Metroid is the first game to be released in the long-running Metroid series. This game was released in August 1987 for the Nintendo Entertainment System by Nintendo R&D1, Intelligent Systems, and Nintendo. The game was highly regarded for its non-linear, side-scrolling exploration, and spawned dozens upon dozens of imitators, including the well-known and long-running Castlevania franchise (which helped inspire the term " Metroidvania").
Since its release, Metroid has been ported to a variety of systems, including the Virtual Console, a Classic NES Series release on the Game Boy Advance, a remake under the title Metroid: Zero Mission, and a release on 3DSWare.
The game follows the bounty hunter Samus Aran, who has been employed by the Galactic Federation to retrieve a shipment of a highly dangerous species known as " Metroids" after it has been stolen by Space Pirates (an alien race led by the sentient " Mother Brain" creature). Metroid takes place on the planet of Zebes, where Samus traverses the planet and manages to trigger the self-destruct function to destroy Mother Brain and escape the planet.
Metroid was directed by Gunpei Yokoi and Satoru Okada, with music composed by Hirokazu Tanaka. Other members of the team included Hiroji Kiyotake, Hirofumi Matsuoka, and Yoshio Sakamoto.
The gameplay of the original Metroid is defined as very stiff, which makes the game very difficult. Samus can fire with B and jump with A, or the inner and outer buttons respectively. Samus can fire either up or sideways, which is very limiting; later installments allow her to fire in a third direction, directly down. Later installments allow diagonal firing as well. Instead of allowing players to fire down, one press down on the directional pad forces the player into Morph Ball mode, which is acquired at the very beginning of the game.
Players can expand their arsenal through various upgrades picked up in the game. At the very beginning of the game Samus is very weak, and each power up makes her more powerful with items that let her increase how far she can shoot, how high she can jump, and how much damage she take. Metroid was one of the first games to provide players an open world with a side-scrolling perspective, which was very daunting since it provided very little in terms of direction. Most games at the time of its release had players move almost entirely horizontally or vertically and in a single direction. Metroid also has several areas of exploration, which adds further to first time players’ confusion. Each section is separated by a single elevator, and no more than two areas are connected at once outside of Brinstar.
Metroid, at least in its North American and European releases, used a complex password system for saving data and progression. This led to some very famous passwords like the infamous Justin Bailey password alongside regular progression passwords that players got after each time they died. The Japanese version of the game for the Famicom Disk System, which was released later, had 3 separate save files akin to The Legend of Zelda and other minor enhancements such as less slowdown and input latency during busy scenes, slightly altered sound effects and improved music, and less predictable AI patterns for certain enemies.
Abilities and Power-Ups
With almost every game, there are power ups and pickups. Metroid is no different, and each power up aids Samus along her quest.
Known as “Maru Mari”, this is the ability to curl up into a ball and traverse areas that are about half the size of Samus’ sprite in-game. This ability allows Samus to get around tight corners when falling down shafts as well, and is useful for bomb jumping which is hard to pull off due to the game’s stiff control nature.
These are only usable in Morph Ball mode, and can be used by pressing the same button as the one to fire Samus's arm cannon. Bombs in Metroid are pretty weak, and are only used to open up new areas for most players. In speed runs, they are used to perform bomb jumps, which are particularly tricky in this Metroid game due to the controls and physics in the game. Bombs can also be used to shake Metroids off of Samus if they become attached to her.
High Jump Boots
These allow Samus to jump higher than normal. This allows players to reach areas that were otherwise unreachable, including the end area of the game, unless they are sequence breaking for speed runs.
The Screw Attack is a somersault move that damages enemies that come in contact with Samus while in midair. Samus also flashes colors rapidly while performing this attack. This attack does not damage Metroids and bosses, however. The Screw Attack remains a fan favorite to this day.
The Varia Suit gives the player a 50% boost in defense to all damage. In comparison to other Metroid games where it protects Samus against harsh environments, that is not the case in this game as environmental damage from heated rooms does not exist. The Varia Suit in this game has a white shade of color to it, unlike later Metroid games where it is more orange in color.
These are a secondary, but more powerful form of weapon that Samus picks up in the game. Missile packs are usually in groups of five and are scattered throughout the world. In Metroid, for beating the two main bosses, Ridley or Kraid, Samus is given 75 missiles a piece for defeating each one. Missiles are vital to defeating not only Metroids Samus meets in Tourian, but the final boss as well as no other weapon will allow Samus to damage either of these two enemies. Switching to Missiles changes Samus’ suit color to purple. In later games this does not happen, and the color purple is a signature color of the Gravity Suit.
This beam increases the distance in which Samus fires her beam weapon. Originally the Power Beam only goes about as far as Samus herself vertically, but this item extends that length considerably, making it not only easier to defeat enemies, but keep Samus from losing a lot of health at the same time as well. In later Metroid games, it is assumed the player automatically has the Long Beam as the standard weapon.
This beam allows Samus to freeze enemies for a short period of time. This allows the player to use them as platforms or avoid them entirely. When used as platforms, players can use them to skip portions of the game that are otherwise required to beat the game. The Ice Beam is necessary to freeze Metroids in Turian in order to deal with them in a swift manner.
This beam changes the way in which Samus’ beam fires. Instead of a straight line, it becomes a curvy line, so it now has some verticality to it. In addition, it can also fire through walls and stacks on top of previous beams.
These increase Samus’ health by 100 for each one the player finds. Originally Samus starts the game with only 30 health, even though the maximum health at that point in time is 99. Automatically refills health to maximum upon pickup. Getting these are vital to survival throughout the game as damage can be drained rather quickly by some enemies and hazards. There are eight of these tanks spread throughout the game.
Areas on Zebes
There are total of five areas on Zebes in this game. The majority of the areas only have a single way in or out, except for Brinstar which acts as the game’s hub world per se.
This is the opening area of the game, and is mainly blue in color. While not overly difficult to navigate, the majority of the useful power ups are located here, including the Long Beam, the Morph Ball, the Morph Ball Bomb, the Varia Suit, and the Ice Beam.
This is the game’s fire world, while it’s not that noticeable while playing the game, most of the environments are rock and lava based. There’s not much in terms of mechanical or man-made environments here. This area is mainly a pre-cursor to Ridley, where the second main boss is.
This area is made almost exclusively for the purpose of facing the area’s boss, Kraid. Kraid is a tiny tortoise demon that shoots spikes. Kraid’s size is much, much smaller in comparison to later Metroid games where he is nearly two screens tall. While the area contains no meaningful upgrades besides a few Energy Tanks and Missile Packs, defeating the boss is one of the keys necessary to opening the path to the final area.
This area is made exclusively for the purpose of facing the area’s boss, Ridley. Ridley is a winged, fire breathing Purple Dragon that jumps up and down. Like Kraid, Ridley’s size is similar to Samus in this game, whereas in later games he is double to triple her height. This area once again provides no meaningful upgrades, and beating Ridley is the other key to progressing to the final area of the game, Tourian.
This is the final area of the game, and it is very mechanical in nature. Besides the final boss, there are only 2 types of enemies here, and both are exclusive to the area: Metroids and Zeebeties. Zeebeties are the final boss’s main form of defense and can very easily knock Samus into a hazard pit if the player is not careful, which can lead to a quick demise. Metroids are energy-sucking parasites that are the main enemy throughout this area until the player reaches the final chamber. Once the final boss is beaten, a self destruction timer starts and requires the player to race to the top of the next shaft to beat the game.
Metroid has a total of three bosses across the five areas of the game. All three bosses are required to beat the game unless a player is using sequence breaks to bypass both of the first two bosses.
Kraid fires either two or three spikes at Samus at once, any of which will knock her back a good distance and, if not careful, into a hazard. After defeating Kraid, Samus will receive 75 additional missiles for her trouble. She can also get an Energy Tank hidden in the boss chamber.
Ridley jumps up and down and sends fireballs at Samus. This boss fight can be very hard or very easy depending on the tell enemies give the player in the previous room: That room contains enemies that jump at a high or low distance. If they are jumping high, the fight with Ridley will be very easy. If they are jumping low, the fight with Ridley will be very hard.
While this is the final boss in the game, it is more of an obstacle than anything. Only the Zeebeties are the main problem with this boss as they will constantly knock Samus back and forth, either delaying the inevitable or sending Samus to a hazard death at the feet of Mother Brain with no way to climb out. While coming in direct contact with Mother Brain will damage Samus, it is not that difficult. Due to the concurrent sprite limitations of the NES, freezing Zeebeties with the Ice Beam is highly effective as further Zeebeties will not spawn until the set amount already onscreen have exited, giving the Samus more breathing room to pump missiles into Mother Brain at will. Afterwards, Samus will have race to the top of the next chamber in order to beat the game. The only obstacle here is the player's ability to perform precision jumps, otherwise they have the potential to fall a very long way down.
Samus Aran is a bounty hunter sent by the Galactic Federation on a mission to destroy the Metroids and the Space Pirates on their base of operations, Zebeth (or Zebes as it is called in the later games). During her infancy, Samus's home planet K-2L was attacked by Space Pirates during a raid that killed her parents . She was orphaned until she was found by the Chozo, a highly advanced race of bird-like creatures, who brought her up as a skilled athlete and infused her with Chozo blood. Her Power Suit was designed specifically for her, which protects from a wide array of danger as well as granting Samus unprecedented offensive and athletic ability. Equipped with an Arm Cannon which can fire self-powered beams of energy, Samus must find various upgrades to her suit during her mission, such as the Ice Beam or Missile Launcher. Other items include the Morph Ball, which turns her suit into a compact mobile sphere. This augment allows Samus to roll between gaps, duck below fire, and drop bombs. Many blocks can only be destroyed by bombs, which then can be rolled through to discover a new area. Samus must combine the uses of these and many other power-ups to stop the Space Pirates' plan to mass-produce the dangerous Metroid species and take over the galaxy.
Metroids are flying parasitic life-forms that originate from the planet SR-388. They feed by latching onto other creatures and sucking life energy out, quickly killing the victim and enlarging the Metroid as a result. Metroids multiply quickly when exposed to beta rays, making them a very insidious species that poses a threat to the entire galaxy. Space Pirates seek Metroids due to their highly dangerous and destructive potential.
Space Pirates steal from ships under the command of their leader, Mother Brain. Ridley is a high commander of the Space Pirates, he is a dragon like creature that uses his tail to slash and also breathes fireballs. In many cases, Ridley leads Space Pirates into a raid. Once he killed Samus' parents, he became Samus' arch enemy. He has been living on Zebeth, with the rest of the Space Pirates, and is one of two main bosses. Kraid, who is also a high ranked Space Pirate, is the other boss in the game. Even though he is relatively small, his original design was to be very big, but because the NES had restricted pixels, this was not possible. In future games, like Super Metroid, he is much bigger, and takes up almost 2 full screens. Space Pirates themselves are human-like, but are reptile looking and have odd shaped hands. They use their hands as weapons, which fire two beams. Their appearance has changed over the course of the series.
Metroid was one of the earliest video games to be released that gave players the freedom to explore a non-linear world. This was also one of the first games that led itself to having a following of people that wanted to beat the game as fast as possible. This continued throughout all of the Metroid games, and became the poster child of the speedrunning community with Metroid Prime. There are several sequence breaking elements in this game that allowed this to happen, and have made their way into other games in the series as well.
In Metroid, the player could perform a bomb jump by laying a bomb then quickly getting out of Morph Ball mode. When the bomb explodes Samus will be sent slightly higher and can perform a regular jump afterwards which will act like she has the High Jump Boots.
It is entirely possible to only defeat a single boss in Metroid, that being Mother Brain. It involves the ice beam, morph ball mode and bombs, missiles and a stray enemy that must follow Samus into the progress room that normally forms a bridge for safe passage once both bosses are beaten. This will allow Samus to attempt freeze the enemy at the end of the platform and proceed to the next door.
Freedom of Choice
While the game prefers the player defeat Kraid before Ridley, they can defeat Ridley before Kraid. This has led to routes claiming that doing this leads to faster times, although it is entirely dependent on the skill of the player.
- Metroid has been ported to the Game Boy Advance twice: as an unlockable in Metroid: Zero Mission and as an Classic NES Series standalone title.
- Metroid can be unlocked in Metroid Prime on GameCube by using the Game Boy Advance Link Cable with Metroid Fusion once it is beaten.
- In the Wii Virtual Console version of Metroid, new passwords are useable exclusively in that version.
- Looking at the Game’s Map as a whole, Mother Brain in Tourian is directly above where Samus gets the Morph Ball in Brinstar.