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

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Not-Quite-20th Anniversary Celebration

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Those of you old enough to remember playing the original Metroid (kindergarten graduation!), will notice many references to the original and also recognize many of the locales.  But don't think the game is over with Mother Brain, because it's not.  This is no simple remake.  It seems that in the grand story of Samus Aran, the original NES Metroid was a summarized version of history while Zero Mission goes into a little more detail about what happened before, during, and after the Mother Brain debacle.  Zero Mission is easily one of the best GBA games available and with all the tie-ins to the NES as well as Prime, fans new and old are sure to enjoy it. 
This is a Game Boy.  So all things considered, the game looks great.  Vivid color and detailed backgrounds bring the world of Zebes to life.  The game may be 2D, but little details like keeping Samus' gun-arm on her right side make the game appear to be more than flat.  The game also features some extremely well done cutscenes that may surprise some GBA owners. 
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If you played Fusion, not much has changed.  The controls are simple and easy to use, as you would imagine.  Also, if you can't quite remember how to get around Zebes after 20 years, they have now added an onscreen map that will help guide you.  This is a great addition to the control scheme, especially if you remember getting lost for hours in endless loops in some of the maze-like levels of the NES game. 
The sound in some of the more recent GBA games has been quite surprising, and Zero Mission certainly qualifies.  The background music is somehow nostalgic and new at the same time thanks to remixed versions of music from the original NES game.  Also, the varying sound effects from different monsters is a nice touch.  In a game where you're constantly blasting stuff, it's nice hear something less redundant.  Oh, did I mention it's in stereo if you use headphones?   

Replay Value 
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The game's only drawback lies here.  It's short.  Very short.  It is indeed longer than the NES Metroid, but don't let your nostalgic memories of taking weeks to beat Metroid deceive you.  Zero Mission will leave you wanting more, but although the game is abrupt, at least they give you extra endings and bonus material to acquire which drives you to play through the adventure again.  
It's Metroid.  What more do you want?  The game brilliantly blends a sense of nostalgia with a fresh experience.  The presentation and gameplay are top notch for the hardware, and will leave you hoping for more.  The story does go beyond where you would expect it to end, but it's still quite a short game.  Hopefully they'll do something for the 20th Anniversary in 2006.     
*** This review was written for shortly after the release of the game. ***

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