Aran the Wanderer, Part I

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What a difference 24 years can make. And what a difference 6 days can make. The original Metroid was released in the United States on August 15, 1987, but it didn't find its way into my catalog until Aug 31, 2011. I spent the last week exterminating wall-crawling porcupines, dodging gravity-defying grasshoppers, and blasting every single space rock on the planet Zebes. I came, I saw, I conquered, and I almost cried.

Two factors contributed to my inane attempt to conquer this classic title:

US NES Box Art
US NES Box Art
  1. The GiantBomb SNES marathon
  2. 3DS Ambassador Program

The first renewed my interest in the Metroid series as the crew played a little bit of Super Metroid (a title which I own, but I've never really delved into) and the second gave me immediate access to the game. For some reason which I shall never quite comprehend, I decided to play the game as it had been originally released in NA:

  • No save states allowed (this is not even a possibility on the 3DS version). Only the built-in password system could be used to maintain progress.
  • No FAQs or internet resources (one exception, as seen below).
  • Electronic access to the game's manual.
Portable Pain
Portable Pain

The way I saw it, if thousands of kids in the late 80s were able to navigate the labyrinth that is Zebes, then surely a 26 year-old doctor would breeze through the game using cold hard logic and decades of gaming experience.

I was wrong.

Sticky porcupines are some of the more common Zebes rabble.
Sticky porcupines are some of the more common Zebes rabble.

As soon as I started, I was flooded with visions of Metroid II: Return of Samus for the Gameboy, a game which I've owned for years and have given up on more than I'd like to admit. There was no map, no battery back-up for saves (even Metroid II has this base function), enemies killed Samus in seconds, and her so-called "weapon" was more akin to a pea shooter than a Mega Buster. My only real advantage was the knowledge of the upgrades that I would surely find in the near future. I immediately moved to the left and grabbed the morph ball power-up, a sure sign of my impending victory. As I picked my way through the winding caverns, it became clear I'd be doing plenty of backtracking in the coming days. Numerous areas appeared to be gated off, patiently awaiting the return of a more experienced adventurer. I pressed on.

The next several hours of jumping, shooting, getting lost, and employing every bit of self-control to prevent the blunt force destruction of my 3DS taught me a few things. Shoot everything, bomb everything, and hug every wall in hopes of finding invisible passages. Entire required areas are hidden away from the player without so much as a hint to their existence. Everything looks the same; the repetitive corridors and endless climbs run together like the backgrounds of an old Bugs Bunny cartoon. It's way too easy to accidentally get caught in an endless cycle of spawn, enemy, pit, death. This game isn't a classic, it's a torture device that would make Vlad the Impaler blush. How the hell was I going to beat this thing?

At the end of my first several play sessions, I had made little progress and was starting to question my decision-making ability. Things were not going as planned.

To be concluded...