Since it was first released in 1986, Metroid has become one of the most iconic Nintendo titles of all time. We'll look at the history of the original Metroid and examine its impact today, all while turning back the clock and reviewing it as if it was just released.
The History Of Metroid
While Nintendo had already established itself in the area of platformers thanks to the success of games like Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong, it wanted to do something more science-fictional, and Metroid was born. In order to ensure the game's success, the company appointed Gunpei Yokoi as producer. It seemed only fitting considering he had created a whole host of successful titles for Nintendo while working for Nintendo R&D1. At the beginning of the development process, Yokoi stressed to his team that he wanted to create an open world environment with Metroid, moving the company away from static levels like those seen in Super Mario Bros. at the time. Throughout its production, Metroid was very much a team effort as head directors Satoru Okada and Masao Yamamoto welcomed any input from team members on the game's design, regardless of their official position.
It was this decision that lead to one random team member suggesting that Samus Aran be revealed to the player as a woman, something that many argue helped the franchise become what it is today. In the interviews that followed some time later, lead character designer Yoshio Sakamoto stated that the team used the movie Alien as inspiration when they went about creating the Metroid universe. Though the team struggled at times during its development thanks to lack of resources and time constants, what they created was nothing short of miraculous. Thanks to its success, Nintendo would go on to embrace the non-linear format within its games and help to transform the video game industry forever.
What Makes Metroid So Special
At its core, Metroid is much more than a non-linear action-adventure game. While we might not see it as groundbreaking today, at the time it was unheard-of for Nintendo games to allow the player to keep an ability from start to finish. In games like Super Mario and Kid Icarus for example, players would only be able to use special abilities or power-ups for a short period of time and would have to reacquire them later when necessary. With Metroid, players were able to acquire an ability early in the game and use that ability at any time to aid in their progression through a level. While it would have been possible for a player to miss an ability within their current area, Metroid is designed in such a way that the player must find the ability in order to progress further. This particular game mechanic is extremely important when you consider that you aren't able to beat the game without using the rockets that you pick up fairly early on. It's thanks to this decision that we see a similar game mechanic employed with the Mega Man series a short time later. While Metroid has elements of a platformer, the movement controls within the game allow users to dodge enemies using a variety of techniques that weren't seen in previous Nintendo titles at the time.
In the beginning, you are told that it is the year 20X5, according to the galactic calendar and that a research vessel of the Galactic Federation carrying specimens of creatures called Metroids has just been attacked by space pirates. The pirates seek to use the Metroids they have acquired to eliminate any and all opposition to their cause. After locating the space pirate's base on the planet Zebes the Galactic Federation attempts to retrieve the stolen specimens without success, leading to their decision to hire the galaxy's greatest bounty hunter, Samus Aran.
While the story is certainly compelling, from the beginning of the game you are drawn in by an amazing musical score. Much like previous Nintendo titles, sound is also used to indicate when damage is taken, and the player is also alerted when their health has become dangerously low thanks to a rhythmic beeping noise. While this might not seem like a big deal on the surface, you will quickly find that the sound reminds you of an emergency broadcast, leading to a feeling of panic and dread which can cause you to make simple mistakes that you otherwise might not have. Unlike previous Nintendo titles, each ability that you acquire can be used at any point in the game, helping you to get past some rather difficult enemies along the way.
The game gives you the ability to choose which direction you would like to take, breaking away from the linear nature of so many titles that we have seen before. While this is certainly a welcome change, it can be frustrating at times since you will have to backtrack through an area and fight the same enemies again in order to find an item that you need to progress further. To that end, Metroid doesn't feel like a game that you can speed run through. Instead, it demands that you think carefully about your next decision and plan for the eventuality that you might have to do it all over again if you forgot to check somewhere.
As far as combat, it will take some getting used to thanks to the fact that you can't shoot down and you don't really have the ability to crouch and shoot your enemies. While enemy movements are like that of a game like Super Mario, they can be random, especially when you are facing flying creatures. This means that you will have to study their patterns and wait for an opportunity to strike. Though Metroid doesn't employ the one hit defeat mechanic seen in previous titles, it is still challenging enough that you feel accomplished when you beat it.
While it might not be as appealing to look at in comparison to Metroid titles today, it is certainly an enjoyable experience. Unlike games today, at no point do you feel like your defeat is caused by an error in the games coding and as a result, rather than quit, you want to try again until you succeed.
Tips And Tricks
-To stock up on health, backtrack through an area and defeat respawned enemies.
-Use the game's mechanics in your favor by baiting out enemy movements through jumping back and forth.
-Move fast in areas with lots of enemies as their movements may cause you to be trapped in certain situations.
-When you first spawn, go to the left instead of the right. This will lead you to the ball ability you need to progress through the rest of the game.
-Bomb any area that looks like you can move past it, often this will lead you to secret passages.
-Get the ice beam, you won't be able to beat the game unless you have it.
-The game's ending is dependent on how long it takes you to complete the game, so go through it as quickly as you can.
Even if you're not a fan of the Metroid series, I highly recommend that you pick up the original NES version and give it a go. If you're an owner of a Switch and have Nintendo Switch Online, there's really no reason not to give the game a chance considering that it's one of the NES titles currently available.