Super Metroid (Virtual Console)


With the imminent release of Metroid Corruption I have started playing Super Metroid on the Virtual Console. Having never played a Metroid game until Fusion (on the GBA) and Prime (on the Cube) Super Metroid passed me by (I know I had a SNES and still never played it!).

Anyway coming to it as a relative newcomer is interesting for several reasons.

Guidance and objectives:

Super Metroid is really hard. Not because of the AI or the amount of health or ammo you get. Instead it is because there is very little guidance. It does not tell you how to use any of your abilities or where to go next. Instead you are left to explore and experiment to discover what to do and where to go. To this end it can be frustrating at certain sections becuase you think you are lost or even trapped.

Feeling trapped and unable to progress is an interesting one as there are several sections where you can blast a switch to open a door from one side that when you return you cannot open from the other side. This leads to a few moments of thinking ‘crap I am going to have to reset and start from my save again’. Interestingly, however, there are always ways out of the area you think you are trapped in.

This feeling of pushing on but being unsure of quite where you are going that is in many ways central to the Metroid experience. It is reinforced through the music and the solitary nature of the game.


The audio in the game is interesting because it is set up to compliment the gameplay very well. Instead of having jaunty background music Metroid uses very sparse soundscapes which only work to heighten the tension, sense of isolation and alienation in the player.


Metroid uses the classic Nintendo cookie trail to keep the player moving and exploring. Instead of coins (a la Mario) it is closer to the Zelda school of design replete with: energy containers (Zelda’s heart pieces); missiles (slingshot); bombs; super missiles (bow and arrow); and suits (similar to Zelda’s water and fire suits). Where it goes one further is by adding the collection of ammo upgrades which increase how many of an item you can hold. This system works very well at pushing the player forward becuase even though you often have no idea where to go next you can firstly see rooms on your map which house some upgrade (these rooms are marked with a dot) and secondly you always want to explore each nook and cranny to find every upgrade you can. By encouraging the player to explore Nintendo have ensured that the player will naturally stumble upon the areas he needs to be in without need for exposition or cut-scene.

Boss Fights:

The last central component to Metroid is the boss fights. While there are many bad-guys scattered around each room there are also many big, harder bosses to defeat. Doing so usually results in an area opening or a new upgrade being rewarded which allows access to new areas (the grapple beam which allows you to swing over certain chasms, the gravity suit which allows you to move underwater with no penalty and so forth). The boss design is really interesting as the don’t all conform to the usual blast and dodge of other games. One notable boss requires the player to hit him in a certain area so that he moves backward eventually falling into lava where he is destroyed. 

Currently I am about 50-75% of the way through and enjoying every minute. It is a great game which has dated little since it’s inception. The only ‘fly in the ointment’ is that for the younger gamer who is used to having his or her hand held Metroid could be quite frustrating with its lack of guidance.

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