Super Metroid

Developer: Nintendo
Platform(s): SNES
Release Date(s):
Jul 1994

You play as, like, a SPACE guy, or something!
And you, like, blow up ALIENS and stuff. With, like, GUNS and junk!

Maybe it’s just me…I didn’t play the Metroid games as a kid, and my first encounter with Samus was when I played Super Smash Bros. Melee, where she’s a playable character. So when I read up a little bit on the games to see what they were like, as a series, I kind of thought this sounds fiercely mediocre. I mean, if you read the three words I’ve capitalized up there, they more or less sum up the game, but also hundreds of others, so it should more or less blend in seamlessly with them.

Except…

It doesn’t.

Space, Aliens and Guns, yes sure. But what wasn’t emphasized, when I was reading up on it, was the exploration and sense of atmosphere. You don’t get that with a lot of space games, it’s basically all about this kind of thing:

Not so with Super Metroid.

The Set up:
Super Metroid is the third in the series of Metroid games. In the previous installment, Metroid II: Return of Samus, our hero Samus Aran comes across a Metroid larva (Metroids being a type of badass space jellyfish).
Believing Samus to be its mother, the larva becomes attached to Samus, who brings it the Ceres Space Colony. There, she gives it to a couple of white coats who hope to harness its power. (Seriously, space jelly fish, total badass). However, she receives a distress call from the colony, and she returns to find all the scientists dead. She also encounters her long running arch nemesis of the series, Ridley, the leader of the space pirates. She follows him to the planet Zebes, where she searches for the stolen larva.

The storyline of the game is not depicted through cut scenes. You have an opening cut scene and a closing cut scene, both of which introduce and wrap up the story nicely. The bones of the narrative, however, are constructed through the actual playthrough of the game. Every element of the game comes together to make up a truly epic adventure.

Exploration is the core element of Super Metroid. The planet and underground caves you traverse are vast and labyrinthine, but by no means dull. When you begin, there are no enemies whatsoever, giving the atmosphere a kind of eerie malice. It actually comes as a relief when they begin to appear later on. The graphics are simple enough, being a 2D game, but the art design is excellent. Neglected shrines and dilapidated idols dot the alien planet, constantly giving the player the sense of a truly ancient world. This is also aided by an incredibly distinctive soundtrack, one that feels like it is composed primarily of echoes.

Now this is all well and good, but the novelty of an eerie atmosphere can wear off after a while. Spend any amount of time in a second-hand bible shop and you’ll come to understand this. What Super Metroid needs here, and it delivers quite well, is to be punctuated with a bit of action. A litte pew pew pew.

Samus handles particularly well. It’s great to have a character so easy to manoeuver. It feels very satisfying to have her running and jumping. The only issue, possibly with the whole game that I had, was that some of the more advanced moves felt a little over complicated. The wall jump, in particular, isn’t really explained very well, and takes some time to get to grips with. That aside however, the controls are tight. You get a number of different guns  and gadgets in the game, which always keeps things fresh. Samus can also morph into a little ball to get into tight spots. This was originally due to a technical restriction in the first game (the designers deemed it too difficult to have Samus crawl), but was left in in later games because it seemed to work so well

The enemies of the game are well designed and fantastically suited to the world in which they occupy. However, they don’t really supply the action, they are simply part of the overall, trippin’ balls creepy decor. Instead, the action comes in, thick and heavy, in controlled blasts with the boss battles. These set pieces contrast against the sense of isolation that pervades the game, which is exactly what the game needs. The first boss encounter in particular, with Kraid, a dirty big fat dragon bugger, stands out as being particularly heart racing, because it is the first time you really panic during the game. Ridley also, being Samus’ nemesis, deserves special mention for delivering even more of a climatic battle than the final boss.

Overall:
I will admit freely that I did not have high expectations for Super Metroid. It seems like such a standard game on paper, but it simply has to be experienced to be really appreciated. It is by no means a standard space shooter with lots of pew pew pew. It is a deep, immersive experience, that is almost poetic in nature due to its eerie atmosphere, punctuated by notably impressive boss battles….and a little bit of pew pew pew.

Awful Rating: 9/10

The last Metroid is in captivity. The galaxy is at peace…” – Samus Aran

Shamelessly Awful Facts:

  • The wall jump move is “explained” at one point when you see a harmless alien perform it before you, at which point you are supposed to copy it. Unable to get it right, to the point where I restarted my game, I felt like the alien was just showing off, like a cocky little bastard.
  • When I was very very young, I vaguely remember playing a game which, seeing as the character could turn into a ball, was probably one of the Metroids. The only thing I remember was climbing a big tree which I thought looked a bit like a giant person. So, in my confused little five-year old head, I concluded that the point of the entire game was to find a way to free my giant friend from his wooden prison. By, wait for it, killing the evil wizard. This is actually what I thought.
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Published in: on September 16, 2011 at 11:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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