Review by Psycho Penguin
"This isn't your dad's Metroid. And this isn't the typical Nintendo remake."
The original Metroid, released in 1986, captivated its players by providing a challenging and epic quest. Featuring Samus Aran, a female bounty hunter with a mysterious past, players navigated unchartered terrain on an alien planet in an attempt to destroy the evil that reigned within its depths. Collecting items was a key part of the quest, as certain doors and locations were impossible to pass without a specific powerup. Many players spent countless hours in the deep caverns of Zebes fighting their way past the many aliens that inhabited the region.
As the series evolved, the shortcomings of the original Metroid became more evident. Most notable was a complete lack of a map. Also, many of the rooms looked exactly alike, which led to a lot of confusion. Even more confusing was that the game did not explain what any of the power ups did, so players had to guess their function. Many sequels followed, each expanding on the legacy of the storyline and gameplay of the original Metroid. As the fanbase grew, following the release of the epic Super Metroid, the original game grew in popularity (and the flaws became more noticeable).
Eighteen years later, Nintendo decided that the original Metroid deserved a major overhaul. It needed to connect with the older games better, but still have the feel of the original that made it so special. New bosses, new areas, new graphics, a whole new identity. This wouldn't just be a simple port with a few new things thrown in, like Nintendo tends to do with their games. This would be a whole new game. This would be Samus's Zero Mission.
The Metroid series has a deep storyline, and Zero Mission was created mainly to attach it to the rest of the series more clearly, as Prime decided to take it in a new direction. It succeeded, as a new final boss, new final area, and a few shocking scenes about Samus's past, provide interesting details that make sense. New story scenes make the game more interesting than the original's ''read the one page introduction'' storyline.
Zero Mission is easily the best looking 2D Metroid game I have played, as it is more colorful than Metroid Fusion, and more detailed than Super Metroid. While the original Metroid had boring graphics that made each area look the same, Zero Mission has unique areas that are colorful and easy on the eyes. No longer will you have to deal with bland blank spaces with the same color background you've seen for the last 19 rooms. Nintendo really went out of their way to make Zero Mission the best looking in the 2D series to date, and they certainly succeeded. From the fiery lava regions of Norfair to the robotic interface of Tourian, each area will leave a lasting impression on you.
The classic Metroid enemies are here in full force, and they all look as wonderful as ever. In addition to these classic enemies, new enemies have flocked to Zebes, and they look simply amazing. The amount of colors and detail in some enemies will have to be seen to be believed. The bosses also got souped up in the 18 years they were in hibernation. They are larger and more colorful than ever, especially Kraid, who is about 40 times bigger than he was in the original.
Accompanying the souped up graphics is a rocking soundtrack that, while not being the best in the series, definitely improves on the original by a large margin. Most of the tunes will be instantly recognizable to you. That is because Nintendo decided to just remake the existing music, but it definitely sounds much better. Kraid's music is an especially vivid example, as it's much more dark and menacing this time. The music really adds into the atmosphere of the game. For instance, in one particular scene, you have to hide from enemies, while no music plays. The sound of silence follows you around until the enemy spots you, and suddenly, a menacing song plays until you are able to escape the view of the enemy, followed by a return to the deadly silence. The game is filled with musical pieces that fit the mood perfectly, making the soundtrack an instant classic.
After a disappointingly average Metroid Fusion, Nintendo really needed to up the ante this time out. The disappointing non-linearity of that particular game made it one of the worst entries into the series, and so I wanted Zero Mission to be extra good. They could have done more than remake a 16 year old game, but I won't take that away from them, because this remake is incredible. It could just be the best remake ever. In addition to the music and graphical upgrades, Nintendo really fixed the gameplay this time too, creating one of the deepest games in the entire series.
For those not familiar with Metroid, it is a side-scrolling exploration game. You begin almost totally defenseless, and during your adventure you must collect items that will aid you during battle. Each item you collect will, in some way, aid you on your quest. Not all of them are needed, but you will be glad to have them. Long Beams give you the ability to shoot longer beams, making enemies easier to kill. Power Grip allows you to hang onto ledges. Each item has its own use and will aid you in some way during your long journey.
Most of you know the deal by now, though. You get beamed down from a spaceship, you jump over a pillar to the left, pick up a Maru Mari, and then go right in an attempt to get the Long Beam, bombs, and missiles. But you will soon see that not everything is the way you remembered. A few screens in, you'll encounter a Chozo Statue! These statues are just as annoying as the computer in Metroid Fusion, but don't be alarmed. You only have to see the first one, and it just gives you vague hints.
The map won't give you vague hints, however. Those of you that don't like maps won't be happy, but the map definitely makes the game less frustrating. Besides, it doesn't really tell you where to go, it just reminds you of where you are. This save lots of time, because you will no longer be frustratingly wasting time wandering aimlessly between areas because you have no idea where you are. Now, you will always know where you are, and it makes the game a lot less maddening.
Why do you need the map? Because Metroid is an exploration game all the way. Hidden items are everywhere, and the only way to get to them is by searching everywhere. Hidden energy tanks are sometimes found by bombing walls. Seemingly dead end areas lead to items that the map doesn't show. Heck, in one area, you can bomb a floor with lava below it. The lava is just a mirage. These kinds of secrets mystified game players in 1986, and judging by the response of the Zero Mission board now, continues to do so.
Sequence breaking was a thing first found in Super Metroid, and it makes its grand return here. You can basically choose your own route, and bypass certain events that you would seemingly need to do at times. Most players fight Kraid before Ridley, but it is possible to fight the two main bosses in a reverse order. It is possible to get a key item, the Varia Suit, very early in the game. The key is knowing where to bomb, and knowing how to perform complex activities. Some may say this activity is not as fun because Nintendo purposely included sequence breaking, but I don't see the problem with this.
Sadly, Zero Mission does have one fault that a lot of people point out. It's pretty short, and can only be completed in a few hours. My first time through the game, it took 4 hours. Fortunately, the game does have 3 modes, easy, normal, and hard, which means completing all 3 modes would take around 12-16 hours in total. Some people feel that this game does not have enough bang for the buck, but I strongly disagree. While I agree that the game is short, the replay value is immense. I completed this game well over 10 times, and I still find new and fun challenges for me to try. I feel that this game has more replay value than any other game on the Game Boy Advance, including Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.
The reason the game has so much replay value is simple. You can make up your own challenges to do, or follow challenges most people have done. Speed runs and low percentage runs are the popular choices, and really extend the replay value. There is always a time or percentage to beat (or tie), and doing all of this will take well over the 4-6 hours it takes to complete a game. This is not a game you will complete and then forget about. I know of many people who are still playing Super Metroid today simply because of speed runs and low percentage challenges, and I expect this game to be played and enjoyed for years to come.
It's also pretty challenging, especially on your first time through the game. The new areas are some of the most challenging in the Metroid series, and although it does get easy the more you practice, it will take some time to get used to. This is especially true on hard mode, which easily makes this the hardest Metroid game ever. Getting to Kraid will require lots of patience, much less completing the entire game.
Not only is this the best remake I've ever played, it's also one of the best games I've ever played, and easily the best on Game Boy Advance (sorry, Castlevania!). Nintendo took an already solid game and added on story scenes, remade the soundtrack, and made the game easier to get into. It's easily the best remake they've made yet, and if they can continue to make remakes like this, I will continue to buy them. Get this classic now, and enjoy the hours of fun it will provide.
Not bad for a 16 year old game, eh?
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 03/12/04, Updated 03/12/04
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