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So, I've been meaning to write this review for a while. Well, I've actually been meaning to write a bunch of reviews for a while, and since I'm broke, I've been playing a lot of old games lately because they're cheap or I've had them for a while and I want to play them again. As a result of all of this, I've decided to create a new blog series here called "Retrospect" where I review older games. The cutoff point will be 2006 so I can count the next game I'm reviewing in this, but the first game in the series will be none other than Super Metroid. This SNES game released in 1994 caught my eye last year when I decided to buy a bunch of Virtual Console games on my Wii. Since GI had recently done a Super Replay on it, I made the choice to give it a go. After four playthroughs, it led to my review of it. I'm not quite sure how to wrap this up, so I'll just stop and continue with the actual review.
Super Metroid Review - Super, Indeed
Genre- Action Platformer
Platform - Super Nintendo, Wii, Wii U
Super Metroid is one of those games from the fourth generation of video games that is heralded as a classic. Joining the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog, Chrono Trigger, and Super Mario World, this 16-bit adventure is infamous for it's eerie sense of exploration. Does it hold up, almost twenty years later, though? The answer is an astounding yes. Super Metroid is just as good as it was back then. The game is one of the few that has aged flawlessly, like Mega Man X or the aforementioned Super Mario World. The Super part of the title may be a derivative of the Super Nintendo, but after playing the game, you may not realize that, for the quality is most definitely super.
Hopefully you're not as bad as this guy
The game starts out with Samus Aran handing over the last baby Metroid from the planet SR388 to Space Station Ceres. After she leaves, however, she receives a distress signal, and rushes to investigate the problem. When she gets to the space station, however, she discovers that Ridley, a series staple dragon-like boss, has stolen the baby Metroid. After a quick fight, Ridley goes to Planet Zebes and Samus follows.The story remains largely out of the way until the conclusion of the game, where it takes full force and delivers a powerful, memorable, and heartfelt ending. Part of what makes the final moments so impactful is that you, as a player, aren't prepared to undergo a story segment. You spend the entirety of the game after the incident of Space Station Ceres gaining new abilities, defeating bosses, and clearing out areas to get ready for the final encounter. No matter what, you, however, are never ready for what lies in this encounter story-wise. The events that transpired conjure up emotions that most games, 2D or not, could only wish to do. The narrative in Super Metroid is a surprisingly great one that is easily what you'll remember most from the game.
The gameplay here is finely-tuned and meaningful. The main objective, gameplay-wise, is to gather up new weapons and upgrades. The game does a fantastic job at making each one feel different than the last, and at making each one feel significant. For example, the Morph Ball allows you to turn into a ball to squeeze through tight spaces. It's one of the more important upgrades. However, arguably the second most important upgrade are the missiles, which are just what they sound like, missiles. There are also variations of these. The Spring Ball is a Morph Ball that you can jump in. The Super Missiles are more advanced and more powerful missiles that are also in lower quantity. Some abilities are also meant to replace others, and even in these situations do the weapons feel different. One example of this is the Grappling Beam, an ability which allows the player to grapple onto certain objects, and how it is replaced by the Space Jump, an ability that allows for infinite jumping. While these may seem similar on paper, they are vastly different in-game.
Another great aspect of the gameplay is something that is not controlled by the player; the enemies. The enemies in the game scale to the player, in a way. Their strengths and weaknesses are entirely dependent on the abilities that you as a player should have in that point in the game, thus reinforcing how the game "gates" players (that's something I'll talk about later on). Still, they provide enough challenge for the player to have to make strategies and focus on the issues at hand. Finally, the bosses in this game are fantastic. They each have different playstyles, weaknesses, and patterns, as well as surrounding environments. Every single one of them introduces a great difficulty for the player that can only be overcome if the player uses the abilities that they have acquired throughout their travels. They also tell the player where they should be so far in the game, as far as gaining additional weapon and health capacity. In the end, Super Metroid's gameplay is some of the best in the action platformer genre.
Those who undertook the adventure of the original Metroid will remember Zebes and some locations that are there. However, Nintendo managed to keep environments varied and exciting all throughout the game while still having a few return. Only two power-ups from the original are in the same spots, and they're the first two you get in the whole game. Super Metroid takes the formula and locations of the original, polishes them up, and adds a healthy amount of content to make the game even more fresh. Fans of the original will find a lot to love here, but it's also inviting to newcomers. Those new to the series of genre can easily pick up the controller, figure out the game mechanics, and have a blast without having trouble finding upgrades. Enemy types are many, each with their own unique attack patterns. In the first five minutes once landing on Planet Zebes alone you will likely encounter three different enemies. One of the best things of Super Metroid is how it effectively keeps introducing new and varied areas and foes to the player.
The atmosphere of Super Metroid is near perfect. The developers block off certain areas until you get an upgrade capable of getting there to make the player feel weak and feeble. However, whenever I found a new weapon, armor upgrade, energy tank, or weapon upgrade, I was overcome with an immense amount of satisfaction, relief, and sense of dominance. I felt I was ready to take the world on, whereas before I felt like that stereotypical feeble child that gets picked last in elementary school P.E. The musical score is also something that contributes greatly to this. While not good on it's own, it's ominous tone while trekking across the game's six areas makes the game somewhat creepy and it's excited beats during boss battles adds another layer of tension in the game. The pacing in Super Metroid is also excellent. Due to the fact that you go from a weakling to a super human, the game can't be too long, or else it loses that feeling of progression because you're taking too much time to build up. However, it also can't be too short or the experience will be a nice, small one that doesn't leave a real impact gameplay-wise. Fortunately, Super Metroid finds the sweet spot. My first playthrough took me around 8 hours, and during the whole thing I felt like I was always getting something new, and right around the time when I felt like I could do anything I wanted to, the game ended. Subsequent playthroughs took 3-5 hours, but they still kept the same feeling that the original playthrough did.
Super Metroid is one of those few games where there are virtually no flaws. The gameplay's great, the environments are top-notch, the score adds to the atmosphere, and the story is one that is truly memorable. I can't find anything wrong with this game. If you have a Wii, go buy it on Virtual Console. If you have an SNES, go get it on eBay. If you have a Wii U, go get it, especially within the next week because it's $.30 for only another week at the time of this writing. It's one of the best games I've ever played and it truly is deserving of it's classic status.
*Note: For this review, I played the game three times on Wii Virtual Console and once on Wii U Virtual Console*