128-Bit, 16-Bit, Franchise features, gaming

Tokyochuchu on: Metroid

As I am typing this, we’re deep inside the annual summer gaming drought of 2013. The last interesting current gen game I played was Bioshock Infinite. I’m now waiting patiently for The Last of Us to drop through the mail slot. In the interim, I have amused myself by going back and playing a whole bunch of the old Metroid titles. And I’ve had an absolute blast doing so. It’s been one of the most nostalgic and satisfying gaming periods of my entire life. I replayed and finished all five of the titles listed below within the space of about a month. Phew! Talk about going hardcore otaku. So… Let’s take a look back at Tokyochuchu’s “Top five Metroid games you MUST play“. But before we begin, I should warn of the odd *spoiler* dotted here and there (most notably in the ‘top Metroid moment’ sections).

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#5: METROID ZERO MISSION – As groundbreaking as the original NES title was, when you go back and play it now, it feels decidedly dated. You can’t shoot in eight directions, there’s no easy save system and it’s difficulty is beyond brutal. Thankfully, the Gameboy Advance remake Zero Mission righted all those wrongs. The game took the pinpoint perfect control interface of Metroid Fusion, the design philosophy of Super Metroid, the general layout of the original NES title and blended them together in a Metroid powershake of awesomeness. Zero Mission has just the right amount of exploration, power-ups and bosses. There are tons and tons of hidden collectibles to find and a lot of content that wasn’t in the NES original. One minor quibble people level at the game is that it’s too short and too easy. I personally don’t find either of those a problem. In fact, I’d say that makes Zero Mission the perfect entry in the franchise for beginners.

TOP METROID MOMENT: Motherbrain is ashes. You’ve escaped the exploding installation. Time to relax and watch the ending… What’s that?! Samus has been shot down! Stripped of her powers, sexy zero-suit Samus must use stealth to sneak into the enemy mothership, steal a fighter and escape the planet. This is the most difficult and most thrilling moment of Zero Mission. Sheer awesome sauce!

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#4: METROID OTHER M – Other M is a truly divisive title in the Metroid saga. I can totally see why. Other M has one of the worst opening hours that you could imagine as a Metroid fan. All the mechanics that we know and love are gone. In their place is a combat heavy battle game featuring ‘sensimove’ projectile dodging and close quarters finishing moves. Worse still, exploration is put on the back burner in favor of linear progression. Then there are the story elements; Samus whines like an immature teenager and acquiesces to a dominating general who refuses to let Samus use items (“This monster is going to eat me. Can I please use missiles, sir?” WTF?!). A lot of Metroid fans threw down their controllers in disgust, myself among them. I left Other M to gather dust and contempt until just recently. After finishing a couple of the other Metroid games, I decided to give Other M one last shot. I’m glad I did because it’s fantastic! The opening hour is still hard to swallow as it throws you in at the deep end. But everything improves. Once you acclimatize to the sensimove and 2D to 3D missile lock mechanics, they work extremely well and are fun to use. As you progress, areas steadily become re-unlocked and allow the traditional backtracking / hidden power-up hunting. Even the plot gets better; Samus mercifully stops acting like a petulant child and the tale evolves into a gripping yarn about cover-ups, betrayal and murder. You feel that at the end of Other M, Samus is not the same as when she started. And then there is the best part of the game… The bosses are freaking AWESOME! Seriously, Metroid is known for excellent bosses and Other M has some of the best encounters of the entire franchise. And they’re unpredictable, too. In most Metroid games, bosses are denoted in specific places or have creepy doors to their lairs. In Other M they could be anywhere. It certainly keeps you on edge and wondering what’s around the next corner. Wow… I’ve rambled on a lot about this game. In conclusion, be patient with Other M. It takes it’s time but it truly delivers the goods.

TOP METROID MOMENT: The bio-engineered creature Nightmare was one of the toughest and most memorable bosses from Metroid Fusion. He’s here in Other M too. The moment when his gravity drives kicks in to life and he drags himself out of the ceiling is a true “I’ve just creamed in my pants” moment for Metroid fans. And the fight that ensues… Perfect!

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#3: SUPER METROID – WHAAAT?! Super Metroid is not number one? What the hell? I can sympathize. Arguably the best game on the SNES, it redifined the action adventure genre (along with A Link to the Past, of course), not so much moving the goalposts as shifting them off the pitch entirely. Although the NES title started the franchise, Super Metroid will always be it’s true explosion point. The bosses, music, power-ups and zone designs were absolutely legendary, setting new standards all the way around. So… Why is it languishing at number 3? At the time, Super Metroid was perfect but these days it shows a little bit of rust around the edges. For example, the control layout has been refined since that time. The system employed in Fusion and Zero Mission just feels better. The weapon select system was annoying back then. It’s feels atrocious now (scrolling though weapon lists in the heat of battle – not fun). And the jumping mechanics can sometimes lead to frustration; The wall jump. Oh.. My.. God. GET THE FUCK UP THERE SAMUS!!!!!! *controller hits TV and breaks*

TOP METROID MOMENT: Not anything involving the fucking wall jump, that’s for sure. Does anyone remember Kraid from the original Metroid? He was a stout, fat little monster as short as Samus. He beefed up a bit for his comeback in Super Metroid. The moment when Kraid rises out of the ground to stand as high as a three story building is as intimidating as it is jaw-dropping. How on earth are you supposed to beat something that big? Finding the answer to that question was one of the best moments in videogame history.

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#2 METROID FUSION – As stated above, the control scheme in Metroid Fusion was refined to perfection. It was ridiculously intuitive. So too were the jumping mechanics and weapon selection systems. Fusion was a game that played fluidly, had beautiful graphics and felt fresh. There was a great sense of discovery within Metroid Fusion. It wasn’t simply a retread of the popular and lauded Super Metroid; It did it’s own thing whilst still staying true to it’s roots. New for this mission was a detailed plot-line. Told through text monologues and navigation-booth interactions, Fusion’s story was fun and intriguing (and a total dry run for Other M). It was also quite a dark and spooky game, with the trademark Metroid atmosphere being laid on thick and heavy. And the bosses! The likes of Nightmare, the SA-X and that bloody spider-thing-that-grabs-you will forever haunt my gaming memories. Whilst the title took some minor flack for being a bit more linear than previous games, I personally thought that Fusion had just the right amount of direction versus exploration. It was always super fun to revisit old areas with new power-ups to see what you could find. With great bosses, vibrant graphics, flawless controls and an interesting story, I think that Metroid Fusion marginally beat out the classic Super Metroid for the best 2D entry in the series.

TOP METROID MOMENT: Who says 2D games can’t be scary? Try being chased down an obstacle strewn corridor by the relentless SA-X. This indestructible dark doppelganger of Samus is terrifying! You can’t fight it, you can only run and hide (until you get the correct weapon to kick it’s ass with, at least). The mid game chase sequence is a heart pounding, pant filler of an experience. It’s the most difficult part of the game but also the most memorable.

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#1: METROID PRIME – Super Mario Bros had Super Mario 64. The Legend of Zelda had Ocarina of Time. Metroid had Prime; A game game that seamlessly transitioned from 2D to 3D, taking with it everything that made the franchise great. I really couldn’t imagine a more perfect 3D take on the Metroid universe than the one that Prime delivered. There are so many stunning moments in the game; the first sight of Samus rising out of her ship in glorious three dimensions, the first time you set foot in the snowy Phandrana Drifts, the thumping, nostalgic music that urges you through Magmoor Caverns (originally from Super Metroid) or how about the first time you set your eyes on the giant plant boss of the Chozo Ruins? Metroid Prime delights time after time. With minimal plot and maximum exploration, the game stays definitively true to it’s roots and it’s a sheer joy to traverse the world, sniffing out all the little nooks and crannies for hidden items. The graphics are crisp and clean, the level design is phenomenal, the bosses are mind-blowing and the challenge is just on the right side of brutal (the final boss is a fucking handful!). This is a game that ranks within my top three of all time and one of the only videogames compelling enough to coax a 100% completion rate out of me (I’m not a trophy whore kind of gamer). I also go back and play the game periodically, especially with the Wii version rocking the shit (this is one game where motion controls actually work better). And it’s amazing every single time!

TOP METROID MOMENT: You’ve gathered all the Chozo artifacts. It’s finally time to head down into the sealed chamber. Nothing can stop us now! That is, nothing save for Meta Ridley who blows up your only entryway. Prime’s showdown with Samus’s arch nemesis is teased a few times during the game and when it it finally comes, it’s a cracker! Ridley throws everything he has at Samus and it’s a damn tough fight to the finish. But it’s also unforgettably brilliant… I mean come on; he’s a robot dragon for god’s sake! How cool is that?!

So, there it is. I hope you enjoyed this list. It’s a shame that the Prime sequels failed to hit the same highs as the original (2 was too long winded and difficult, 3 was tired from the off), but I guess that’s the price of perfection; it’s kind of difficult to follow.

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