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Super Metroid (SNES)

June 11, 2006

 (This is the first of my retro reviews, due to the upcoming virtual console I will be focusing on some of my favourites.)

The first two instalments of the Metroid series never saw the commercial success of such Nintendo franchises’ as Mario or Zelda, even though they were competent titles Samus Aran never found the flair required to propel her series to the heights of such games. When Super Metroid was released it caused a tremor, due to the heightened abilities of the SNES Gunpei Yokoi was able to realize his creation to a much fuller extent than the NES or Gameboy before it, creating moody locations, detailed aliens and truly awe inspiring bosses.

        Super Metroid can be viewed as the template for the recent Metroid Prime on the Gamecube. The games share a large amount of similarities in their design, most notably in the different areas of the games (both games feature an abandoned shipwreck, grassy over world, lava area etc.) but when Super Metroid was released, it was obvious to see that it was a rein visioning of the first Metroid while also a progression of the story line. A large amount of Super Metroid, from areas to bosses where all improved versions of their counterparts in the original Metroid game, even though the story line was a direct continuation from the Gameboy title ‘Return of Samus’.

         Super Metroid plays like the majority of run and gun shooters from the time (such as Contra) with the main difference being that Metroid focuses on backtracking and exploration as much as combat. There are a large amount of items you collect while exploring the game world, from various new beam weapons to items such as a grapple beam and screw attack, all of which give you access to new areas. This type of gameplay is strangely involving as watching the world slowly open up as you play is a highly rewarding sight, however people who have played the more recent Metroid titles will already know this experience. With the expanded map it is possible to see where upgrades may be hidden, and finding 100% of the items was a task that many people shy away from, but others can use the unnecessary collection of these items as an excuse to make the game harder for themselves, in this respect Super Metroid is an undeniably versatile title, more so than it’s predecessors and something it’s sequels have strived to hold onto.

         However, Super Metroid still stands as the pinnacle of 2D Metroid games for various other reasons. The game features abilities, which add to Samus as a clever and interesting character. In this incarnation of the series Samus can heal herself with the Crystal Flash, utilize the bomb spread when surrounded or use the moon walk to attack easier while on the move, these all add to the depth of play and hidden moves such as the spinespark and infinite bomb jump can keep players amused for months while they try to break the boundaries of the game. On top of these abilities, the grapple beam and x ray visor are implemented impeccably to this Metroid and it is the only 2D Metroid to include them.

           The major problem with this game is synonymous with almost all Metroid games, but more so with the older titles than the newer ones. Replay value was only available in the players want to better themselves (besides replaying the game for the sake of replaying), fortunately the improved endings do give some incentive for this task but less than say, Prime’s image and art galleries. But even so the adventure has a large amount of puzzles and fights that, on a cold run through, will puzzle the player meaning that the game can last a lot longer than the ideal completion time of under three hours and far nearer the easiest ending with a time exceeding ten hours. The other minor issue is that the story is only explained through brief introductory and closing cut scenes, and while this may not bother some it is an obvious criticism of the game considering recent sequels have tried to create an engrossing story and history for the series that was far less of a necessity for older games.

          As a demonstration of brilliant game design, from its world construction, enemy and boss design, to the well-judged difficulty and collection task, Super Metroid is a pure example of exquisite gaming as only the best minds in the industry can put together. While the recent Metroid games have been faithful to the backbone of the series, Super Metroid is the game the pure Metroid fans will always bring into discussion as the superior title, Prime may have been a brilliant 3D translation of the franchise but Super is where 2D Metroid was truly outstanding.

10

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