The Definitive Metroid Experience
What with Metroid: Other M releasing in a few days, I felt it was appropriate to revisit earlier chapters in the Metroid series, culminating with the best: Super Metroid. It regularly ranks highly on lists of the “best games of all time”, and is widely considered an indisputable classic. It inspired a whole new form of level design that has been copied by the Castlevania series, among others. Newcomers can experience it today on the Wii’s Virtual Console for 800 Wii points (a classic controller is required) to see what all the fuss is about, which I would highly recommend.
Super Metroid picks up right where Metroid II (GameBoy) left off. Samus can’t bring herself to kill the last Metroid (a deadly jellyfish-like organism) after it hatches and assumes her to be its mother. She decides to give it to a scientific research station so that it may be studied. Soon after dropping it off, the space station sends out an emergency S.O.S. and Samus returns to find the baby Metroid being stolen by Ridley, a dragon-like alien. It’s back to Planet Zebes, the Space Pirates’ home base, to retrieve the Metroid and end the Space Pirate menace for good.
Samus must work her way through Zebes’ sprawling subterranean labyrinth, and she’ll need to upgrade her powersuit’s capabilities to do so. The Chozo was a bird-like alien race that adopted her as a child and built her armored suit, and remnants of their technology can be found throughout the planet’s interior. The morpball allows Samus to curl up into a ball, allowing her to roll into tight crevices. Area maps can be downloaded from handy computer terminals, but it’ll be up to Samus to fill in the blanks. Soon bombs are acquired which eliminate certain blocks, allowing Samus to enter uncharted territory. Color-coded doors can only be opened with the right type of missile or bomb, and other areas are off limits until Samus acquires a grappling beam and other abilities. The underlying game design is both simple and satisfying; as the list of upgrades grows, so too does the player’s freedom to explore.
Super Metroid uses every button on the Super Nintendo’s controller, which allows Samus to do a few new things. A dash button allows her to pick up speed in straightaways, and the L and R shoulder buttons allow her to aim diagonally up and down for those pesky diving enemies. Even with all the buttons, you’ll still need to equip certain weapons by cycling through them with the Select button, which can be a bit of a pain. The regular spin jump is very slow and floaty compared to the newer entries in the series (see Metroid Fusion, Metroid: Zero Mission), which is slightly annoying. I also find the grappling beam’s hook to be a little too precise; a larger hit detection would allow Samus to grapple small targets more easily, which would be more fun. A couple of Samus’ new abilities aren’t explained very well in the game, such as the ability to wall-jump and charge her dash energy for super jumps, so new players should definitely read the manual. Thankfully these annoyances don’t detract much from the overall experience.
Maybe it’s the nostalgia talking, but after settling into the game’s 16-bit graphics, I completely forgot about the flashy presentation of contemporary games. Sure, there’s some slow-down here and there when the action gets heavy, but otherwise this is a fine looking game. It was one of the best-looking games of its day, and even today the graphics do a serviceable job. The newer 2D Metroids on the GameBoy Advance look only marginally better. The sound and music holds up pretty well too, with the exception of the ridiculous voice clip in the game’s introduction.
Super Metroid, like its predecessors, presents a unique challenge among video games. On one hand, players can try to explore every nook and cranny of the planet to find 100% of the hidden upgrades. This will probably take the common player 6-8 hours to do on their first attempt. On the other hand, the game rewards players for beating it quickly (under one hour) by showing a secret ending. Unless the player uses a walkthrough, they’ll have to memorize the quickest path through the game, which would take several attempts to master. In fact, there are so many ways to play through it that there are still players around the world attempting to set new world records. Its lasting appeal is a testament to its quality, which continues to shine despite many years of technological progress in the medium. For a mere 800 Wii points, it’s a must-have on the Wii’s Virtual Console service.
This is a repost from my website, www.plasticpals.com