Metroid 30th: In Retrospect – Super Metroid


Continuing our celebration of the fantastic Metroid series on its 30th Anniversary (which Nintendo appears to have forgotten), I have the wonderful task of tackling the incredible Super Metroid. But first, a story for you all. When I was really young (we’re talking around 8 years old), I was taken shopping in the local big town from my hometown for Christmas presents. In the Argos was a SNES set-up as a kind of promotional playing station and on this was what I would come to know as Super Metroid. I played it the whole time we were in the branch (no one else was even approaching the station – I wasn’t just hogging the station) and fell in love despite not knowing what it was. Fast forward to the Christmas of that year (1994 fact fans) and I received my own copy of the game and needless to say my love for it was cemented. But, how does it stand up today for me, 22 years later?

I’m sure that by now I don’t need to cover the story of Super Metroid, but as the means of a quick refresher, here we go. Samus Aran, fresh from SR388 (the Metroid homeworld), acquires a Metroid baby that believes she is its mother. She quickly carts the sprog off to the Galactic Federation for tests and they discover that the Metroids could be used for the good of humanity. As she leaves the Space Station, she receives a distress call and returns to find the baby being stolen by Ridley, the leader of the Space Pirates. After a scuffle, she follows Ridley to Zebes, to track down the infant Metroid and stop whatever the Space Pirates have in store.

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The atmosphere of this game, no matter how much time passes, is absolutely spot on. Super Metroid – through a combination of music, level and enemy design, and colour usage – really oppresses the player and makes them feel alone and isolated. From the moment you step out of Samus’ iconic gunship onto the planet surface, the dark and fear-inducing score and grey storms of the opening area paint an accurate image of what’s to come. The graphics of the title, although a little dated, still hold up well against today’s standards. I think that any newer players that weren’t shown the release year could likely assume that it was part of the recent “retro” resurgence, such as Shovel Knight. The score is absolutely incredible, dragging some of the best music out of the SNES and helping in creating unique environments within each individual area of the game. All in all, a pretty much perfect aesthetic package.

Super Metroid is part of the older world of games, which has seen a return in the last few years, of games that teach you how to play as you progress. No tutorials, no hand-holding, you’re simply thrown in and rely on your own intuition and the slight clues around to work out what to do. The game forces the player to use their heads to progress, to test boundaries of Samus’ abilities or to actually look around the environment. I’ll give an example, during the first steps through Zebes, the player will will see doors that are inaccessible behind walls that are too low to get under, or doors that are a different colour and won’t open. With the former, the first ability you acquire is the Morph Ball which, immediately after acquiring, you have to use to escape the area you get it from. It’s this subtle teaching that defines a lot of Super Metroid’s gameplay and this is what people call good game design, and they would be right. Throw in a tonne of secrets in the game that really test the abilities of the player and their mastery of Samus’ moveset.

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So, should you play Super Metroid? Of course you should, the game is pretty much a masterpiece. I’m aware that I’m biased towards it though, so I would warn away those that prefer hand-holding in games because Super Metroid simply will not do this for you. For anyone else, this is a game that deserves to be played, on whatever medium you would prefer (it’s on most of them). Simply and indisputably essential.

Super Metroid is available on the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo Wii U and New 3DS through the Virtual Console service.

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