Posts Tagged ‘zero mission

29
Sep
09

Metroid: The Past

Most people have more than likely heard the name Metroid at some point – being one of Nintendo’s longer running series’, although perhaps not as successful as their other major titles, such as Mario and The Legend of Zelda. However, Metroid was possibly one of the most influential titles of it’s time, introducing a more free roaming, more mature style of platformer. It also introduced one of the world’s first gaming heroines – Samus Aran, a well respected bounty hunter that stormed the gaming world a full decade before Lara Croft appeared on the Playstation in 1996. As the first of a three part look at the series, today I will tell you a little about the roots of Metroid.

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The original Metroid was released on the NES in 1986, the same year as the first Zelda title. As well as the platforming and open world style common to Metroid, many other aspects of the title were introduced in the very first title, and carried on to the later games – concepts such as upgrades that improved Samus’ power as she progressed, but also allowed access to new areas in order to give the open world some restrictions and would guide the player around in a certain way without feeling linear or restrictive.

The original title also introduced enemies and bosses that remain consistent throughout the series, namely the Space Pirates, an alien band of miscreants, and their Commander, the dragon-like Ridley. Last but not least, the original of course introduced the series’ first Metroids – the most dangerous beings of them all. Somewhere between a jellyfish, a brain and a leech, the Metroid is a rather disturbing creature – hovering emotionlessly, the Metroid wants nothing more than to drain the life of it’s victim, has a nasty habit of multiplying, and is incredibly hard to kill.

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Metroid’s story, and its quality, has improved in stages over the years. Five years after Metroid came Metroid II: Return of Samus. Released on the Nintendo Game Boy, Metroid II was the first handheld title of the series, and was one of the most impressive handheld titles of it’s time – sporting graphics superior to the original home console version, and fluid controls, Metroid II found Samus hunting Metroids on a lonely planet called SR388.

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 This title was the first Metroid I ever played, and was what got me into Metroid in the first place. Metroid II kept most of the major functions from the original, and also introduced some new weapons, however it is one of the few games to focus solely on Metroids as bosses, in various evolutionary phases, as no Space Pirates or other aliens are involved. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, as it only helped enhance the cavernous feel to the empty depths of SR388.

In 1994, Metroid reached a new level with the coming of Super Metroid on the Super Nintendo. This title was the first to feature full colour graphics and improved on every aspect of the game – particularly the plot. Although the game continued to feel vast and open, Super Metroid saw the return of Ridley, and introduced perhaps one of the most useful features of all, a map. Whereas the older titles could feel confusing and hard to navigate, Super Metroid included a map that could be viewed on the fly, detailing not only the layout of the area, but save rooms and other places of interest. This feature would be implemented into all future titles, and was even mirrored in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night three years later, which was the first to implement a more Metroid style of gameplay and progression that would create the term “Metroidvania” which can be heard nowadays.

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Sadly, Super Metroid wasn’t really appreciated fully at the time of it’s initial release. Although considered one of Nintendo’s biggest classic titles, the initial trilogy sold fairly poorly and production was cancelled.

However, all that changed in 2002. Alongside the new GameCube title, Metroid Prime (more about this in my next post), the team that developed Super Metroid released an all new 2D Metroid for the Gameboy Advance. Entitled Metroid Fusion, the fourth Metroid title pitted Samus against a new threat, a parasitic lifeform known as X. After coming into contact with the viral lifeform, Samus becomes surgically bound to some of the core components of her Power Suit, creating the Fusion Suit.

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Fighting against both Metroids and this new threat, hunted by a powerful doppelganger known as SA-X, Metroid Fusion yet again improved upon the game’s design in almost every way. Fusion did incredibly well, being named Handheld Game of the Year at the 2002 Interactive Achievement Awards, and recieving high praise from many gaming sites, and sold over 1 million copies worldwide. This success saw the rebirth of the series and Metroid continued to develop.

In 2004, Nintendo released Metroid: Zero Mission, a remake of the original Metroid on the GBA with graphics that perhaps surpassed even that of Metroid Fusion, and incorporating features and abilities from the more recent titles, such as saving capability and a selection of different abilities such as crouching, hanging, speed-boost running and much more.

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They also expanded upon the game’s original plot, and even added an entirely new area to the game, including a section which, for the first time ever, allows you to play as Samus without her Power Suit for a more stealth-based chapter, dubbed “Zero Suit Samus” by Super Smash Bros Brawl, which incorporated this ‘naked’ version of the heroine as an alternate mode for her in the fighter series, which also turned a few heads in the process.  

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And thats as far as the 2D saga of Metroid has come to this date – I personally hope to see at least one more 2D Metroid in the future. But that’s not to say that Metroid ends there, oh no – the present has seen a change in Metroid’s style…

Stay tuned for Metroid: The Present, in the second of this three-part look at the series!

-Leon