|Publisher & Designer:||Nintendo of America|
|Release Date:||August 1987|
Although Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda were without question two of the defining games of the early-NES era, another classic that certainly deserves its fair share of praise is Metroid. Released during a time of heavy experimentation in the world of gaming, Metroid was a true success story with its enormous world to explore, heavy emphasis on non-linear gameplay, and outstanding diversity in terms of its graphics and music. It also featured a really hip and super cool protagonist with a startling secret!
Overview: Although it is now primitive in pretty much every way, Metroid was nothing less than a piece of cutting-edge brilliance way back in 1987 when it was first released for the glorious NES. Featuring a unique style of gameplay, incredible depth, and more secrets than even some of the games being released today (okay, maybe Metroid isn't so primitive!), this trailblazer among video games knew no fear and plunged itself into the unknown like Samus Aran did in the game itself. For the true adventurer and explorer, Metroid was an absolute feast of fun!
To put things in perspective, you have to remember that back during the first few years of the NES, there was actually a real shortage of epic, mind-boggling, eye-popping video games being released. Sure, you had a couple of pantheon performances in Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda but other than those two all-time classics, what groundbreaking, memorable games saw the light of day during this time? Think about it for a minute. There were definitely some gems available such as Excitebike, Wrecking Crew, Gumshoe (I absolutely loved this game as a young child.), and Duck Hunt. But what awe-inspiring, triple-A titles graced our favorite 8-bit system around this time? Other than a certain duo of a plumber and a Hylian, not much to be perfectly honest.
Enter Samus Aran. Now here was a hero that everyone could rally behind. With that oh-so-cool spacesuit and an armada of weapons to match, Nintendo now had a triumvirate of heroes to carry their brand. That number could have possibly reached four if Kid Icarus had been just a bit better but for some reason, three seemed to be the magic number in terms of super-popular heroes.
Without going into too much detail, let me just say that Metroid is one of those hybrid games in terms of genre. Like The Legend of Zelda, it is part-action, part-adventure. However, with that being said, Metroid feels completely different from Zelda. It doesn't even feel like a Mario game to be honest. It is simply...Metroid! It is likely the non-linear nature of the game in addition to its unique atmosphere that separates this game from all others. Nobody ever tells you what to do or where to go in Metroid. It was as if the game's creators painstakingly created an enormous, diverse video game world, threw in all the bells and whistles, then decided to step back and tell the gamer to "Go for it!" There is no dialouge in this game...no direction...no tips...no stage set-up...NOTHING!
And you know what? I absolutely love it! For someone who enjoys a classic, linear game such as Super Mario Bros. or Mega Man as much as anyone, I thought that the change of pace in Metroid was a welcome feature of the game. It was kind of cool just exploring the vast world of Planet SR388 (i.e. Zebes) and basically having to figure out what to do on your own! For the most part, the newer games of today aren't like that at all. This is truly one of those "Back in our day" kind of moments in terms of not having any aids or crutches to get us through a game.
Graphics: For an early-generation NES game, Metroid didn't simply surpass the competition in the visual department. No...it simply froze it with the Ice Beam and shot 255 high-octane missiles in the general vicinity of the poor, primitive games of its era. Perhaps this is rather extreme but for its time, Metroid was simply a feast for the eyes! And not only was the vast world of planet SR388 simply teeming with a seemingly unlimited amount of enemies, areas, secret items, and hidden rooms; the visuals decided to come along for the ride as well. What impresses me even more than the dazzling presentation is the sheer diversity of the graphics in this game! Each area has its own unique look and the color schemes vary widely. You have blue and golds in the main area of Brinstar, whites and blue in Kraid's lair, and menacing reds and oranges and purples deep in Norfair. Granted, these aren't exactly the best NES graphics of all-time. But for a game made in 1986? Absolutely amazing!
Music: Ah...the glorious music rich in feeling not to mention nostalgia...how I love thee. Er...I got lost there for a second...sorry about that! When it comes to classic video game themes that will stick in your head for all eternity, Metroid delivers right on cue! Although the Mario and Zelda themes are undoubtedly the ones that we all remember, some of the music in Metroid has that same catchy quality that transcends generations as well. I will never forget the very first time that I heard the main Brinstar theme. That wonderful, rich melody is one of the all-time classics if you ask me. It conveys a wonderful sense of adventure, never grows old or annoying whatsoever (huge for an 8-bit game with the kind of size that Metroid had) and really jumpstarts the game nicely.
Although the Brinstar theme has to take the cake for me personally, other favorites include Kraid's incredibly catchy track, the simple-yet-fun Norfair tune, that mysterious little ditty that plays whenever you enter a secret room, and the wonderful ending/credits theme. For an oldie like Metroid, I thought that the soundtrack was actually quite diverse...and good I might add!
Play Control: Look at any NES games made during the 1986-87 timeframe and you will inevitably come across a multitude of games featuring play control bad enough to send shivers down your spine. There were certainly exceptions to the rule (Mega Man, Castlevania, and Gradius come to mind) but man, I can still remember the days when finding a game with smooth controls was more challenging than you would think.
Well, Metroid, along with the other games listed above, was truly an anomoly because the controls in this game are nothing short of fantastic! Even today, I still feel like Metroid features superior play control not only to its contemporaries but to most NES games in general. Running, jumping, and shooting is executed beautifully and this is one of those classics that is easy-to-learn but tough-to-master. I always liked that you could either jump and shoot or jump into a little ball depending on when you put your fingers on the d-pad. Subtle nuances like this can really help a game in the long run.
Metroid was also one of the few NES games that utilized the select button for something other than navigating the title screen. Switching from your beam/ice/wave weapon to missiles couldn't be easier thanks to this feature. Rolling up into a ball and using bombs was simple as well. And once you got the Screw Attack, jumping and destroying enemies that way became lots of fun too! Basically, I don't really have anything negative to say about Metroid in regards to the controls. There is really no slippage when navigating small platforms (even the first Mega Man game had this problem) and everything just feels very fluid and easy to control. It's just too bad that Metroid's "sister" game Kid Icarus didn't have controls this smooth...
Challenge: Honestly, it was probably the untamed, non-linear nature of Metroid that kept many a gamer from ever beating this game. The fact that Metroid was a very challenging game in its own right with plenty of tricky enemies, tough-as-nails bosses, and puzzling jumps/platforms/hidden areas to overcome didn't make things any easier. But the sheer non-linear nature of the game definitely made this game more challenging than most.
Although Metroid is certainly a unique series that is by no means a copycat, it certainly shares some similarities with the Zelda series. Unlike Zelda though, Metroid offers absolutely zero hints or tips...not even the subtle, cryptic hints from Zelda are in this game. Metroid literally throws you into the fray right from the get-go and as a result, you get a unique sense of isolation unlike any other. The only NES game that instantly comes to mind in this regard is Blaster Master and that game was certainly influenced by Metroid's success.
Back to the gameplay though, Metroid starts you off with a wimpy gun and very little life. This actually enhances the gameplay though because as you progress through the game and find missiles, energy tanks, and a plethora of helpful items along the way, the game becomes much more enjoyable. Along with The Legend of Zelda, Metroid created a true sense of adventure that had not been seen in a video game before. This game was truly a trailblazer in terms of adventure and challenge and as a result, it is one of most beloved NES games of all-time.
The replay value is incredible for a 1986 game pak as well. Seriously, Metroid still has to rank amongst the Top 10 NES games in terms of sheer scope and depth. This game is huge for an 8-bit video game and is one that diehard fans will play far beyond simply beating the game. There are countless rooms and areas that you don't need to explore to beat the game which only enhances the replayability of Metroid. If you truly want to explore the game and venture everywhere possible, you'll need a lot of time on your hands! And by the same token, in order to get the game's best ending, you will need to find a way to beat the game as quickly as possible! Now that's a true challenge!
Storyline: Although the background story certainly wasn't the selling point of the game, I still find myself reading through the manual to Metroid whenever I play the game. While you had the super plumber Mario in one corner and the Hylian Link in another, now you had this mysterious bounty hunter named Samus Aran as well. The NES sure established some incredibly diverse heroes (and heroines too!) early in its history didn't it?
I could divulge into the story of Metroid but all of us who grew up in the 80s know it by heart. The bounty hunter Samus Aran...the Metroid-infested planet SR388...Kraid...Ridley...the Metroid menace...it is all the stuff of legend that made the Metroid series what it is today. And it all began with this amazing space odyssey (of sorts!)
Funfactor: No matter how many times I come back to the first Metroid game, I always find myself experiencing an amazing trip down memory lane. Metroid was truly a one-of-a-kind game at the time and it is without a doubt an adventurer's dream! If you're the type of gamer who enjoys endless exploration/non-linear elements, a plethora of secret rooms/items/enemies, and the essence of the Lewis & Clark expedition built into a video game, Metroid is most definitely for you! Despite the fact that Super Metroid for the Super NES would prove to be vastly superior to the NES classic, I still recommend the original game for Metroid newcomers. You've got to experience this classic game if you haven't already!
Negatives: Due to the unique non-linear nature of this game, Metroid probably isn't for everyone. Anyone with a short attention span who would rather blow things up instead of exploring a huge world might be better off playing something like Contra. Metroid is a very challenging game that offers nothing in the way of help or assistance so naturally, certain gamers might not fare very well on planet SR388.
Also, while Metroid does include a password feature, it is a very detailed password system with a lot of characters. As a result, it is fairly easy to write down any given password incorrectly which essentially wipes out your previous exploits. As long as you write down the password carefully and exactly as it appears, you should be fine. On a related note, when you do enter a password and re-start a game, your health will be exactly what it was at the beginning of the game meaning that you will have to spend some time re-filling your energy which can be somewhat time-consuming.
Lastly, while the graphics in Metroid are amazing for such an old NES game, the backgrounds are almost entirely simple, black screens. This does help to create an incredible atmosphere but anyone looking for variety in terms of background graphics will be sorely disappointed. I'm just saying...
Ratings: Graphics: 4.3 Music: 4.6 Play Control: 4.5 Challenge: 4.4 Storyline: 4.4 Funfactor: 4.4 Overall Score: 26.6 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Silver Stud!
Back to NES NostalgiaLast Updated: March 23, 2012