintendo decided to jump back to its roots with Metroid Zero Mission. Simply put, Zero Mission is a remake of the original Metroid on the NES. You know, the one that looks like this:

The similarities are uncanny!

Upped with modern controls, graphics, and an extra "bonus" stage at the end, Metroid Zero Mission took the original concepts that made Metroid such a groundbreaking game and brought it up to par with the more recent series offerings. Does it succeed? Well...yes, with one rather major drawback.

Kraid. You've grown.

While Zero Mission is a remake, don't expect to find the same level structure here. Any similarities were obviously put in as throwbacks, but not as part of the actual level design. While there are a few familiar scenes, this is a new Metroid game in terms of maps, layout, powerups, and more. And it's for the better because of it. As much as I love the original Metroid, the game was confusing, long, and difficult to traverse. While modernizing the series certainly made it easier, the increased accessibility is greatly appreciated, and makes the game more fun.

The overwrought narrative structure of Metroid Fusion is gone here, and we're back to the regular-old "drop you off on the planet, good luck!" structure of Metroid games. So if you were a fan of Super Metroid, this'll be right up your alley. As with all Metroid games the goal is to explore your world, gain power-ups to access future areas, use those powerups to get more powerups, backtrack if you want for even more upgrades, and fight bosses and find secrets. It's a pretty classic formula, and this is it after years of refinement. It shines.

Jumping on big bubbles: check.

It also brings back sequence breaking, something noticeably missing from Metroid Fusion's linear, story driven style. For the uninitiated, "sequence breaking" is where, using some tricks and advanced gameplay techniques, a player can bypass gameplay gates (ex: doors requiring missiles, etc.) in attempts at speedrunning the game. It's a staple of Metroid games, and you can tell they designed Zero Mission with that in mind (some endings require runs to be under an hour). My best time was fourty-five minutes, and I used to boot up this game and play through the whole thing before going to bed every night in an attempt to shave off a minute or two. Good fun.

But all in all the gameplay is just there as an extremely solid (if not particularly groundbreaking) Metroid game. Classics like the ice beam, super missiles, varia suit, and more return. It's an absolute blast and a great throwback to everything that made this series so memorable and great.

And now that I've sung its praises, let's talk about the worst thing that ever happened to Metroid: the "Zero Suit."

Dammit, Zero Mission. You ruined everything.

Let's me just say this first: it was a shock to everybody in the first Metroid game when it turned out Samus was, in fact, a girl. It was a point they push further and further home with every subsequent Metroid games. When you die in Super Metroid, you get a flash of her suit exploding and seeing that there was, in fact, a hot chick inside. In Fusion she talks and you know she's a girl. Prime doesn't pander, but if you beat the game with 100% she'll take her helmet off.

But it was Zero Mission that ruined Samus' character for me, perhaps permanently.

Without going too deep into this (we'll save it for a video rant in the future), here is my issue. Samus has always been regarded as one of the (few) women in gaming who are not viewed as just a pretty face. What made her always interesting to me as a character is that she was competent, strong, extremely intelligent, and just so happened to also be a girl. Usually it's the male characters who are doing all the work (Mario/Link) while the female character is useless and sits around (Peach/Zelda). Samus kicked that notion in the teeth by being extremely badass while not being a blatant sex object. And, to be honest, I thought she was incredibly attractive because of it (as attractive as a pixelated game character can be). She extremely likeable because she was so good at what she did (a writer's trick to gain sympathy) and was generally the biggest badass in the universe. She didn't need to flaunt her sex-appeal because we liked her enough already (like Alyx Vance from the Half-Life 2 games). And yes, I know there was a code in Metroid where you pranced around as her without the suit, but bear with me here.

I can't even begin to describe how mad this makes me.

So after several successful games of having Samus as a strong, likeable female character who is appreciated by fans not because of her boobs or shots of her ass, what does Nintendo do? Strips her from her signature power-armor, gives her a skintight suit, and makes you prance around as her. Oh, and the cutscenes give you a fantastic view of her butt and busty self (as do the ending cutscenes).

Hang on, I'm getting so mad now I need to go for a breather. Be right back.

Still here? Ok. Now, let me say this about the final mission in Zero Mission, where you spend the first half of it without a suit: I actually kind of like the idea behind the gameplay. Stripping you down (hur hur?) to where you are even weaker than you are at the start of the game (all you have is a little stun-gun that has to recharge) and focus more on stealth was clever, especially since you dropped from super-godlike to pathetic. It made for a good switch in gameplay, and made it so when you did recover your powerups you felt even more empowered than ever before. It was an excellent switch in tone and a fantastic capstone to the mission.

So why the crap did she have to be sexied up for it? Why couldn't she look normal?

Pictured: what was once gaming's strongest heroine

Let me state that I am fully aware that the rewards for previous Metroid games (based on time) was showing Samus without her suit. I got that. But there is a distinct difference between showing her in a sports bra at the end of a game, verses playing whole levels (and changing her character) while prancing around in...that. You could argue Samus has always been sexy, but it was more of a tease. It wasn't blatant, and while I still don't think it was a good thing to begin with, I was able to look past it because I never really associated it with her character. Samus was the badass woman in the suit, not the badass woman in her underwear.

The Zero Suit was the beginning of the end for Samus as a character. Now that we apparently had free reign to brand her as a sex object rather than focus on the real reason why she was awesome, Nintendo put it in everything. She is the only character in all of Super Smash Bros Brawl whose ultimate blows her clothes off, resulting in her prancing around in the skintight body suit after she uses it. In Metroid Other M, Nintendo thought it would be a good idea to give the Metroid franchise to f***ing TEAM NINJA, the sexist douchebags who thinks making a game about fighting game girls in bikinies and using motion controls to bounce an underaged girl's massive breasts is an awesome idea. So of course she's constantly switching into her skintight, body-shaping suit every five seconds in that game. Once they opened the floodgates to Samus moving from someone to idealize to masturbation material, there was no turning back. Metroid was ruined, and this game was the start of it.

At least Retro kept showing restraint with the future Prime games.

Now that I'm done with that little tangent, let's finish up this review. Graphically, Zero Mission looks great, with new cutscenes illustrating climactic and classic moments (and Samus' ass...) as well as just some fantastic stylized pixel art as well. I don't think it looks quite as good as the theme presented in Fusion (and putting these games side by side you'll see a huge difference).

Music is also fantastic, remixing classic tracks perfectly to evoke the same themes. While some aren't quite as atmospheric as future Metroid games are known for, they bring a sense of awesomeness and adventure that works well with the game. Overall, the new songs are great.

This song still gives me chills.

Standing on its gameplay conventions, Metroid Zero Mission is an extremely solid, well-crafted Metroid game. It's beautiful, looks great, and has a good deal of challenge (especially on "Hard," which is the best way to play the game), exploration, and adventure going for it. It isn't particularly long, but that can be said of all Metroid games. It's a thrilling ride, and an absolute blast to play.

It's just a pity that they had to do what they did to Samus' character. And seeing how Metroid: Other M was just a downhill drop from this one (and it sold awful and had horrible ratings), it could very well have been the thing that lead to the doom of the franchise. Let's be honest here: Nintendo hasn't announced any new Metroid games since Other M, and this is one of their flagship franchises. It could very well be that the awfulness of Other M (which I think partially stemmed from the "sexing and stupiding" up of Samus in Zero Mission) has killed the franchise.

Time will tell. Regardless, Zero Mission is still an awesome game, despite its setbacks.

Four out of five stars.

I love you, Metroid. And you broke my heart.

More at http://nathanvsvideogames.blogspot.com

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