Now that we have looked to the past, it’s time to look to the terrors that await us in our future, as the cold depths of space first seem cold and empty only for horrors unknown to us to be unleashed…. why am I not reviewing Alien… it’s late 70s it counts… ah well next time. So let us delve once more into the Metroid franchise, and look at one of the best games of all time.
First things first, yes this game is horror. On the start screen you’re met with a cold scene, dead scientists lying round an object as a strange creature makes a noise, and then we see in the capsule a small metroid, but the creature is contained. What has slaughtered these scientists? When starting the game proper we are first given a text crawl from Samus’s perspective of the events of the last two games so those that are new to this (such as me when I first played) will not be left out.
Samus’s previous missions are laid out, after the discovery of energy draining parasitic life forms the Metroid’s space pirates stole them and Samus Aran was sent to planet Zebes (later revealed to be where she grew up after her parents were killed by space pirates) and she took down the central control mother brain. After that she was sent to exterminate the metroids on their home planet, but after clearing her mission she found a lone egg which hatched into a baby metroid that viewed her as its mother. Since then Samus handed over the metroid to a team of scientists on a space base and left for her next bounty, but then she shortly receives a S.O.S, the space station is under attack.
The start of the game is right out of a horror movie. You walk through a space station and the only signs of life are the dead scientists whose bodies can be found around the place. It has a cold silent sound track filling you with a feeling of being alone and dread. Eventually you come to a dead end before out of nowhere the culprit appears, Ridley the very being that you thought you killed in Metroid 1 (and then the Prime Games and the remake of 2) clutching the container holding the infant. After a short battle he flies off and the self destruct timer activates so you have to rush through an exploding space station.
The game fully starts as you land on Planet Zebes once more. At first the area seems deserted, you travel through the ruins you once went through to face mother brain still containing the battle damage as all that accompanies you is chilling music and your own foot steps. Then after you collect the morph ball upgrade and your first batch of missiles you find the world and the space pirates are very much alive.
The game has you as Samus Aran explore the world of Zebes and its labyrinthine depths as well as a crashed space ship (COMPLETE WITH ALIEN GHOSTS!) as you collect power ups and items you can explore deeper, such as finding grappling hooks, power bombs, suit upgrades to allow you to endure heat or move properly underwater etc. Major power ups are usually followed by a small sequence designed to show you what the power up can do, and maybe tweek your memory of parts earlier that you can use it.
While at the start all you have as Samus is simply able to shoot with your arm cannon which can be done at multiple angles but as you find items like the super missiles, plasma beam and screw attack you end the game feeling like an unstoppable baddass. Samus is very smooth to control even without these, in fact soo smooth people could break the game with hidden abilities like wall jumping or the boost jump. It’s called sequence breaking and a later addition to the series ran with it. While I tried to avoid areas requiring wall jumping in my initial run as a child, nowadays I can abuse it to get items earlier than I should.
The game forces you to find hidden routes and items as if you don’t you will find yourself against a wall in the first hour of your first run (I’ll explain why I said that later) but fortunately the first examples are done in a way to imply they are hidden to help you get used to finding such things on your own later. You will also need to find as many power ups as you can in your play through, some are easy to get while others require using a lot of tricks such as freezing enemies to make a bridge that you can then speed boost over and boost jump to a goodie. But as I said certain areas cannot be accessed till you get specific items so you will need to backtrack and keep an eye open for what new locations you can access as you do.
Now onto why I mentioned first hour in the first run earlier. You see, Super Metroid will reward you for doing a speed run by giving you a better ending. While nowhere near as pressuring as I felt Metroid Fusions required completion time was. So to get that best ending you must beat the game in under 3 hours, and given how challenging some of the secrets are or how lost you will get in your first play through… you’re not going to get that in your first play through, but that means after completing it you can try a speed run next, maybe use that first save file for trying to get every single item while memorizing the fastest way to complete the game while getting the most possible items (I think it’s possible to get 100% items in under 3 hours but I think you might have to be demented to do that).
The game rewards you for so much, being able to play fast, learning Samus’ abilities more than what you’re directly told, exploring every nook and cranny of Zebes and firing a ton of super missiles into Ridleys screeching mouth in the then rather hard rematch.
This game is a MUST PLAY, and those of you that liked Castlevania Symphony of the Night but never played a Metroid game, this is the game that made metroidvania styles… come on did you never realize why it was called metroidvania style?