The Super Nintendo Entertainment System is no stranger to legendary games, but there is one game that stands above most others, the one that Mega Drive owners could never match. It starred a female bounty hunter that was about to set the 16-Bit era alight with one of the most amazing experiences that you can buy in that era to this day.
A prime example
In the 16-Bit era, there was still mostly a big disconnect when it came to an engaging atmosphere. Most games still had their arcade roots instilled in them, with mostly RPG-type games making up the majority of the titles that oozed with atmosphere and an engrossing story. Action games just never went for that. It was all about shooting or punching the foes to bits TO SAVE THE WORLD. That’s as deep as it got. That’s perhaps right from the outset what makes Super Metroid such a different undertaking. It starts off with Samus receiving a distress signal from the Ceres Space Colony where she just dropped off a Metroid larva (which she acquired in the first game). On her arrival, she is met with a dire situation. The scientists are all dead and the larva has been taken. It’s the leader of the Space Pirates, Ridley, that’s at the base of this problem. After seeing Ridley face-to-face he escapes and she must exit the colony before it explodes. Once doing so she tracks him to Zebes, which is where this action-adventure kicks off.
As with all Metroid games you’ll start off with nothing but your ability to run, jump and a basic cannon. Unlike other action games of the time players won’t be moving exclusively to the right of the screen. Super Metroid (along with Castlevania) gave birth to the term ‘Metroidvania’. Zebus, the alien world, is filled with secrets in a world that is considered ‘open-world’ for the time. As you discover a new area it shows up on the ever-evolving map. Think of it as one huge networked map that has corridors all linking with each other. Early on Samus will get access to her morphing ball ability, which in turn allows her to access areas that are too small for her to run through in her normal form.
Hide and seek
You’re always on the lookout for new abilities for her suit. Get a new ability and you either progress where you currently are on the map or make your way back to an earlier part of the map that was previously inaccessible. If you’re a player who hates backtracking then it’s probably a good idea to avoid Super Metroid as there is lots of backtracking involved. Unlike modern games, where you can flag an area of interest, you’ll have to make use of that brain inside your skull to remember areas that are unexplored. It’s because of all this back and forth business that the save station areas are just as important. Save stations are scattered all over the map and will be marked with an ‘S’ once you’ve found it. There are no checkpoints, so be sure to save whenever you get the opportunity to do so. It’ll save your progress and collectively also fill up your energy tanks and ammo. The highlight is easily Samus’ upgrades.
Where Super Metroid comes into its own is with discovery as well as the spectacular boss fights.
As you make your way through the game you’ll systematically find various upgrades such as a spazer beam that is super powerful and shoots a larger range than her general cannon. Your boots will also receive upgrades that assist you in jumping higher or receiving a speed boost to run through crumbling walls. Due to all the many hidden secrets, you’re always testing new locations to see what might work. Can I run through that wall or is there a small entrance for the morphing ball that requires a bomb to be exposed? Doors are highlighted using different colours. Blue takes your general cannon bullets to open, but to get through a green door you best use one of your missile weapons to open it or go looking for a new ability you might have not discovered yet. There are several other upgrades that’ll help your progress.
Where Super Metroid comes into its own is with discovery as well as the spectacular boss fights. Of course, you’re going to face off with Ridley at some point, but on your way to that fight, you’ll be tasked at using all the various skills you’ve learned and combine them all with great platforming reflexes. Super Metroid is no walk in the park. If you consider yourself a gamer that plays most games on the easy difficulty then you have come to the wrong place. Finding extra energy tanks to extend your health meter is of the essence to remain alive and defeat anything the game can throw at you.
The alien world has aged exceptionally well. It’s aided with an astounding soundtrack that paints a picture of the various dangers Samus will be facing.Super Metroid isn’t going to hold your hand. It asks you to discover and accept the various challenges from beginning to end, but the rewards are always well worth the effort. Oh, and it’s on the Mini SNES, so there’s no reason to miss out on this classic.