I have already stepped into the way back machine once for my review of Aliens on the Commodore 64. I am doing so again today, but this time I will be picking both a system and a game with which more people are familiar: Super Metroid.
While I am a Metroid series fan, I did not start out that way. Many gamers fell in love with the series all the way back on the Nintendo Entertainment System when the first game was released. Though I did play through both it and the Gameboy game, I was only lukewarm on the series, and when my cousin got Super Metroid for the SNES, I was not all that excited to try it out. Little did I know this game would be a turning point in how I viewed Metroid.
The Galaxy Is at Peace….
“The last Metroid is in captivity. The galaxy is at peace.”
This message is displayed and actually spoken to you at the very beginning of the game. After that, Samus gives a brief synopsis of the events of Metroid I and II, including the final Metroid larva imprinting on her as its “mother.” The game itself opens when Ridley, the leader of the Space Pirates, breaks into the base at the Ceres Space Colony where Samus had left the Metroid. Samus answers the ditress call from the base to find the scientists dead, and she follows Ridley back to the planet Zebes.
Part of what appealed to me so much about Super Metroid was there actually was a plot. As Samus, you were trying to rescue the Metroid from the clutches of the pirates, knowing that them having control of something that powerful could tip the balance of power in their favor. You explored the caves, hidden bases and other areas of planet Zebes, trying to find any trace of where they have taken it. Along the way, you unlock many of the “standard” abilities for Samus, but this game did introduce several new ones, including the ability to combine some of the various beam weapons found in the game.
After making your way through all of the hidden passages in the game, you finally come face to face with the Metroid itself, but the reunion is not what you would expect it to be. This leads to a showdown with your old nemesis Mother Brain and a final battle that ends up being both touching and satisfying.
Creating the Mold
By now, you have more than likely heard of the phrase “Metroidvania.” It is used to describe games were you have a lot of 2D exploration, need to backtrack to certain areas, and can gain weapons upgrades throughout the game. What you may not know is this mold of game was started with Super Metroid. While there were minor forms of this in the previous Metroid games, this game really started the trend that Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and others would follow.
So what was so new about Super Metroid that would be copied? Several things. It introduced a mapping system that not only helped players navigate the various areas but would mark where different items could be found if you were not able to pick them up without upgrades. It also introduced a save point system, something that had not been seen in previous games. These things, along with sprawling 2D landscapes which the players must revisit at various times after acquiring upgrades, became hallmarks of both Metroid and Castlevania.
Those features were not all Super Metroid introduced to the series. The Grapple Beam, Power Bomb, Gravity Suit and many other items make their first appearance in this game. These new upgrades allow Samus to wreak havoc on her enemies. In this game more than the previous two before it, I began to truly feel like I was playing the galaxy’s greatest bounty hunter, and by the end, Samus had become one of my favorite characters in gaming.
Super Metroid also had some rather creative ways to deal with enemies. One of my favorites was one I discovered completely by accident while fighting Draygon, a giant crustacean in Maridia. I had destroyed the wall cannons which had been firing on me while I was trying to fight the creature. Draygon then grabbed Samus, and I trew out the Grapple Beam to try to lock onto the walls. I hit one of the destroyed cannons, the wreckage of which was throwing off sparks. The electricity from it traveled through my beam to Samus, and while it did some damage to her, it completely fried Draygon.
Among the Best
Super Metroid is one of the best games on the SNES, and many would even argue it is the best game in the series, though Metroid Prime is often brought up in that discussion. In my opinion, the only game on the Super Nintendo which trumped it was Chrono Trigger. It set the standard all other Metroids and many other games would be judged against, and it helped solidify Samus Aran as one of the most recognized characters in gaming. Super Metroid gets a 10 out of 10.