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Super Metroid (SNES) artwork

Super Metroid (SNES) review

"Nintendo's game is immediately engaging, taking you from a powerful cinema and starting you off with a boss encounter and a thrilling, timed escape sequence that shrewdly doubles as a training ground for your basic skills. And Super Metroid concludes with even greater fanfare, showcasing a wildly chaotic final boss confrontation followed by a stunning, controller-dropping, emotional twist that is simply unforgettable. "

The heights of atmosphere

You’ve just seen an amazing T.V. movie. It was a sci-fi, and you turn off the television, the excitement still with you. Imagine your enthusiasm when, soon after, you bear witness to this same work, but on the big screen with all of the plusses that come with making such a transition (e.g.: bigger and bolder), but none of the usual faults (e.g.: loss of integrity). Such is the progression from Metroid to the Super Metroid. They are both excellent 2-D run and jump and shoot games, but the latter is one of Nintendo’s true triumphs, a sequel that respectfully supercedes its ingenious, dusty forerunner in all aspects.

Samus is a female lead character. This was (and still is to a certain degree) a big deal in video games. The point is all but made moot when you consider that there is no way to tell, as she is always equipped in her body armour (save for her unveiling in the ‘special ending’), but the concept is a nice touch nonetheless. Female gamer friends of mine have expressed satisfaction at having one of ‘their own’ kicking alien tail all by her lonesome.

So what’s a girl to do? Her mission is simple: destroy all the Metroids (energy-sucking aliens) and finally, the Mother Brain. She did it in her early 8-bit adventures, and the plot doesn’t change here. Samus lands her bright yellow spacecraft to the tune of melancholy solitude. The music is as ambient as candles in a darkened room: subtle, yet potently mood-setting. The scene is akin to that depicting the first man on the moon; the rocky, alien expanse is hers to cover, hers to conquer.

Injections of dread and curiosity are mixed expertly, as if Super Metroid were some new generation survival horror. Samus must explore the sentient corridors and caves of this planet, seeking out the keys to her progress, and finding resistance at every turn. This game isn’t Castlevania; it’s a quest that demands nonlinear exploration, much like any standard role-playing game, but thankfully, your progression is not facilitated by the banality of actually finding the blue key to unlock the blue area that you checked out awhile back but couldn’t access. Instead, you will find the Gravity Boots, which will allow you to return to a certain area and successfully progress where a high jump was necessary to do so.

The programmers were clever; they have included an abundance of such powers and items for you to stumble across, and thus, the likelihood of you being completely stuck and utterly frustrated at any given time is slim. You’ve reached a dead end, but you just learned that new jumping skill. Think back! Remember that vertical passageway with the little green monsters? They didn’t hurt you, did they? Wasn’t that odd? Unless… they were trying to help you… of course! They were demonstrating!

These kinds of revelations occur often and are always thoroughly satisfying, because just as if we were watching a good movie, we, the audience, pride ourselves on figuring things out. The more dead ends--accompanied by the right amount of clue dropping--the better. Super Metroid exemplifies this entertainment truth expertly, and that is the key to its success.

True, it features the best mood-setting music of any Super NES game that I’ve played, and yes, the graphics are crisp, colourful and slowdown and glitch-free. And I cannot argue when the assertion is made that the bosses are sublime in their alien, gargantuan glory--always imaginative, and some filling more than one screen.

But racing down a corridor teeming with bizarre life forms using your Flash-like, eye-blurring speed attribute to smash through solid rock; making that perfect somersault/grappling hook combination to gain entrance to some hidden room; discovering the familiar statue Chozos there holding yet another attribute or item to add to your repertoire; hearing the strings play that short thrilling tune that highlights your every discovery; and finally, saying to yourself, ‘perfect, I know where to use this’--this is the Super Metroid experience.

Run as fast as Sonic, somersault with agility to put Joe Musashi to shame, fire rockets like keys into shining dome doors, and lay bombs like eggs on the ground or in midair. Blaze enemies with fire, immobilize them with ice, and rend flying aliens with a tuck and roll screw attack to make Ninja Ryu Hayabusa jealous. From Brinstar to Maridia to Touran, traverse the expansive environment, using the excellent, functional map to aid you in uncovering secret rooms and passageways. The layout and your role throughout is what served as inspiration for the superlative Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and I daresay that the newer game does not pull it off as well as Super Metroid has.

Nintendo's game is immediately engaging, taking you from a powerful cinema and starting you off with a boss encounter and a thrilling, timed escape sequence that shrewdly doubles as a training ground for your basic skills. And Super Metroid concludes with even greater fanfare, showcasing a wildly chaotic final boss confrontation followed by a stunning, controller-dropping, emotional twist that is simply unforgettable.

Many gamers enjoy how rewarding it is to progress through role-playing games, and as many players feel that there is no substitute for exceptional platforming action. Super Metroid pleases both groups of fans, and yet, reaches further to consume game-shy sci-fi boosters, as well as furthering the viability of the ‘2-D quest’ subgenre, initiated with the most effectiveness by Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, and similarly closed out with the most effectiveness by Symphony of the Night.

You needn’t take my word for it; buy the game, play it hard and often; meet up with Kraid; explore the haunted, somber, sunken remains of the Phantoon’s ghost ship; rendez-vous with Ridley; and finally, satisfyingly, make things right.

Rating: 10/10

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (January 13, 2004)

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