Outside World: Metroid

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Here’s another game I’m better at watching than playing, but still love anyway. This is the Metroid series, a series I’ve always enjoyed a lot.

But I should clarify that I’ve only ever been interested in the original platforming style of Metroid. While I’m sure the Prime series of games are pretty great, and I don’t mind first-person shooters, they’re not really my kind of thing and Prime has therefore never been that interesting to me.

The platformers I do love very much, though. But Metroid also has a great aspect of exploration to it, as well as a decidedly dark atmosphere and a non-linearity that makes it feel well and truly open to a player.

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But it wouldn’t be much if the gameplay itself weren’t so terrific. But with Metroid, it really is. And nowhere does this manifest itself more, like Mega Man, in both speedrunning and TASes. Metroid bears witness to some seriously challenging speedruns, and I relish watching them all the time.

The first Metroid for NES from 1986 might look less impressive now, and it is probably a bit repetitive now in the grand scheme of things. But it’s still a challenge, to a newer player most of all, due to not having a map and having its limits with the password system as well. But it’s still a jolly fun game to work through.

Metroid II: Return of Samus, released five years later, never got quite such wide acclaim, and I can understand why. It was perhaps rather limited by the Game Boy system it was on, and a lot of it is not perfect. But they certainly tried their best with the atmosphere, you can tell. It can still feel quite chilling at times.

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But of course, where the series really got its big break in 1994 with with the SNES instalment, Super Metroid. This is a simply terrific game. The gameplay has been nailed down to a fine art, there is immense challenge within, and for a game of its time it must have been unbelievably epic. And even now the atmosphere is still great. And that’s not even including some other great elements I’ll get onto later.

Then came a long 8-year break for the series. No-one knew how to follow up on Super Metroid, and the death of series co-creator Gunpei Yokoi put the series on pause. But then, as well as Prime starting out, which resulted in its own great success, another 2D game came about, Metroid Fusion for the Game Boy Advance. While the gameplay was much the same as Super Metroid, as well as the visuals, several elements broke new ground for Metroid. Most notably, the game was very much linear, being plot-driven as it was. But it was still suitably awesome to go through, and the locations were many and varied. And crucially, that all important gameplay was still in place for all to enjoy. Fusion proved to be another great success.

And then, two years later, came a remake of the original – Zero Mission, again for the GBA. This was just magnificent, the original great Metroid, redone with a touch of Super Metroid’s style and modernised for 2004. It was all fantastic…and this time, Mother Brain was not the end! It’s just what you want out of a Metroid game.

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Since then, the series has soldiered on in its guise as a first-person shooter, for the most part. Prime 2: Echoes came out in the same year as Zero Mission and it hasn’t looked back since then. That’s a shame because we probably won’t get a Metroid game anything like the sort I prefer ever again. Other M might have changed up the status quo a bit, but…we don’t like to talk about Other M.

With those new games has come a lot of characterisation for the Metroid series – the first three didn’t touch on it at all. The plot was only ever explained in a short way, directly, in Super Metroid. You could go the first two without knowing what it was all about. But Fusion definitely had a lot of character about it, although Zero Mission didn’t have it in great detail. But fundamentally there is probably something quite awesome about playing as a woman like Samus destroying evil beings in space. So it deserves plaudits in that regard. Although I too didn’t know she was female when I first saw her in Melee. But everyone over the sun probably knows that by now.

And, like most series I’m in to, the music for Metroid is also largely superb. There’s less of it than in many series, but given how often you have to listen to most of it, it had better be good to listen to all the time. And it is, often. And it always captures the atmosphere the game wishes to carry out every single time. It’s a great success.

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I do wish I could see something like the Metroid I like once again, but I fear that might not be the case. Even if they stopped making the 3D games, it appears that the franchise has been rather left for dead now anyway. Too many series I like seem to have been left this way, it appears. And that’s a shame because Metroid is absolutely fantastic like this. It’s so great to sit down and watch some Metroid action for an hour or so, and I shall continue to do so for as long as I can. May this sort of action come back one day…

My favourite Metroid music

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