Game of the Week (11/12/17) – Super Metroid

Today, Super Metroid is not only considered one of the best games for the Super Nintendo but one of the best games ever made. However, when I bought my copy back in 1994, I really didn’t know what to expect. I was no longer a subscriber to Nintendo Power so I didn’t have the luxury of Pak-Watch (I know that probably didn’t exist anymore in 1994) to tell me it was coming. All I can recall is that I was browsing the SNES game section of my local Best Buy when I noticed there was a new Metroid game available. I loved Metroid on the NES as it held such a special place in the nostalgia part of my brain for reasons I described back in my Metroid review almost a year ago. It would still be several years before I would play the proper Metroid sequel on the Gameboy so this new SNES Metroid game was the first time I had suited up as galactic bounty hunter Samus Aran, in probably 5-6 years. I had no idea if this new adventure would simply be a re-hash of past glories or if Nintendo would put the necessary time and care into keeping the franchise relevant on 16 bit hardware.

After bringing it home and devouring the game from start to finish, to me there was no question Super Metroid did so many things right and so very few things wrong. First and foremost, the story behind Super Metroid really draws a player in. The events of Super Metroid take place immediately after the conclusion of Metroid 2 on the Gameboy. Thankfully, the game catches players up by providing a synopsis of the game’s ending just in case they hadn’t played it (e.g. me). Samus heads home but as she is leaving, a distress signal has been sent out from the space colony Ceres, where she had left the last Metroid larva with scientists. She heads back only to find the Metroid larva gone and all the scientists dead. After some investigating, she finds that space pirate Ridley has stolen the larva and now she must escape before the station self-destructs, harkening back to the original Metroid’s ending, and follow Ridley to Zebes.

Zebes is bigger and more intimidating than ever. Samus must now battle 4 space pirate bosses, including Kraid and Ridley, and make her way towards the heart of the pirate base, Tourian. It’s here that Samus will meet up with the “all growed up” Metroid larva as well as a rematch with Mother Brain. But I’ve skipped so much amazing and addictive gameplay going from the opening sequence on Ceres until the final game sequence in Tourian. Super Metroid is a huge game in both size and scope but I never felt overwhelmed. The basic Metroid moves and weapons are still there for anyone familiar with the first two games in the series. As you’d expect from a game this epic, there are enhanced moves, weapons and items such as the super bomb, grapple beam, x-ray, wall jump and speed booster are available to Samus with exploration. Utilizing these new techniques is critical to success as areas of Zebes can only become available to Samus once they’ve been acquired and mastered. These additions are all very cool and make Super Metroid that much more “super” but from a practical standpoint, nothing improves on the original NES title more than the inclusion of the map system. The maps allow you to see where you’ve been and where you haven’t. Super Metroid’s map system (as well as save points) was the basis for other action adventure style games created after it (see Castlevania Symphony of the Night) due to the perfect way it shows you what you need to know without handing everything to you on a platter.

Super Metroid is one of those games that is challenging enough to make it feel like everything you accomplish is earned but you don’t have nearly as many frustrated feelings of unfairness that the original Metroid provides. Not to be overlooked when talking about the game’s plot and flawless mechanics is the fact that Super Metroid looks and sounds amazing. So much attention to detail was paid to the game by Nintendo’s developers from the scurrying rodents in the abandoned sections of the game early on to the rain falling on Zebes’ surface when Samus lands her ship to the air bubbles under the floor as Crocomire’s melted corpse tries to chase after Samus one last time from beneath before it crumbles to the floor in a pile of bones. There are just so many “holy shit!” cool moments in this game that even though it’s been decades since I last played this game through, I remember them all clearly. To top it off, the ending sequence starting with Samus’ battle with the Super Metroid all the way through the final Mother Brain encounter is probably one of the most epic and cinematic events I’ve ever participated in. I won’t spoil the ending just in case someone reading this hasn’t played Super Metroid all the way through because it would be a damn shame to miss out on the surprises as they are meant to be experienced. Is Super Metroid perfect? I have a hard time saying any video game is perfect, but this is as close as I’ve ever seen.

Rating: A+

Currently in my collection: game, manual, box

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