By RenegadeSaint 1 Comments
Sweat dripping down her brow, visor fogged, Samus froze a cannon-fodder flying enemy and stylishly rolled into the chamber of the great beast, Kraid. Disgusting, vile, a symbol of all the torture she had received while wandering the hell that is Zebes, he needed to be exterminated. She charged into battle with the fury of an Amazonian warrior. Three seconds later she was buried in a pit of sand, unable to escape, being pelted by boomerang like projectiles as her energy slowly drained. Then she was dead. I was dead.
After many hours of frustration and several days of late night adventuring, I had finally encountered a boss. I had three energy tanks, the freeze beam, and 75 missiles in my weapons cache. I was ready to do some damage, but every strategy seemed to fail. Kraid's attacks did way too much damage and I kept falling into that hellish pit. I tried freezing his bullets, I tried jumping over him, I tried going kamikaze with missiles flying, but nothing seemed to work. I can't even begin to count the amount of time I spent killing enemies to earn health (5 points at a time) and missiles, only to be immediately destroyed by Kraid and have to restart with 30 energy. To make things worse, the utterly painful password system mocked me with every death. I'm no video game savant, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out that I was missing something. I decided to call it quits for a couple of days.
The more I thought about the futility of my efforts, the more I realized I would have to find some more power-ups. The manual talked about the Varia Suit and the Screw Attack, both of which sounded helpful. I decided to find them and return for revenge. The only problem is that I had already explored every part of the world. Or so I thought. As it turns out, entire areas of the game world are sealed off from the player without so much as a hint at their existence. There was a map in the manual, but it might as well have been drawn with Crayons by a child. You literally need to bomb, shoot, and push against every piece of geometry to advance in the game. Once I really took this to heart, I found what I needed.
I was suddenly blazing through the game at supersonic speeds. I found the Hi-Jump Boots and I found myself sticking landings like no one's business. Then the watershed moment came. I found the Screw Attack. I cannot even begin to explain the difference this makes in the game. Being able to jump into enemies to kill them makes navigation unbelievably easier. You suddenly find yourself maxing out your health and spending much less time covered in lava and quicksand. Terrifying jumping enemies become lambs to the slaughter. The game becomes fun. Add on the Varia Suit (good luck finding this one) and Samus becomes simply beastly. I was finally ready to destroy Kraid.
My revenge was short and sweet, I froze his mid-level horn and hit him with an endless barrage of missiles. He fell like so many before him. Ridley was even easier. His fire breath was useless and a few well-placed missiles reunited him with Kraid. I pressed on to the final battle, slaying Metroids on the way, falling once to the wisp-like enemies that defend the Mother Brain, but returning for triumph on my next attempt. And that was it. I guided Samus to freedom and sighed in relief. I had conquered a timeless classic with absolutely no outside help. I won.
In the end, it's funny that the game's bosses were a mere footnote to my experience. The game is more of a puzzle than anything else. To succeed you just need to find the hidden areas, grab the power-ups, and keep your sanity. Patience is key and this game tested mine. In the end, I can't argue with the game's status as a classic. But I'm also left wondering why the game was so needlessly confusing. It's amazing how things have changed in the gaming industry and it's even more amazing how different Metroid feels at the end than it does at the beginning.
I can't really recommend everyone do what I did, but it's almost worth it as a history lesson. Try playing without any hints or FAQs and you'll learn a little about yourself and a lot about game design.