What Makes Super Metroid Great: 21 Years Later

The waning health of my Super Nintendo has been a double-edged sword.  On one hand, it is quite a sad day indeed when one of your oldest consoles begins to die.  (Well, characters disappearing is definitely a nuisance, to say the least.)  Plus, now I need to hunt down a used one, still in working order, mind you, from Amazon in order to play games that aren’t available anywhere else (such as Illusion of Gaia).  On the other hand, this (minor) calamity has also forced me to connect my Wii to the Internet in order to check out the Virtual Console.  (I really wanted to play the DKC trilogy, you see, and I have yet to replace my SNES, so I thought the next best thing was to play the Virtual Console versions.  This is also great because it allows me to record gameplay this way, as well.)

Anyway, while I started off downloading my favorite SNES games, namely the DKC trilogy and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, I also came to a crossroads.  This would be a really great way to try out a SNES game I have never played before.  My top choices at the time were Super Mario RPG and Super Metroid (and Earthbound, but at the time, I was downloading games onto the Wii, and that game is only available on the Wii U).  After some research, I decided to go with Super Metroid.  I love Metroid.  The reviews seemed a bit better.  And I wasn’t in the mood for an RPG.  I’m over 80 hours into Lightning Returns at the moment.  After spending 80 hours in Ni no Kuni.  And who knows how many in KH2.5.  I think I’m good on RPGs for a while now.

There is a lot of hype surrounding Super Metroid.  So many people praise the game as being one of the best out there, and as I started playing, well, I just wasn’t sure why people loved it so much.  The game was fun, don’t get me wrong, and fighting Ridley in one of the original games, long before the Prime trilogy was but a distant dream, was pretty cool.  But, what struck me most of all was…the game was hard.  For the longest time, all I could think about was how difficult this game was and how little old games tell you about what the heck is going on.  I hadn’t a clue where to go half the time, and I had to resort to cheating on several occasions.  Oftentimes, I would learn that there was some absurdly vague secret hole in a wall somewhere I was required to pass through in order to continue on.  How was I to know that was there?  I don’t have X-ray vision!  (Not yet, anyhow.)

As a result, my progress through the game was rather slow.  Sometimes I would spend a full hour just wandering around and scratching my head, and while I wasn’t surprised the game was popular back in the day, I wasn’t convinced I’d have the same experience a little over two decades later.  Fortunately, that all began to change around the time I got the screw attack (I know, the game’s nearly over at this point…), and it hit me that the game was starting to really grow on me.  You see, I was really having trouble defeating Ridley way down in Norfair, so I returned to previous locations to find power ups I had missed.  And as I explored these old locations, I noticed how easy the game had become.

Now I had no trouble getting around, finding numerous secret passages (now that I had the super useful X-ray visor), and defeating enemies was a breeze.  Heck, I even got really good with the screw attack.  I was seriously bad at the grappling beam (whether you prefer first-person or third, I thought the grappling beam was so much simpler in Metroid Prime), and when I got the space jump, even though I found it to be a slight improvement over the grappling beam, I still didn’t understand how it worked.  At all.  You have no idea how long it took me to reach the room leading to the darn plasma beam as a result!  At least it was easier than wall jumping….

Then, next thing I know, I return to the game after a several week-long break, obtain the screw attack, and I kid you not, I was flying around the screen like nobody’s business.  It was pretty awesome.  And as I found one hidden upgrade after another, I started to think back about all the praise this game received, and I wondered, what do people love about this game so much?  Because I finally understood.  What, dear readers, do you personally love most about Super Metroid?

For me, I loved all the upgrades.  I loved how I gradually became a force to be reckoned with.  Not only did Samus’s gear become better, but I eventually got much better at the controls, as well, which was really satisfying.  Another thing I really enjoyed was finding all the hidden energy tanks, missile upgrades, and the like.  In fact, it’s one of my favorite things about the Metroid series, and I was really proud when I was able to find some pretty well hidden ones, including the Spring Ball.  Last of all, I really enjoy games that tell a story without any dialogue.  I won’t spoil anything, but I found myself very intrigued during the game’s last location, which turned to sadness during the final battle.  Sometimes, a story can be so much more powerful when no one speaks.

I may be pretty darn late when it comes to checking this game out, but I am so glad I finally got around to it.  And if you haven’t, I seriously suggest checking it out.  It’s about $8.00 on the Virtual Console, and it’s money well spent.

Super Duck-troid…Huh?

This post was originally published on United We Game on November 10, 2015.

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4 thoughts on “What Makes Super Metroid Great: 21 Years Later

  1. You couldn’t have gone wrong with any of those three choices; they’re all masterpieces of the SNES era. Anyway, I like the expertly created environment of Super Metroid; it tells a more interesting story than games of later generations that depend on movie-like cutscenes to convey a plot. I’d say check out Earthbound when you can. Similar to you with Super Metroid, it wasn’t until very recently (five years ago) that I tried it, and I was still very impressed.

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    1. Yeah, I really liked how Super Metroid had a plot without cut scenes or dialogue. Many games nowadays rely way too much on long cut scenes, or just overly complicated stories, so it was refreshing playing a game like this where the story was told entirely through gameplay. It’s almost like a lost art.

      I definitely need to try Earthbound sometime. I’ve been getting into older games more and more lately. Many of these 16-bit games easily surpass all the fancy, realistic games of today.

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      1. Video games have incredible potential for storytelling that non-interactive mediums lack, which is why it will never be realized with the mainstream approach of trying to turn them into films. Luckily, there are many games out there whose developers realize this and have made interesting stories using the format. If you’re looking for good examples of this, in addition to Earthbound, I say check out Planescape: Torment, Undertale, and the first two Zero Escape installments.

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      2. That’s quite true. If people want movies, they should just watch movies and stop expecting video games to become movies. Thanks for the suggestions. I’ll have to look into those.

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