Super Metroid – A Masterpiece that Transcends the Galaxy

Released on: March 19, 1994

Available Platforms: Super Nintendo, Wii, Wii U, New Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch

Price: Free (With Nintendo Switch Online Subscription)

Developed by: Nintendo R&D1/Intelligent Systems Published by: Nintendo

It’s time once again for “Sergie’s Trip Down Memory Lane!” As I’ve recounted many times in my other retro games review, I used to rent games all the time when I was a kid. Every weekend I would use what little money I saved up to go to the corner store and rent a game. This encompassed the majority of my weekend, and I discovered many classic games because of this. One game that always stuck with me was Super Metroid. The first time I laid my eyes on the box art, I thought it looked so cool. There was this person in a mech suit shooting an evil-looking pterodactyl; what’s not to love. I recently saw a couple of people play Super Metroid on Youtube, and it made me think about all of the good times I had with it, so we’re taking a look at it today. Is Super Metroid the out of this world experience I remember?

The last Metroid is in captivity. The galaxy is at peace. Those words greet the player upon first creating a new game. Shortly thereafter, we join Samus, an intergalactic bounty hunter, as she recounts the events of her journey so far. She tells us about her mission on Planet Zebes (Metroid) and the infant Metroid she recovered (Metroid 2: Samus Returns). She leaves the captive Metroid with a group of scientists on a space station called SR-488. She hardly cleared the neighboring asteroid belt when she gets a distress call. SR-488 is under attack. The player then takes control of Samus as they delve deeper into the station. It’s dark; there is no one left. The player makes their way into the chamber with the infant Metroid. Suddenly, the purple pterodactyl (known as Ridley) appears, snatches the Metroid, and sets off the self-destruct sequence of SR-488. The player makes their way back to the extraction point before the space station explodes. It’s now up to Samus to recover the infant Metroid. What a fantastic intro to a game. Similar to Megaman X’s intro stage, this one allows the player to get their barrings with the game in an enclosed environment, while also being suspenseful.

I notice with sci-fi that they always seem to make their aliens some form of humanoid. It depends on where we look, of course, but I feel like there are a disproportionate amount of aliens that are simply humans, but with things sticking out of their heads, or something of the like. I feel the creature designers for Super Metroid saw this too and opted to make their creatures more… alien. There are so many different kinds of animals in Super Metroid: some friendly, most, not-so-much. The world design of Super Metroid is top-notch, and it all looks terrific, even today.

While I will admit, Super Metroid’s soundtrack isn’t what I would listen to on its own when playing the game; it’s phenomenal. Each world has it’s own background music that perfectly invokes its theme. The jungle section has a more upbeat tune, while the fire section has music that uses big drums and a powerful choir-like sound to make it imposing. Possibly my favorite instances in Super Metroid is when the player enters an innocuous room. The music has very few notes, it’s quiet, and has a low hum to it, making the player feel uneasy. Even if the room truly has nothing in it (other than maybe a powerup), I always leave those rooms feeling like I was being watched. All this to say that Super Metroid’s sound design is spectacular.

Super Metroid’s gameplay is iconic, to the point of inspiring a colloquial term known as “Metroidvania.” While the original Metroid would be the more accurate influence, Super Metroid also fits this description, as the gameplay is similar. Super Metroid has the player explore every nook and cranny for secrets, powerups, new tools, etc. However, while exploring, the player will have to blast their way through a swarm of hostile alien lifeforms and take on massive bosses known as Space Pirates. The player has to be careful where they step, though, as some areas will drain the player’s health if they step into it without finding the appropriate suit upgrade. For example, the fire section will cook the player alive if they don’t find the Varia Suit first. I love getting new upgrades in Super Metroid, as they offer significant improvements to player mobility, along with unlocking new places to explore.

Forgot my “anti-furnace suit”

Spoiler section ahead. Reader discretion is strongly advised if they haven’t played Super Metroid through to the end.

The most memorable part of Super Metroid for me is the ending. After hours of exploring, battling Space Pirates, and finally heading to the final area, the player meets enemies that they cannot kill. No matter what weapon they use, this enemy will shrug it off as nothing happened. Thankfully, the player can ignore these enemies and progress. As the player progresses, they start to realize there are corpses of these seemingly invulnerable enemies. If the player touches these, they disintegrate. The player makes their way into a room where one of these creatures slowly approaches the player. Suddenly, a giant Metroid latches onto the creature and drains it of its lifeforce, turning it into a lifeless husk. The Metroid sets its sights on the player. The player now realizes the doors are locked; there is no escape. The Metroid latches onto the player. Try as they might, the player cannot remove the Metroid. Their health rapidly dropping, death is imminent. At one health point remaining, the Metroid lets go. It hovers over the player for a few moments… and leaves. That was the infant Metroid from the beginning of the game, and it realized who the player was, so it left them alone. After finding a health recovery room (and save their game after picking up their jaw from the floor), the player makes their way to Mother Brain for the final showdown. The player has Mother Brain on the ropes. Then, suddenly, she shoots out a stream of rainbow light that completely immobilizes the player. The player can mash buttons all they want, but they are powerless. Mother Brain ruthlessly tortures the player until they are almost dead. She charges that horrid rainbow light beam to finish them off. Suddenly, the infant Metroid comes in and drains Mother Brain of her power. The infant then latches on to the player and gives them back all of their health. Mother Brain then suddenly regains strength and starts attacking the poor Metroid. After being bombarded with countless attacks from Mother Brain, the Metroid sacrifices itself for the player, and, in its dying moments, grants the player the Ultra Beam, a weapon so powerful, it makes quick work of Mother Brain. After Mother Brain’s real defeat, the planet then begins its self-destruct sequence. The player rushes back to their ship and escapes the explosion of Planet Zebes. I love this ending so much that I couldn’t stop myself from typing all that. This, ladies and gentlemen is how an ending should make the player feel. It’s emotional, intense, and has an explosive finale. What a way to end a journey!

End of spoiler section.

To those who skipped the spoiler section, the ending is my most remembered part of Super Metroid. I would highly recommend anyone playing Super Metroid to play it until the end, as the ending is not something to be glossed over. It’s emotional, intense, and explosive, a perfect way to end a game.

As much as I love gushing about Super Metroid, I feel like I have to point out a few flaws I noticed to remain as objective as possible.

My first issue with Super Metroid is its secretive nature. Being a Metroid game, it stands to reason that some things are harder to find than others. One the player’s first playthrough, it is likely that they will need a walkthrough to find that one item that they need to progress. For me, I always seem to forget the location of the grappling hook, which stops my progress dead in its tracks. Today, the player can pull up a walkthrough to find the location of that missing item, something I wish kid Sergie had.

The bird thing tries its best to teach the player this trick, but it still takes practice.

The second gripe some people might have with Super Metroid is how stiff Samus feels to control upon first playing Super Metroid. Unlike Megaman X or Super Mario, Samus’ movements are more deliberate. While not bad by any means, it will take the player some acclamation to master the controls. On the other hand, the controls have a certain depth to them that make replaying Super Metroid a treat when the player discovers the many movement tricks that players found over the years. That said, players should avoid panicking since the snappiest way to escape danger would be to turn around and run, but Samus won’t do this right away. It will take a second for Samus to build up momentum to avoid danger. Not game-breaking by any means, but simply something to keep in mind while playing.

Super Metroid is nothing short of a masterpiece. It has an excellent story, an exciting world to explore, and a whole slew of awesome looking creatures. Super Metroid is one of the best games on Super Nintendo, and, considering the excellence that is the Super Nintendo, is saying a lot. I would recommend anyone give Super Metroid a try if they have the chance.

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