As I said last week on my review of Super Metroid, I plan to play most of the Metroid games this summer (leaving out 2 and Other M… and Prime Pinball/Prime Hunters) as I hadn’t played any of them before. Since I’ve done Super Metroid, I’ve moved on to Metroid Zero Mission. From what I understand it’s a remake of the first Metroid game, and while I can’t really compare them never having played the first one, Zero Mission certainly feels like the Metroid formula from Metroid 1 to Super Metroid hasn’t really been changed. And that’s a good thing.
I’ll be comparing Zero Mission quite a bit to Super Metroid. They are, after all, quite similar. A lot of the areas are similar, and ditto with the powers. I’ll be honest, when I first started playing through Zero Mission, I was a bit thrown off. Even though it started almost identically to Super Metroid (minus Super Metroid’s prologue), it just looked and felt different. Even little things like the way Samus held her arm cannon looked different to me and I instantly was a little annoyed. I think the most annoying thing at first was that your arm cannon’s shot did not travel all the way across the screen from the start of the game. Of course, this is one of the first upgrades you get (called the Long Beam). Essentially, like this Long Beam issue, almost all of my complaints disappeared entirely as I played through the game, which was welcome.
Atmospherically, Super Metroid and Zero Mission are almost identical. You’re on this planet filled with hostile alien life, and… Actually, I’m not entirely sure what the “mission” in Zero Mission was. You kind of just get to the end, and fight a boss, and that’s it (well, except for some “post-game content” which I’ll address later). I mean, plot has never really been a big thing with the Metroid games I’ve played, so I don’t really have a problem with that. You’re on a hostile alien planet armed with a super suit and you’re going to kill pretty much everything that gets in your way, including alien space pirates. I mean, not much sounds better than that.
The way the game’s presented to you is really reminiscent of older games back in the day. By that I mean that there isn’t much hand-holding and you just go along your merry way. In the general metroidvania style, there is a certain linearity to the game insofar as where you’re supposed to go and where you CAN go. Other than Chozo Statues highlighting places on the map you’re supposed to go (often outside the boundaries of the map, with no help given on how to get there) you’re by and large left by your lonesome. And I think that’s cool.
Like Super Metroid, there are two really neat tricks you can take advantage of to get around in this game. They were particularly useful to me because I’m pretty horrible at these games, and often get lost. So the fact that I can bomb jump up long shafts or wall jump into certain areas is actually kind of useful. There’s some minor sequence breaking anyone with a little bit of patience can do, like getting certain items earlier than you should. In addition, there are certain stalemates you can figure out in a game via these tricks instead of doing them the intended way.
Besides that, the game controls quite well. There isn’t much functionality lost by playing this game on a GBA (well, I played it on my PSP, but the control layout is fairly similar). Because I was kind of used to bomb jumping and wall jumping from Super Metroid, all those little awkward bumps I had with the controls in Super Metroid dissipated as I played Zero Mission.
As I mentioned a little bit earlier, the gameplay is stellar. You’re left to your own devices to explore as you will, and you’ll unlock a lot of powers to help you along the way. While you may get a bit lost at times, that’s part of the fun. If I were to compare the gameplay to Super Metroid… I’d say they play almost identically. A lot of the areas are pretty much the same, and the powers are the same way. One interesting bit they added to the end of Zero Mission that wasn’t in Metroid 1 was a little segment at the end where you crash land with a Pirate Ship. Your suit is stolen, and with it most of your firepower. As you’re no match for the Space Pirates without your suit, you’re led into this stealth/platforming section of the game that I found surprisingly fun. The formula was changed just a little bit, but it still felt like a Metroid game. The ending bit was a welcome addition to the game for sure.
I’m going to assume that most of the tracks in this game are remixed from Metroid 1. If so, this is where some of those really awesome tracks got their start, and they sound quite nice on the GBA. I preferred some of the Super Nintendo renditions of the music, but for the most part Zero Mission’s music is pretty good. A lot of those classic themes that I’ve grown to enjoy are great background as I go into Norfair for the billionth time, desperately searching for some small exit I must’ve missed. I get hopelessly lost pretty often in this game, though I must be getting better. While my in-game timer for Super Metroid was something around 9 hours, my Zero Mission timer was about 4 and a half hours. Hopefully my Fusion (the next game on my list, though I’m almost done with it) time will be even lower.
The graphics are probably the biggest hiccup in the game. Zero Mission runs into the same issue that Super Metroid did in that a lot of the areas feel really similar and kind of boring as a result. The entire game almost blends into one giant cave. In fact, I’d probably be able to tell two areas apart by their music more easily than how they look. Besides the level graphics design, I felt that the general graphical quality wasn’t incredible on this game. There were quite a few really awesome looking GBA games (the Golden Sun series, the Megaman Zero series, etc.) and while Zero Mission doesn’t pale in comparison to those, it does feel a good deal weaker when put next to such examples. The graphics aren’t awful for Zero Mission, but just knowing what they could’ve been forces me to dock a few points here.
Again like Super Metroid, the replayability in this game is excellent. There’s a percentage (of items you got) counter and in-game timer to show you how you did. There’s a lot of tricks and sequence breaking you can do (like getting Varia Suit early) to make replaying the game worth it. I would say compared to Super Metroid there’s less replayability here because there are just way more cool tricks in Super Metroid. Besides the general game replayablity, packaged in the game (unlocked after you beat it once) is the original Metroid game, which I thought was really cool. I don’t know if I’ll ever play that, but I might give it a try someday.