Super Metroid – Super Nintendo
Platform: Super Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Release Date (NA): April 18th, 1994
Nerd Rating: 9.5 out of 10
First off, let me begin this review by admitting I have never played Super Metroid before now, making this as fresh off the grill as Uncle Joe’s overly-charred hamburgers (or at least it was when I first wrote it…back in 2015). I’ve poked around the game once or twice via emulation, but until scoring a cart of my own I had never given it a serious play through.
Let me also warn you that I find the first Metroid to be very frustrating and unenjoyable. I know many will probably not agree there, and to spare us a commenting war, I will concede by admitting I probably just don’t know how to play the game.
With that said, I’ve had high expectations for Super Metroid. I know how popular this franchise is, and since I personally found the first game wholly unremarkable, I always imagined that its spiritual console successor (Yes, I’m aware of Metroid II) was something of legend in order to bring this series to such great heights. Oh yeah, and many claim it’s the greatest Super Nintendo game ever made? Something like that, right? All this helped build up a helium balloon of expectation in my brain.
So finally, after all these years I have given Super Metroid a fair trial. Now it is time we make our way to this hot, fresh review.
I have one word…
Now listen…I’m usually the kind of asshole who wants to not like what everyone else likes. I was not fond of Guardians of the Galaxy; I think Back to the Future is overrated (but still a great movie, nonetheless); I am also of the opinion that LJN games are not that bad, aside from one or two I reviewed already.
But this game…let’s just jump right in.
As I kick-started my declining SNES and that Nintendo logo blared upon my screen, I felt as if I had popped in a movie. The ominous opening screen with those cinematic cuts revealing the lab containing the Metroid hatchling in question…
That, right there, is one of this game’s biggest strengths.
The music, the atmosphere, the settings, the strange and unsettling sounds – it feels like you’re in an alien movie. And right from the get-go too. In fact, it feels an awful lot like the movie Alien, which, I’m certain a quick Wikipedia search would confirm, was an influence.
Yep, it was.
Unlike my other reviews, we’ll start this one off with the music.
It’s eerie. It sets the tone perfectly for every mysterious corner you turn. Themes change to reflect new terrain, and different scores typically transition quite seamlessly. All in all, the music is such an important building block, immersing the player deep in a dangerous alien world. And it’s quite enjoyable too, getting your blood pumping, preparing you to bravely enter the deadly caverns ahead.
Now the atmosphere and setting, like the music, will have you feeling just like Ripley from the Alien series. Each section has a distinct look and feel, brimming with strange and unusual lifeforms. There’s no shortage of new aliens as you progress, and plenty of secret areas will lead you to want to explore every possible corner.
There are no levels in the traditional sense; you begin with a series of expository cut scenes containing imagery and music that set the tone for what’s to follow. You then board a space station where you interactively witness the kidnapping of the hatchling. Afterwards, we’re reintroduced to the planet Zebes, where Samus exits her ship to a rain storm. From there, you continue through a series of corridors leading you from one area to the next. It’s a constant progression, which again, only adds to the player immersion. Everything is immediate as you traverse in real time. While Super Metroid is nonlinear for the most part, you will need upgrades to advance, such as Samus’s signature Varia suit.
Upgrades are important here, as they take Super Metroid from an above average game to a stellar game. You have a wide array of powers you’ll discover as you progress. Beginning with a regular shot and basic moves, you’ll soon see the signature morphing ball added to your technical readout. But there’s so much more! You’ll find yourself toting a charge shot, bombs, ice beam, speed booster, and of course the screw attack, just to name a few! These upgrades will constantly surprise you, from the speed booster lending you the ability to destroy anything in your way to the charge beam allowing you to kill enemies whenever you do a somersault jump. While it’s a nice presentation from the start, the game is a little slow in the beginning – as are many slow-paced films made to build suspense – but as you acquire more and more abilities, the gameplay becomes even richer, urging you to explore further.
Exploration is fun and exciting. You never know what challenge awaits, what problem you’ll have to solve, or what secret you’ll discover next. This is a game that says very little, but does a lot, so you’ll always be on the edge of your seat waiting to find out what happens next.
It can be easy to lose your way in Super Metroid, but unlike some games where you may give up in frustration, here you’ll be hooked by the anticipation of what you may uncover next. And you can find rooms with databases from which you can download maps, so you won’t be completely in the dark the entire time. You might get stuck, but simply exercise your noggin and don’t take for granted the kinds of tricks the game is expecting you to pull.
Super Metroid looks amazing, and it took me some time to realize this fact. At first I thought her suit appeared strange, almost organic. The breathing animation gives her an odd pulsing quality, but I soon overlooked this when I realized whenever Samus turns, her left side is unique from her right. It’s a small touch rarely found in games from this era, but it goes a long way. And when you factor in all the little nuances in the game’s design, you’ll understand this was a title crafted by the finest hands Nintendo had in its reserve. All the sprites are beautifully rendered, the enemies are unique, and the environments are rich with detail.
The animation stands out in Super Metroid with incredibly fluid motion, just like it does in my personal favorite, Earthworm Jim. Why, simply watching Samus run is mesmerizing, as it is such a smooth cycle. Her movement really helps her come alive on the screen, making you wish to embody this awesome bounty hunter protagonist even more.
How is gameplay, by the way? Fun. Incredibly fun. With such an abundance of powers at your disposal, there will never be a dull moment. And attacking enemies is very intuitive. Not only are you given free aim of your cannon, but the shoulder buttons are assigned to easily angle your shot upward or downward.
Nintendo really went all out to completely utilize their Super Nintendo controller for Super Metroid. Each button serves a function, giving the player an incredibly full experience. With that said, getting the hang of the default control scheme is a little awkward at first, but once you have a feel for what you’re doing, it becomes second nature.
Really, Nintendo went all out with this game. It actually feels like their flagship title, from the hi-fidelity vocal opening line to the incredibly unique and staggering set of abilities you earn as you progress. Not a single detail has been overlooked here, and Nintendo manages to bestow Samus with god-like powers while still keeping her in check so as not to spoil the challenge and fun.
Now I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is an overly difficult game. It will, however, take some time to make your way through to the end goal (my final time clocked in around nine hours and change). The challenge here is not in reflexive actions, platforming ability, or boss fights – it’s more in figuring out how and where to proceed. The final battle against Mother Brain is a bit too easy, and even Ridley was kind of cake. Oddly enough, Draygon was the hardest boss to conquer. But either way, you’re not playing Super Metroid to prove your platforming or shooting skills. You’re playing it as an experience. This game is honestly a work of art, telling a story in a unique way that never halts the action or forces you to sit through cut scenes.
If I had one criticism, and believe me, one was not easy to find, it’s that the platforming is a little frustrating. Samus handles pretty well, but when she is somersaulting through the air, landing on smaller platforms is not the easiest task. Trust me though, this will not detract from the overall experience. It just may cause you to, oh, I dunno, sigh a few times in mild agitation. And it doesn’t feel like poor controls on the developers’ part; honestly, it feels like this is how she would handle, considering the weight of the suit and the way she spins as she jumps.
Okay, I lied. There are two other minor complaints I have, but they’re just me looking for things to criticize. This game is so perfect overall that I am more inclined to notice even the tiniest of flaws.
The first I wouldn’t even call a flaw, and in fact is kind of important in keeping some of your powers in check. You will equip weapons of higher destructive magnitude, but regardless you will still need to use certain bombs/missiles to break blocks and open doors. My problem is that this does take you out of the realism a bit. While the power bomb should be strong enough to shatter any breakable block, it’s somewhat restricted to blocks with the power bomb icon. Same goes with the Screw Attack, which you’d think could demolish anything. Again, this is a vital component in preventing Samus from being overpowered, but for a game that does such a great job putting you in another world, it’s a little disappointing.
The only other flaw I can scrape from the very far reaches of my brain is that the wall jump feels a little too difficult to pull off – like it’s needlessly particular. But I’m sure there are plenty who can master this stunt better than I can.
I could go on and on about this game, but that would only rob you, the reader, of valuable time you could be spending on Super Metroid. I mean, you know this is a good game. You’ve heard whispers of it being the best the SNES had to offer.
I was honestly ready to write a “great but overrated” review. I am not easily swayed by hype. But this game got me. It is truly as great as everyone says, and is indeed, one of my favorite SNES games of all time. As I was taking notes I was nearly in a frenzy. While my tolerable playtime duration is admittedly fairly short, the excitement I had over playing Super Metroid made it difficult to put the controller down!
What? You mean to tell me you’re not yet playing Super Metroid? Well what are you waiting for? Go buy a copy now. You won’t be disappointed.
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