Wow, this site has been floating around like space debris around Alpha Centuri. The problem has been my brain has been refusing to do work. “Nah”, it says. “Let’s not give an opinion on that movie you just watched, or that new game you just picked up. Let’s just give it a one word response, and continue to stare vacantly into the void”.
But since Review A Great Game Day came out, brain and I came to an agreement, and I am happy to say that the strike is officially over, and both sides came to a collective bargain. So instead of doing a review, which my brain refuses to do, I’m doing a non-review review. It’s not a review, it’s a Declaration of love.
I love Super Metroid
Super Metroid for the Super Nintendo is a side-scrolling exploration adventure game that came out in 1994. I consider it my favourite game of all time. Remember that, in case we’re on one of those Newlywed game shows. That’s an easy five points for us. The copy I got as a kid was given to me by my father’s friend. To this day, I want to find him, and give him the money to pay him back, because it is still well worth the money to this day. If this game was a person, I would lavish it with gifts, and lend it money without ever intending it to pay me back, as long as it stays my friend. It’s an unhealthy obsession that could be considered borderline stalking, but I don’t care. I love it too much.
The game revolves around Samus Aran, a bounty hunter with all the tools and the moves that could possibly kick Boba Fett’s butt all over Mos Eisley. Hell, I’m pretty sure she can beat the mullet of that Dog dude on A&E. You read right, the main character is a women in an armoured suit. When I was a kid, that was a big deal. The only other game with a female protagonist that I owned was Athena, and we all know how that turned out.
This is the third instalment at the time of the series. The first one is one the Classic N.E.S. and the second one is on the Game Boy. All three games are side-scrolling adventures that go more than Mario-style right only. You can go left too. I know, neat, right? Super Metroid has a lot of improvements from the previous two that makes it far better. The first is the genius idea of saving your progress, instead of using the age old passwords system. Passwords became obsolete for console games, and thank goodness for that, because my penmanship sucked even back then. Was that a large M or a small M? I can’t tell. Also included is a map to see your progress and destination. The first game didn’t have that, and it was also annoying to draw one on graph paper. Again, my penmanship. Sucked. Moving on. Another neat thing from this instalment is that there’s a lot of references to the previous games scattered overtly throughout. The best example is the opening scenes in the planet, as you fall down the first shaft, you realize that’s where you had to escape in the first game, followed by Mother Brain’s lair, and the opening area in the game. Even the morphing ball is in the same spot, and there’s even a hidden Energy Tank in the exact same location. Super Metroid was a hipster game of its time. It was retro before it was cool.
The story continues as we end Metroid 2 as we wipe out an entire species of violent creatures that suck the life out of everything that moves for sustenance. Our bounty hunter finds one baby Metroid left, and decides to send it to a science station floating around an asteroid belt for sciency-style probing. And of course the space pirates from the first Metroid decide to crash the party and capture the Metroid for their own personal gain. Now it’s up to Samus to defeat the space pirates and save the creature.
So now you have the synopsis, let’s get the cartridge into the console and get this baby started. But as you turn the power on, you notice a quiet background chirps and music. As you get more intrigued as to what is about to happen, the music drops like a dub step song, as well as your heart through your chest, as you get an ominous music that fills you with fear and excitement. The game sets the mood on the title screen far better than any other game out there, and it only gets much better.
The game play falls under the category of “Metroidvania” games. If you just noticed that the title of the game is included in the genre title, it’s because Super Metroid pretty much started a trend of these type of exploration adventure games. It’s not just about the challenges of all the bosses and bad guys, it’s also about the challenge of finding the secret passages and hidden items throughout a large open world map. Backtracking is inevitable when finding these items, but that’s the excitement that it brings. It’s looking for those paths that you couldn’t go down earlier because you didn’t have the equipment that helps you get up there. Can’t make that jump? Maybe you need the High-Jump Boots, or the Space Jump that allows you to do double-jumping. Or maybe you need the ice beam to freeze the creature and use that as a platform. What’s that? You can wall jump in this game? Maybe I can use that tactic. The amount of different options you can do to achieve certain goals keep it fresh each time.
The graphics are nothing short of phenomenal. There are a lot of dark and dreary levels, but at the same token, there are also a lot of bright coloured areas like Brinstar and Maridia to give it a lot of variety on the stages. All the creatures and bosses look stunning and awe inspiring. The music is among the best video games have to offer. It’s orchestra hymns and ominous choirs match up with the stages so well, creating an atmosphere you want to explore further and further.
The controls are really tight and very responsive. Some of the weapons and skills take a while to get used to the timing, but a lot of games have the same issues. One of the perfect examples is the previously mentioned Space Jump. You can jump multiple times at the same time to get tremendous distance. However you can’t spam the jump button. If you do, the jump will not work. You have to time pressing the button.
The other thing that makes this game a true experience is the storytelling. The game takes a different approach by making it mostly without text or talking. The only speech and text is the introduction scene, when Samus narrates what’s been happening so far. Even when you get a new item, instead of going into full detail of how it works in a tutorial, it shows you within the same screen by making you think and try the new doohickey out. The rest of the story happens on the planet surface where you learn of the actions of the pirates and the fate of the Metroid you are trying to save. It’s pantomime how it all works out, and the actions dictate emotions like a classic 1920’s silent movie. Even in the final battle scene, where the Mother Brain has you to the ropes, and ready to fire the final fatal shot, there’s no doubt the player is clinching that controller, or pressing every button possible in a panicky rage. When a game can capture you emotionally like that, it’s not something you can ignore. Even modern indie story games try to get the same feeling, like Journey or Fez. Both games require the environment and the actions to tell the story.
So now that I’ve gushed about this long enough. Time to get to the negatives. Ha! This really is a review! Fooled you, brain!
First gripe I have, is the health system. Each energy tank found gives extra points. But four reserve tanks exist out there somewhere. On paper, it seems like a good idea, but in practice it has its issues. You can’t fill up the reserve tanks on a recharge station, which means you can only fill them up when you are full in health, and it feels like a task sometimes. And when you have to tap those reserves, whether automatically or manually, it stops the momentum as you wait for your health to gain. It’s a minor inconvenience, but it’s certainly noticeable.
The grappling hook is another item that is great on paper, but frustrating on practice. There are at least two rooms in Maridia that I can think of where I threw the controller after my eleventeen thousandth attempt at trying to hit that one square with that grappling hook in order to advance. It’s also annoying to try to swing from stationary because sometimes it just doesn’t want to swing further out. Then you’re circling around and around. Then when you let go, you hope you got enough distance. And if you hit the wrong angle, which always seem most likely, you’ll just float up oddly, and don’t go forward until you start descending. It’s really the only black mark to this game.
The other issue I was the ending. The text “THE OPERATION WAS COMPLETED SUCCESSFULLY” is displayed. What was successful about that operation? The Metroid you went to save died in battle. All the space pirates are believe killed with nothing to confirm to get any bounty. Not only that, the planet blew up, killing all the species on the planet, and probably screwed up surrounding planets gravitational and environmental atmospheres. And how many new meteorites that used to be Planet Zebes will be crashing into other spaceships causing irrevocable damage? But at least our heroine made it out. I guess that’s what they meant. Not that I’m complaining. I saved her and completed the mission in under three hours, so she gets to pose in front of me in that sports bra and pants like she’s Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies, sans makeshift stripper pole.
Overall, this game is a masterpiece, and it’s really hard to dethrone this game on the top of the mountain. If you have a Super Nintendo and you don’t have this in your collection, or don’t own this on your Virtual Console, you don’t know what you’re missing. I can’t think of other words to describe how amazing it is. You just have to explore it for yourself.
But now, the review is on the Internet, the galaxy is at peace.