[LTTP Review] Super Metroid – Mama (Brain) Said Knock You Out

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This week at Twinfinite we are celebrating the birthday of our lovely and talented co-founder/Executive Editor, Yamilia AvendaƱo. In her honor, we thought it would be fun to focus on the best of this industry including our absolute favorite games. Even though I have been a PC guy for the majority of my gaming life, my favorite game of all time is actually from the Super Nintendo. By my estimation, that console is the best considering how many amazing games it has, and the greatest of them all is 1994’s Super Metroid. We do Late to the Party reviews here for games that we weren’t able to cover during its release window, and boy this one is really late. It does however warrant a review for a couple of reasons: First, with 2D games being so prominent in the indie scene this one is a prime (pardon the pun) example of influence on modern gaming. Second, if this game were released today as a brand new title it wouldn’t be even a little bit out of place.

Super Metroid picks up shortly after the events of the Gameboy classic Metroid 2, in which bounty hunter Samus Aran has wiped out the entire Metroid homeworld save for a baby. She delivers it to a facility which is almost immediately attacked by Ridley and his space pirates. And so, it’s back to the planet Zebes for Samus. Initial exploration of the pirates’ base takes you back to Mother Brain’s lair from the original game, only this time it’s abandoned and musty. Indeed, the game sets the tone that this game will be far from a 16-bit remake of the original. Aside from the prologue, there is absolutely no dialogue or text in Super Metroid. However, through context clues and outstandingly expressive character modeling, it manages to tell a story that is both simple yet powerful and ultimately quite genuinely moving.

The original Metroid was one of the architects of the gameplay mechanic of placing the character into a large, open-ended environment and presenting new paths based on items and abilities you acquired. That game, as with most NES titles, hasn’t aged well partly due to what it lacks, specifically an in-game map or visual clues of access points. It’s not dissimilar to the original Legend of Zelda (i.e. how the hell are you supposed to know that you need to set that one bush on fire?) as an important but dated game. Super Metroid took what worked about the original and added a map, visual clues about needed items, as well as a proper save system. All of these features make it just accessible enough to appeal to more than the most devoted.

While the mechanics of this game have stood the test of time, I wouldn’t exactly say it’s something you could just pick up and play like, say, Super Mario Bros 3. Super Metroid drops you into a hostile and oppressive environment, points you in a general direction, and essentially says “figure it out.” It’s paced differently from a lot of games in that some of the more difficult sections are early on because you have limited weapons and health, and your margin of error is consequently small. As you progress, you become more powerful, until by the end you are virtually indestructible. The key is to get past the first couple of mini-bosses intact, and then it all opens up to you. Speaking of bosses, this game boasts some of the most memorable encounters of the 16-bit era; each one is huge, visually impressive, and legitimately challenging. Furthermore, the final boss battle is arguably one of the most brilliantly executed gameplay sequences of all time.

Super Metroid will probably take you about 5-6 hours the first time through, but your second playthrough (and believe me, you will want to start again immediately) will likely take 3 at the most. Once you know where you’re going it’s a really quick game, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it isn’t deep. This game is full of hidden areas, a ton of items, and opportunities to sequence-break if you are good enough with the tools you’ve been given. I’ve been playing this game pretty regularly for almost 20 years and I still find new items and pathways every time.

It’s a commonly held belief that there is no such thing as a perfect game. Everything has some kind of flaw that opens it up to some form of criticism. Because reviewing games is one of my primary roles here at Twinfinite, I try my hardest to think critically about video games and seek out each one’s soft underbelly. I had a hell of a time trying to figure out something that I didn’t like about Super Metroid. This is as close to video game perfection as I’ve seen in well over three decades of gaming.

After thinking long and hard about it however, I did figure out something that I would call a problem with the game. Here it is: The map indicates the presence of items but once you pick up the item it doesn’t indicate that it’s been picked up, so it can be hard to keep track of what you’ve gotten especially if you’re trying to get 100% of the items. Yup, that’s it. Everything else in this game — music, graphics, controls, challenge level, depth, bosses, everything — just nails it on every conceivable level. Super Metroid is an object lesson in outstanding design, and is a completely essential title for anyone’s video game library.

[+Simple yet brilliant story] [+Holds up incredibly well] [+Tons of hidden items and tricks] [+Amazing bosses] [+Atmospheric music] [+Superb level design] [-No ‘received item’ indicator on map]

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About Author

(Senior Writer)

Born in 1844, I bring a lot of gaming experience to the table. In my day-job, I work for a public library which carries, amongst other formats, video games. I'm very interested in observing and documenting the growing pains this industry is experiencing as it is dragged kicking and screaming towards something resembling maturity. Join me!