Game of the Week, February 10 2012: A Love Letter to Super Metroid

Welcome to the first entry for our new Game of the Week column, where every week our fine writers feature one of their favorite games, and why you should love it too! This week, Brendan fills us in on an the SNES classic, Super Metroid.

There are games that define a franchise; games that define a genre; even games that define a console.

Super Metroid is a game that defines an era. Sure, maybe it’s a broad statement, tinted slightly with nostalgic goggles used to look back on fond memories, but there’s something of a universal truth to the statement:

“Super Metroid is one of the greatest games ever made.”

What is it? Before we get into why it’s one of the best game of all time, let’s talk about what the game actually is. Super Metroid is a 2D, side scrolling, action/adventure game, with a heavy emphasis on exploration. The game puts you in the power-suit of Samus Aran, the female protagonist of the Metroid series, and the galaxy’s biggest badass. Super Metoid built on the open-ended exploration of the original Metroid game on the NES, adding a map to see where you are and what’s left to explore; meters showing how much of the map you’ve seen, and how many items you’ve collected; and an inventory where you can keep track of/activate abilities and equipment you’ve earned — abilities like the classic Morph Ball and grapple beams, and equipment like the x-ray visor and super missles. Depending on your completion rate and your time, you receive different endings. All of these simple design decisions create an extremely addictive sense of exploration.

What really amplifies that pull to discover is the game’s setting. Super Metroid takes place on the planet Zebes. On this planet, ancient alien ruins, labyrinthine cave systems, underground research facilities, and even a crashed space frigate create a sense of isolation and mystery. Samus is alone on her mission; after a Human Alliance space station is attacked by the Space Pirate Ridley, and the last living Metroid (which were wiped out by Samus in the Gameboy’s Metroid II: Return of Samus) is stolen, Samus tails the Pirates to the planet to save the Metroid and destroy their plans and defeat the nefarious Mother Brain.

Sure, a rather bare-bones and cliched sci-fi plot, but the Metroid franchise has always told its stories through gameplay and the player’s own experiences, rather than dialogue-heavy cut scenes — even when the story involves other characters for Samus to interact with (at least, that was the case up until Metroid: Other M was release a few years ago).

Super Metroid’s atmosphere and world are immersive and compelling, and the game’s music is simply amazing, adding more dimension to the already alien surrounding.

Why do I love it? Pick any of the gameplay elements I listed above: the music, the atmosphere, the gameplay, sense of exploration and mystery — few other games reach the peaks that Super metroid does, and it’s my personal belief that no other 2D action/adventure game has reach quite the levels of mastery that Super Metroid does.

Along with the Gamecube’s Metroid Prime, it hold a special place in my heart as one of my favorite games of all time. Between both Prime and Super Metroid, as well as nearly every other game in the series, Metroid has solidified itself as my absolute favorite video game series of all time, and is responsible for pulling me back into gaming just a few short years ago. Super Metroid has given me something special, and the series’ formula has made for some of the best experiences I’ve ever had as a gamer.

And I’m not alone in that sentiment. The game created a thriving (and still active) speed running community, who took Super Metroid’s gameplay and turned it into something entirely new.

Not only that, but the game’s music is by far my favorite video game music (aside from Metroid Prime’s). Fellow fans created the band Metroid Metal, who cover and arrange metal version of classic Metroid tunes into prog-metal masterpieces. It’s probably the best way the experience the music of Metroid outside of the games.

Unfortunately, the series took a rather grave turn with the recent Metroid: Other M, and I’d be remiss not to mention it. Other M’s heavy focus on story, and the mischaracterization of Samus from bounty-hunting warrior, to an over-sexualized, incompetent and helpless liability infuriated fans. Futhermore, the changes to the gameplay were too far-removed from that of the series’ past. Sure, some fans lamented the switch to first person in the Prime series, but you can’t ignore the fact that those games still captured the feel and look of the Metroid series. Other M took Metroid to unnecessary and insulting territory. It is my hope that one day we’ll see Samus return with a game worthy of the Metroid name. And seeing as Nintendo’s next generation has begun, I have hope.

I’ve beaten Super Metroid numerous times, but I’ve never grown tired of it. From that first time I played it on a friends SNES some 16 years ago, I was hooked. As the game nears its 18th birthday, I have more than enough reason to return to the dark depths of the planet Zebes, and you should too.

Super Metroid is available on the Wii store. Check out more Metroid Metal at their official website.

And seriously, PLAY THIS GAME!

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2 thoughts on “Game of the Week, February 10 2012: A Love Letter to Super Metroid

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