Okay, this is something new I’ve decided to tackle this summer. I like to call myself a gamer, but I’ve never actually beaten a Metroid game. So, this summer I’ve taken it upon myself to run through… well, most of the Metroid games, and then review them for your pleasure here. The tentative list right now is Super Metroid, Prime 1-3, Fusion, and Zero Mission. To my knowledge the only ones I’m skipping is 1 (covered by Zero Mission essentially), 2 (I don’t even know where I’d find a copy of this) and Other M (ha). Well, expect these posts to be pretty sporadic in nature (and possibly extend past the summer) as I don’t have infinite time to play through these games, but for now I’ve beaten my first Metroid game. Considered by a lot of fans to be the best Metroid game, and I can kind of see why. Without further ado, I present you with… Super Metroid.
I’ve never played a Metroid game before this one, but I know a little bit about it. Starting with the plot… Well, the Metroid plot line is kind of interesting, but honestly not the thing I focused on. Moreover, Super Metroid kind of stays away from cinematics and explanations, so you kind of have to glean the plot for yourself. From what I understand, Samus finds this baby metroid in one of the earlier games, and then it gets stolen by Ridley. Samus follows Ridley to Zebes, and that’s how Super Metroid starts. You gotta get back the baby metroid. Obviously not the most engrossing plot, but it doesn’t have to be. Super Metroid’s about getting a pretty open-ended mission, and exploring your way to the end.
A lot of what I found makes Metroid great as a series (speaking as someone who’s beaten Super Metroid and began Prime and Zero Mission) is the atmosphere and gameplay. The atmospheres of the Metroids I’ve played have all been similar, and it’s felt good. Essentially it’s you, Samus. You’re a badass bounty hunter, on a hostile planet. Your bounty? The leader of the Space Pirates, a superintelligent dragon thing called Ridley. The planet will do its damnedest to get in your way, but you won’t be stopped. You’ll deal with all manner of enemy, from sentient flora to kung fu space pirates, and it’s awesome.
The gameplay, along with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has spawned a term called “Metroidvania”. If you’re unfamiliar, it essentially means a large open world. However, many of the areas are blocked off from the start. You’ll gradually gain powers as you advance through the game, allowing you to access previously inaccessible areas. There are tons of collectibles to find using your new powers as you get them, too. As for the specific gameplay for Super Metroid, it’s a just a pretty big platformer. You run around, you jump, and you have an arm cannon to shoot at enemies. You gain a bunch of different powers, from being able to transform into a ball to get through small areas, to a high jump, to infinite jumping. You also get a pretty vast arsenal of weapons, like missiles and plasma beams and ice beams.
I’ll be honest, the first time I played Super Metroid, I wasn’t a fan. I was playing on Wii virtual console, with a Gamecube controller, and quite honestly, I thought it controlled like ass. In the beginning, you shoot really tiny shots, it felt weird to aim at different points, and the jumping mechanics seemed to constantly either overcompensate or undercompensate. These problems were all rectified as I progressed through the game, got a little better, and realized that the Gamecube controller has an awful d-pad, and a few hours in I was really enjoying myself.
Unlike a lot of games nowadays, Super Metroid drops you in this world with a lot of possibilities, and gives you pretty much no direction. While there is a goal (you have to beat 4 certain bosses to access the final area), if you have the willpower and know a few tricks you can get through the game a myriad of different ways. For example, via some really bizarre control scheme, you can wall jump off and up walls. While the game never explicitly tells you this, it’s actually quite useful and can be used to get to certain places before you should be able to. It’s little things like this that really make this game fun to play.
As far as the graphics are concerned, well, consider first that it’s a Super Nintendo game. So my point of reference and comparison are going to be other Super Nintendo games, clearly. I’d say that comparatively to other games of the period it looks pretty good. And even today it holds up as quite playable and nice to look at. The sprites seem clean and crisp, but the areas of the game are a little same-y in that they mostly feel like cave after cave. Once you get past that some of the areas are actually quite cool. The Wrecked Ship in particular was quite a fun area.
If you’re like me and aren’t familiar with Metroid games, but have played a lot of Super Smash Brothers… The music is going to be quite familiar. That’s how it felt to me. When I heard some of the tracks in this game I though “Oh, I know this one!” and there was an instant link there that really made me enjoy the game some more. I definitely like the music of this game. The only problem I had with the soundtrack, and this has more to do with me being awful than the game itself… Well, I’d get lost quite often. And so for an hour or two at a time, I’d just be hearing the same tracks over and over again. As you’d imagine, combined with being frustrated at being lost for so long, the repetitive music did little to improve my mood. But after having beaten the game and taking a step back, I can say a lot of the tracks in this game are quite enjoyable to listen to.
One thing that’s really awesome about Super Metroid (and I suspect this to be true of most of the Metroid games) is that they’re totally replayable. While I don’t expect to replay Super Metroid for a while, the game does give you a completion percentage (depending on how much stuff you found, secret or otherwise) and a timer for how fast you’ve beaten the game. My first run was something like 70 or so percent, with a final time of 9:44. That’s nine hours, of course. Samus does give you a little present if you finish the game fast enough, so for some people that’s all the replay incentive they need. Other than that, I think there are a little of cool tricks in this game that make it fun to sequence break and do casual speedruns of, so if I replayed it it’d probably be in that kind of capacity.