Metroid: Zero Mission
By Zach Patterson Friday, 14 Jan 2005

Zero Mission is a remake of the original Metroid released in 1986. The graphics are updated to Super Metroid/Metroid Fusion standards and an entirely new scenario is added to the end of the game. In addition, the game has new areas added to the original design, a map (finally), and some new enemies and upgrades.

However, not all is different. The areas are eerily familiar but now with nicer backdrops (instead of bland colored grounds and pure black backgrounds) and many of the upgrades are in similar places. It is a loving tribute to the first game, while also telling a good story in the process.

So why is this game disappointing compared to Fusion, Prime, and previous entries? Simply because it is so short and relatively easy. You can finish what was the original game’s material in about 2.5-3 hours even if you aren’t in any hurry. The only real challenge comes in the form of Mother Brain, and that is because there is so much stuff firing at you and there is almost nowhere to stand. The fights with Ridley and Kraid are much more dramatic and huge, but they are both pushovers, which is kind of a letdown.

After the main game is over, you are attacked by space pirates and start what is essentially a new game for another hour and a half. I finished the entire game in 4 hours and 10 minutes, and that seems way too short for a Metroid game. The end sequence on the space pirate ship requiring stealth with reduced capabilities (trying not to spoil anything here) is pretty unique and definitely welcome. Samus really shows she is a bad ass in this part that helps link this story to Prime a bit closer. But as cool as the new sequence is, it does appear to be a bit tacked on, as though they were thinking that remaking the game wasn’t quite enough (which, really, it isn’t because Metroid is quite short if you know where you are going).

But I know it looks like in Fusion’s review that I am praising the type of gameplay (easier, more restricted with more story) that I am condemning here. The truth is, Fusion is a different beast. Fusion had a tighter story and had an awesome atmosphere that played about as cinematic as a side-scrolling game could. Not only that, but Fusion had a pretty good challenge in some of it’s bosses (the spider and SA-X come to mind). Fusion also clocked in around 8-9 hours, which was short, but acceptable nonetheless. Zero Mission is based off a short game to start with, which doesn’t help, but it offers a challenge only in a few places. I was never really compelled to find all the e-tanks and missiles because they were a pain and not necessary to defeat the end boss. Take this in comparison to Metroid II where if you didn’t have all the missile upgrades at the end, you were in serious trouble.

On the plus side, the game features the return of the Jump ball, one of my favorite upgrades, as well as the bomb juggle, Varia suit, Gravity suit, and ice and wave beams, among others. The only problem is that you get some of these upgrades very late in the game and they only serve the purpose to open maybe one or two areas.

The music is excellent, featuring remixed versions of the original’s classic tunes. Kraid’s Hideout in particular is pretty sweet. The new original tunes fit in well too and work to the game’s advantage in establishing atmosphere and credibility in showing that this is THE original Metroid game for today’s audience.

As previously mentioned, the graphics are tight, though a bit subdued compared to Fusion’s. My first reaction was kinda confusion as to why it’s not super-detailed, but soon you realize that they were trying to stay true to the original in many parts and that while it’s reminiscent of Metroid, the environments are vastly improved and detailed now. The controls are as tight as ever and if you played Fusion or Super Metroid, you know what to expect here.

I certainly do not hate this game. I had a blast playing through it, so much so that I beat it in two sittings. The main problem is that the gameplay is so tight and it is really fun, but it ends way before you want it to. It’s a good game that has been built on an excellent engine. Hopefully this won’t be the last 2D Metroid adventure we see.

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