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VC Review: Metroid

Back before Chun-Li or Lara Croft, there was Samus Aran. In 1986, Gunpei Yokoi (who would go on to create the original Game Boy) set off to produce another unique and revolutionary NES title, seeking to blend the platforming of Mario with the exploration and tool-collecting of Zelda. The end result was a nostalgic classic that spawned one of the most popular hardcore series in the market: Metroid.

Metroid was an unforgiving game that dropped players into the complex, labyrinthine caverns of Planet Zebes with a puny pea-shooter and no guidance whatsoever. Like the original Legend of Zelda, gamers had a large world to explore freely, collecting tools in no specific order and building their character up by seeking permanent upgrades. Metroid’s take on this formula packed more action in, focusing on combat to a higher degree as well as mixing in a lot of platforming. The different areas of the game could be entered and explored in any order, though there were always chunks cut off which required certain powerups to reach. A 2D sidescrolling world in which players could move up, down, right, and yes, even left (a new concept at the time) combined with the free-roaming gameplay and action-oriented encounters culminated to form the ideas that would be the base to the series, and the reasons gamers were willing to wait so many years for each new outing.

Metroid isn’t renowned for its gameplay alone: it had an atmosphere like no other. The underground caverns of Zebes were cold and empty. Samus’ only company were the disturbing monsters she faced and the moody soundtrack. Due to the atmosphere achieved through the visuals, level design, and music, gamers truly felt like a lone soldier on a daring mission deep underneath the planet’s surface.

As nostalgic as Metroid may be for many gamers, it has its share of flaws that are hard to ignore. For one, it can be very glitchy at times. Samus can get stuck in a wall or under platforms, enemies can attack players while one screen transitions to the next, and more. The perplexing design choice to leave players with a very small amount of energy upon respawning from death leads to lots of pointless grinding just to refill Samus’ energy, which can be frustrating and tiring. Because there are no save points, if the player use up all of their missles before dying, they’ll will respawn with no missles. Enemy attack patterns can also be very bizarre and difficult to cope with when facing multiple enemies in tight quarters. With no map and many identical rooms, getting lost can become commonplace. All of these aspects make Metroid harder than it should be because of technical choices (or perhaps limitations) rather than lack of player skill.

On the other hand, the game’s difficulty by innovative design can, at times, be a wonderful challenge. Giving the player no guidance leaves room for free choice of where to go, what to do, and how to do it. Every new item obtained delivers a solid sense of satisfaction, especially when no help is given to obtain it. The showdown with the Metroids and Mother Brain herself was a tight action sequence that can still leave gamers white-knuckled today with a surprise escape sequence at the end to top it all off. While there was no substantial ending, players could discover Samus’ true identity by completing the game fast enough — the revelation that Samus was, in fact, a woman, was a bold shocker that garnered respect for the heroine and paved the way for other female protagonists in video games.

The idea of racing through the game quickly by ignoring certain powerups or finding different pathways through the world led to the beginning of the popular cult hobby known as “speedrunning,” utilizing the process of “sequence breaking,” which meant skipping through parts of the game to get to the end as quickly as possible. It all started right here with Metroid, and without this title, Nintendo would also be lacking in what is arguably their most mature franchise. Some of the industry’s greatest gems wouldn’t exist without the ideas established here, including the legendary SNES classic, Super Metroid.

Final Verdict:
Think About It

 

Despite its glitch-induced problems and inconveniences, Metroid is a good game at its core that displays numerous concepts that pushed the envelope of game design to create an atmospheric and unforgettable experience to gamers. Nevertheless, its raw difficulty compounded by its design flaws make it a tough title to vouch for a purchase from gamers at large. Many should pay the five dollar entry just to experience this piece of gaming history, but not all will have an enjoyable journey in Zebes due to Metroid’s inherent programming flaws and lack of guidance. If you don’t already own a copy of this old school hit, consider giving it a whirl to live through Samus’ original outing. It is, however, difficult to truly recommend Metroid when gamers can opt to simply pass this one up to get the fully evolved experience in Super Metroid without all of the issues present in the original.

Awards:

 

 


Innovation

 

 


Hardcore Difficulty

 

 


Deep Gameplay

 

Score:

 

3.5/5

 

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