25 Years Later – A Super Metroid Review
Game: Super Metroid
Platforms: Super Nintendo, Virtual Console(WII, WII U, New 3DS), and SNES Classic Edition
The Super Nintendo, a console that was home to a library of genre defining games. A console with so many classics beloved throughout the world, classics too many to name and some that can easily fly under the radar. Today, let us look at one of games from this era that still to this day is considered one of the greatest games of all time, Super Metroid. A game that helped pioneer a genre and is still actively played to this day.
Story with a sign of things to come
This game takes place right after the events of ‘Metroid 2: Return of Samus’ for the gameboy, but thankfully, you don’t really need to play that game to be aware of the story details.
As you start your file, you are welcomed with the events of the last game, using updated sprites and stills.
It’s also the only point in the game where they outright tell you anything, aside from the traditional self destruct sequence that often happens in the series. On top of that, you get an intro sequence where you get to meet one of the main villains of the game who will become your motivation for the game.
Ridley, the leader of the space pirates, steals the baby Metroid you obtained in the last game, and you are tasked to do something about it by following him to planet Zebes.
After this point of the game, you won’t see any real story sequences with the exception of boss introductions, the self destruct sequence, and the ending which is based on how fast you can beat the game and technically, if you want to save some animals you can meet in the game or not.
(Note: Saving the animals only slightly changes the ending cut-scene. It doesn’t effect what ending you get, but you are free to correct me.)
Fun fact, aside from being a popular game to speed-run, when charity is on the line, there is a common donation bidding war where the highest total camp can either go out of the way to save the animals, or ignore them to save time.
Now the graphics and stills really do stand the test of time. Not only are they detailed, they look really good, the whole place looks “organic.” By that I mean, they provide good atmosphere and look pretty lived in, making for some good environmental story-telling. You can really tell there was a civilisation there at some point with the details sprinkled in there.
The music and sound design are not bad as well. While I might not hum the songs outside the context of game, the songs are good and are pretty atmospheric.
However, there is one exception and that is the iconic ‘new item’ theme that plays every time you get a new item, energy tank, missile upgrade, and power bomb expansion. It starts off nice and satisfying, but after time it wears off it’s welcome and makes you want to get a move on. Don’t take me wrong, it’s a nice song, but there are moments where the gap you are going to to hear the jingle is going to be pretty short.
(Especially, if you are attempting to speed-run the game or get the good ending.)
A lot of the sound effects are also pretty satisfying with some of them involving your weapons feeling like you’ve done a lot of damage. It really is a sense of empowerment.
Overall, the game can be pretty atmospheric. It can lead to a sense of isolation at times, some pretty creepy moments, and even some rather tense moments.
This might be a hard pill to swallow, but I kindly ask you listen to me all the way through.
To get everyone on the same page, this game does not outright tell you where to go.
After you get your first few upgrades, there is very little preventing you from visiting various points in the game outside their intended order. The only thing stopping you from visiting some areas early and obtain certain upgrades are patience, skill, and a few miss-able ‘techniques’. This is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, this allows you to freely change up how you want to steer each play-through and even gives the possibility to shave time for faster runs.
On the other hand, here lies one of the games biggest problems. The game does the bare minimum when it comes to what conveying what your character can do and to some extent, your upgrades as well.
Sure, they will tell you how to use the missiles, Super Missiles, Bombs (sort of), Power Bombs, Grapple Beam (to some extent), and X-Ray Scope, but that’s the most they will do. However, you have to figure out on your own, what your beam upgrades do, along with every other mobility upgrade and the screw attack.
If you think that’s not so bad, keep in mind, they don’t tell you how to use morph ball and there’s nothing telling you to tap down twice like in it’s sequel.
Speaking of not telling, two techniques you have to go out of your way to seek in it’s ‘tutorial’ are the Shine Spark and wall jump. One is a technique already available the moment you have the speed-booster, and the other you have since the beginning.
As a heads up, a few things regarding that:
The animals you save at the end are the ones given you in the demonstration. They don’t outright say anything on how to actually perform moves, which is a problem since the player needs to do more than what is shown. Not only that, the wall jumping is a bit on the finicky side and while you can easily be left in the dark about another aspect of the shine spark. You can do diagonal shine sparks by pressing the button you assign to aim upwards. (You can also do vertical and horizontal shine sparks.)
Keep in mind, while it’s not important to know these skills to finish the game, you still need to know them to get the good ending which is beating the game in less than 3 hours and is achievable. You also need knowledge of the two techniques to even 100% the game and do it under the 3 hours.
If you are wondering why, while all upgrades are technically do-able with your base move-set, it leaves you without the knowledge of what you are fully capable of doing as Samus. Having the extra knowledge, allows you to access areas early, get extra ammo and health faster (which makes any boss you were having trouble with, more approachable), and overall traverse the map of the game faster than you would normally.
Heck, even knowing how to wall jump and/or that you can wall jump in a semi similar fashion to Mega-man X lets you approach vertical areas faster (which doesn’t even begin the perks of what you can do with it).
Lack of guidance aside, how does the game actually control? The answer is simply, ‘pretty good’, for the most part.
For all the main actions, it’s very responsive to your button inputs and you get extra options for your controls before you properly return to your ‘save’ or fully start a new file. These options range from remapping the buttons to suit your needs, having the weapon toggle auto-cancel whenever you enter a new room, and having Samus moonwalk while she is rapid firing.
Samus, also has two forms of jumping. A standing crouch jump, and a flip jump that changes animation the moment you get the space jump and the screw attack. Standing jumps are on the floaty side and is good for more precise platforming.
Flip jumps require a moving start or to press the jump button the moment you press left or right. It’s needed to wall jump, space jump, and the screw attack.
For the sake of a useful hint for beginners, the wall jump can be achieved by flip jumping into a wall and then press the jump button with the direction button you weren’t facing when you flip jumped. To better put it, if it’s a right facing wall, press Jump and left at the same time when your flip jump hits the wall. While it’s finicky, once you get the hang of it, it’s really useful.
Speaking of finicky, the space jump requires a certain rhythm that’s quite tricky to gauge. However, once you get the hang of it, it will get you a lot of height and air-time when you need it.
The last thing I need to speak about is how far it’s open endedness can be.
To many, it can be a really good thing since you can approach however you like whenever you like and as I said, allowing for varied play-throughs that will run much smoother. However, this can also lead to it’s detriment to first time players or those new to the genre.
Since you’re never really told where to go and what to do, it’s very easy to get lost so it leads to a lot of backtracking to figure out if you need anything. Whenever you get a new major upgrade that opens more of the world, it will encourage people to start back-tracking. Having trouble with a boss that is doing a lot of damage? that may also entice you to do more back-tracking to see either if there are any more upgrades to make the encounter easier or to handle it much later.
This cycle of backtracking ends up giving a sense that you are not making progress, or, at least not as much progress as you wanted, which may not leave the best first impression to new players. I must repeat for the sake of clarity, having to backtrack might often not sit well with people who have never played this game or this type of game.
With all that said, is Super Metroid a good game? Honestly, while I still personally don’t like this game, I do believe this game still holds up to this day fairly well.
I understand fairly well this game is not really for me, but I know people who love good atmosphere and exploration in their games would have a really good time.
While it does come across as good… in my opinion it doesn’t leave a good first impression by leaving you in the dark about a lot of things (some of which can hold some importance), it’s true strength lies in it’s replay value.
Once light is shed on what you can do and how do use your move-set to it’s fullest, the game becomes better in subsequent play-throughs. You’ll also be able to appreciate that you can get straight into the action with little to nothing slowing you down, barring skill level, your own navigation/routing, and some minor details which leads to a rather kinetic experience.
See you next Mission.