Review by Retro
"I'm not big on picking favorites, but this is it. This is my favorite video game of all time."
Putting into words how great of a game Super Metroid is, is a difficult task. Back in the sometimes gloomy, sometimes upbeat days of 1994, it was rare to find a game that had both a breathtaking adventure full of thrilling gameplay that also featured an enchanting storyline (most other adventures used the worn out damsel in distress tag instead of something original).
In the classic game of Super Metroid, you get to control an ambitious bounty hunter named Samus. Samus is a girl (yes, this fact surprised me too) who wants to show hundreds of aliens who the real ruler of the planet is. Her ultimate goal is to hunt down and defeat her biggest nemesis of all, Mother Brain.
When you start a brand new record in Super Metroid, you will see and hear a brief, but unforgettable overview of the game's storyline. The opening features great voice acting and realistic looking (eye-popping for the time!) graphics that play out the game's plot. A metroid, which is a powerful green alien that can suck all the energy out of a human being in just a few heartbeats, hatches and starts following Samus around as if she were its mother. Samus takes the newborn alien to a brilliant scientist who runs some tests and experiments on this wondrous creature that is enclosed in a glass jar.
To begin the long and compelling adventure, Samus ventures by aid of a futuristic spaceship to Planet Zebes, which is the main setting for the game. During Samus's fun-filled safari on Planet Zebes, she will be greeted by countless species of enemies and many dynamic bosses that at least want to make her trek a difficult one. It doesn't take 20/20 vision to see that Samus will need a lot more than just a basic gun in order to stand a chance to make it alive through this expedition.
Scattered throughout the entire game like leaves that descend from trees in the fall, are several weapons, powerups, and gadgets that are waiting to be found deep within the vast environments. The most numerous of these hidden charms are the missiles. There are so many missiles scattered about that even Mr. Magoo could stumble onto a few of them. There are also hyped-up versions of missiles called super missiles, normal bombs and power bombs, and several gun updates such as the ice beam.
But that's just the beginning of the mile-long list of available gizmos. There is an electrical grappling beam, X-ray vision goggles, extra energy tanks, boots that propel Samus to unfamiliar heights, new suits, and legions of advanced abilities, such as the capability to fly. You'll be using combinations of all of these items in order to get past the fearsome grips of the cold-hearted life that makes its home on Planet Zebes.
You'll strap on the Speed Booster boots and run through seemingly sturdy walls and enemies as if you were a hot knife and they were butter, leaving brand new territories open to explore. While amongst the waterfalls of shifting sands beating down on you like a drum in the deep-water depths of Maridia, you must put on and utilize your gravity suit in order to keep from being slower than the slowest of slugs. It's also useful to look through the eyes of the X-ray goggles to make sure you don't pass by a secret item that is staring you right in the eye as if it has never seen a human being before.
While these awe-inspiring items would be likely to make drill sergeants speechless, and maybe even force technology freaks to become a little jealous, they are not quite enough. Samus will also need to establish the use of other beneficial articles, such as save points and energy refillers.
Still, almost all of those components must be found first. Like the majority of grades given from a teacher to a student, very few of the items are just handed to you. You must guide Samus through each of the worlds while searching for as many of the hidden goodies as you can. These concealed items can be in overly obvious places such as a discolored wall, or they can be in tougher to track down locations, such as invisible holes. Once you do find and obtain an item, it is yours to keep for the rest of your mission.
A newcomer to the Metroid series is that Super Metroid includes an extremely useful map that can either be viewed in a small portion at the top right of the screen, or in a full-screen scan anytime you pause the game. The map can show you your current position, where a good number of the secrets are lying, where the bosses are biding their time at, and much more. It also color codes places you have already visited in red, and places you haven't yet discovered in blue. This map can take away a bit of the game's challenge, but not so much to where it actually takes away any major attribute of this gem's overall value.
If you're familiar with either of the two previous Metroid titles, you'll see some familiar nemeses while you venture through Super Metroid. But, to make this third outing all the more fascinating, there are even more newbies stirred into the mix. There are all kinds of subterranean, aquatic, and galactic enemies roaming about through every twist and turn in this game. The enemies range from segmented worms with a powerful grab, to fire-breathing beings that reside in arid places, to mysterious rolling creatures that just want to lick you to death.
Almost as impressive is the variety of bosses and mini-bosses that invade Super Metroid's landscapes. Sometimes you'll run into a mini-boss such as a huge plant that releases enough spores to grow a whole field full of offspring, or a hyperactive swimming, snake-like dragon that never rests. Lurking at the end of each world is a main boss, such as a brain-looking creature that bears eye-shaped fireballs, a HUGE dragon that has throwing claws down to an art, and others. Like all of us humans in real life, each boss has a certain weakness, or two, that can totally destroy it as if it were nothing.
Throughout the game, elevators and transporting 'doors' play a major role. Elevators usually serve as the entrance to a different world. The numerous doors, or portals, take you from one screen to another. The majority of the portals have a blue coating over them, but some are of a different color, such as green or purple. The color of the portals signifies what kind of weapon(s) can be used to gain entry. For example, the blue portals can be opened by the use of any weapon. On the other hand, if a portal is green, it requires an earth-shattering super missile. Very few of the portals are grey. Grey-colored portals either mean that you can only come out of them from the other side, or that you must first do away with all the neighboring enemies, or a boss, to make it open. Saying ''Open Sesame'' will do you no good.
Finally, from time to time you should encounter a strange creature such as an ostrich or a group of springy bears that seem a bit too nice to be an enemy. This is because they are not a threat to you at all. These friendly beasts show you new skills that can be of use (such as wall jumping).
Most of Super Metroid's graphics are dark and haunting, which is the way they're intended to be since this is a science fiction, and I guess somewhat of a 'horror' game. The visuals all have one thing in common: every single bit of them are very well done. What I like the most about the graphics is the great effects that some of them possess. A good example is the background in some of the fiery environments that moves in such a way that it resembles slightly boiling water. Also, at one point early in the game when you go up or down one of the elevators, there is a couple of statues in the form of alien heads, one on each side. Those two statues turn their heads to look directly at Samus while she is arriving to, or departing from the area. That is one of the coolest things I've ever seen in a video game.
The sounds in Super Metroid, such as the multitudes of sound effects for the enemies and bosses, the sounds of Samus's guns, etc., have a smooth and metallic sound to them, and they're top notch. But what I'm the most impressed with in the sound category is the music. Even the very first time I played the game, I was humming along to a bunch of the tunes. The music is memorable and, like the graphics and sound effects, it has that haunting flavor to it.
When I was riding the elevator down to Brinstar for the first time, I was really caught up with that certain piece of music. It was abundantly catchy with its constant beat, and it got me in the mood to kick some alien butt. Some of the songs, such as those of Maridia (the underwater world), are somewhat toned down and even a bit relaxing, while others, especially the boss music, is full of adrenaline with its upbeat and fast tempo. Still others, such as the track for the end of the game, will make you feel like a superhero in the making. But forget the variety, the best thing about the music is how much atmosphere it adds to the gameplay. Several of the tracks feature humming sounds that make you think a bunch of aliens are around singing you a warning song, telling you to get out now before they kill you, much like a rattlesnake rattles his tail before striking. You can't get much more atmospheric than that.
The controls are responsive and they allow you to do almost everything you need to do without any frustration being involved. It's a cinch to turn and stop on a dime, to precisely control how high Samus jumps, to aim your shots with deadly accuracy, and the list goes on. But the only complaint I have whatsoever about this, my favorite video game of all time, stems from the controls. It can be pretty tough to do the wall-jumping technique, especially in the frustrating cave where the friendly, green bears seem to have this feat down to an art.
To walk through the hundreds of alien-infested places while using all the captivating gadgets in order to find as many secret items as you can possibly carry around; to play the game from start to finish over and over again to satisfy the ever-growing addiction of playing Super Metroid. That is what makes Super Metroid a game that is as fun today as it was years ago when it first took the stores' shelves by storm. And that's just a few of the things that make it my favorite video game of all time.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 04/10/01, Updated 02/25/03
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