Super Metroid (SNES) review
"It is always amazing to me how incredibly popular the Metroid series has become. The original was a deep and expansive game, but it didnít have the personality of Super Mario Brothers or the mega-hit stamp of other games. The first sequel was relegated to the Game Boy, land of puzzlers, yet became an action game that survived and thrived. Continual growth was a calling card for both: they lurked and lurked on the Nintendo Power charts for years after their original release. Whe..."
It is always amazing to me how incredibly popular the Metroid series has become. The original was a deep and expansive game, but it didnít have the personality of Super Mario Brothers or the mega-hit stamp of other games. The first sequel was relegated to the Game Boy, land of puzzlers, yet became an action game that survived and thrived. Continual growth was a calling card for both: they lurked and lurked on the Nintendo Power charts for years after their original release. When Super Metroid was finally released, it exploded on to the scene due to the success of previous installments.
Of course, the blonde bombshell underneath a thick suit of armor doesnít hurt either. In the video game world where buxom women fight in skimpy leotards (Mortal Kombat 2) and tantalizing tanktops (Final Fantasy VII and Tomb Raider), Samus Aran separates herself by *not* exposing any skin whatsoever. The mysterious aura her suit creates enhances her appeal exponentially, as does the fact that she is a bad ass bounty hunter.
In Super Metroid, Samus is called to investigate disturbances at the Galactic Research Station at Ceres. This station holds the last metroid, a fearsome creature which can drain energy out of its target. In Metroid 2: Return of Samus, Samus caught and donated the metroid to the station. When she beams aboard, it is obvious that something is amiss. The corpses of the scientists litter the ground. At the end of the station awaits Ridley, a ferious red dragon whom Samus has battled in past. After a short confrontation, Ridley steals the infant metroid and flees to the original breeding ground of the creatures, Planet Zebes. It is now Samusí job to recapture the specimen.
While the backstory is deep and expansive, Super Metroid does little exploiting of the opportunities it presents. The task of Samus feels detatched; you are the only person on the planet and there is no inner voice present. Referencing back to the mysterious aura of Samus, you never get any sense of what makes her tick. The lack of a clear antagonist does not help the matter. The emotional makeup of a character can seldom be developed without an emotional conflict between a similiarly developed mind, not the beasts of Super Metroid. This is one of the few flaws of Super Metroid: a main character which flies in the face of typical stereotypes is never developed in the course of the action. It takes a sequel, Metroid Fusion, to fully flesh out the character of Samus Aran.
This remains a minor problem because the gameplay of Super Metroid is without equal. It provides free form exploration with ďdestruction by means of high tech weaponry,Ē which ranks pretty high on my fan factor list. Superb enemy design and atmosphere elevate Super Metroid higher and higher among my pantheon of games.
One of the selling points of the Metroid series has always been the freedom in exploration. Super Metroid retains the hallmark of adventure games Ė venturing from area to area, cleaning out enemies, and collecting items. Whereas most games venture from left to right, Super Metroid requires you to expand your exploration in *all* directions. Samusí space suit (and the modifications made to it) allow you to switch at a secondís notice from a whirling dervish in the sky to a compact ball to evade a metroid.
You will want to explore the innumerable nooks of Zebes to ensure that you havenít missed any of the gadgetry strewn about. The space suit is already amazing when you first get it, but you can make it even more out-of-this-world with various weaponry and armor attachments. The array of enhancements is impressive: six beams, three armor reinforcements, three jumping boosters, energy tanks, a grappling hook, two bombs, and two missiles. All of these power-ups arenít required, but they sure do make the trip a bit easier.
However, this exploration and reliance on technology does come at a price. The world of Zebes is so vast that itís easy to get lost in. An in-game map is invaluable. Due to the nature of Super Metroid though, your objectives are often unknown. Wandering around aimlessly can be a delight or an annoyance, depending on your point of view.
Do not equate aimless wandering with boredom, though. There is never a lack of things to shoot at. While on your journey, space aliens of all varieties zoom after you. They range from yellow ball shaped bugs which stick to walls to large mantis creatures which shoot beams out of their eyes. The bosses are of special note Ė large, bright, impressive, and they require a steady stream of missiles to defeat. Be prepared to deal with fire spewing dragons, Venus-fly-traps gone horribly wrong, and an enormous green pig with a spiked head (for the lack of a better description). If youíre a fan of the Metroid series, then youíll be glad to know that Kraid, Ridley, and the most heinous of all creatures, the Mother Brain, are back.
Luckily, you also have plenty of weapons at your disposal to take care of these foul creatures. Samusí arm cannon can be modified with different beams, but the most important enhancement is the missile. A missile is like a mini-rocket, and allows you to both destroy enemies (itís the easiest way to handle boss creatures) AND open doors! Your life is kept in a life meter at the top of the screen. In addition, you can hold extra energy in tanks which are hid throughout Zebes. There are twelve in all.
Super Metroid is challenging, but not to the frustration level. Itís a long adventure, and thereís plenty of opportunities to save, especially before boss battles. Due to all of the items and equipment left throughout Zebes, even if you are having problems advancing, you can often find something to help bail you out. The biggest difficulty actually comes from trying to advance too quickly. Sometimes youíll forget to get a vital item, and be forced to backtrack.
Due to some extras, there is plenty of replay value present. Item completion freaks will get a big kick out of Super Metroid. Think that Donkey Kong Country and these new games from Nintendo have a lot to collect in order to get a 100% completion rate? Well, Super Metroid started the trend. Thereís plenty of missile packs and power bomb containers to find all over Zebes. At the end of the game, you are told the percentage of what you collected. Also, depending on how quickly you finish the game, you might be afforded that rare glimpse of the luscious Samus Aran outside of her bulky space suit. Yummy!
The graphics and sound of Super Metroid combine to create the perfect atmosphere for the desolate world of Zebes. Prepare to jump as space aliens materialize out of thin air behind you on abandoned ghost ships. Feel your entire body tense when the normally low-key and reassuring background theme is replaced by heavy breathing, or the rumble of electronics running. Cower as enormous creatures drool from the sight of the fresh meal that you will provide, leaving saliva trails across their lair. I canít do justice to the sights and sounds of Super Metroid adequately enough with just words. You must experience the vibrant colors and tremendous enemy models yourself.
If you canít tell already, Super Metroid is really worth playing. It should appeal to any fans of the previous installments, platform and adventure gamers, or anyone who really loves video games. It is one of the best games available for the Super Nintendo, and one of the best games Nintendo has ever made.
Community review by sgreenwell (June 05, 2003)
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