Super Metroid
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • SNES
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 03/19/1994
    • US 04/18/1994
    • UK 07/28/1994
Score: 100%

This review was published on 05/13/2013.

Super Metroid is the Super Nintendo Entertainment sequel to Metroid II: Return of Samus. In case you're counting, that makes Super Metroid the third game in the Metroid series. It's a 2-D, side-scrolling platform game that's all about running and gunning through action packed environments. I'm kidding, of course. Super Metroid is indeed a side-scrolling platform game, but it isn't about the action. It's one of the few games of this type that involves exploration of one contiguous world. If you're wondering what people mean when they say Metroidvania, they usually mean a game that copies this formula. Super Metroid is considered a classic to the highest degree; it's wildly regarded by critics as one of the best games ever made. Despite that, the Metroid series didn't sell too well, and that includes Super Metroid. It's not even in the top 10 best selling SNES games of all time, if you can believe that nonsense. If that's not a crime against humanity, then I don't know what is. It still sold well enough for Nintendo to stick with it, though. So does Super Metroid hold up? I would certainly say that it does. It's most definitely one of the best games on the SNES, no questions asked.

Image

After having eliminated nearly all of the Metroids in Metroid II, Samus Aran, the female protagonist of the Metroid series, decides to take the last Metroid back with her to be held in captivity for research purposes. Like what usually happens in these kinds of situations, the research station stationing the Metroid gets attacked by space pirates and the last Metroid is stolen. It is now time for Samus to revisit planet Zebes, the base of operations for the space pirates, to reclaim the baby Metroid and eliminate the space pirate menace. In case you are unaware, the space pirates are a ragtag team of strange space aliens who pirate stuff. A lot of them don't even seem sentient to me, but they must be if they're stealing things like the baby Metroid. At least they're living up to their name. As always, Samus is the only one in the universe woman enough to do the job. I do wonder sometimes why the Galactic Federation decides to rely on a single bounty hunter to embark on such important missions, but that's video game logic for you. It's nice how Super Metroid's story decides to weave in the events of the previous two games into its own narrative. And it does so in such a way as to not alienate new players. Super Metroid also has an incredibly well done introduction sequence, being that it wastes none of your time and quickly summarizes the necessary events. The story then stays out of your way for the rest of the game, never intruding on your play time. Super Metroid's story engages the player just enough without being annoying.

Image

Samus is equipped with a versatile space suit capable of many different functions. She has a cannon attached to one arm that can be aimed in one of eight directions to shoot unlimited beams of destructive death, and another arm with nothing attached so she can drink a can of soda. That last one isn't entirely accurate. If you press down, you can duck a bit to fire at stuff too short to destroy while standing up. Samus can do a straight jump or a spinning somersault, depending on whether you had a direction held down while jumping. If you're skilled enough, you can also do the amazing wall jump. Wall jumps allow you to bounce off a wall to gain additional height, and they can be used to scale any wall in the game. The jumps in Super Metroid feel a bit floaty, but this is an intentional design choice. You are on an alien planet, so expect the gravity to be a little different from Earth. It can be a little weird getting used to the gravity on planet Zebes, but once you do, things will feel right at home. A nice thing about the controls is that you can aim diagonally by pressing one of the shoulder buttons. That may not sound like a big deal, but if you were to aim diagonally using the digital pad, you'd be forced to move. Using the shoulder button to do it allows you to aim diagonally while standing still. It's not essential, but it's a nice luxury. Super Metroid has some solid controls and great game feel.

Image

Metroid is all about the exploration, and Super Metroid is no different. In fact, Super Metroid takes the exploration of previous entries in the series and enhances it a hundred fold. Even though this is technically the second time Samus has explored planet Zebes, the geography of the planet is completely different. I don't get how that works, but I'm not asking questions. I hope you aren't asking questions, either. Planet Zebes is one fun place to explore, with a large variety of areas that are available inside its extended network of caves. All areas in the game are interconnected via this cave system, which grants the game an incredible flow. Unlike the last two Metroid games, Super Metroid has an extensive map system that will come in mighty handy. There's a mini-map at the top of the screen to show you the immediate surroundings, but a more complete map can be accessed at any time by pausing the game. This is an incredibly convenient and welcome feature that you will desperately need, because Super Metroid is a colossal game. Even with the map, you may find yourself lost for days, as if you were stranded on a deserted island. That usually springs from a desire to explore every nook and cranny, which you should. The good thing is that Super Metroid has some startlingly intelligent level design, so you are usually led to the next area you're supposed to be exploring, even if you don't fully realize it. Super Metroid is an explorer's fantasy made reality.

Image

The main thing about Metroid games, besides exploring your environment, is collecting lots and lots of juicy upgrades. Super Metroid has that in spades. Samus' suit is one with a modular design, allowing her to greatly expand its core functions by finding upgrades. The cool thing about the upgrades in Metroid games, and in Super Metroid, is that they not only make you more powerful, but they also expand your scope of exploration. Missiles are acquired as an upgrade shortly into the game, and are used to open certain doors and they can do loads of damage to enemies. Many upgrades in the game have this dual-purpose concept, one for exploration and one for combat. The Ice Beam can freeze enemies so they can be used as stepping stools, or to simply immobilize them so they're easier targets. Some upgrades impart Samus with defensive capabilities, like the Varia Suit cuts down damage from enemy attacks and also protects Samus from extreme temperatures. Other upgrades focus squarely on expanding Samus' mobility, like the High Jump Boots, which do as their name implies, or the Grapple Beam. The Grapple Beam is new to Super Metroid and probably one of the coolest upgrades in the game. It's essentially the sci-fi version of Zelda's hookshot, being that it's an energy beam that will grapple you towards certain blocks. Less cool upgrades include stuff like Missile Expansions and Energy Tanks, which increases your maximum missile count and energy count, respectively. You can switch upgrades on or off in the menu screen, which is not at all necessary, but it's a nice feature to have. Super Metroid has a feeling of progression not unlike that of a role-playing game, just without the endless hours of repetitive grinding. Instead, Super Metroid rewards exploration, something that's already inherently fun, with tons of fun rewards. Rewarding fun with more fun is a great way to design a game.

Image

Atmosphere oozes out of every crevice in the world of Super Metroid. The ambient tunes combined with the subtle environmental cues equates to one atmospheric game. From the moment you exit your ship in rainy weather with that foreboding, ambient tune playing in the background, you are greeted with more atmosphere than most games can shake a stick at. It doesn't stop there, either. When you first enter into the caverns of Zebes, you see no forms of life beyond a few measly insects. The ambient music gives the game an eerie, almost survival horror feel about it, at this point in time. After a bit of exploration, you'll come across a room with a single Chozo statue holding an important upgrade. Upon acquiring the upgrade, the room locks itself and the atmosphere suddenly changes. In an odd twist, the statue comes alive and charges at you, resulting in one of the first boss fights of the game. Defeating the boss brings life back to Zebes in the form of waking its violent creatures. The music changes to reflect this new change in atmosphere, as well. This segment of the game was executed impeccably. One criticism people might have about the music is that it's not the melodic, catchy sort of music, since it's mostly there to establish atmosphere. While that is generally true, there are a few catchy tunes littered throughout the game, so it's not all about ambiance. What's nice is that even the catchy stuff is atmospheric. It's amazing how well the atmosphere has aged, too. Despite being a 16-bit game, I'd argue that Super Metroid's atmosphere rivals that of even modern games. Super Metroid is super atmospheric.

Image

Zebes is home to many varied locations this time around. You've got the craterous Crateria, the thorny brambles of Brinstar, the fiery depths of Norfair, and lots of other neat areas to see. There is no shortage of cool places to be in Super Metroid. There's even the haunted Wrecked Ship area, which is a nice break from the organic scenery normally found on Zebes. It's also a freaking haunted space ship. How cool is that? It's way cool. On top of that, there are a lot of in between areas that aren't necessarily categorized by any of the big sections of the game. In some ways, these are my favorite areas of the game, because they add an interesting bit of flavor not seen in most games. My favorite of these areas is the infamous water tube. It's an underground glass tube inside a body of water, and it baffled many Super Metroid players with its hidden secret. I'll reveal the secret, since everyone knows it by now: you can shatter the tube with a Power Bomb. Doing so will completely wreck it to pieces, allowing you to explore the watery world of Maridia. The music in Maridia is as serene as it's atmospheric, and it's just generally a nice area to explore. I'm not done yet. Remember Norfair? Later in the game, you'll revisit Norfair to explore deeper into its depths, into what is unofficially known as Lower Norfair. This area has awesome, catchy music and consists of ancient ruins from a long bygone civilization. Okay, I think I'm done listing examples now. My point is that Super Metroid has many great, varied environments worth exploring.

Image

Big bosses run rampant in Super Metroid. Right from the start of the game, Ridley is established as the arch nemesis of Samus, being that he defeated Samus at the space station and stole the baby Metroid. This creates a lot of build up to that moment when you finally get to beat the tar out of that space alien pterodactyl. Before that, though, Samus has to defeat a lot of other ugly space pirate buggers. Early on in the game, you'll come across a mysterious statue room with a lot of creepy statues. Each statue represents one of the game's major bosses, and defeating that boss will activate its particular statue. Once all bosses are felled, the way to the final area will be opened. This is a long, arduous process that takes the entire game to complete, as you would expect. Not all the bosses you face in the game count as one of these statue bosses, but they're all pretty cool nonetheless. Besides Ridley, Kraid is one of the best bosses in the game. He returns from the first game with an enormous size increase, probably from illegal space steroids. The menacing boss music combined symbolizes a swift change in atmosphere whenever these gargantuan bosses show up on screen. Their alien screams make it feel like you're watching a sci-fi horror film of some kind. You know, like the movie Aliens, which was a huge inspiration to the Metroid series. Most of the bosses in the game are gigantic, though Kraid is easily the most gigantic, as he doesn't even fit on the screen. Samus has to climb up Kraid's body in order to blast his face full of missiles. Another great boss is Crocomire, who has an intense looking death sequence. I mean, his flesh literally melts off his bones! That's kind of violent for a Nintendo game. Super Metroid easily has one of the best final bosses out of any Metroid game ever, as well, although I should probably refrain from spoiling that one. The bosses in this game are boss.

Image

One of the first upgrades in the game is the Morph Ball, an upgrade returning from the past Metroid games. This allows Samus to morph into a ball, as its name implies, enabling her to enter tiny tunnels. Shortly after that, you will acquire the Morph Ball's bomb upgrade. Morph Ball bombs can be used to attack enemies, break certain blocks, or to do the infamous bomb jump. Bomb jumping consists of setting down bombs at the right time to propel Samus upwards in her morph ball form via the explosions. If timed correctly, an infinite amount of bomb jumps can be chained, allowing Samus to get basically anywhere she wants at any time she wants. This is one of the main ways you "sequence break" the game. Sequence breaking, for those who don't know, is when you do things in an order that's different from what the game designers intended. Games tend to progress in a certain sequence, and sequence breaking is to break away from that sequence, to put it simply. Super Metroid is the game that coined this term. Well, the game itself didn't coin it, but people coined the term in reference to this game. While Super Metroid is by no means a linear game, it still does have a standard order of progression, like most games do. This order of progression can be greatly altered with the bomb jump and wall jump abilities, though it's mostly the bomb jump. Skillful use of the bomb jump lets you skip normally essential upgrades and allows you to do things in any order you want. Veteran players will attempt to complete the game in many different ways using these advanced techniques. Sequence breaking adds an incredible amount of replay value to Super Metroid.

Image

Completing the game with certain circumstances fulfilled will give you different endings. There are two things a player is graded on upon completing the game; the time it took to complete it, and how many of the upgrades were collected. The best possible ending is achieved when a player beats the game in less than 2 hours and has a 100% item completion rating. It's pretty difficult to do this on your first try, because the game is huge and there are an absolute ton of things to collect, but it is a feasible goal. If you can manage such an extraordinary feat, then you'll get to see a full body shot of Samus without her body armor. I'll be honest here and say the reward isn't worth it, but it's still fun to shoot for the best ending. It's the experience that counts, not necessarily the reward. Shooting for the stars is a nice way to add replay value to the game, as you'll likely have to replay the game many times before you're good enough to achieve this goal. Some people like doing what's referred to as a "low percent run," which is a similar goal that involves collecting as few upgrades as possible. Combine this with the previously mentioned sequence breaking and you've got yourself an entirely new experience. Super Metroid can be played in many ways and that's another reason it's so super.

Image

Super Metroid took the formula of side-scrolling exploration pioneered in the first two Metroid games to new heights; it downright perfected the concept. There are almost no games out there that can even come close to touching Super Metroid as the best in its genre. We live in an era now where there are a ton of Metroid type games being made, but Super Metroid still reigns supreme. It's almost an indisputable fact that Super Metroid is one of the best games on the SNES, definitely in the top 5. Super Metroid is just super.

Word Count: 2,869

Tweet