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Super Metroid (SNES) artwork

Super Metroid (SNES) review


"Metroid is one of those series that's infallible as far as Nintendo fans are concerned. They perceive a single negative utterance regarding the series as the most heinous crime imaginable. The reverence fans hold arguably has nothing to do with the first and second games in the Metroid series, though -- it's the third game that launched the series to the stratospheric level of quality that fans have come to expect. Originally released in 1994, Super Metroid represents the..."



Metroid is one of those series that's infallible as far as Nintendo fans are concerned. They perceive a single negative utterance regarding the series as the most heinous crime imaginable. The reverence fans hold arguably has nothing to do with the first and second games in the Metroid series, though -- it's the third game that launched the series to the stratospheric level of quality that fans have come to expect. Originally released in 1994, Super Metroid represents the apotheosis of the franchise, and now that it's available on Nintendo's Virtual Console, it proves to be one of the most engaging and entertaining games available today.

The game begins with series hero, Samus Aran, recounting the events of the first two Metroid games. After recovering a Metroid hatchling on SR388 (in the conclusion of Metroid II) , Samus delivers the creature to Ceres Station to be researched. As luck would have it, the station is attacked by Samus' eternal enemy, space pirates. The hatchling is captured, Ceres Station explodes, and Samus is forced to return to the planet, Zebes, where the first game took place. The adventure begins.

The key element of Metroid's gameplay, and what made the game so fresh when it was released, is the exploration. Rather than throwing a series of linear levels at you like seemingly every other game from the 16-bit era, Metroid gives you a giant world to progress through in whatever manner you see fit. There's only one problem: Samus is a weakling. From the start, you'll have to find upgrades to her suit that yield new abilities, which in turn make it possible to access new areas. This is how the entire game progresses -- as you obtain a new ability, you gain access to a multitude of new locations, which may contain further additions to your repertoire of powers. The pacing is absolutely perfect and it never feels like it takes too long to get through an area. You're always rapidly uncovering new territory, making your way through obstacles that previously impeded you, and becoming even stronger. The game's areas are designed astoundingly well and are tightly-woven so that you never have to wander the planet aimlessly to figure out what to do, nor plod endlessly to get where you want to go. Had the developers not tweaked the design of the world to perfection, Super Metroid would likely have been a disaster, but the design got all the attention that it needed to make the non-linear gameplay a resounding success. Super Metroid greatly refined the gameplay that the previous Metroid games attempted, and pioneered the non-linear 2-D gameplay that games borrow from even today.

Unfortunately, Zebes isn't the friendliest of planets, though, as you'll continually have to contend with space pirates and countless aliens who simply don't like you. Thankfully, Samus will gain more than a dozen different upgrades to her suit and weaponry over the course of the game that make it possible for her to tear apart the opposition. While the adventure begins with Samus obtaining a simple missile, she'll eventually amass an arsenal ranging from a beam that encases enemies in ice to a bomb that annihilates anyone unlucky enough to be near you. There's a metric ton of equipment to uncover when you factor in the numerous missile expansions and energy tanks scattered throughout the world, and you'll certainly need all the help you can get as your enemies become increasingly strong and agile. It becomes surprisingly addictive to try and collect as many power-ups as you can and work towards a 100% item collection rating, and seeking out upgrades becomes one of the most satisfying aspects of the gameplay.

While every aspect of Super Metroid's gameplay is immensely enjoyable, the boss battles are particularly impressive. Bosses are massive, screen-filling monstrosities (very impressive considering the SNES' hardware) that make every fight feel truly intense, and the battles are distinct enough that you won't feel like you're fighting the same duel twice. These are easily some of the most memorable moments the game has to offer and there's really nothing else on the SNES that can compare to what Nintendo has done here. Encounters with bosses and regular enemies alike are enhanced by a finely tuned difficulty level that deftly walks the line between being too difficult and too easy. Finding a game that nails that "just right" difficulty level is exceedingly rare, but Metroid once again manages to impress.

As fun as the gameplay is, the environments are also largely responsible for elevating this game above the rest of the action-adventure fare. From Crateria where your adventure begins to the fiery depths of Norfair, every place you visit feels unique. Individual areas typically have multiple distinct sections to them and never devolve into a series of generic looking corridors. The world is brought to life by graphics that are simply stunning by SNES standards. The creatively designed terrain, The particles dancing in the background, the subtle glow sweeping over certain areas -- every inch of the planet looks astounding. Perhaps the most defining aspect of Super Metroid's environments, however, is the musical score. Every song succeeds in setting the mood for the areas and really enhances the feel of the game overall. What's more, the music is memorable -- even if your last journey to Zebes was back in 1994, chances are that you still fondly remember some of the songs. This game squeezes every drop of power out of the SNES' sound chip and the result is something truly remarkable.

Super Metroid is one of those exceedingly rare games that seems to get everything right. It's a wildly entertaining ride that nails the core gameplay as well as all the finer details. The experience should last between 5 and 10 hours the first time through, but seeking out all the hidden items can certainly extend that playtime. During that time, the game never feels like it's getting repetitive or stale -- it's always enthralling and utterly addictive. Super Metroid is one of Nintendo's greatest achievements and if you consider yourself even a passing fan of games, it would be a heinous crime not to own it.

Rating: 10/10

Chacranajxy's avatar
Community review by Chacranajxy (September 12, 2007)

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