EZ Racer's Blog

Posted on Oct 12th 2021 at 12:00:00 AM by (EZ Racer)
Posted under metroid, nes, snes, gba, game boy, samus aran, retrogaming, switch



With the recent release of Metroid Dread, it seemed like a natural time to look back on how we got to this point in the series. I realize that most on this site will have played a Metroid game in their lives, but this article may help those who haven't played through all of Samus's 2D adventures. For this, I'm concentrating only on the 2D games, including remakes. Each will have short positives and negatives, as well as a few nostalgic moments.

Metroid



The series got it's start back in the mid 80's, and from it's first screen it was obvious that this was going to be a different experience from most the 2D platformers of the time. This was at a time when most games scrolled left to right, a la Super Mario Bros, so it shouldn't be understated that the first important action you take to go left for an item that would become a series staple, the Morph-Ball. It's world on the planet Zebes felt open-ended and desolate, setting the tone for the emotions the series would strive to encapture. And for those unfamiliar, the titular Metroids are life draining creatures that the Space Pirates, led by Ridley, are attempting to use as bio-weapons, with Samus Aran being called upon to stop them.

Positives-For it's time, this was a new experience in gaming. It's littered with secrets, and it drips with atmosphere. Controls are solid, and it's a first party Nintendo product, and shows their attention to quality control. Also, the music for Kraid's lair is on the short list of best music in the NES's entire catalog.

Negatives-If you want to enjoy this game, don't be afraid to find area maps online or in older game guides. There are so many cryptic puzzles that seem like there's no rhyme or reason to finding the solution, beyond blind luck. The lack of a map system detracts from the experience in the long run, as the game becomes very cumbersome. Deaths compound themselves due to lack of starting resources (30 energy).

Recommendation-It may seem sacreligious to say this, but it's really not worth the time to go through this game, outside of a curiosity in the series roots. It's a decent game that set the stage for later games, but it's gameplay borders on being more of chore to complete than an enjoyable experience.


Metroid II: Return of Samus



Samus went portable with her 2nd adventure, this time traveling to the Metroids home planet of SR388, to eradicate the species due to the growing threat they pose to the universe. On planet SR388, Samus discovers the metroids can evolve into stronger, more dangerous foes. In a way this game is level based, with Samus tasked with destroying all the metroids in a given area before being able to proceed to the next area. The Game Boy did create limitations, but it made possible some features that became staples of the franchise. The look of the Varia suit originated here, as well as the game's use of save points. It's also worth noting that the storylines of all the sequels have a basis from the events of Metroid II.

Positives- The fact that Nintendo was able to get an adventure the size of Metroid II that still captured the feel of the 1st game can't be understated. Overall game design was better for this outing as well, with exploration yielding results in logical areas. The later levels really give a sense of isolation and foreboding, especially when you find a specific statue as you advance toward the final area containing metroids.

Negatives- It's hard to ignore the limitations of the Game Boy when looking at this title. I truly think Nintendo made the best possible Metroid experience on the system, but when looking back on it, it has its issues. Like the first, there is no map, and the environments are less memorable, partly due to Samus's and enemies larger sprite size. The lack of color also takes away from the game's immersion when you look back without a nostalgic lens.

Recommendation- It's worth trying, especially for fans of the original Game Boy. But it's limitations are painfully obvious, and will likely turn off casual gamers, especially those looking for any amount of tutorial. Still, from a story perspective, the events that conclude Metroid II are crucial to the stories of Metroid 3 and 4.


Super Metroid (Metroid 3)



And now we hit the title that sealed the franchise's place in video game history. From a story perspective, Super Metroid very neatly tied in the events from its first two titles, using the events from Metroid II to move the plot. It's set on Zebes, and one of the first places you explore is the same area of Tourian that housed Mother Brain, the final boss of the first game. Storytelling is minimalistic, with the action and exploration being the key elements of its plot. Nearly everywhere has something to discover, as well as several different ways to approach the game once you learn more and more of its plethora of secrets. From here on, Metroid games also had an in game map, rectifying one of the biggest complaints with the earlier titles.

Positives- Super Metroid is one of the most acclaimed games of all time for a reason. The level and game design is superb, with the game's main path teaching you the tools to you'll need to use to complete the game as you progress. The atmosphere is incredible, as each area feels distinct, but yet all feel foreboding in some manner. But it's biggest positive is the sense of discovery. I don't think of Super Metroid as an exploration game, but moreso it's a discovery game. In the first game, much like the original Zelda, there was a lot to explore and figure out where to go. Here, nearly every single room serves a purpose, either to give you practice on how to traverse its action, or to conceal a hidden item, or in several cases, both.

Negatives- Not much. But players used to quick, crisp controls may need some time to get used to how the game handles. The Space Jump, a late game upgrade necessary to complete the game, is frustratingly clunky, enough that it would detract from a lesser game.

Recommendation- There are a few games throughout history that everyone should try at least once, and this is one of those titles. Between having one of the most satisfying endings of any game, and a continuous sense of accomplishment as you discover its secrets, it likely will range from being a solid experience to one of your favorite games ever. (Count me in the latter).


Metroid Fusion (Metroid 4)



Fusion marked a bit of a turning point, as the game relied heavily on completing missions and less on self-exploration. After the accolades Super Metroid garnered, some looked upon Fusion as a bit of step backwards for the series. But as years passed, it seemed to get judged less on comparisons to its predecessor and more on its own gameplay and story.

With the metroids now extinct, Samus is called to help explore disturbances on SR388, and finds something deadlier than metroids, the X parasite. This parasite kills, then mimics its host. Its sole predator were metroids, and with them gone, nothing is there to stop the parasites from multiplying into a catastrophic threat. Samus too is infected, nearly dying and having to undergo surgeries to remove her power suit, before a vaccine is created using metroid DNA. No sooner does she leave the research station where she had recooped her strength, but she is called back to investigate a distress signal. Not only have the scientists aboard the station succumbed to the X, but the X infected parts of Samus's suit have mimicked Samus at full strength.

This story sets the stage for what is definitely the darkest adventure in the series...

Positives- If Super Metroid is dripping with atmosphere, this game oozes it. Unlike Super Metroid, it is very story driven, and its story is well told, with several memorable moments and surprises along the way. Fusion gives off a wonderful horror vibe, as not only do you feel isolated, but now you feel like death could always be behind the next door. Controls and gameplay are solid, and while there aren't as many discoveries as in Super Metroid, advancing its narrative makes up for it.

Negatives- While it's really good, it's not Super Metroid good, there are plenty of times where rooms feel like they're there to get in your way rather than encourage discovery. It is linear, and unfortunately in many cases once you unlock the next door, there is no longer access to previous areas.

Recommendation- The story, while told in much different manner than its predecessors, is exciting and intriguing, and there is a constant sense of fear as you play through this game. Understand that you're not getting Super Metroid when you play it, but you're still getting an immersive experience worthy of the franchise. Without using spoilers, some of the memorable story moments and boss fights from series happen within Fusion, and its sense of fear and isolation would be the foundation for the newest game in the series, Metroid Dread. If you have any interest in Metroid games, Fusion is definitely worth your time.


Before getting to Dread, both the first and second games of the series got full remakes and are discussed below.

Metroid: Zero Mission



Metroid Zero Mission was made as a reimagining of the original title. Overhauled graphics, a map feature, quick cinematics and an epilogue were all added to introduce the series roots in a more palatable manner.

Positives- Zero fixes nearly all the major complaints surrounding the first game. There is an in-game map, and many of the cryptic puzzles have been made much more intuitive. The bosses have gotten upgraded, along with an upgrade set based on improvements that Return of Samus and Super Metroid made.

Negatives- Somewhere along the way, some of the improvements also caused it to lose a little of the charm the original had. There are times when it feels like it strays too far from its source, but these are minor complaints considering all the improvements

Recommendation- If you want to get a sense of how the series got its start, this is the game to play. It takes the things that the original game got right, improves upon the major issues, and gives it a graphical facelift. While I personally gravitate more towards Fusion, there are plenty that consider Zero Mission the better of the two Metroids released for the GBA.


Metroid: Samus Returns



For years, Metroid fans wanted a remake of Metroid II, because while the effort made on the Game Boy was admirable, it's issues were magnified over time. And yet, much of the Metroid lore had its basis in the second game. Developer Mercury Steam was ultimately handed the project, and delivered an overhauled game while still keeping to the feel of what Return of Samus was about.

Positives- It's well made, with an abudance of features found in the later titles, while still staying true to its source material. The metroid evolutions are given more characteristics than in the original, and the game finds solid ways to explain some of the "because it's a video game" questions when looking at Metroid II from a logical perspective.

Negatives- Samus has a new move for this game, the Melee counter, which was partly included to attract modern gamers to the series. While it is a fun move, the relies on this feature to a fault, and in many cases, killing an enemy or boss is dependent on this feature, rather than augmenting the experience. Graphically, the game feels slightly dated, even though it's only four years old.

Recommendation- While it has some imperfections, it's definitely the way to approach Metroid II. And for those who enjoy the later games of the series, you should try it due to how much it will fill in the backstory of Metroid 3, 4, and 5.


Metroid Dread (Metroid 5)-



Which brings us to the recently released Metroid Dread. Admittedly, I am far from completing this game, so far as I know, and the point of this article wasn't a Dread review, but looking at the previous entries and how we got to this point. So all the comments from here are just initial impressions based on gameplay for what I assume is the first third to half of the game. I also should say that I purposely went dark on viewing any trailers in the last month and a half, due to hearing there were potential spoilers contained in them.

Much in the vein of Fusion, Dread takes place in an environment inhabited by E.M.M.I. robots, who are on a constant hunt for Samus, similar to the SA-X, mimicked Samus, in the previous game. These robots mean instant death upon contact, and as you progress, you find that each is more of a threat than the last. They are confined to certain areas of the map.

This game looks amazing, which you'd hope for, considering it's on the switch, and it plays extremely smooth. While the Melee counter is still a predominant feature, its use doesn't feel forced, and comes off as much more organic and natural in how it is incorporated to the gameplay.

But get ready to die, a lot. The game thankfully uses a checkpoint system upon death, so you can return to a spot close to where the death happened and try again, while quitting will take you back to a previous save point.

It may change as the story unfolds, but Dread is a linear experience in its early levels. It feels much more organic in delivery than Fusion, but I constantly found myself going through one way corridors, and was keenly aware that everything I was finding seemed to be exactly what the intended me to eventually find before I could progress.

That said, it's been a great addition to the series so far, and I'm excited to see how this final chapter of the Metroid saga unfolds.


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