Name: Super Metroid Format: Super NES Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Nintendo Year: 1994

The ground breaking 2D Action Platformer which pushed the boundaries of the Snes, and created what is widely regarded as one of the best games on the system.

Background

The game is the third in the Metroid series, coming after Metroid on the Nes and Metroid 2: Return of Samus on the Game Boy. All the games were designed by Nintendo's second best game designer, Gumpei Yoko. This game continues the traditions of the first two, ie. 2D freeroaming world in which you can go back and forth freely, a highly upgradeable character, and an absolutely huge map.

Metroid involved the tale of Samus Aran (at this time just an average space marine in a suit) going to a highly dangerous planet named Zebes to kill Metroids: nasty aliens which latch onto lifeforms and drain their energy. The Metroids had been stolen by the Space Pirates, after a single Metroid was discovered on the desolate planet SR388. Researchers bringing a Metroid back to earth for examination were attacked by Space Pirates, and the Metroid was stolen, and taken back to Zebes to use as a weapon against the rest of the Galaxy. Samus carries out the mission in style, meeting and defeating soon to be famous bosses such as Kraid and Ridley. After Samus defeats Mother Brain, the leader of the Space Pirates, Samus makes good an escape, just as Mother Brain sets the planet to self destruct. Samus just gets away, and as the end credits rolled, Nes players the world over were shocked to find out... Samus is a ***clicking here is a spoiler, but you should know this before reading further...***. Oooh. Nice bit of drama there, eh? Didn't see it coming, did you? No. Because Gumpei Yoko wanted you to feel like that. He's a clever guy.

Metroid 2: Return of Samus involves Samus being ordered to go to SR388 to wipe out any remaining Metroids, and so make sure the Galaxy is never at risk again. Of course, it isn't that simple. After touching down on the planet, Samus sees 40 Metroids on the Metroid detector. After tracking down and killing every last one (in various stages of evolution, ranging from Metroids to Omega Metroids, and finally the Metroid Queen who takes 150 missile shots to give up the ghost. However, once Samus is exploring the passage behind the Metroid Queen, she finds a solitary Metroid egg which hatches as she goes past. The Metrod which comes out does not attack, but instead flies around Samus' head making purring noisees. It thinks Samus is its mother. And with that, Samus gets out onto the surface, back into her ship, and promptly flies away to kick ass another day. So ends Metroid 2. But now comes the real thing.

At the start of Super Metroid, after the immortal words The last Metroid is in captivity. The Galaxy is at peace, the entire plot of the Metroid series is run through with some neat flashbacks. I've just done all that for you above, you lucky people. Anyway, you see Samus hand over the baby metroid to some scientists on a space station, before flying away. However, she has only just left the system when she picks up the distress signal from the station. She hurries back, and docks with the station only to find everyone dead, and the Metroid container missing... or is it? She opens a door to find the Metroid container lying on the ground. PHEW. You wouldn't want to loose that, being that it is the most dangerous thing in the galaxy and all. As Samus goes to pick the egg up, a familiar face swoops in and grabs it... Ridley. Obviously not quite dead enough. After a short Battle, Ridley flies away with the egg, leaving Samus on a space station... which is about to self destruct. This happens a lot to the poor girl doesn't it? Anyway, she makes it out of the space station alive (after the Snes shows off some fancy graphical effects, rotating the whole level to the side, and generally making it difficult to get out) and realises that if Ridley has taken the Metroid, there is only one place he will be heading... Zebes. She follows him and so begins the game proper.

After landing on the planet, Samus gets out of her ship and starts exploring. A lot of the place is the same as it was on the Nes in Metroid 1, and after all it is the same planet. She explores the eerily silent planet, finding only locked doors everywhere, but she eventually explores enough to find her first upgrade... the Ball. This allowed Samus to roll into a ball, to get in small passageways. However, just as she picks up the ball, an age old security camera spots her, and sets off an alarm. She leaves back the way she came, to get in a low passage she saw before, only to find that the way she came, once silent, is now full of Space Pirates awakened by the alarm...

Gameplay

The game was a simple, 2D platformer, but Samus moved in all four directions in Zebes: the planet was basically composed of horizontal passages and vertical passages, intrically linked together just to get players lost. Thank god for the in game map. Samus could fire her Beam or missiles in any one of eight directions, and the diagonal aiming basically made no enemy out of her reach - a problem with the first two games in the series. The five principle add ons to her beam could be equipped in any combination, but it was best to have all of them at once, which turned Samus into even more of a killing machine than usual. Aside from the Ball mentioned above, there are heaps of other items which need to be picked up, covering things to make Samus jump higher, jump underwater, resist more damage, and shoot enemies with different coloured lasers. The full list is below.

  • Ball - allows Samus to roll into a ball.
  • Spring Ball - allows Samus to jump while in ball form.
  • Beams:
    • Normal Beam - allows Samus to defeat some enemies. You start the game with this.
    • Charge Beam - allows Samus to charge up her basic laser for a more powerful attack. Also, when the beam is charged, if Samus does a spin jump, she damages any enemies she touches.
    • Wave Beam - allows Samus to fire a beam which moves up and down, and can open barriers from the other side.
    • Ice Beam - allows Samus to fire a beam which freezes enemies, that can then be used as stepping stones.
    • Plasma Beam - allows Samus to fire an extremely powerful beam, which will kill all but the strongest enemies.
    • Spazer Beam - allows Samus to fire a beam which splits into three, effectively tripling her power.
    • Hyper Beam - allows Samus to kill the final boss. Only found right at the end of the game...
  • Bombs:
    • Bomb - allows Samus to plant a bomb in ball form. Can blow up weak parts of wall, useful for finding secret passages.
    • Power Bomb - allows Samus to plant a very powerful bomb, capable of opening yellow doors.
  • Missiles
    • Missile - allows Samus to open Pink doors, by firing five missiles at them. Also used against enemies.
    • Super Missiles - allows Samus to fire a missiles which will open a Green door or a pink door in one go. Also used against enemies.
  • High Jump Boots - allow Samus to jump twice as high as usual.
  • Varia - reduces all damage Samus takes by Half.
  • Gravity suit - allows Samus to move normally underwater.
  • Space Jump - allows Samus to continuously spin jump, theoretically jumping forever. Used to climb vertical passages, get over hazards (spikes) etc.
  • Screw Attack - allows Samus to cause damage to enemies touched when she is spin jumping. Very useful in combination with Space Jump.
  • Grappling Beam - allows Samus to swing from certain points as if using a whip.
  • Speed Booster - allows Samus to run incredibly fast, and when she is running at full speed to:
    • Burst through certain walls and pieces of scenery.
    • Perform a "super jump" in almost any direction : essential for finding all the secrets in the game.
  • X-Ray Scope - allows Samus to see secret passages, fake walls, and what kind of weapon is needed to blow up a certain piece of scenery.
  • Energy Tank - allows Samus to add another 100 energy units to her tally. The maximum is fourteen energy tanks, added to the one she starts the game with.
  • Reserve Tank - allows Samus to keep energy in reserve, which can be pumped into her main tanks at any point. The maximum is four reserve tanks.

The game is structured in the same way as the Zelda series - at the start only a small part of the game is open to you, and once you discover an item you can access a little more, which allows you to find another item... After any number of hours of this (If you're good, the game can be completed 100% in about 1 hour 30. I, however, am not that good) you reach the end. But the gameplay is totally non linear - although there was a reasonably rigid order you were supposed to get items in, crafty players discovered ever more nifty ways to avoid doing this - for example, to get the Wave Beam you need to get across a spike pit. You're supposed to do it with the Grappling Beam but some crafty fellow worked out that if you jumped right into the spikes, you took damage, but then you could wall jump up to get the Wave Beam. You might be a bit damaged, but you had a cool weapon before you were supposed to, so people generally didn't complain. Bomb jumping was another technique used, though I'm too cack handed to manage it. It involves laying a bomb, the explosion firing you up, and then laying another bomb in mid air, which hopefully fires you up a bit more... This allowed people to climb shafts that weren't meant to be climbed yet, and get things even more out of order.

If you want a game with replayability, then Super Metroid is for you.

Sound

The music of the game is definitely some of the best on the console - simple themes repeated so much that you hum them. There was a separate theme for each of the main areas, as well as boss themes etc, and besides Zelda, it's my favourite Snes game soundtrack.

Locations

The game was set in 6 areas, apart from the prologue set on the space station. They were:

Crateria
The first area, where Samus lands. At the top of the main world map ie. the surface of Zebes.
Wrecked Ship
This small area is in the middle of Crateria. Accessed quite late in the game.
Brinstar
One of the largest areas in the game. Lots of different areas are found here, many requiring items from late in the game.
Norfair
The level set deepest in the planet - a veritable volcano in many areas. Many bosses are found here.
Maridia
This level is all set underwater, and so the Gravity suit is necessary for the vast majority of it. Some bosses found here too. The last items in the game are found here.
Tourian
The final area, only accessible once all the bosses have been destroyed. A deeply wierd level, including the most powerful enemies, the final boss, and a reunion with an old friend....

Ending

After defeating the final boss (which I couldn't spoil for you, no matter how nasty I was feeling) Samus makes her escape from the planet which is (once again) set to self destruct. Like, no shit. Again. Anyway, once Samus makes her escape (it's reasonably easy, don't worry) she gets in her ship and flies off to kick some ass another day. And that's the end of Super Metroid. Sequels are coming (see below), but either way, before you can appreciate anything, you must understand what has gone before, and I would recommend Super Metroid to any casual or experienced gamer. The cartridge and a Snes aren't too hard to come by now (thanks for telling me this amib), but if you can't find one, I suggest you save yourself some trouble and get a Rom image - this one in particular is all over the Internet.

Chronology

Obviously Super Metroid comes after Metroid and Metroid 2. Servo5678 has informed me that Super Metroid is set after the coming Gamecube title Metroid Prime (which is set between Metroid and Metroid 2) and before the coming Gameboy Advance title Metroid Fusion (chronologically the last in the series, so far). He also informs me that by linking the two titles together (with the Gamecube/GBA nifty link up) you can play both the original Metroid, and you can play through Metroid Prime using the new abilities found in Metroid Fusion. See his writeup here. I can't wait.


Thanks to mkb for a grammar correction.
Thanks to yerricde for another correction.

I like Metroid 3 (Super Metroid). It had some nice points, but there are several problems:

  • The game designers linearized the item progression, so that in order to go out of order it takes a LOT of effort (see above). This eliminated to a great extent the vast freedom of the original. No longer can you opt to skip the varia, the wave beam, or the screw attack, or defer the high jump boots or ice beam. Now you have to get them, pretty much the moment you can, before you can go and do anything else. It is possible to skip the scope, charge beam, and spazer without invoking glitches. This is a good way to make things more difficult.
  • The second problem is that you have better character control so that the monsters aren't so hard to hit anymore - and there has been no corresponding increase in the difficulty of the monster behavior. For example, in the original game one of the main problems was that you couldn't shoot along the ground because you couldn't kneel or shoot diagonally. The monsters were designed with this in mind. Well, those old monsters have stuck around, but now it's really really easy to pick them off. Some new monsters have been designed to make life difficult even with the improved controls, but they don't show up very often outside of Maridia. Even there, it's mainly wall-walkers and slow-moving metal fish that don't do anything. Other monsters have been added, but are weak enough not to present difficulties anyway (some of the drainers do make you resort to a super-bomb, but they are infrequent enough that you won't run out).
  • Third, having twenty or so energy tanks* really detracts from the credibility of any kind of threat. It is perfectly possible to get all the way up to Ridley with only one energy tank -- and, outside of the bosses, it is not particularly challenging to do so. (If you don't believe it's possible because of the underwater boss that grabs you, you can get lucky. I made it with 4 energy points remaining).
  • Fourth, super bombs are like a reset switch for monsters. Not so bad if the access is limited, but the moment you have any of them you have five, and you can quickly find ten more. Three super bombs can take out nearly anything but a boss or miniboss. If super bomb tanks contained ONE superbomb, I wouldn't have a problem.
  • Fifth, the screen is 15 boxes wide (so you're 7 boxes from the edge). You are 3 boxes tall. That's right: Samus can see about 5 meters in front of herself. If you like to be able to see things that aren't on your nose, try some other game.

Concentrating the difficulty in the bosses made this game weak for someone who can beat the original game. A better arrangement would maintain the idea of gaining your benefits at the bosses, but would spread the difficulty out across the game. And go ahead, leave the bosses hard!

If you liked this game, try Cave Story.

* Each contains 100 life, which is gradually depleted as you are damaged. Since few attacks cause more than 30 damage, and it is rare that one cannot avoid being hit, this is excessive. (I count reserve tanks in this figure of 20)

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