Published on May 7th, 2012 | by Nichomaxwell1
A Review of Metroid: A Tale of Powerups and WHERE DO I GO?!
Year: 1986 // System: NES // Publisher & Developer: Nintendo // Producer: Gunpei Yokoi // Directors: Satoru Okada & Yoshio Sakamoto // Composer: Hirokazu Tanaka
>>>People may call space the final frontier, but in the 1980s, more progress had been made beyond Earth’s atmosphere than in the video gaming industry. Virtual ground was still being broken, and creators were brimming with ideas. The pioneers of pixelated adventures with multiple pathways and complex rules were striking full force with early sensations such as Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda, Castlevania, and Kid Icarus. Not only were the challenges unlike most of what gamers found on the Atari, but premises were diverse and triggered the imagination of players in the vein of classic novels like Moby Dick and Great Expectations. But there stood alone one game in particular that dared to bend the rules (literally) of NES game play and catapult the player into space, a theme that was milked to death by games like Asteroid, but was redefined by this one title’s execution.
In summation, Metroid dared to be different. And the decision was made of gold.
The game engine itself remains one of the most remarkable achievements in the NES days. It was a perfect medium between high-volume platforming and aimless exploration. Samus could not fall to her death, but she could land in a pool of acid that cooked her suit and drained her energy. She could also take a misstep while climbing up a towering set of platforms, land at the bottom, and then have to start over again. Dying in Metroid meant returning to one of the materialization platforms in the sprawling fortress, but Samus had unlimited lives and a password system that brought the gamer back to where he or she was in the course of the game with all of the weapons and power-ups that he or she gained.There was also no set path. You had series of linear passages that you could pick and choose from, some hidden, and some leading to a dead end that you cannot say wastes your energy, because if you die, you just restart from the beginning of the area.
Although there were plenty of early sandbox elements employed in Metroid, the endpoint was relatively easy to discover. The trick was surpassing the endpoint, and the best way to do that was to run around the fortress and find all of the suit upgrades, missile expansions, and abilities that enhanced offensive power and maneuverability. Making Samus stronger was the central goal in the game, with the strongest suit leading to the most satisfying obliteration of enemy forces.
I did not like that certain accessible areas were found by accident. Walls and floors that were deemed by the in-game rules to be indestructible had certain blocks that blended in with thew rest of the indestructible face, but could be destroyed with bullets and bombs. I like rules, so these unconventional hidden areas irritated me a smidgen, and seemed like they’d be found out of desperation instead of by intellectual deduction. The blending in of destructible tiles with tiles that were fixed in place was a stroke of genius programming, but felt a little rough for pushing even seasoned gamers towards Gamefaqs.
But regardless of Metroid’s confusing nature, in-game rule-breaking gave players the sense that the creators understood their demographics and wanted to maximize a playing experience for their constituents that was as layered as 8-bit could get. Not to mention, Metroid also demonstrated their understanding of its audience by employing one of the most historic ending sequences to ever embrace the virtual world, with cheeky differences in the ending that served as a substantial 8-bit reward for the player’s percentage of exploration.
Challenge: 8/Great: The enemies are fun to kill, and require some crafty weapons usage. You want to take out the beasties on the ground? Hit them with your bomb! You want to eliminate the flyers coming at you from the ceiling? Aim your arm cannon skywards and open fire! There are some cheap shots from the enemies…they can fly through open doors and hit you while you’re frozen in transition- but otherwise, the AI is extremely fair considering the the gaming style that Metroid assumes.
Handling: 10/Classic: Samus’s control scheme is the reason to play this game. Firing her basic weapon is a blast, firing her missile is just as easy with wonderfully grisly results, and vertical fire allows Samus a type of attack range that suits her environment and gives the player a wider plethora of options. Also, as the player finds suit upgrades, Samus becomes easier to maneuver, particularly with enhancements like the rolling bombs and the amazing screw attack.
Innovation: 10/Classic: Metroid introduced the gaming engine that the polarizing Kid Icarus would directly borrow, and opened the door for side-scrolling exploration games to take off. If you really backtrack through the years, you could say that Metroid planted the seed for Castlevania: Symphony of the Night to grow into the best-seller platinum hit that is regarded by IGN as the second best game for the PlayStation. Aside from its legacy, Metroid was also renowned for its sandbox elements that rewarded the player’s level of diligence with a custom-tailored ending.
Core Experience: 8/Great: This game boasts the best set of tracks that I’ve heard from one of the early games made by Nintendo. Although the Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda themes are certainly more popular and widely known, the quality of the overall Metroid soundtrack maintained a stronger consistency. Some of the design choices were repetitive and purposefully misleading, but palettes were far from dull, as they created the sense that you were moving through an unnerving life form.
OVERALL: 9/Outstanding: Although dated, Metroid introduced two barrier-breaking elements to the world of video games: it gave us a strong central female character, and it presented a fresh combination of side-scrolling platforming and RPG-type open-ended play. It used a system that sometimes grated my nerves and reminded me of the wrath that Kid Icarus incurred. But just about everyone can come together to validate Metroid as one of the most important entries ever to make to console.