Monday, September 14, 2009

Super Metroid (SNES) + Testermix - Fall '09

Super Metroid has been a game that I've heard for what seems like forever; I think the first time I remember someone singing its praise was when I first subscribed to Nintendo Power in 1996. Yeah. It's been around a while. It's become popular because of its deft combination of intense action, creative platforming, and deep (literally) exploration, along with its polished graphics and atmospheric soundtrack. Moreover, the game imparts a sense of isolation on the player that sticks around through the adventure; Samus Aran is without a doubt all alone and fighting for survival from the moment the player presses start.

Super Metroid has received lots and lots of hardcore gamer love, and I think they have several points. There is undoubtedly a huge sense of accomplishment in finding all of the hidden items, and the run-and-gun action makes for some intense boss fights. The game is also gorgeous, with some great looking sprites and creative art direction. However, I have a couple gripes regarding the gameplay, though they may have to do more with my gaming preferences vs. the actual quality of the game (aka, it's fun for others, just not for me).
Greatest game ever?

First things first, a description for the uninitiated. Super Metroid is a 2-D sidescroller for the Super Nintendo that follows the exploits of bounty hunter Samus Aran. The previous two games for the NES and Game Boy involved Samus hunting down dangerous, life-sucking aliens called Metroids. In the first one for the NES, space pirates had stolen the creatures from the Galactic Federation in order to turn them into weapons (think "Aliens"), and it was up to Samus to destroy both the pirates and the Metroids they stole.

In the second one for the Game Boy had Samus traveling to the Metroid's home planet of SR388 (sounds like a zip code to me) in order to destroy all of them. At the end of the second game, Samus discovered a newly-hatched Metroid, which mistook Samus for its mother. Samus lead the Metroid back to the Galactic Headquarters so that scientists could study the creature.

Super Metroid picks up shortly after the end of the second game. It begins with Ridley, an uber badguy from the pirates, stealing the Metroid away, and hiding out on the planet Zebes. Samus vows to finish it this time, once and for friggin' all.
Justice has a blaster for an arm.

The gameplay was unique for its time in its emphasis on exploring. Instead of progressing from left to right as in most platforming games (Mario, Sonic, Donkey Kong Country, etc), players were dropped into the world and had to find their way on their own. The player progressed by defeating area bosses and earning new items, opening up new areas that couldn't be accessed before. For example, the player comes to a the bottom of a tall canyon without providing a way to get to the top. The area is inaccessible at the time, but when the player defeats the next boss and gets the Ice Beam, he can come back and freeze the floating enemies, creating platforms to jump on so that he can get to the top.

Further adding to the need to explore are the hidden items. Scattered around the environment are hidden items that increase the players life, how many missiles or bombs he can hang onto, or other powerups like that. The game can be beaten without finding all of these, but they provide an incentive for exploring everything you can in the game. Also, when the game is beaten, it displays a) the time it took you to beat the game, and b) the percentage of items you found, adding an element of competition to the game; contests of who can beat the game the fastest while finding all the items are STILL going on to this very day!
This sort of TV-picture-taking happens surprisingly frequently with games like this.

So what did I think of it? Alarmingly similar to my previous post regarding The Beatles: I can understand why it is revered, but I'm not as head-over-heels about it as some are. Let me explain. I did have a fun time exploring the environment, finding hidden items, and watching my initially blank map become filled. I also enjoyed the platforming elements of the game, as I'm always a sucker for jumping on things.

However, there were a couple things about Super Metroid that just didn't gel well with me and my gaming steez. The biggest of these is the complete and total absence of direction in the game. When I say that the game drops you in, I mean that you step out of your spaceship at the beginning of the game without a CLUE of what you're supposed to do first. There are moments in the game where you defeat a boss, and you stare at the screen wondering what happens next, not realizing that the boss drained the lava in another (very far away) part of the map, and that you have to backtrack to a specific area in that part of the map and try to find some hidden door to let you progress.
This is the map screen. You and it will be BFFs by the time the end rolls around.

This is something that gamers just did back in 1996, but I'm not sure if I've ever been a fan of this style of progression. At least tell me where to go next! I don't have time to look at every single corner of the map where I think I might be able to use a Power Bomb! Sure it's rewarding to finally find the elevator that takes you to the next area, but unless I set aside an evening where I know I'm going to get frustrated looking around for a stupid hidden breakable floor (and keep in mind, I play games to unwind), I'm probably not even going to bother to play this game very often. The world record time for finishing the game is 32 minutes and 27 seconds. In the nine months from when I bought it and when I finished it, my game-beating time was 9 hours and 32 minutes. Most of that was aimless wandering. Fun.
You wouldn't know by looking at the picture, but there's a hidden passage way to some hidden power-ups under those real-looking-but-totally-fake spikes. How would you even figure that out?!

Apart from that, the game was pretty fun, but I sure wouldn't put it at the top of my list. When I knew where to go (EXACTLY where to go), I had fun. When I didn't, well, I looked online for a friggin progression guide with pictures. At the very least, this game is worth a playthrough by hardcore gamers who want to know their roots about the Metroid franchise. If you're a casually gaming person with a limited amount of time to commit, though, I'd recommend it only if you have a Player's Guide handy.

8.25 / 10
33 / 40

On a slightly more positive note, here's the playlist for a mix I made the other day. It's a collection of some of the jams I've been listening to recently. Enjoy!

1) T.I. - Live Your Life feat. Rihanna
2) Weird Al Yankovic - CNR
3) The Lonely Island - Space Olympics
4) Outkast - Bowtie feat. Sleepy Brown and Jazzy Pha
5) Missy Elliott - Slide
6) Jonathan Coulton - Skullcrusher Mountain
7) Thin Lizzy - The Boys Are Back In Town
8) Forever The Sickest Kids - Whoa Oh! (Me vs. Everyone)
9) Team Teamwork - Pimp C, Li'l Keke & P.O.P. - Knockin' Doorz Down (Hyrule Field)
10) Team Teamwork - Slim Thug & Mike Jones - Still Tippin' (Great Fairy's Fountain)
11) S.S.H. - The Decisive Battle
12) Bomani "D'mite" Armah - Read A Book
13) Goodnight Sunrise - Leave The Ground
14) Beyoncé - Halo
15) The Material - No One Has To Know


  1. I know what you mean about having the guide handy. This game is like any Castlevania on Hard. Or very Hard. Or confusing, to the point of mind fuck.

  2. You mark it down because you can't be bothered spending the time on it to experiment. What nonsense.