She speeds through the darkness, guns blazing, destroying any space pirates who dare to cross her path. Into the dense maze of Planet Zebes she roams, searching for the Mother Brain. She aptly defeats each of Mother Brain’s guardians, opening the path to Tourian. With Ice Beam in hand, she is assaulted by the scourge of the known galaxy: the energy-zapping Metroids. She manages to freeze them long enough to escape and enter the final battle with Mother Brain. She is Samus Aran, bounty hunter.
Metroid is simply an amazing game. The story inspired me to write that little vignette up there, for one, and has gone on to inspire so many other pieces of fan creations — songs, comics, podcasts, mods, and even entire new and/or similar games. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is the first of the so-called “Metroidvania” games in that series … all BECAUSE of this game. The impact of this series on the industry is staggering, but let’s examine where it all began.
Samus Aran, space bounty hunter
Metroid arrived on the Nintendo Entertainment System in August 1987 — 30 years ago, last month. It quickly became quite popular and has since become one of Nintendo’s most recognizable franchises. Nintendo Power magazine, ran a feature on the game in Vol. 31, which would’ve come in handy when I first got the game.
My original NES copy of Metroid was part of a storage unit haul in the early ’90s. Among a drum set, a nunchaku, many books and clothes, and a few MAD magazines, were three NES games: Skate or Die, TMNT 3: The Manhattan Project and Metroid.
Scrawled on a piece of tape beneath the label were the words, “Use password: Justin Bailey —— ——.” Next thing I knew, several hours had passed and I began actively mapping and logging passwords. It took several months to finish the game. The ending didn’t come as a surprise as I used the code — to see what it would do — before officially starting the game.
I liked everything about the game: the awesome weaponry, the suit, the labyrinthine planet, the bosses, the omnipresent feeling of dread and the killer soundtrack. Back in those days — the evermore distant past — Nintendo Power was the source of my video game news. I learned about Metroid II: Return of Samus from the magazine and immediately despaired, for a Game Boy was something I had never had as a kid.
I eventually played the game on a friend’s Game Boy, but never had the chance to finish it. Earlier this year, I acquired the game on my Nintendo 3DS, but it’s unfortunately languishing in my backlog, along with Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, Fire Emblem Echoes, Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment, Hey! Pikmin! and many, many more.
The announcement of Metroid: Samus Returns is a boon to fans like me, who never had the opportunity to play the original all the way through. I simply cannot wait to plug the cart into my 3DS and finally experience this story. My love of the series is certainly well-documented, and this will only add to the series for me.
The last Metroid is in captivity …
Super Metroid arrived on the Super NES in 1994 and set the precedent for all future 2-D Metroid titles. Here the map was introduced, along with the subscreen, the super missile, the super bomb and the gravity suit. Graphics were leaps and bounds above what the NES offered, the soundtrack is incredible (one of our favorites around the Nerdvana offices) and it was here where the player first meets the mantislike Space Pirates and the Draconian Ridley, and battles a different kind of Mother Brain.
In 2002, the arrival of Metroid: Fusion coincided with that of Metroid Prime.
Fusion built upon the story from Metroid, Return of Samus and Super Metroid to create a terrifying, fascinating and altogether amazing 2-D Metroid experience.
In 2004, Metroid: Zero Mission arrived for the Game Boy Advance. The game is a spectacular remake of the original Metroid, fleshing out the story, the origins of Samus and the aftermath of her escape from the Planet Zebes following the defeat of the Mother Brain.
Unfortunately, Zero Mission marks the last true 2-D Metroid game, though the series would later move into the world of 3-D with Metroid Prime and its two sequels, Echoes for the GameCube and Corruption for the Wii, and Metroid: Other M on the Wii.
Return of the Return of Samus …
Now, we’ve been given the chance to play the new Metroid: Samus Returns remake on the Nintendo 3DS, which is quite an amazing title that came seemingly out of nowhere. The updated graphics are exquisite! As I played through the game, I was startled by some of the background images.
In one room, we saw a crystalline entity moving, rocks falling in another and some sort of space worm winding its way through the area. This helped create a feeling of dread, the likes of which I haven’t experienced in a Metroid game before. (And that’s saying something.)
When I reached the area just before acquiring the space jump, I had a minor freak-out moment — my heart racing — as a giant robot in the background attempted to crush me while I traveled through an obstacle course on the planet. I had not been expecting that! It was exhilarating and fun; a nice touch in an already great game.
I’m also quite happy with the way the Metroids turned out. The Alpha Metroids don’t offer much challenge, but once they sprout legs and become Gamma Metroids, they’re tough as nails. I battled my first Zeta Metroid the other day and it was a hell of a battle. Playing it on this version of the game makes it so much more creepy than the Game Boy original.
The range of abilities is also amazing, but I’m not a big fan of the new “melee counter” deflecting technique. It’s a bit on the clunky side and is difficult to use effectively. This minor gripe aside, I think Nintendo truly outdid themselves on this title. Add the excellent soundtrack, the availability of warp points and the cool new abilities, and we have a clear winner on our hands.
I’m 10 hours into the game, with 14 Metroids to go. Wish me luck. I think I’m going to need it when the time comes to face an Omega Metroid and the Queen …