Published on May 22nd, 2013 | by Christian0
Super Metroid – Back to Zebes
Well I’m finally back from vacation, and after a few weeks away I’ve had a little bit of trouble getting into games. Jet lag and catching up with work and social obligations have left me wanting comfort gaming, so I’ve mostly been sticking to bouts of obsessive leader board-climbing in DJMAX Technika Tune. Even though I was having trouble getting motivated to play any of my other games, I had no problem completing a play-through of Super Metroid this past weekend. As far as comfort gaming goes, playing Super Metroid is like a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup. It’s good for what ails you.
Released almost 20 years ago on the Super Nintendo, Super Metroid stands as one of the beloved platform’s most celebrated games, as well as an all-time high point for the Metroid franchise, though some will make claims about the Prime series. Available now for $0.30 as part of the 30 year Famicom anniversary celebration on the Wii U Virtual Console, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to download and play it again.
Truth be told, I’m actually not much of a retro gamer, but this is a game I owned and played many times on the SNES. I still have a copy, actually, stored away at my parents’ house across the country along with my yellowed SNES and a few other favorite games that I held onto. I went back to Super Metroid many times during my youth, but this was the first time I’d played it in maybe 15 years. It was much how I remembered it, and playing through the opening sequence where Ridley steals the metroid and Samus gives chase to the planet Zebes, I was awestruck by the economy of story-telling at work.
Aside from the opening sentence of dialog, there are no cut-scenes or text boxes in this game explaining the story. There were no lengthy codices delivered to my console, explaining the ecology of Zebes and its varied inhabitants. I didn’t have to suffer through overwrought origin stories for Samus or any of the adversaries she faced. Everything was as it was without unnecessary window dressing, and I could make of it what I would. It is a tight narrative, with a surprising twist towards the end that winds up being pretty touching.
It was strange, too, to go back to this game I played so much of in the past. I imagine that what I was feeling was not dissimilar to what a lapsed Catholic might feel when attending Sunday mass after many years away from the church. There is a ritual to Super Metroid. I remembered many of the motions, and while going through them didn’t fill me with the excitement that I feel when playing new games, I found some comfort in the process. That’s not to say it was all routine, though, I definitely surprised myself by digging deep into this game and discovering secrets that I’d never seen before, or at least couldn’t remember.
If you haven’t played Super Metroid before, you might find this game frustrating. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could spend a lot of time back-tracking, and the map is pretty lackluster compared to other games in the genre. Sometimes the jumping and grappling feel strange, especially the wall-jumps. The combat isn’t very exciting, and the boss battles can be fumbled through without much skill so long as you have enough missiles and energy tanks.
These are minor quibbles in the face of the game’s best qualities, however. The musical score is without reproach. The environments and creatures are beautiful and imaginative, even today. The atmosphere in this game is thick, which is impressive considering that it’s established completely through visuals and sound. The genre’s hallmark progression where new items open up previously inaccessible zones which have more items to open more zones feels extremely satisfying. Even though the game can be beaten in just a few hours (it took me about 6), a novice player will find that there are tons of hidden secrets and items to find, which will extend the game’s lifespan considerably. I’d recommend Super Metroid to anyone. It’s one of the best games of an entire generation, and probably one of the best games of all time.