Thursday, May 30, 2013

Super Metroid (SNES, Wii U VC) Retro Review

We cap off this Thursday night with a retro review. It's a big one, as this game is on many folks' list as one of the best games ever made. Give up on which one it is? Well, you should already know because the title of this entry sort of gave it away... It's Super Metroid for the Super Nintendo and now Wii U Virtual Console.

A Return to One of Samus Aran's 
Most Memorable Missions

Almost twenty years ago, Super Metroid released on the Super Nintendo, and it was greeted with great sales and even better reviews. To this day, the game is seen as one of the Super Nintendo's best titles, and one of the best games of all time. Why is this, though? That is what SuperPhillip Central wants to investigate with this very review.

Super Metroid takes place directly after all the fun stuff that occurred in Metroid II: Return of Samus. After defeating the Metroid Queen and coming across a Metroid larva which hatched from an egg, the Metroid larva seemed to think that bounty hunter Samus Aran is its mother. Samus Aran took the larva to a group of scientists at the Ceres Space Colony, who performed a series of tests and researched the larva. Not more than mere minutes after leaving the colony, Samus gets a distress signal, which has her gunship flying straight back to the colony, only to find the scientists had died and the Metroid larva gone missing. Following who she believes to be the culprit, Samus Aran tails Ridley to the planet of Zebes to find the missing Metroid larva and to bring Ridley to justice. The story elements are incredibly small in Super Metroid. In fact, the only real cutscene occurs in the very beginning of the game. Everything else plays out in real-time, unlike Metroid Fusion, you are playing the game instead of being stopped constantly interrupted by exposition.

For those who have no clue what a Metroid game is like, where have you been for the past few decades? Regardless, Super Metroid has players venturing through a network of interconnected caverns and rooms in search of new power-ups and abilities. These new abilities grant Samus Aran access to previously inaccessible areas within planet Zebes. For instance, the Hi-Jump Boots give Samus the ability to leap higher than ever before, allowing her to reach high up platforms that she couldn't originally reach.

Welcome to planet Zebes, Samus.
Samus Aran has plenty of abilities that she can learn, such as her stand-in, the Morph Ball, allowing her to curl up into a small ball to slip through narrow passages. There's the helpful Grappling Hook, that allows Samus to swing from specially marked ceilings and walls. Then there's all the beam upgrades Samus can obtain, like the enemy-freezing Ice Beam; the Phaser, which allows Samus to shoot through walls, floors, and ceilings; and the Charge Beam, allowing Samus to charge her shots for maximum damage and efficiency. Follow all that with the helpful missiles, super missiles, and power bombs, that can clear out entire rooms of breakable blocks and enemies.

Looks like Samus is certainly getting the swing of things.
Not only do these abilities help Samus uncover new paths and the way to progress through the game, but they also allow her to come across upgrades to her missiles, super missiles, power bombs, and health. There are a multitude of upgrades hidden throughout the game, and a lot of them require certain abilities to obtain. The essential rule of Metroid games is to not believe anything. What I mean by this is that what looks like an ordinary wall can actually house a hidden upgrade or path to a secret room. This means missing upgrades is quite common when you first start out in Super Metroid. This can be annoying in the regard that if you forget about a certain upgrade and it is in a faraway place, you will have to do a lot of backtracking, a common element in Metroid-style games.

While blue doors can be opened with any weapon,
red doors must be opened with missiles.
That's one of the issues with Super Metroid and games of its style in general. There is a sometimes tedious amount of backtracking through familiar locales, rooms, and areas. So much so that it can really drain on the player, soil the experience, and ruin the pacing of the game. Let's face it, though, Metroid games aren't exactly the fastest in the pacing department anyway.

Double the trouble for Ms. Aran!
Another issue with Super Metroid comes from teaching yourself how to perform a certain technique. I'm, of course, referring to the wall jump. This move is needlessly complicated to pull off. It isn't as simple as say, New Super Mario Bros. or Mega Man X, so it takes some genuine skill to pull off. Normally in a game you'd just jump into a wall, hit the jump button, and voila! A wall jump is born. In Super Metroid, it is more complicated than that. You need to spin jump into a wall, hold the d-pad in the opposite direction of the wall you're leaping into, and then press the jump button. You can't press the d-pad and jump button simultaneously, or you won't wall jump. Given there's no indication of how to really pull of a wall jump in the game, trying to do so is a serious frustrating effort.

The main goal of Super Metroid is to explore a variety of themed areas like the fiery pits of Norfair or the submerged Miridia in search of new abilities and items to reach new areas. Generally the coolest and most helpful of power-ups are held by the game's powerful bosses, such as Kraid, Crocomire, and Ridley. These same bosses are the four generals of the Space Pirates, and must be beaten before Samus Aran can explore the deepest reaches of planet Zebes.

Why, hello there, Kraid!
Super Metroid is a much better game than its predecessor on the Nintendo Entertainment System/Famicom. The areas have a much more varied look to them that sets them apart from one another, and the inclusion of a map allows the player to not get as lost so easily. The level design is superb, with hidden doodads located in some seriously clever places. The entirety of planet Zebes feels like one cohesive world, oozing with environmental ambiance and personality.

Nothing like a Screw Attack to the face
to give some bounty hunter-style justice!
This is helped by the detailed graphical style of the game. Enemy sprites are full of life, backgrounds have plenty of the aforementioned personality and give off a great amount of ambiance, and everything generally runs at a steady clip. The only times the frame-rate chugs is when there are a lot of enemies on screen at the same time. The music is full of atmospheric tracks, perfect for exploring the labyrinthine caverns and mazes of the game.

A planet so dangerous and deadly,
even the statues want Samus eliminated!
Super Metroid is indeed a classic, and one of the better entries in the legendary Metroid franchise. It's the type of game that's not for folks who are turned off by revisiting old locations time and time again. For everyone else, the creature-blasting, block-bombing, ability-getting gameplay is something that we at SuperPhillip Central can wholeheartedly recommend. Regardless of whether you track down the original SNES cartridge or buy the game on the Wii U's Virtual Console (hurry, as the game is only thirty cents for a little while longer), Super Metroid will provide you with one of Samus Aran's most heralded missions. Welcome back, Ms. Aran. It's a pleasure to see you again.

[SPC Says: 9.5/10]

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