|By Zach Patterson||Friday, 18 Mar 2005|
Before this third Metroid game was released, what we had seen from the series was the formation of a great idea, but something that was not quite completely realized. The original Metroid began the idea of free-roaming gameplay that Metroid has come to now, but it suffered from lack of a map, intense difficulty, and some glitchy gameplay. Metroid II gave Samus better definition and a little better story (along with cartridge save, thankfully), but again, the game had no map, bland backgrounds, and it was very easy to get lost. However, the pieces were coming into focus. More abilities, more beams, more enemies, more story. Super Metroid is a direct sequel to Metroid II and has a fantastic cutscene in the beginning explaining the entire series from the start. From there, the game builds off every fundamental part of the series and improves upon it. Finally, there is a map. Finally, definitive, recognizable, detailed backgrounds. Finally, a very detailed Samus model and larger, more detailed enemies. And while the gameplay is essentially the same, it is knocked up several notches.
From the beginning, you can access almost nothing. But as you play and receive abilities, you logically begin to open up areas and see the scope of Zebes. In some ways, this is an expansion/remake of the original game, because you fight many of the same bosses and revisit some familiar areas from the first game. This is similar to many other franchises from the NES (Super Mario World, Super Castlevania, Super Ghouls n Ghosts, etc.) that pay tribute to their original games and improve upon them. The extent that this game improves upon its original idea is phenomenal, and, in fact, started a whole new idea for side-scrolling game play, away from the level-based crawl that so many recycled, that has been evolved from since this was released. Castlevania took this this game’s formula (though some can argue that it had partially come up with it before Metroid) and released arguably one of the best games of all time, Symphony of the Night.
And one of the best things about this game is that for beginners, it provides a logical learning curve. At first, a boss may seem too difficult, but play it more than once and you know what to do. One time through the game could take 8-15 hours. However, a second time through may only take you 2 hours. Any game that can offer both a long term, in depth experience and at the same time, an enjoyable one sitting experience is genius game design.
The control of Samus has not changed much in feel, but now there is much more to do. Speed boosts, screw attacks, plasma/spazer/ice beams, power bombs, super missiles, jump balls, every thing from the previous games (save the spider ball) is here and all are used for some useful purpose to further your exploration of the map.
The graphics, as I mentioned, are excellent. the smaller enemies look very nice with each area having its own inhabitants, and bigger enemies and bosses looking simply excellent. Kraid is huge and imposing, Ridley is large and agile, Space Pirates are pesky and require certain strategies to kill, and so on. Samus looks so much better than in I or II, and her death animation shows her female form in one of the better death scenes for a 16-bit game.
The music is excellent, in true Metroid fashion. Some songs are reminiscent of the original game, while others are largely new and serve as both ambience and atmosphere. Maridia is full of uneasiness, Ridley’s lair is a dynamic epic song, while the overworld theme is a bright, triumphant tune. It all works really well and helps to further separate areas from one another.
It is hard to make complaints about this game simply because it is so well made, but I have a few anyway. One issue was that sometimes essential items were just too well hidden or illogically placed. I’m all for hidden items and the exploration aspects, but there were times when the game just left me high and dry wondering where the next item was supposed to be. Also, in some areas, I found myself getting stuck in walls or ceilings. While it wasn’t game ending and it didn’t kill me, that was a little sloppy. And finally, I thought the end boss was a bit too easy, but considering the effort it took to get there, I guess I can forgive that. Other than that, I can honestly say that I can’t think of any real flaws with the game.
The most important thing is that this Metroid is just really fun. It provides a nice-sized quest, a good story, and some very memorable scenes. I recommend it to any fan of the Metroid series or side-scrolling games in general. It is one of the SNES’ best, and it’s worth the price it takes to get it.