Metroid 30th: In Retrospect – Zero Mission
Given the amount of attention it’s received (none), it’s easy to forget that 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of another acclaimed Nintendo franchise. Metroid was first released on August 6th 1986 in Japan, and we were introduced to the heroine bounty hunter, Samus Aran. Revolutionary for its time, the original NES game pioneered a special platforming genre that focuses on exploration and permanent upgrades. The end-game reveal of Samus’ gender remains one of the most important moments in video game history. Metroid Prime: Federation Force gets released later this month but, in celebration of Samus’ accomplishments, Reuben and I are going to discuss some of our favourite games in the franchise.
We’ll begin our adventure by battling the gorgeous Mother Brain with Metroid: Zero Mission
I believe the first two Metroid games are the only installments that could benefit from a remake, and Zero Mission is a very entertaining re-imagining of the NES original. Taking the best from Super Metroid and Fusion, Zero Mission is an incredibly fun experience with a certain energy to it. Samus moves swiftly through Zebes and you can feel the fast pace of the game, but it feels very natural and comfortable to play.
Admittedly the original Metroid game shows its age, and it is arguably one of the weaker entries in the series, though it is vindicated by its revolutionary gameplay and main character. It should still be experienced due to its importance, but in hindsight Zero Mission is the more recommendable title of the two. It improves on its predecessor in several ways.
Obviously the narrative was expanded. There are a few simple cutscenes consisting of pictures, showing the sinister Mother Brain and Ridley pursuing the bounty hunter as she lays waste to the enemy forces controlling Zebes. There are short segments detailing Samus’ childhood as she grew up on the sinister planet, as the ancient Chozo race raised her to become a powerful warrior in her own right.
Many of the original sections are brilliantly re-imagined, taking cues from Super Metroid and Fusion to recreate memorable battles against Kraid, Ridley, and Mother Brain. Kraid and Ridley’s original six-foot-tall models were retroactively replaced with the behemoths that challenged Samus in Super Metroid. Even the Torizo statues play a larger role, directing Samus on where to go next and healing her.
The graphics and controls from Metroid Fusion were retained but improved upon, and while Fusion felt solid, Zero Mission feels even better. Navigating the depths of Zebes is fun, fast, and never dull even with inevitable backtracking.
The brand new post-Mother Brain segment is one of the most satisfactory gaming levels out there. This is also the chapter that introduced Samus’ famous Zero Suit. Here, the gameplay turns to stealth as a vulnerable Samus infiltrates the Space Pirate mothership. It’s tough, unforgiving, and tense.
What awaits after clearing this challenge is an exhilarating finale with a power-up that feels thoroughly deserved. A common complaint of Zero Mission was that it was too short, but it has all of the collectables and power-ups that keep completionists coming back.
Samus Aran’s final adventure on the Game Boy Advance is a highly recommendable game that most will be able to play through in a few hours. Naturally, it can be appreciated with more playthroughs and aiming for that sweet 100% item completion.
Released in the same year as Metroid Prime: Echoes, 2004 became a memorable year for the famous bounty hunter. While continuing to explore new territory on Planet Aether, Zero Mission reminded us of Samus’ origins and her status as a gaming icon.