Release Date: March 4, 1994
Developer: Nintendo R&D1 Intelligent Systems
Today, Super Metroid is not only considered one of the best games for the Super Nintendo, but one of the best games ever made. When I bought my copy back in 1994, I really didn’t know what to expect. I was no longer a subscriber to Nintendo Power, so I didn’t have the luxury of Pak-Watch (I know that probably didn’t still exist in 1994) to tell me it was coming. All I can recall is I was browsing the SNES section of my local Best Buy when I noticed there was a new Metroid game available.
I loved Metroid on the NES as it held such a nostalgic place due to its open world concept, dark, eerie music and graphics. It would still be several years before I would play the Metroid sequel on the Gameboy, so the SNES version was the first time I had suited up as galactic bounty hunter Samus Aran in probably 5-6 years. I had no idea if this new adventure would simply be a re-hash of past glories or if Nintendo would put the necessary time and care into keeping the franchise relevant on 16-bit hardware. After bringing the game home and devouring it from start to finish, to me there was no question Super Metroid did so many things right and so very few things wrong. First and foremost, the story behind Super Metroid really draws the player in. Events take place immediately after the conclusion of Metroid 2 on the Gameboy. Thankfully, the game catches players up by providing a synopsis of the previous entry’s ending just in case they hadn’t played it (i.e. me).
Samus heads home, but as she is leaving a distress signal has been sent out from the space colony Ceres, where she had left the last Metroid larva with scientists. She turns back only to find the Metroid larva gone and all the scientists dead. After some investigating, Samus finds that space pirate Ridley has stolen the larva and now she must escape before the station self-destructs, harkening back to the original Metroid’s ending, and follow Ridley to Zebes.
The planet Zebes is bigger and more intimidating than ever. Samus must now battle 4 space pirate bosses, including Kraid and Ridley, and make her way towards the heart of the pirate base, Tourian. It’s here that Samus will meet up with the “all grown up” Metroid larva, as well as a rematch with Mother Brain. But I’ve just skipped past so much amazing and addictive gameplay going from the opening sequence on Ceres until the final sequence in Tourian.
Super Metroid is a huge game in both size and scope, but I never felt overwhelmed. The basic Metroid moves and weapons are still there for anyone familiar with the first two adventures. As you’d expect from such an epic game, there are enhanced moves, weapons and items, such as the super bomb, grapple beam, x-ray, wall jump and speed booster available to Samus with exploration. Utilizing these new techniques is critical to success as areas of Zebes only become available to Samus once they’ve been acquired and mastered. These additions are all very cool and make Super Metroid that much more “super”, but from a practical standpoint, nothing improves on the original NES title more than the inclusion of the map system.
The maps allow you to see where you’ve been and where you have yet to explore. Super Metroid’s map system (as well as save points) served as the template for other action adventure style games created after it (see Castlevania Symphony of the Night) due to the way it shows you what you need to know without handing everything to you on a platter.
I won’t spoil the ending just in case you haven’t played Super Metroid all the way through, because it would be a damn shame to miss out on the surprises. Is Super Metroid perfect? I have a hard time saying any video game is perfect, but this is as close as I’ve ever seen.
Tough call since all of Super Metroid is magnificent from beginning to end, but I have to choose Norfair. Norfair is the fire and lava section of the planet and it’s name should be familiar to anyone that played through the original NES Metroid. The music in Norfair is pulse-pounding, and you get several really important upgrades & weapons in the form of Power Bombs, Grappling Hook, Hi-Jump Boots and the Speed Booster. To top it all off, Norfair is the home of your old Metroid-stealing pirate nemesis, Ridley. Lay waste to it and you’re well on your way to Tourian and the game’s end.
While battling Ridley one more time is satisfying and the finale against Mother Brain is something to behold, I have to go with Kraid as my favorite boss battle. Kraid is another holdover from the original Metroid and it’s fought in the first half of the game instead of the second half like Ridley and Mother Brain. The manner in which it exposes its enormous size to Samus, and in turn the player, is something I certainly wasn’t expecting the first time I reached Kraid. I remember Kraid being a relatively small, if stout beast in the original game, but in Super Metroid it takes up two screens! It’s one of those boss battles that really shows what the Super Nintendo can do. Plus, Kraid is no pushover, so there’s a good chance you’ll have to fight it more than once if you reach it before you’ve gained sufficient energy tank reserves.
Best Weapon or Item
Super Metroid is all about the special items that turn Samus from the shell of her former glory to the bad-ass bounty hunter we know and love. Metroid games are all about gradually building up her strengths and abilities and Super Metroid accomplishes this masterfully. The most unique item in the game from my perspective is the Speed Booster found in Norfair. The Speed Booster allows Samus to plow through weakened walls not only horizontally, but vertically as well. She can also use the Speed Booster to send herself into the stratosphere by simply pressing down while she’s in speed run mode and then pressing A to jump while she flashes. She’ll soar high in the air and can either break weakened ceilings above her or simply explore the exterior terrain of Zebes. This is a great trick that is more than just a gimmick. The Speed Booster special moves need a little practice to master, but they have their useful moments and pay off once practised.
Not to be overlooked when talking about the game’s plot and flawless mechanics is the fact that Super Metroid looks and sounds amazing. So much attention to detail was paid to the game by Nintendo’s developers that there are too many brilliant examples to name. To top it off, the end sequence, starting with Samus’ battle with the Super Metroid all the way through to the final Mother Brain encounter, is probably one of the most epic and cinematic events I’ve ever participated in.