Review by Psycho Penguin
"Some games stand the test of time. Some games were never great to begin with."
Released in 1986, Metroid chronicles the adventure of a young bounty hunter named Samus Aran, whose mission is simple: to exterminate the remaining Metroids and bring peace to the galaxy. It's a pretty original storyline for its day, and it blends in well with the space-like atmosphere of the game. The storyline was even used as the focal point of later efforts, so more points to it there for actually starting a continual storyline.
Metroid is an unique game for a few reasons. One, it was one of the original games to depart from the typical stage progression that most games of the era had. (Zelda and Pitfall! were a couple of others) It also was unique in that pretty much everyone loved it without noticing its severe flaws that prevent it from being an all-time classic. It's certainly a fun game, but Metroid does not stand the test of time that well, and considering it was never that good to begin with, that's not the best sign in the world.
Don't get me wrong, Metroid is a perfectly competent game that tries its best to be a fun adventure game. It's totally unique in that your path is not preset for you: you have to eventually get from point A to point B, but getting there is not as simple as clearing some levels or killing some enemies. You have to use your brain and figure out where to go next. For instance, let's say you are in a vertical scrolling room, and you see a door. But, you can go up some more, and you see another door. Which door do you take? That's part of what makes Metroid such a captivating game.
However, it's also one of Metroid's major flaws. Every room looks pretty much the same as the one before it. Sure, they are separated by colors, but none of the areas really have any unique elements that will stand out in your mind. Creating your own map is a must if you want to complete this game, as the developers decided to be as helpful as can be by not including a game map for you to figure out where the hell you are. And if you don't make one, you will get lost. A lot. About 1/4 of the game is gray, 1/4 is red, 1/4 is blue, and 1/4 is yellow. Therefore, the screens will all blend in and you will just be trying to figure out where to go next.
Plus, there's not a terrible amount of ''action'' to be found in this game. Most of the enemies are your basic creatures and require only a few shots to kill. Their patterns are pretty easy to figure out, so eventually you will just get bored of them. New enemies are few and far between, so you'll have to put up with the same types of enemies a lot, which just gets plain boring after a while. To create some variety, some enemies take missiles to kill, but you know, it's pretty much as simple as figuring out, ''Oh, this creature isn't being hit by my normal weapon, let me switch to missiles!'' Not really epic gameplay there, folks.
The password system also was a bad idea right from the start. I know the concept of a ''battery save'' was still foreign for the most part (I believe Zelda didn't come out until after this game was already released in America), but the idea of writing down a 40+ letter password every time I wanted to quit was a tad annoying. Plus, you actually had to die in order to get your password, and you'd have to start over at the beginning of the planet you were. Therefore, there are no checkpoints or save points, and that also proved to be quite an annoying factor that prevented me from enjoying the game as much as possible.
Thankfully, the game has a lot of good points, which prevents it from going down the crapper. The game may be a little confusing at first, but the idea of the gameplay was top notch stuff for its time. You need to find everything from missile tanks to missile tanks to special weapons, which help you complete your quest. They are hidden throughout the game, so you'll need to go to different areas of the game just to find them. This kind of gameplay is also seen in such classics as Symphony of the Night and the game's well-loved second sequel, Super Metroid. It originated here, and it was just as fun as ever to play.
Plus, despite my complaints about the game's level designs, it does have some good ideas about the actual level designs. I especially liked a part of the game that had a long path of lava, and the only way you could get past this particular hazard was by using a grapple beam to move across the ceiling. If you missed the ceiling during your attempt to cross the lava (and you had to grapple across several times, so it's not like it was one hit-or-miss attempt, but several), you'd probably end up dying, or losing lots of energy. It's the little things that make me happy sometimes.
The game does look pretty good for a 17 year old game, as well. Sure, the areas do look the same for the most part (the graphical style never really changes, just the colors), and the enemy designs are pretty uninspired and boring, but for such an old game, it really doesn't look too bad at all. The palette swapping is not the worst thing in the world, because the actual backgrounds do look pretty solid. You get your basic black screen for most of it, with a top and bottom (or left and right, depending on which way you're going) that has a certain color to it. It's not the best graphics in the world, but I'm certainly not complaining too much.
While the game certainly doesn't have the epic soundtrack of later games in the series, the soundtrack in Metroid is not bad at all. I love the title screen music, as it is something that will stick in your head for days at a time after hearing it. I still remember the music to this day. In addition to the awesome title screen music, the actual in-game music is really good, as well. There's not a ton of songs in the game, but the ones that are there scream high quality. They also are easy to listen to and memorable. The sound effects aren't that great, just your usual stuff, and the beeping every time you get into a critical amount of energy proves to be more annoying than helpful.
Most people, including myself, are addicted to this game for a while, beat it, and then move on. I hate to say it, but Super Metroid is a big reason why. It's so much better than this, and I know it was made after, but should we have to suffer from an inferior game just because it's older? I play this game until I beat it, and then I move on. There's no secrets, no extra game modes, nothing. The first play through is pretty fun and interesting, but after that, there is nothing to keep you hooked to the game, and that's a shame.
It is a pretty challenging game, too, provided you don't use a map. The bosses can prove to be challenging, until you figure out their patterns. Once you can do that, there really is no problem. The levels themselves never tend to be too much of a problem. Some of the enemies are little pains in the asses, but nothing worse than anything you've seen before. The flying creatures prove to be some of the more annoying adversaries, but a few shots can take care of them before they touch you. The real challenge lies in figuring out where to go next, which will be tough as hell if you are not using a map.
Metroid has not reached the classic status that others have bestowed upon it, in my eyes. It's a fun game, sure, but it has too many flaws that prevent it from reaching the next echelon of games. Of the big 4 games released in this time era (Super Mario, Metroid, Kid Icarus, Metroid), I'd have to place this dead last. It's still a game worth checking out for nostalgia's sake, but don't expect it to be anything you haven't seen before (provided you have played Super Metroid or Metroid Fusion).
Just remember to get a pen and paper ready, and start mapping!
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 04/02/00, Updated 09/13/03
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