Super Metroid (SNES) review
"While I may not enjoy them, I at least understand why other people like certain games that I can't stand playing. The Otogi series' simplistic brawling has always rubbed me the wrong way, for instance, yet I see the allure of exploring its gorgeous locales and purifying things with a big sword. Similarly, while I don't like Streets of Rage 2 thanks to its cookie-cutter cretins, I can see why a game that lets you punch your way through everything from a baseball field to a pirate ship while liste..."
While I may not enjoy them, I at least understand why other people like certain games that I can't stand playing. The Otogi series' simplistic brawling has always rubbed me the wrong way, for instance, yet I see the allure of exploring its gorgeous locales and purifying things with a big sword. Similarly, while I don't like Streets of Rage 2 thanks to its cookie-cutter cretins, I can see why a game that lets you punch your way through everything from a baseball field to a pirate ship while listening to awesome Genetechno is so widely loved.
Super Metroid's near unanimous love, however, has always baffled me. Its concept of 2D exploration moved along by the acquisition of ability-enhancing powerups was executed perfectly in the similar-yet-good Symphony of the Night, mostly thanks to the fact that every corner of Dracula's castle packed something new for the player to see. A haunted cathedral packed with raven-infested bell towers; a murky cavern terrorized by the worm monster Scylla; and a colosseum home to both ninja-skeletons and minotaurs alike.
Exploring sci-fi locales filled with similarly varied sights would have made for an excellent game, but sadly, it was not to be with Super Metroid. Even the mighty Chaos Legion got off to a slow start thanks to the incompetent spider hordes that packed its initial stages, and it was with hope for a similarly awesome experience that I plowed through the drab initial areas of this oft-praised "classic". An empty cavern gives way to an equally life-devoid shaft, one that eventually leads us to a decrepit rendition of Metroid's rocky blue Brinstar... and not even a single foe along the way! So far, it's all been repetitive wall textures and some mindless hopping.
But then we get the Morph Ball, one of the many exciting upgrades that we'll come across in our adventure! This one allows the orange-clad Samus to morph into a ball (hence Morph Ball) and... roll through the occasional narrow passageway. That's it. No exciting uses for this powerup, no rolling through the legs of a spider robot to trip it up like in Metroid Echoes, no maneuvering through a pitch-black passageway like in the unfairly maligned Metroid II... just rolling on through narrow passages whose only purpose is to make sure you don't forget that the Morph Ball exists.
We'll not get ample chances to employ our other cool abilities, either. Discover a grappling hook deep in the depths of stereotypical "Lava Area" Norfair; have fun using it all of three times across this ten-hour adventure. Find the heat-resistant Varia Suit moments after a duel with obese lizard Kraid; now you'll be able to explore those two super-hot rooms placed in front of the next area that you'll be romping through. Cop-out!
But I digress; back to our exploration of the planet Zebes. After nabbing the Morph Ball and heading back upwards, we actually find some enemies! ...thoroughly unimpressive ones, sadly. Moving back into the repetitive grey tiles of that vertical shaft, the well-named Space Pirates cling to the walls, lying in wait to attack us. Defeating these enemies requires you to... shoot them a couple times. Brilliant stuff, that. The enemies that inhabit Super Metroid's later areas are even more thrilling; you'll battle everything from overgrown flying insects that must be shot to incompetent spiders that hop around waiting to be--you guessed it--shot. I liked it better kicking a bomb at them in Chaos Legion, or at least having different weapons in the Metroid Prime games rather than a single one that just gets more power to it added over time.
Super Metroid's environments match its opposition in dullness. The supposed jungle of upper Brinstar is nothing but a pair of grass-themed "tiles" repeated over and over with a sloppy-looking and bland background, while as we progress to lower Brinstar we'll come to an area filled with big red bricks. And in the background... big red bricks. Really. It's a far cry from the beautifully decayed, consistently interesting Castle Dracula.
But at least there are some tense boss battles waiting for us throughout these areas, right? Well, sort of. One of them was cool, an eight-eyed red lizard that you can only defeat by making him accidentally retreat right into a pool of bubbling lava. The rest of the lot, though, aren't at all interesting. The aforementioned Kraid can be defeated by a paltry four super missiles to the jaw, while the dragon-esque Ridley who awaits us in Norfair is a product of the "kill them before they can kill you" school of design. There's very little logic to his patterns, and it's not worth going to the trouble of dodging his EXCITING and ORIGINAL attacks such as FIREBALLS when all you need to do is equip the (you guessed it) super missiles and blow him to smithereens.
We shouldn't even be able to do that. Super Metroid should be more stringent in its issuing of health and ammo expansions so that we're forced to display some ounce of skill in its battles, yet while I never bothered to hunt down every missle pack in the game, I was always carrying far more firepower than I could ever need. The mutant crawfish Draygon might have been a fun battle if I ever actually had to worry about running out of health; however, my very first time battling him, I took about 600 damage despite having a maximum 1100 health. INTENSE.
The game's got a tough-to-crack layout, though, right? RIGHT? Well... um, the one place people seem to get stuck on most is a collapsing bridge that can be crossed by holding the bloody run button; apparently, there were Cheetos stains covering that part of their manuals. Outside of that, there's nothing at all tricky to Super Metroid's design. At one point, we're shown a series of enemies lining a seemingly unscalable vertical shaft. Shortly thereafter, we're given the Ice Beam, which allows us to freeze enemies and use them as platforms. Gee, I wonder what to do? I'm I'll get a real sense of satisfaction from figuring it out on my own...
The worst thing about it is that, were they not so criminally underused, your items would allow for some cool scenes. I mean, just imagine what could have been done with a GRAPPLING HOOK! The most it ever amounts to is swinging across a series of five or six danger-devoid platforms. This is still a "good part", though, because most of the time Super Metroid is flat-out EMPTY. Many rooms are just that; rooms, in which you go from one end to the other. Shoot open door, walk through, shoot next door, wait for next room to load (never mind this being a cartridge game), rinse, lather, repeat.
"LATHER ALL YOU WANT! NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU SCREAM!"
Yet despite its underwhelming challenge level, despite its easy bosses and unfulfilling combat, and despite its drab, dull locales, there was one aspect of Super Metroid that I actually enjoyed immensely: breaking it, and I don't mean with my FIST. If you're clever enough, it's possible to circumvent the normal flow of the game and go your own way entirely. That area with the platforms you "need" the grappling hook to swing across, for instance? If you're adept with the speed booster and its latent super-jumping ability, it's possible (though rather difficult) to make it up to a rather long ledge JUST big enough to get going fast enough to charge your super-jump and FLY right over the platforms. It actually feels awesome, to know that you've done something you probably shouldn't have and managed to skip the sizable chunk of game leading up to your nabbing the grapple beam.
So... my favorite part of Super Metroid is being able to skip parts of it. Somehow, I don't quite think that's enough to warrant its status as a classic. For every time that you feel genuinely cool for doing something you normally shouldn't be able to, you'll have sat through some challengeless bosses, some aggravatingly flat combat, some boring and empty level design, and some blindingly obvious "puzzles" that more than fail to exploit your interesting array of abilities to its fullest. No wonder I'm baffled.
Community review by fold4wrap5 (January 15, 2006)
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