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If you have read my Metroid review, then you know why I'm reviewing Super Metroid. My friend Companion Cube has been pestering me to review it for longer than I care to remember, which naturally caused me to keep putting it off until later. Yesterday I finished a spontaneous, three hour replay, so I decided to review Super Metroid while I wait for God Hand to arrive in the mail. Are you happy, Cube? Super Metroid is a 2D metroidvania game. That means that you start the game with initially limited abilities and can only access a small amount of the world. As you gain weapons and upgrades, you open up more of it for exploration. That world is inhabited by a number of creatures to kill. There's plenty of freedom and empowerment, but that comes with a cost; backtracking, and plenty of it. After getting an upgrade, you'll often have to go back across places you've already went too to reach one you couldn't earlier. This should only really be a problem if you absolutely hate backtracking though. The story is near nonexistent, aside from the beginning and ending. The only lines of dialogue are a monologue spoken by Samus Aran, the main character, at the very beginning. There is some visual storytelling and something of a plot twist after you beat the second to last boss, conveyed with nothing but a broken object on the ground. The lack of a story actually makes the ending all the better, because it's so unexpected after the near nonexistent story attached to the last few hours. You probably already know what it is, through playing or having it spoiled, but on the off chance you don't I'll say no more.
Super Metroid has great atmosphere, mutually supported by the sense of complete isolation of exploring an alien world. The music does a great job of setting the mood and enhancing the atmosphere, and each areas theme music fits it well.You get a well rounded arsenal of upgrades and enough firepower to obliterate anything in your way, with all kinds of unique ones like the Morph Ball that lets you go into small spaces with bombs that can be used to jump up higher, a grapple beam used to cross certain gaps, and a dozen others, several of which are optional. There's also creative uses for them, like using the Ice Beam to freeze enemies to use as stepping stones, or the grapple beam electrocuting a certain boss by making yourself a conduit for electricity. There are some balance problems though: What's the point of an upgrade that lets you jump higher when later you get one that enables jumping forever? The grapple beam is rendered useless by infinite jumping too. Aside from that, all your upgrades are balanced, and there weren't any weapons I didn't use.
For people who are new to the game, there appears to be a strict sequence of major upgrades to get. However, once you master mechanics like Wall Jumping, there are several instances where you can do things in a different order. Some people say they're exploits, and while at least a few of them are there are others that I swear the developer put there on purpose, considering how easy they'd be to prevent. One could be stopped simply by making the nearby enemies invulnerable to Super Missiles, and another by making a ledge slightly longer. They're hard to pull off, and the way I see it they're rewards for mastering the game and going off the beaten path.The controls and physics are where time has been least kind to Super Metroid. Jumps feel somewhat floaty, and for some reason the developers put in a run button, rather than having you automatically run faster as you walk forward - this is responsible for the infamous 'noob bridge', something known to stop progress on a first playthrough for hours because the player doesn't know how to run. Wall Jumping is an exercise in frustration, and the controls feel even more dated if you've played Zero Mission or Fusion. It's still far from unplayable or bad, but it could be much better.
A list of enemies in Super Metroid comes out to about 50, with all kinds of creatures, from the small, weak Geemers to massive bosses like Kraid. There are five main bosses and a number of minibosses. The main boss battles are all very good, but the minibosses are less consistent in quality. The first is rather boring and the Spore Spawn is a chore, but the rest are generally good. The final battle is arguably the best final boss battle in the franchise, but as I pointed out in my Metroid Prime Trilogy review that's not quite as great as it sounds.
Super Metroid is a classic. It's one of the best sequels ever made, in the sense that it both carried on the core ideas of its predecessor and greatly improved on it in just about every conceivable way. Even after just short of twenty years it holds up very well, and it's worthy of all the praise it gets.
Deploy the flame shield!
*Note. This review has not been edited to address the flame shield mechanics.
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