System: Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Developer: Nintendo R&D1 / Intelligent Systems
Completed: February 19, 2014
I feel the Metroid series gets better with age. When I was a young lad, I played the original Metroid on NES. The game was unable to hold my attention for very long. It required a lot of backtracking and remembering locations for when Samus got new items, and seven year old me could not be bothered to draw a map. Even back then, I could not bring myself to use a guide, though there was one available through my brother’s Nintendo Power. As I grew up, I gained more patience and a better memory for this kind of thing, meaning I was able to appreciate the Metroid series as a whole later in life.
Speaking of Nintendo Power, I remember reading articles on Super Metroid. It might have been because I was disinterested in the first Metroid that I found little appeal in the super-fied version. A few years back, my brothers got me this game and my own Super Nintendo. This was also at a time that I worked until midnight, so when I would get home, I would play my SNES since there was nothing else to do and I could get through a lot of the games quickly enough to get to bed before the sun came up.
This is a game I like to describe as an experience rather than a video game. I don’t play it for straight up completion or as a speed run (which the game rewards), but instead I get a feeling of satisfaction from exploring the world. Fighting a boss in and of itself does little in creating a sense of accomplishment. Finding a new weapon or tool to access a new area becomes its own reward. These type of games are rare and perhaps explains why it is so high on many top game lists (as a reference, I also consider Earthbound as an ‘experience’ game).
Super Metroid is the third entry in the series and takes place right after the events of Metroid II: Return of Samus. Mother Brain was defeated and the baby Metroid was entrusted to scientists so they may perform science on it. But before science could happen, Ridley, a space pirate, swoops in and steals the last Metroid! Samus must return to Zebes, the space pirate hideout, to retrieve the Metroid before it can be used for evil.
Zebes is the same planet that the original Metroid took place. Samus is able to explore and revisit familiar territory, but this time she has much better control and weapons. She gets the Ice Beam, Screw Attack, Missiles, and Morph Ball, as well as new weapons such as Super Missiles (everything on the SNES is Super!), the Speed Booster, a Grappling Beam, and many more blasters! There are other powerups that allow for more interesting exploration, such as the aforementioned Speed Booster and Grappling Beam, the Space Jump that makes the previous two worthless, and hidden abilities like the Wall Jump.
I hate the Wall Jump. It never works.
It can die.
The controls are the best in this game. Samus responds well to all controller input, the controls are completely customizable, and with the ability to aim diagonally as well as up and forward, the only way you lose is if you aren’t good enough (sometimes, it really is your fault). Graphics are also spectacular with large bosses and an isolated atmosphere. It really felt like one big world instead of having a jarring change between ice world and lava world. The music also helps with the atmosphere, though I don’t find myself humming along.
The greatest contribution to the series was the mapping system. I would get lost several times playing the first game, and with the expanded world, the problem would have only gotten worse. Nintendo really upped their game from the ‘grey block map’ from The Legend of Zelda, showing areas that were explored and, once the appropriate console was scanned in the game, reveal areas that have yet to be visited. It removed a great deal of the frustration level, making it much more accessible, especially if you haven’t played in a while.
Not that there is no frustration in Super Metroid. It can be easy to skip certain sections if the player is persistent enough, an exploit capitalized by speedrunners. Wall Jumping can allow Samus to bypass entire areas, which I may have done at some point in the game. Maridia is completely submerged and requires the Gravity Suit to freely explore. The problem was I needed the Grappling Beam to reach the area with the Gravity Suit. I managed to get by the game up to that point without acquiring it through using the Ice Beam and Wall Jumping, so I became lost on how to proceed. I explored every small corner, assuming I had simply overlooked it. I found a bunch of Energy Tanks, but no Grappling Beam. Eventually, I found a previously unexplored nook in Norfair where the Grappling Beam resided. It took me over an hour of running around from area to area to find that stupid thing…
Also, the game had saving! Yay, no passwords!!
Except my copy is unable to keep a save file. Boo, twenty year old technology…
Samus proceeds through the planet, gathering items for the ensuing boss battles. Some of the fights get creative, such as Kraid taking up a few screens and Bug Dude dying from grabbing Samus, and then Samus grappling a live wire, electrocuting Bug Dude faster than you can say ‘Raid.’ If you went ‘Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiid’ for, like, five seconds. Ridley also Scrooge McDuck bounces around the room, proving how much of a jerk he is. Samus exploded into Kim Basinger so many times during that fight…
Finally (or, actually, again), Samus Aran faces off against the leader of the space pirates, Mother Brain! The fight is underwhelming, until she transforms in Mothersaurus Rex!! A few more shots, and Mother Brain launches a barrage of rainbows, draining Samus of almost all of her life (why does she constantly almost die?). At the last moment, the baby Hulk Metroid latches onto Mother Brain, transferring the power it sapped to its protector. In an act of complete uncoolness, Mother Brain kills the Metroid, leaving just her and Samus. Angered, Samus uses the power of love and rainbows to finish off Mother Brain once and for all. Love, rainbows, and a honking cannon!
It wouldn’t be a Metroid game without an escape scene, right? It doesn’t take much effort to escape in time, though the player has the option to save the aliens that taught them to Shine Spark and Wall Jump.
They deserve death.
Successful in her mission, Samus gives some fanservice to the camera before showing that I only got about 74% of all the items. You know what? I tried. Besides, it’s more impressive that I saved the universe without all of the resources set out for me. That makes me a hero!
Even though I did not experience Super Metroid when it was shiny and new, I still really enjoy it. The game has aged well, and Konami still insists on making their Castlevania games in its footsteps after many, many entries. I would definitely like to see another side scrolling Metroid game of this caliber. I never did play Zero Mission or Fusion on the Game Boy Advance. Hmm…
Super Metroid is available on the Virtual Console for both Wii and WiiU. The Super Nintendo cartridge itself is usually found above the $30-$40 range, so it would be wise to invest in the virtual version. That being said, it quickly became one of my favorite Super Nintendo games in my collection. It is refreshing to know that a game that is rated so high on a lot of Top Ten gaming lists is not purely a product of nostalgia!
My arbitrary score based on nothing is 27 out of 28.