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More than Zero

  • Nov 20, 2011
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When Metroid: Zero Mission was first announced, it was a little hard to gauge reactions. Myself, I was fairly indifferent. Metroid was a fantastic game that I remembered playing quite a bit in my childhood, and a game I listed as one of the most important ever. I mean sure, I thought it was cool they decided to give it an update, but other than that it was, okay, they're remaking Metroid. So what? Metroid never seemed like it was in such dire need of a remake.

Nintendo pitched Metroid: Zero Mission as an update with a handful of new material. That description does Zero Mission a gross injustice. Zero Mission has the same plot elements, weapons, and a few of the same moves and musical pieces. But what Nintendo did with Zero Mission was effectively tear down the original Metroid and rebuild it from scratch. The plot, main character, weapons, and some moves remain the same. Don't expect to recognize a whole lot else. Trying to describe Zero Mission as merely an update is akin to saying a 30-year-old man is a five-year-old boy who can legally drink alcohol.

Most video gamers are already familiar with the plot: A band of space pirates have attacked a docile science-lab-by spaceship and stolen all the samples of very dangerous aliens called metroids. They're planning to take them to the planet Zebes and breed them to turn them into biological weapons. The thing with metroids is they're insanely dangerous; they feed by latching themselves onto your head and sucking your life energy out. So the Galactic Federation is naturally a bit concerned that a small gaggle of these things has gone missing from one of its research vessels, and they happen to run into the pirate base looking for them. The Feds assault the base but the pirates hold fort, and as a last resort the Feds hire a bounty hunter to bust into Zebes and wipe out Mother Brain, the mechanical life form that controls the pirates and their defenses. After (I'm sure) flipping through a retail store-like catalogue of all available bounty hunters, the Feds settle for a woman named Samus Aran, because her catalogue description (I'm sure) contained the description "greatest of all bounty hunters." And yeah, since Samus's little secret was, you know, revealed 20 years before Zero Mission was released, no one tries to hide the fact that she's a woman.

In updates, we usually know what to expect: Nicer graphics and better, slightly more orchestrated music. Metroid: Zero Mission goes well above and beyond that duty. It completely reinvents the entire structure of the original game.

An aspect of Zero Mision which angered a lot of gamers is the fact that the game is now giving away its directives on a map, showing you where to take Samus next. The original Metroid needed one of those. Ironically, with the incredible graphic updates, the remake doesn't need this feature. In the original Metroid, it's a pain to navigate through the endless chambers of Zebes because everything looked alike and you never knew where you were or were supposed to be headed. In Zero Mission, there are lots of easily identifiable landmarks, and every rock outcropping has a different color and shape, so it's easy to figure out where you are even if you don't use the map to guide you. Only a very few locations are mapped out the way they are in the original Metroid, but one of them is the classic opening screen on Zebes, where you move left to pick up the morph ball.

Wheras the original Metroid's only real puzzle was locating the next room, getting there, and finding an important item, Zero Mission has a bunch of minor puzzles meant to hold you up. Some of them are really good, requiring outside-the-box thinking in order to find the necessary secret route. One puzzle involves using bugs to eat up some kind of hive that blocks you. Samus is given a few moves which, although they are series staples at this point, weren't in the original game. The ledge hang and that move where she runs at ultrafast velocity are among them. There are also bosses who pop up every now and then, although most of them are pretty easy. Kraid takes up at least three screens, and Ridley is a lot bigger too. There are also mysteriously encrypted items Samus has to pick up, but whose usefulness isn't revealed until later in the game.

The story is told through quick-shot cutscenes which only last a few seconds each but tell everything you need to know about the story rather effectively. Mother Brain being awakened to the presence of Samus and the impending doom-like atmosphere as Samus descends into the lair of Mother Brain are only a couple. This not only tels the story, but it also spares endless cutscenes so if you need to turn off the game, you can easily head to the nearest save point, save the game, and then shut it off. The game lacks dialogue too, but the little cutscenes are worth a thousand words themselves.

New areas are common throughout the game, but one of them really stands out: Chozodia. If you hate spoilers, don't read this paragraph, but as six years have passed since Metroid: Zero Mission came out, the statute of spoiler limitations has expired. In the original Metroid, destroying Mother Brain wasn't the end of the game: You had to race out of the exploding lab on Zebes in a time limit to take Samus off the planet safe and sound. Well, as you would expect, this is going to apply for a remake too. So you race to Samus's ship and get her off Zebes, nice and safe and sound. Except you don't. The pirates gun her right back down and steal her power suit, and as the final act of the game, you have to guide Samus through the space pirate mothership with nothing but a stun gun to get her suit back and eventually destroy Mecha Ridley. It's a cool twist, but the stealth aspect of it truly sucks. It isn't very well done, and Samus can't take more than a couple of hits before dying. Once she gets her suit back, though, she becomes the damned Terminator!

The graphics are more detailed and beautiful. The sprites are larger and much more detailed, and the bosses are awesome. Everything about Metroid was beefed up on steroids. Even little things like the weapon designs look a lot better. The Metroids, which now appear flying in suddenly from backgrounds, make for one of the most chilling entrances I've ever seen in a video game. The sounds are also great. The music has more depth, and the sounds are given new polish and convincing new additions. There are, for example, a satisfying new ice-cracking sound you hear whenever you plug an enemy with the ice beam and a whoosh that accompanies the wave blaster.

The gameplay was given a few tweaks with the additions of aiming buttons and the ability to use rockets by holding one of the shoulder buttons. Other than that, it operates under the standard Nintendo principle: Shoot with one button, jump with the other. Getting the running attack to work can be a real pain, though, and I don't think the game's legendary screw attack was thought through enough. If you're trying to freeze enemies and use them as ledges, it's tough to do without accidentally activating the screw attack, killing your next intended ledge, and then falling back to the bottom and having to leave the room and return in order to start over.

If you want to know how different Zero Mission is from the original Metroid, just beat the game, and the options screen will allow you to play the original Metroid, which is a cool little addition. Why play the original Metroid again? Because this isn't even close to the original Metroid. It's better.

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November 04, 2012
you and the penguin are on point with this one.
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Nicholas Croston ()
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Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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When people ask me what my favorite game of all time is, I always answer the same thing: Metroid. Sure, Super Metroid on SNES took the concept and made it better, and Metroid Fusion was a fantastic follow-up on the Game Boy Advance, but when push comes to shove the original is where my vote will always go. Then there's Metroid Prime…but that's 3D and a story for a different day. This game and this story are all about the glory of 2D gaming.

So you can only begin to imagine my excitement when Nintendo's newest Metroid redo appeared on my desk. For those of you that may not know, Zero Mission is a special edition of sorts. It's the original Metroid with spruced-up graphics, streamlined level designs and gameplay, plus a whole new chapter.

At it's core, it is most definitely the original Metroid, but as you travel around the world you start to notice differences. Hallways are changed, statues lead you to the next objective, and abilities like Power Grip and Space Jump that never existed in the original iteration pop up in time.

Nintendo has been very hush-hush about this title since its announcement, and after playing through the game myself, I must admit I'm a little reluctant to give away too much, but I can give you some interesting facts to whet your whistle. The biggest chunk of new content takes place after you beat Mother Brain (which was where the original ended). Not only is this new zone fairly large (I would say it's bigger than ...

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