Sunday, October 7, 2012

Super Metroid (Super NES, 1994)

Best game ever? Possibly

My 2012 Metroid Crusade rolls on with what is almost undisputably the best Metroid game. It's on plenty of shortlists for "best game ever". It scored the lofty #1 on the now-defunct (or is it?) Electronic Gaming Monthly's "Top 100 Games of All Time". It's the game that I got an SNES for in 1994. This is Super Metroid, one of the SNES's crowning moments and one of those games that helped the SNES bury the competing Sega Genesis.

I may have played the German version of the game for purposes of this post. Pay no mind to the subtitles; they aren't in the original. In any case, a somewhat legendary semi-bad voiceover plays as the game begins. In 1994 this was like "WHOA WHAT'S GOIN' ON WAS THAT A VOICE? IN A GAME?"

The opening scenes catch us up on current events. Here's the final battle of the original Metroid. Yeah, the graphics are Super-ized, in a bit of a preview of Zero Mission a decade later I suppose.

The finale of Metroid 2 is also shown, as the harmless Metroid baby figures into this game quite prominently.

Turns out Samus delivered the baby Metroid to the Galactic Federation so they could study it for peaceful purposes. You know, "the good of civilization" and stuff. I don't think it's much of a stretch to say that it's naive to expect said Federation to not weaponize the Metroid the first chance they get, but... this game is from 1994. Back then things were a bit more black and white in our media. If it came out ten years later I'm sure there'd be a little more gray area to it.

Of course, the space station comes under attack. Luckily, Samus is nearby, and the game begins. In other news, German is AWESOME.

The very first shot of the game. Samus is relatively un-powered-up at the outset, as usual.

The Metroid baby's case is seen here, shattered. A "robbing of the cradle", if you will. In five minutes, this game has made a more effective case for Samus' motherliness than the entirety of Other M on the Wii.

Here's Ridley, the recurring Big Bad of the series, and he's got the baby in tow. Well, Ridley is the recurring "second-biggest bad", since in every game he plays second-fiddle to some other Big Bad. Let Ridley main event!


After that brief interlude, it's off to the setting for the first game in the series. Now in 16 bit! That's right, back in 1994 we had real games I tell you.

Samus' iconic ship lands on the surface of Zebes. This game has one simple goal - find Ridley and rescue the hatchling.

The first area is eerie, as it is a ruined version of the last area of the original game.

Here's Mother Brain's old chamber, now derelict. Whoever came up with the idea to have the player traverse this area first... good thinking. It instantly takes series fans back in time, and gives people who didn't play the original game a nod to Samus' prior accomplishment.

Samus lands in Brinstar in yet another nod to the original game, quickly getting the Morph Ball. Oddly enough, she doesn't start with it here like she did in Metroid 2.

The Brinstar journey doesn't continue like it did in the original game, as Samus encounters dead ends and creepy spotlight-eyes. After tripping every alarm in sight, the player backtracks and...

...Space Pirates are suddenly everywhere, and the lights are on again. These pirates were completely missing from the original game, despite being all over the lore for it. They look like non-peaceful cousins of the Chozo. Sorta like the Romulans to their Vulcans.

Speaking of the Chozo, one ultra-memorable moment comes when the first Chozo statue of the game COMES TO LIFE AND ATTACKS. Protip: If you're fast enough, it's possible to actually get back out of the room before the door closes, skipping the boss fight entirely. I've never managed to pull that off myself, though.

The Chozo statue is pretty simple as far as bosses in this game go, but it still isn't something to be taken lightly. Also, and I've mentioned this before, but check out how much it resembles the Space Jockey from Ridley Scott's Alien/Prometheus:

Same animal-esque head.

 Also has the same arms as the one from Alien. Craziness.

Just when you think you've got the game figured out, Green Space Pirates appear that resist your shots. Luckily, Missiles take them down.

Here's Upper Brinstar, previously unseen in the Metroid canon. It's a world of green roots and brambles, with awesome music to boot.

It's a magical moment, as Samus gets the ability to charge up. This goes for every beam, too. It's one of those powerups that woe to you if you miss it. Good thing it's hard to miss.

The next boss is the notorious Spore Spawn, the world's nastiest fly trap. It isn't much to write home about, but the fact that it made such an impression on gamers is something to take note of.

Spore Spawn's room is unlike any other boss room in the game. While every other boss has sealed doors keeping you from leaving, Spore Spawn's room has a green door at the bottom and an open ceiling at the top. In theory, one could escape this fight as a result. I've never been able to reach the ceiling during the fight, however, and to open the green door you need a Super Missile (which you shouldn't have yet). I'm guessing sequence breakers don't ever need to fight this thing, in any case.

A little wall-jumping (HAW! I'VE STILL GOT IT!) to an out of the way pipe nets you...

...a Missile pack, at a time when they're still really useful. I really like how this game has so much to discover.

Here's Lower Brinstar, which is known for red bricks and also having amazing and iconic music. This music would later get remixed in Metroid Prime 2.

While the Spazer got second-to-last billing in Metroid 2, in this game it's the first beam you get. I kinda wish they had saved it for later, since every other beam in the game just becomes a Spazer variant after this. You don't really get to see the Wave or Ice beams in their natural, non-Spazered states in this game unless you intentionally miss or turn off the Spazer, and thus there isn't as much sense of beam-progression. ...does that make sense?

The iconic High Jump Boots (by Nike!) are found in Norfair. If you're playing the game the way the developers intended, you make a brief detour into Norfair to get these boots. Otherwise, the game follows a pretty linear area progression with Brinstar coming before Norfair.

In other news, Samus gets almost-naked when she gets obliterated by an enemy. A little macabre? Yes. Sexy? Yes.

Kraid's Lair, complete with a horrifying visage for an entrance. The claws are vaguely Queen Metroid esque, but the face is completely different.

Lo and behold, it's Mini-Kraid from Metroid 1. Remember that guy? Here he really is a miniature version, because...

...Kraid GOT HUGE.

As the fight goes on he stands up to his full height. His mutation from just-over-Samus-size to small-building-size is a bit of an ill omen for later.

Luckily for Samus, the first major boss of the game is somewhat of a pushover. And to think that this guy was portrayed as Ridley's equal in the original game... it'd never happen again, champ.

Winning nets Samus the Varia suit, which lets her resist fire. Brinstar. Kraid's Lair isn't quite done yet, though. Here's an easily-missed energy tank near Kraid's lair.

Now Norfair can begin for real, since Samus has heat resistance. Norfair is pretty awesome.

After getting the Wave Beam, the Spazer... turns purple and spins. My one complaint about this game is that you get the Spazer before the other beams, taking away their uniqueness.

The Speed Booster is another of Super Metroid's innovations. Who doesn't love afterimages? Castlevania Symphony of the Night would mimic this quite a bit.

This is the most dangerous room in the first half of the game. It's full of vicious plants.

The Power Bomb is acquired back in Brinstar. Need the Ice Beam to get it... well, normally. Did quite a bit of item summing-up here, and we arrive at the next boss:

The Crocomire. This thing is actually pretty difficult to lose against. The charged Ice/Wave Spazer beam is the best bet here.

I take a moment to blast the Crocomire after the fight as it burns up in the lava. It's the only way to be sure.

There's a "Holy Shit" moment here as the skeleton of the beast comes roaring out at you. It falls apart before any more of a battle can get underway, though. This scene was in the commercial for the game and I thought at the time that it was its own boss fight.

One of the longest jumps in the game follows, and Samus gets...

...the Grappling Beam, one of the cooler innovations in this game. This is where the coverage of the game stopped in Nintendo Power, if I remember correctly, but it was a good stopping point. NP got you through the confusing back-and-forth part earlier with the Ice Beam and the Power Bombs.

I was rushing a bit, and barely managed to grab this energy tank before I expired. Whew.

Another awesome innovation is the X-Ray Scope, easily missed on the trip back to the surface. It finds hidden items and passages, things this game has in abundance. I'd go around scanning everything with this when I was a kid.

Back on the surface, the storms have cleared up. I particularly like the lead-up to the next area, as it seems to take place in some sort of mostly-underwater refinery at the edge of a sea.

Next boss is the mysterious, not-of-this-dimension Phantoon, who phases in and out of the visible plane during the fight. This thing seems to latch onto spacecraft and drain them of their energy. I'd like to know what the story is with it, and it's another case for why there should be an official Metroid lore-book in existence. In other news, a Phantoon was also the final boss in Metroid Other M. Not the same one that you fight here, I'm sure. This means there are probably a whole race of Phantoons floating around in Samus' universe. Other M also had a Queen Metroid in it, one of the few cool moments in that game.

The Wrecked Ship has mysterious origins and mysterious cargo. What look like Metroids can be seen hovering in the windows in the background. Is this a Space Pirate ship, or a Federation ship? It might also be a reference to The Derelict from Alien/Prometheus, hard to say.

This place is particularly important for the Chozo statue that carries Samus down to the best armor in the game...

...the Gravity Suit. With that she can move normally underwater, and it's off to Maridia.

Maridia features THE WORST HALLWAY IN THE GAME, this sap-filled death-trap.

It also has this fella, who burrows through a wall if you leave it alone.

Behind that wall? The Spring Ball, which is as usual more fun than useful.

Shattering the glass tube in Maridia is another of the slightly-iconic moments in the game.

Maridia is full of "Mocktroids". They're, as far as I can tell, mechanical copies of Metroids. While creepy enough, they pose little threat compared to the real thing.

The serpent mini-boss midway through the area has the same music as Spore Spawn, a thump-heavy beat that begs to be remixed for a rap.

Draygon here is probably the most difficult fight in the game. Why?

If it manages to hit Samus with its spit, it then catches her and absolutely beats the stuffing out of her. It isn't pretty, and it takes off hundreds of points of energy. There's no escape once caught, either.

By meticulously dodging spit and retaliating for a while I eke out the win. It's also possible to zap Draygon to death with the wall panels, effectively one-shotting it, if you want to gimp the fight.

Moments later, what appear to be babies swoop in and drag Draygon away. I believe this is supposed to be a poignant moment, but after how much trouble this fight gave me back in 1994 I was just glad it was over.

The most powerful beam in the game is found in a nearby bog.

The Plasma Beam is awesome. Due to the beam-combining nature of this game, most players only see it in doubled-up Ice form. It would have been nice to see all of the beams individually, perhaps later getting something that combines certain beams. As it is, it feels like a lot of beam animations went to waste.

Ridley's Lair is unmistakable, and comes equipped with some Predator-esque warrior music.

Another Chozo statue attacks here, and this one is far deadlier than the one at the beginning of the game. It dodges Missiles easily and usually catches Super Missiles (like the one I'm firing here) if it has time to react. Only charged Plasma Beam shots make any kind of a dent in it.

The truly iconic Screw Attack is the last major upgrade you get in the game.

I whip out the bare-bones Plasma Beam to take on Ridley's metal pirate goons. The beam by itself is green and does more damage than anything else in the game (while charged). Doubled up with Wave, it's purple and goes through walls. With Ice added, it's blue and, well, freezes. Can't combine Plasma with Spazer, for some reason. It'd likely be overpowered if you could fire off triple Plasma Beams.

These hallways in Ridley's Lair are very reminiscent of the original game.

And here's Ridley. Same basic fight as the beginning of the game, except this time you actually have to win. He hits much harder, too. If you electrocute Draygon, then this fight replaces it as the most difficult in the game.

Plasma is the best bet here, but it's a war of attrition. Not having enough energy tanks at this point just means you aren't going to win the fight. There are some strategies to get around that, though.

After being soundly thrashed, Ridley shatters into pieces. How this guy keeps coming back game after game is beyond me, but I suspect he's mostly mechanical.

Back on the surface I take some time to mess around. Boost-jumping around the huge overworld "room" is pretty awesome.

Here's the iconic opening shot of the first game, recreated in 16-bit. Not a lot going on here in this game, but it was cool to see it.

Before the end, mention must be made of these little gremlins that demonstrate the wall-jump. The wall jump is unnecessary for finishing the game and a bit of a difficult maneuver, but the hardcore player who masters it can use it to get to all kinds of places. There's also an ostrich-like creature that shows Samus the much simpler boost-jump.

This statue of the four biggest bosses in the game blocks the way to Tourian. Taking down all four said bosses causes said statue to sink, and it's onward to the rebuilt base of the Mother Brain.

Tourian has Metroids... lots of Metroids. Likely cloned from the hatchling, which was the point of Ridley stealing it. They're a bit on the easy side in this game, especially considering a Super Missile will take them out in one hit. Considering they're the titular creature of this series, they don't really have a major part or pose a serious threat in most of the games.

An eerie hallway is full of creatures that have been drained of their life-force, turning to dust when Samus bumps into them. This heralds the arrival of...

...THE BIGGEST METROID EVER, which promptly obliterates Samus. Well, mostly. It spares her at the last second. Why? Because this is the hatchling. The bad guys mutated it, no doubt in an attempt to create "super Metroids". It's another low-key tragedy in this game. Considering that for the most part it lacks words or spoken dialogue, this game tells quite a story. It needs a novelization; perhaps a remake with a more cinematic tack. ...well, wait, after what they did in Other M maybe we should just leave this game alone.

The hatchling flies off, and Samus continues through to the Mother Brain's chambers.

This is the easiest Mother Brain fight out of the three games she appears in, by far. The lava isn't the death trap it is in the original game, Mother Brain doesn't retaliate as harshly as she does in Zero Mission, and Samus has the advantage of Super Missiles for this one.

Victory causes the room to explode a lot, but this isn't over yet.

Indeed, Mother Brain has a second form: the rest of her. It isn't pretty. This battle is accompanied by one of the better final battle themes of the SNES era. It's extremely menacing music, and I wish the battle were more difficult to live up to that menace.

Long story short, Mother Brain fries Samus at the end of the fight, only to have the hatchling jump in and save her.

It drains all of Mother Brain's energy and uses said energy to restore Samus, while the Mother Brain slowly comes back to life in the corner. It's all very creepy.

This results in the Mother Brain getting pissed, blasting the hatchling into dust. Weirdly enough, this somehow empowers Samus with the Hyper Beam, a ridiculously powerful version of the Plasma Beam. I'm not sure how she got that from the hatchling's essence (did she absorb its radiation?), but it worked out for her.

The Hyper Beam is absolute death, sending Mother Brain into convulsions and resulting in a quick win. The Hyper Beam concept would later be revived in Metroid Prime 3 as a temporary powerup.

An escape sequence follows, as per usual. This is an explosive one.

One can make a quick detour during the escape to save the animal crew that helped Samus out earlier. They're trapped in a room, but the Hyper Beam makes short work of the walls.

Back on the surface, I got to the ship with time to spare.

As opposed to the original game where Tourian exploded at the end, the entirety of Zebes explodes at the end of this game. That's the end of Zebes and all the problems that went along with it, but it's unfortunate that the whole planet had to go up in flames.

2:31 is one of my better times out of the 10+ playthroughs I've done of this game. Of course, Samus disrobes for the ending. I used to think this was the sexiest variation of Samus, but now I can clearly see that Metroid 2's ending wins that honor.

And that's it for this game. It's such a good game that I didn't even have anything to make fun of in this post. Tune in later this month when I cover Metroid Fusion. It's the last game in the series chronologically, the last one I'll be covering, and the longest out of the five 2D games by a big margin.


  1. Thanks for the excellent summary. I've never played the game, and this gave me a great idea of what went down while keeping a brisk pace.

    Like you said, this game feels much different now than it did in '94. The idea of running into a foreign planet and killing everything that tries to stop you isn't so appealing anymore.

  2. Great post, really enjoyed reading this and your post on Gamefaqs. One thing that you were mistaken about: Spore Spawn's room actually doesn't have a hole in the ceiling until you defeat it. So there's actually no way out of that room until the fight is done with. That is, unless you get Super Missiles early, of course. But no, no creative wall-jumping will get you through the ceiling in that room.

    Good stuff otherwise, keep it up!