The Ninjabot

Retro Review: Metroid

Posted on September 1, 2012 at 10:46 am by Stephen Janes

By Stephen Janes (@stephenkjanes)

Metroid is not easy. Simply put.

While other Nintendo games at the time catered towards a younger audience (and were much easier), Metroid broke away from this paradigm by providing you with an onslaught of difficult enemies, perilous platforms and relentless backtracking. What makes this game even more frustrating is that it’s actually a really fun game, no matter how you look at it.

Now, this game isn’t so hard that you will break a controller over it, but it’s hard enough to tease you into insanity. When I started playing this for the sake of the review, I was only expecting to play for two hours, maybe three at the most. Five hours later I realized I had to stop and move on to actually writing the review. You most certainly get your money’s worth out of Metroid, and even looking at it twenty-six years after its initial release; it is still a fun game worth playing.

Traditional Nintendo games were often associated with platforming, or the idea of needing to successfully jump from one point to another in order to advance in the game. While jumping from one platform to the other often progresses the player through the game, Metroid is more like Contra in that the platforming takes a back seat to the action-adventure element of the game. Instead, your main task is to eliminate any weird creature in your path in order to progress to one of the most talked about and surprising endings the video game world has ever experienced.

This is kinda like a platformer. Also not pictured here is Samus, because she died at my weak-minded hands; I’m not very good at this game.

Honestly, who would have figured that Samus Aran was a woman the entire time? Who saw that coming?

As you play, your character Samus is only capable of jumping and shooting her arm cannon, much akin to Rock or Mega Man. As you progress, you gain the ability shoot more powerful weapons, jump higher and carry more energy. Unlike the Legend of Zelda franchise where weapon upgrades or new items are usually found in a specific dungeon after defeating a boss character, many upgrades in Metroid can be found just by naturally progressing through the game’s complex corridors.

Speaking of the complex corridors, let’s address those for a second. Earlier in the review, I brought up how different Metroid was from more traditional platformers. Taking the example of Super Mario Bros., you had to use platforms and timely jumps to avoid certain death and advance from the left of the screen to the right, where ultimately the end of the level resided. In Metroid, there are simply different rooms and floors, which all seem to flow as part of a huge “overworld” of sorts, but even then that isn’t the right description. Essentially, you are not forced to go from left to right, but sometimes the navigation becomes convoluted as you are required to go left to right, back left and then platform up, right, up again and then left to move on.

You barely enter a new room and encounter four new enemies, but your blaster isn’t low enough to hit some of them.

I mentioned that this game was difficult. I did not lie to you. The farther you progress, it seems the more enemies just come out of nowhere and attempt to take your life. There are many instances where one group of enemies will be crawling on the floor, while another will drop from the ceiling like swooping bats all while another group of enemies pop out of the lava and race towards you. In case you didn’t guess, this is roughly where I started to get really angry at this game. The enemies can be very overwhelming, but the game doesn’t feel like it’s “cheating,” which is often associated with difficult games.

To clarify, Metroid doesn’t feel like it’s cheating or cheap, because there are very few technical flaws. On occasion I did notice some lag when a lot of enemies were on screen but it was nothing-game breaking. One complaint I had was the lack of ability to eliminate enemies who crawled on the ground. Simply put, they were too short to shoot with your arm cannon, so you had to wait until they either climbed on a wall or ceiling and then take care of them or simply jump over and continue on. Some upgrades obtained later in the game resolve this complaint, but I still believe there should have been some method of destroying smaller creatures early on.

In horror movie fashion, I often found myself running away from the enemies because I was low on health, and one wrong step will lead to your demise.

The soundtrack and overall sound design for Metroid is one of my favorites from the NES era. The music transitions from upbeat and memorable to slow and eerie rather quickly, almost reminding me of the dark and frightening soundtrack for the original Alien movie. Metroid is an action adventure game and the soundtrack fits perfectly; almost sounding like a horror movie at times. It’s almost a minimalist approach at composing a soundtrack and I mean that in the best way possible. For instance, the opening theme is really just a few notes with a resonating bass hit in the background. The very first time I heard this when I was a kid it nearly scared the crap out of me, because I had no idea what I was getting into. There just weren’t many games with a soundtrack like this.

Metroid featured many branching corridors, elevators and different floors, meaning you had to backtrack a lot.

Metroid is one of the most recognizable franchises in Nintendo’s library. The original Metroid withstands the test of time and is still a fascinating and exciting game to play today. It will absolutely feel dated with some of its mechanics, but the game is still fun, regardless. Available for the original Nintendo if you can find it, the Game Boy Advanced and the Wii Virtual Console, there is no reason you shouldn’t at least try one copy of this game in some form.

Retro Rating: 4.5/5

In short: It’s fun. It’s good. It’s Metroid. Besides, Samus Aran is pretty hot. Who doesn’t like a good looking woman who can kick some alien ass?

They see me rollin’, they hatin’.

    • Rudy del Rio

      Metro if was one of my favorite games. Thanks for taking me back.

    • Eric

      Super Metroif next please. That game blew my mind.

    • I'm going to have to fire up Metroid later today. Haven't played it in forever. I was always more of a Zelda guy, but I did enjoy Metroid.

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