Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A Lookback into Super Metroid: My Favorite Video of All Time

For those who've followed me for a while, you will know that one of my favorite video game franchises is the Metroid series. Out of the 10+ games that has been released, Super Metroid is my favorite. Not only that, but it's my favorite video game of all time. As of yesterday, Super Metroid has celebrated its 25th anniversary in Japan with the North American release being on April 18th. My introduction of the series is a simple one: when I was a kid living in Philadelphia with my mom and sister after my parents separated with my dad living in New York. Every Friday afternoon after class, if we behaved well and did our assignments with good grades, my teacher had a 30 minute "free time" where we could watch a movie, read a book, do arts and crafts, or play her NES with a handful of video games such as Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, Battletoads & Double Dragon, Yoshi, Mike Tyson's Punch Out, and Metroid. 

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I tried Metroid after playing the other games and found it really cool, but got lost really quickly. Shortly after, when my sister and I would be finished with school, we would go to my aunt's house until my mom would pick us up after work. My cousin had just gotten a Super Nintendo from his dad and included were Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Mortal Kombat II, Aladdin, and Super Metroid. I had recognized the main protagonist of Metroid when I first saw the now iconic image on the cartridge and wanted to play it right away. But instead we played Super Mario World and Aladdin instead. Later on, I eventually played the game and really liked it a lot. The atmosphere was foreboding, creepy, and eerie matched with its music. The different sections of Planet Zebes has improved a lot from the NES and the SNES, but was familiar, and the weapons and power ups were awesome. However, similar to Metroid, I had gotten lost after wandering around for a few minutes. After that, I would play the other SNES games and had more fun with its simpler level design.

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Believe it or not, I wouldn't get back into Metroid and Super Metroid until I was in high school around the early 2000's, when Metroid Prime and Metroid Fusion were the newest games in the series. I had learned about emulation and ROMS of classic NES and SNES games and downloaded it on the bulky family computer with slow, slow DSL. Reintroducing myself to Metroid for the first time in years, I had realized how far video games had come, especially since I had owned a PlayStation 2 playing games such as Ratchet & Clank, Jak & Daxter, and Sly Cooper. I thought that the game was harder than I remembered, the gameplay felt very limited, and the graphics were simple and limited. However, I was able to maneuver and find my way around the sections much easier. I was able to travel to Crateria and the early parts of Norfair without a walkthrough. I found the morph ball, missiles, energy tanks, long beam, and jump boots with ease. However, at Kraid's stage, that's when I got super lost. I wouldn't beat Metroid until college after I completed my first playthrough of Metroid: Zero Mission. It would be the last time I would play the original because I have since replaced with its remake. I took a break and then uploaded Super Metroid and found out that it was much, much better than I remembered it.

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The introduction and the Ceres space station had gotten me immediately hooked. I had gotten drawn in to the recap of the first two games, Samus wandering around the space station with the dead scientists, and the battle of Ridley where he would kidnap the last Metroid and return back to their lair on Planet Zebes. After landing in Zebes with the rain falling down, Samus enters back to Tourian where she fought Mother Brain. The shattered glass dome where Mother Brain was at is still empty, the room is filled with fog, and is crawling creatures on the walls. Even as someone who wasn't able to defeat Mother Brain at the time and didn't understand the context of the room, it filled me with a sense of dread that stood with me as one of my favorite moments of the game. This was probably one of my first introductions of subtle storytelling where the music and atmosphere was more than enough to tell the story as oppose to cutscenes with voice acting that was becoming more common. It was even more clever when after getting the morph ball and missiles at the same room as the original Metroid, returning to Mother Brain's room is now filled with Space Pirates because the light beacon by the elevator activated and let the antagonists know that Samus was in Zebes looking for the baby Metroid.

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Looking around the sections of Zebes, I had gotten hooked with the amazing soundtrack done by the talented Kenji Yamamoto, who would become the main composer of the Metroid series afterwards doing the music for Fusion, Zero Mission, the Prime series, Hunters, Pinball, and Samus Returns. It had since became my background music every time I would work on a video script. While Hirokazu "Hip" Tanaka is a great composer and did some iconic songs for the first game such as the intro, Crateria, Kraid's theme, and the outro, Yamamoto just nailed it with the Super Metroid soundtrack. There's a great mixture of quiet, subdue music mixed with catchy, head rocking music. The creepy intro, the story recap, Crateria, Brinstar, Maradia, the wrecked ship, Norfair, Tourian, and outro are all amazing. Even around the early 2000's when video game music had started using orchestral music with real instruments, I had gotten a bigger appreciation of the music Yamamoto was able to craft with limited resources. I would highly recommend to check out this interview alongside with Yoshio Sakamoto, the writer of the Metroid series, discussing about the making of Super Metroid. 

The bosses are also incredibly memorable. The first battle with Ridley is a great introduction to the boss fight that Samus would have with him later on. The 2nd battle at Norfair is fantastic as a challenge even after collecting enough missiles, energy tanks, beams, and spare tanks. This would also be the introduction of Ridley's theme song that would carry on later in the Metroid Prime series, Fusion, Zero Mission, and even the Super Smash Bros. series. It wouldn't be until I was in college when I was discovered the Metroid manga that came out to promote Metroid: Zero Mission and learned on why Ridley and Samus were enemies. Ridley was the one responsible for killing Samus' parents and left her as an orphan. Samus was then raised by the Chozo, a group of alien birds who were warriors and scientists and became their prized warrior. She would meet up with Ridley again in Zebes and starts remembering who he was. When trying to attack him, she suffers from PTSD and anxiety with Ridley escaping when Samus' friends approach her. The Chozo sees her shaking and tells her to cry after years of holding her emotions back to function the Power Suit. This works out a billion times better than the train wreck scene of Metroid: Other M for many reasons. Samus was 14 years old when she meets up with Ridley again so she wasn't the badass she would later become. Ridley talked about how after killing her mother, he ate her to restore the explosion damage Samus' father caused when blowing up the spaceship. That's right, Ridley talks in the manga and he's a ruthless, evil, intelligent bastard. He really showcases himself as the ruler of the Space Pirates until Mother Brain comes along after betraying the Chozo. Samus' 3rd encounter with Ridley is when she goes to Zebes for the first time in years to stop Kraid, Ridley, and Mother Brain. It's beyond satisfying and makes the Metroid: Other M moment an absolute fail. Seriously, that scene sucks so hard! This scene is the true reintroduction of Samus and Ridley.

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The other villains in Super Metroid are no slouch. When I first saw Kraid's full size, I was beyond shocked and amazed! Around the time I played this level, I had just defeated the giant fire boss in Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy where Jak shot yellow ego for him to drop a giant rock at him. I found the Kraid boss so much more impressive because Samus fought him more directly. Plus, the buildup to get to the boss fight was fantastic: the music, the mini Kraids that were the same size Kraid was in the original Metroid, and the dead Galactic Federation soldier. While the boss battle is really easy, it's a great experience. Plus, you get the Varia suit afterwards. It's great!

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The new bosses such as Crocomire and Phantoon are great additions to the series. Again, they are easy if you get enough missiles and energy tanks, but man, they're memorable. Crocomire is slowly charging Samus with spikes in the back and his only weakness is shooting missiles or a charged beam in his mouth. With every shot in his mouth, he would take a step back until he would fall into a pool of acid where he would disintegrate into bones which is beyond disturbing, even in 1994 standards. Phantoon is from the wrecked ship where all of the enemies are the ghosts of the ship crew who died. This is a similar fate to the wrecked ship from Super Mario World where the manual states that the Boos are the spirits of the crew from an airship from Super Mario Bros. 3 who died. Sure, fighting ghosts may sound strange, but they would carry this in the Metroid Prime series with the Chozo ghosts or even Metroid: Fusion where the bosses are the remnants of the X Parasite after killing the original host and copying their body. Then there's Draygon from Maradia where you could easily defeat it if you shoot the electrical spheres open and shock it with the grapple beam. But it's a pretty cool looking boss and get the very useful space jump, but it's very somber when its babies take the body away.

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After defeating Ridley, Kraid, Phantoon, and Draygon, Samus goes down to Tourian again where she would confront the baby Metroid which has grown to a gigantic size becoming the Super Metroid. When the Super Metroid hears Samus' alarm reaching low health, it realizes it was attacking its "mother" and goes away until it saves Samus from almost being killed by Mother Brain. Mother Brain's battle is, hands down, the best battle in the game because of its scale and tense fight. It looks like a rehash of the original fight from Metroid, but takes a complete twist revealing its true form and it's terrifying, ugly, and threatening. When the Super Metroid drains Mother Brain's energy to give to Samus, Mother Brain wakes up and shoots the Super Metroid until it explodes. Then Samus gets the hyper beam, kills Mother Brain, the timer goes off, and the whole planet explodes. Wow, just wow! Zebes is gone! While it would be referenced in Metroid Prime and Super Smash Bros., Zebes would never return in the series ever again.

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While I do love this game, I do have some issues with it. First off, the controls.While I'm used to it, it's weird to go back to the old SNES controls when I'm used to the Zero Mission, Fusion, and Prime series controls where it's a lot more streamlined with aiming, jumping, wall jumping, and morph ball bombing. Also, power ups such as the X-ray scope and spare tanks were pretty unnecessary. I almost never used it and sometimes forgotten that I even had it. I liked spare tanks in Mega Man X where it was needed for a pinch when I was fighting the Mavericks and Sigma, but I didn't need it for Super Metroid as much when I had reached at least 8 tanks and go around the game just fine. The X-ray scope may be good for newcomers who need help to find out where to morph bomb a wall, but as a veteran like me, I like exploring and learning about my surroundings. I think that the spiritual successor to the X-ray scope, the scan visor from the Metroid Prime series did much better to incorporate it to the game. Another minor complaint is that there are some forgettable bosses in the game. The Spore Spawn on Brinstar is so boring and is the worst boss in the game and the Botwoon was just Phantoon, but going inside the holes in the wall, and Crocomire where its weakness was around its head. It's pretty forgettable. Then there's the Super Missiles, which is a separate item as oppose to being stacked to the regular missiles in the later games. That's a much better choice since they did that to the beams in Super Metroid, Metroid: Fusion, and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption making it easier to manage.

Those are my only issues of the game. I love this game so much. Yes, it's true that conceptually the later games refine and improve Super Metroid, I have many reasons why I love it out of all the games in the series. Metroid Prime is my 2nd favorite matching the closest in music, atmosphere, bosses, and solid levels to Super Metroid, but the game goes into a complete halt when Samus has to look for the Chozo Artifacts in order to get into the room where Metroid Prime is. That mission sucks and was not needed at all! This isn't The Legend of Zelda. It's Metroid! Anyway, back on topic, Super Metroid is a groundbreaking and influential game that many has copied from: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Shadow Complex, Strider, Alien: Isolation, Guacamelee, Dust: An Elysian Tail, Hollow Night, and more. Samus Arun has become an iconic female protagonist that would lead the way to characters like Chun-Li, Cammy, Lara Croft, and more. Believe it or not, the Japanese don't really care about the series compared to the Americans and the series' game sales are pretty low. That's why there's a lot more Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon games than Metroid games. Metroid fans may be smaller than Mario and Zelda's fan base, but they're just as dedicated. The music has been remixed as many times as Mario, Zelda, and Final Fantasy, the fan sites are just as dedicated as a Zelda fan site with the confusing 3 split timelines, and then there's the hard work that Milton "DoctorM64" Gausti and his crew did to working on a fan game of Metroid 2: Return of Samus for 10 years because Nintendo wouldn't do it at the time. Another Metroid 2: Remake to Samus Returns is a fantastic game because of the love and passion that they did to give hardcore fans the game the series deserved, especially since it was released on Metroid's 25th anniversary and Nintendo released Metroid Prime: Federation Force, a game the fans didn't ask for and has been pushed to the wayside.

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It seems now Nintendo is caring for Metroid again. Metroid: Samus Returns, their remake of Metroid 2: Return of Samus was released on the 3DS and Metroid Prime 4 will be coming out for the Nintendo Switch. It was far into development until Nintendo made the announcement that they were going to scrap their work and redo it again from scratch because "it didn't fit the quality of Metroid". That's fantastic to hear that Nintendo will take a risk like that since fans have been waiting for another game for a long time. But give it time and I'm sure it'll be great and hopefully give Metroid the same popularity that it got around the 2000's. But only time will tell. So yes, Super Metroid is my favorite game of all time. The subtle storytelling, bosses, levels, weapons, and music are incredible. Sure, there are some things that have been improved in later games, but I still love it, warts and all. I'm hoping for a Super Metroid remake on the Nintendo Switch. That would be amazing! So happy 25th anniversary, Super Metroid! 

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If you want to hear more information on the Metroid franchise from me, then check out my favorite episode of Casual Chats where I talked about the series with Jim Bevan and Lily from Dom and the Chapel of Church.

You can also check out my lifestream of playing Super Metroid during Metroid Month! 

Finally, you can check out my interview with Milton about Another Metroid 2 Remake.

That's it for now! Tune in around April where I will showcase my next themed month of videos. Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Patricia, hope you are well, I was wondering why a lot of the content of nickslimecastpodcast is not available on YouTube as you are fantastic and you know your stuff when it comes to Nickelodeon