Platform(s): Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo Wii Virtual Console
Original release date: April 18, 1994 (Super Nintendo); August 20, 2007 (Nintendo Wii Virtual Console)
Published by: Nintendo
Developed by: Nintendo
ESRB: E (for everyone)
Alright, I felt like going old-school on this one. I just happened to be going through some of my old systems and out popped my old SNES and a copy of Super Metroid. Talk about luck. I had forgotten what an awesome game it had been nearly fifteen years ago! Well, the real reason I brought out the old system and game was that Nintendo decided to go back in time to 1994 and re-release the game via their Virtual Console, which allows players to purchase, download and play classic Nintendo titles on the Wii console. Unfortunately I do not have a Wii yet – the problem will be remedied very soon – and I thought I’d like to take a trip down Memory Lane for myself.
The game takes place after the events of the GameBoy version Metroid II: Return of Samus, which itself was a sequel to the original Metroid, which was one of the original Nintendo’s landmark titles. In Super Metroid, our quintessential heroine, galactic bounty hunter Samus Aran returns to Planet Zebes to track down the evil beast Ridley, who had stolen a baby member of the strange alien race that lends the series its title. Following a quick voice over, Super Metroid throws the player on to the surface of Zebes, and allows the player to figure out what to do on their own.
Almost a genre of its own and mimicked by other franchises such as Castlevania, Super Metroid does not allow players to rely on blinking markers, arrows pointing which way to go, or any other trail of breadcrumbs to figure out exactly what the player is supposed to do. What has allowed the Metroid franchise to hold-up over the years is this unique style of brain-busting, puzzle-solving and open-ended play. This game is 100 percent experimentation. If you can’t get through a door with your normal weapon, try a missile. If Samus empties her entire supply of ammo on a particular door for example, it’s not meant to be open and she’ll have to find a different route. Through exploring, you’ll have to fight off the life forms of Zebes, various sub-bosses, screen-filling enemies, and the elements of lava, sand, and water that restricts your abilities.
For a Super Nintendo game, all these effects come off superbly well. However, fourteen years later have passed, and while the Super Metroid is great fun, it just does not work as well as an overall experience as it once did. While the game still looks great on my screen, I’ve played the version on the Wii with and an HDTV, and the special effects on an HDTV come off as a pixilated mess. And while Samus has a wide range of animations, the basic fact that she doesn’t move a pixel when either standing still or firing a barrage of missiles tends to stands out more. Despite these visual flaws, the audio is superb, making one miss the days of digitized. Each section of Zebes has its own feel, from subtle isolation drips of water, to the dangerously faster music invoked by being surrounded by lava.
Aiding Samus on her journey are various weapons and modifiers. Starting off with the most basic of armor and blaster, you soon gain classic abilities such as the Morph Ball and missiles. As you advance further into the depths of planet Zebes, you will discover new, more powerful weapons. The ice beam will freeze enemies into floating platforms, the grappling beam is required to jump over spikes, the Varia suit lets you survive in the volcano-like temperatures of Norfair, and the speed booster lets Samus gain enough speed to bust through bricks.
While, for the most part, Samus controls smoothly, advanced techniques such as the Wall Jump are annoyingly difficult due to Samus’ propensity for pausing and aiming while changing directions. This is a minor issue, and while it’s not the fault of the controller, in the latter parts of the game it can still become annoying.
Ultimately, do not expect anything new to be added to the formula, as Virtual Console releases are effectively the original games played on a software emulator. You’ll find no new weapons, no new enemies, and no minor fixes or new graphics. Still, for the 800 Wii Points, those interested in a classic Metroid adventure should definitely check out this game – that is if you don’t have a real SNES sitting in your closet like I do.
Then: 5 out of 5
Now: 4 out of 5