You would be forgiven if you did not realize what momentous event was marked this past Sunday. It seems even Nintendo has neglected to acknowledge Metroid’s silver anniversary, choosing instead to focus all of its attention on its forthcoming celebration of the Legend of Zelda. Despite this, the series is still one of the company’s most revered, occupying a special place in the hearts of all who have experienced its esoteric charms. At its forefront is leading lady Samus Aran, an icon of feminine strength in a medium not particularly known for its flattering portrayal of women, and her exploits in the face of overwhelming odds have made her an enduring figure in the gaming consciousness. While we may not know what the future will hold in store for the venerated series (though we do have some guesses), we take this time to reminisce about how we first came to hear of it and share with you just why we, like so many other Metroid fans the world over, regard it so highly.
Marc N. Kleinhenz
What’s a Metroid?
Little did Marc know, the answer was about to burst through
Due to strange and unexplained circumstances, I had no idea that Metroid really even existed until Metroid Prime came out for GameCube. I had no idea who this “Samus” character was in Super Smash Bros., and when Pikachu and Kirby were such vastly superior play-choices, I didn’t really give the bounty hunter a second thought. Then Prime was released, and boy did I begin to regret turning my nose up at her.
It was probably Prime’s wide open environments that drew me in the most. The first person perspective made me feel like a real explorer, and the intricate and detailed level design of Tallon IV still astounds me today. The scanning mechanic must also be one of the most unique methods of storytelling in gaming history, and it definitely rewarded players who took their time to discover the hidden secrets around them. The combat was fast and intense, and I’ll certainly never forget the time I just managed to defeat big boss Metroid Prime with only 4 tiny units of energy left. I was getting hit left, right and centre, my heart was pounding and my thumb was mashing furiously at the A button, and I thought for sure that I was about to die when suddenly the ghostly monster let out a death cry and the end cut scene kicked in.
Since that adrenaline-filled moment I’ve looked forward to every new Metroid release with nearly as much excitement as the prospect of a new Zelda game– I even really liked Other M! Seriously! Of course, I also went back to play both the original Metroid and Super Metroid on Virtual Console, and I can definitely see why everyone rates Super Metroid in particular so highly. For me though, Prime will probably always be my favourite! You just can’t beat swinging around on a grapple beam in full 3D!
Samus was always my favorite character in Super Smash Bros. Melee. I knew she was from the Metroid series, but I had never played any of her games. For some odd, stupid reason, I skipped Metroid Prime and its sequel, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. It wasn’t until 2007 that I experienced the thrill that was Metroid. In this situation, that thrill came from Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, which quickly turned into one of my favorite games of all time. I beat the campaign at least 5 times,100%-ing the latter half of those play-throughs, and then I went searching for an excuse to play more Metroid. It wasn’t until August 24, 2009 that my excuse came into fruition; the excuse being the wonderful gift from Nintendo that was Metroid Prime Trilogy. I pre-ordered the game almost the day that it was announced, which gave me access to a free t-shirt (that was about 5 sizes larger than it should have been) and a poster that I never got… Nonetheless, I still got the game and the beautiful package which it came inside. After hours upon hours of Metroid (76 hours to be exact, thanks Nintendo Channel!), I finally beat the original Metroid Prime, its sequel, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, and once again, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Man, those were some amazing games.
After nerding out over the Metroid Prime series, I began to get pumped for the episode in the Metroid saga, Metroid: Other M. Opposed to many whiners and complainers, I enjoyed the game immensely. Sure, it wasn’t anywhere close to the masterpiece of the Metroid Prime Trilogy, but it was surely a fun, action packed experience. Heck, I even liked the story!
That pretty much raps up my experience with Metroid, but I expect it doesn’t end there. I’ll be going back and playing Metroid Fusion thanks to the 3DS Ambassador Program, and then perhaps I’ll continue working my way back from there. Metroid truly is a fantastic video game series, one of the best in my opinion, and you can trust me when I say that I’ll be standing in line for every consecutive release we have upon us.
When I finally got my Game Boy Pocket, my mom took me to Toys ‘R Us so I could pick up my very first Game Boy game (next to Kirby’s Dream Land, which I had gotten with my Super Game Boy). I had pored over my Super Game Boy Player’s Guide for years before that day, so I already knew what I wanted to buy first: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening or Metroid II: Return of Samus. For some inexplicable reason (likely an act of the Chozo, in retrospect) Toys ‘R Us didn’t have the former, so I had no choice but to go with Samus Aran’s genocidal mission to SR388. My aunt, who was also there, mentioned that she heard it was an excellent game. Knowing Metroid II‘s extensive coverage in my player’s guide, I wholeheartedly believed her.
At first, it was hard to “get” Metroid II. I had never played the original Metroid, and the only experience I had with the series was watching commercials of Super Metroid and wondering why it was so awesome-looking. That said, Metroid II immediately grasped my attention, filling my dreams of Space Jumps and Spazer Beams, of freezing Metroid after Metroid, and of finally pummeling the Queen Metroid with one hundred missiles of explosive wonder. For years I kept playing this game, though I was often stuck at the exact same place and constantly resetted the game because I thought I’d missed something; I finally moved on when I got Super Metroid, only vaguely regretting the decision as I played the far superior SNES game. Later on, I returned to SR388, and realized that my childhood attempts at breaching this forbidding game were paltry at best– I finally defeated Queen Metroid and saved the Baby Metroid, armed with all the knowledge I had brought with me from Zebes and Tallon IV. But again, it was no easy task.
Looking back, I guess it was a stroke of luck that I got Metroid II instead of Link’s Awakening— I was already in love with Link to the Past, after all, and Link’s Awakening would merely draw me further into a world I’d already explored before. Metroid II threw me into a universe wholly alien and foreboding, and though I didn’t finish the game until much later, it made me realize that there was more to Videogameland than simply swords and shields. I can’t say I’ve enjoyed where the Metroid series has gone in recent times, but I’m still excited for another game. Naysayers be Wave Beamed.
The first game in the Metroid series that I got a chance to play was Metroid Fusion on Game Boy Advance. Since then, I’ve bought and beaten all of them save Metroid II. When I finally started to play Fusion, I knew I was on to something special. The music and the atmosphere were incredible, like nothing that I had ever seen in a handheld game before. The controls were solid, and the game couldn’t have had more action. Not only that, but the game had more story than any 2D Metroid game before or since, which was a shift for the series at the time. Even today, I still feel that it is the best 2D Metroid game out there (yes, even after playing through Super Metroid), but after the unfortunate Other M, I may have to rethink and replay Fusion. Now that I know that Adam in Fusion is just the transferred conscience of Samus’ sexist, elitist former C.O. that went out of his way to put Samus in danger, the story of Fusion may not be as good as I once thought it was.
While that fantastic GBA game may have been my first memory of the series, the best memories have undoubtedly come from the best GameCube game, and best Metroid game, Metroid Prime. Even today, nearly 10 years after its release, it looks better than the vast majority of Wii games. The graphics were top notch then and still look great today. But the graphics were only part of what made Prime great. The music and sense of loss and loneliness combined with the graphics, gameplay and story make Prime the great game it is. You really feel like the only one on the entire planet, and every song is either chilling, comforting or warming. The music fit the game so well I don’t think it could possibly have been any better. The feelings I got when I stepped out on to Tallon IV for the first time, heard the music and looked up as rain fell on Samus’ visor really can’t be described. I can only hope that Retro Studios gets another shot at making a Metroid game on Wii U, and can return the series to its former “Prime Time” glory.
I first came across the Metroid series in the form of a used Metroid for NES when I was a child – and man, was it difficult. After the brilliant tweaks and enhancements made to its remake, Zero Mission (like the oh-so-sweet map!), I’ll never be able to fry 8-bit space aliens in its matriarch the same way again. Sometimes remakes do indeed outdo their source material, and I think Zero Mission is a perfect testament to that.
In my gaming past, I’ve played through and completed every single Metroid game to date, save for Metroid Prime Hunters, Metroid Prime Pinball and Metroid: Other M. No offense, but I have no intentions of playing those three titles either. And when it comes to my personal favorite installment, I happen to have already written about it: Metroid: Zero Mission. While all the Metroid games I’ve played have been superb masterpieces, Zero Mission stands at the top of the bounty hunting heap for, well, pretty much everything. First introducing (and finally solidifying) Samus’ interior physical appearance; adding some much-needed depth to its well-established predecessor; and in perhaps my favorite moment in Metroid history, the epic stealth play near the game’s finish. Just. Plain. Awesome. (Not to mention Zero Mission even includes the original Metroid as an unlockable feature for any o’ ya’ll haters out there.)
To put it short, I love the Metroid series. The isolated feel of being alone on an uncharted planet; the survival instinct kicking into top gear when left with a critical 33 energy; the removal of Samus Aran’s suit at the end of each game to reveal a human being we can all relate to. Truly, it stands as one of the greatest franchises in all of video game history, and I can’t wait for the next installment, whether it be in 2-D, 3-D or both.
I, too, must admit I hadn’t even heard of the Metroid series until I saw Samus (“Who is that robot?”) in the first Super Smash Bros. My gaming horizons were tragically limited at the time, and I simply had no way of knowing it even existed prior to Nintendo’s mascot fighter. It wasn’t until the following generation and the announcement of Metroid Prime that I really began to take an interest in the series. I thought it would be best to familiarize myself with it before the game’s release, so I purchased a used copy of the first title from the nearest Funcoland and popped it into my ever-tenacious NES. Unfortunately, I found the game to be hopelessly dated, and the identical and labyrinthine corridors of Zebes proved to be too daunting for me to tackle.
Still, my unfavorable experience with the title did not deter me from purchasing Metroid Prime immediately upon its release, though it also did not quite prepare me for the adventure I was about to undertake. Having barely scratched the surface of the first game, I did not realize just how extensive the series’ emphasis on exploration actually was, and my initial trek around Tallon IV, hauntingly beautiful as it was, was also overwhelming and ultimately futile. It took me quite a bit of time to come to grips with the title’s structure and mechanics, but before long I deleted my file and began it again in earnest (this time, at the recommendation of many Metroid fans on the internet, with the hint system off). The game became infinitely more enjoyable now that I had a better understanding of its design, and I quickly overtook my first failed mission. The further I progressed through it, the more in awe I became of its world. The snowcapped peaks of Phendrana Drifts, the caustic tunnels of the Magmoor Caverns, the sacred shrines nestled away amid the crumbling Chozo Ruins– each of these areas was more breathtaking than the last, accompanied by what is still one of my favorite video game soundtracks of all time. Retro had created one of the most convincing and atmospheric virtual worlds I had ever had the pleasure to explore, and I soon became a Metroid convert.
Since then I have played nearly all of the other installments in the series, but it is my first experience with its followup, Echoes, that also stands out as a highlight in my mind. Fancying myself a Metroid veteran at that point, I dove into Aether with all the confidence of a seasoned bounty hunter. The game’s differences were immediately apparent to me– gone were the earthy terrains so prevalent on Tallon IV, and in their place were grotesquely alien and ravaged landscapes every bit as beautiful as the locales found in the first title. The general structure was also noticeably different, with each section of the planet acting almost as its own self-contained dungeon rather than an interconnected part of the world. Still, thanks to its intricate level design and amazing attention to detail, the game proved to be just as immersive as the first, and I hold it in almost equal regard with its predecessor.
The series may not be infallible (Corruption was initially something of a disappointment to me until I learned to appreciate its own unique merits, and little more can be said about Other M’s controversial portrayal of Samus), but I eagerly look forward to seeing where it goes from here. Happy 25th anniversary, Metroid. Here’s to twenty-five more.
Now that you’ve read some of our favorite Metroid memories, it’s your turn to share yours! Tell us why you like the series (and how you even came to hear of it) in the comments section.