Metroid Zero Mission Review

Note: I re-reviewed this game in 2020. Please disregard this original review.

Another month, another set of themes.  As my schedule said, I will be reviewing A 2D Metroid game and an anime series every week, and here is the first of the Metroid game reviews.  I am picking Metroid Zero Mission, because the original version of this game, Metroid, has like most NES games, aged like meat.  I understand the enjoyment of a big and open world, but  pay somebody to blindfold you and toss you into the woods, there is you samey looking exploration that has the level design of a random map generator.  And throw in the inability to attack anything below you, and the fact that you start off with 30/99 health, and you have a game as forgiving as a wolf, and it smells like ones farts.  Now that I either warded off or angered the retros, let’s move onto a game that I loved in my youth.  

Metroid Zero Mission Review
Release Date: 09/2/2004
Platform: GBA
Price I Paid: Pfff… about $18?

The game is about as light on story as the NES version, and it boils down to that Samus Aran, Intergalactic Bounty Hunter, must go to the planet that she grew up on, and destroy the Space Pirates who are breeding Metroids on it.  From here the Bounty Hunter needs to unlock the potential of her yellow suit of Power Armor armor by finding upgrades that the planet’s indigenous people left for her, but did not give to Samus, presumably due to racism.  And I know that people will say that this is a theme to the series, and whatnot, but how the hell did this woman’s first mission, her first bloody mission, end up being on her home of about 15 years, and involve a league of crab people who could kill her in two hits?  If Samus did not get the upgrades, she would’ve died in two hits.  I could go on, but then I realized how I can buy the idea of Power Bombs and an Ice Beam that travels through walls, because it is fun.  By being stupid, that doesn’t mean it is bad.  Mario is an absurdly stupid game, but it made enough money to buy the majority of the moon, and is pretty damn fun.

Now, I use the term Metroidvania a ton, and I am finally talking about one of the games to actually be seen as a definition of it.  Throughout this sci-fi adventure, you fight aliens a bunch, explore areas, get upgrades, and backtrack once you get upgrades.  It is a formula that I believe everyone to be very familiar with now, and ifs as boring to describe as it is difficult to describe one of human’s five senses, at least for me.  The areas are well designed enough, but not always the most convenient to backtrack around, with the Ridley section being a particular gripe of mine.  Imagine a circle where you can go clockwise or counterclockwise from one single point, to get back to that point, you must move counterclockwise.  Go clockwise, and you hit a stop 75% through, you need to cover the entire circle, so you end up going through the same areas 3 times, just because you took a certain path, instead of getting a clue by backtracking.  The clue was that there would be an upgrade that I could get if I went counterclockwise, but I already got that upgrade due to an accidental sequence break, which I’ll get to, but I thought that the clockwise direction would be smarter, since it was a bit harder to get through.  

Another gripe I have, is how this game is designed to reward people who get the lowest time, not the highest percentage of areas covered, and items obtained.  Even though, all you get is a skimpy picture of Samus, like those are hard to find, just type in Samus Aran in deviantart, and bam.  And I know that that is a minor complaint, but I really hate the mentality of speed being more important than exploration.  I like to think that it is respectful to the designers if you look for everything they put into the world they crafted, besides, if you rush through something, you probably won’t remember it as well.  

Moving back to sequence breaking, this also goes in with my thought that it is more respectful to explore a game world to see everything the designers put into it.  And sequence breaking is the act of trying to do just that, skip through the content as quickly as possible.  But, perplexingly, this game is pretty much designed to be broken, which to me is like having a move that cannot be blocked in a fighting game, very stupid.  But the thing that caused my accidental sequence break, is something called a shinespark.  Now, Metroid has never been big on tutorials, and things like using bombs to unveil what item you need to break a certain block is just stumbled upon by most people.  But Shinesparking is something that feels like its from a freaking ROM hack.  

You get an item known as the Speed Booster near the halfway mark, and by running right or left for a long enough distance, you can destroy enemies and certain blocks.  But if you press down to crouch, you can control the direction of the speed boost and turn it into a dash upwards, or a change to the right of left.  First of all, you need to stumble onto it, and learn how to use it yourself, and then you need to be precise enough to get through some puzzles that require some ridiculously good timing.  This isn’t required, but I refuse to accept that as an excuse.  If a DVD’s special features are rubbish, nobody says that they aren’t required to enjoy the film.  If a novel has a stupid chapter that amounts to absolutely nothing, it is not required to enjoy the book, but it is still pointless and should’ve been omitted.

Other than that, the game is a lot of fun, but if you do not follow the path the designers wanted you to, it becomes a massive Ponce.  The world is filled with secret, and the levels are pretty much completely new, and there is an area near the end where you lose the Power Suit, and need to use stealth to avoid space pirates who can mess you up, since you just have a stun gun.  I would’ve liked it, but getting caught is just too easy, Samus automatically dashes, and I like to know my enemy’s range of sight.  

Getting stealth to work in a 2D side view is pretty hard to do, and not enough effort was given here.  And it does get some good payoff, but I’d like to add that the empowerment that was added thanks to an upgraded Power Suit was very pleasing, but after you beat the big bad, it feels really dumb to go and fart around for secrets that you literally could not get until now.  The game is waiting for you to leave its world, but you just got 3 upgrades at once, and just entered the sixth area in this game, and one of the others you only visited once in the beginning, so it has a bunch of secrets hidden away.

On a lighter note, I did find this game to be very pretty looking, with a very nice palette of colors, fluent animations, and areas that did feel different without resorting to a bucket of themes.  Which are not bad, as long as they are well designed.  Everything has subtle animations, and the entire thing does embody the peak of the GBA’s graphical capabilities.  And the music is wonderful, with very impressive sounding themes and melodies that fit the mode and kept me going on through some of the obnoxious Shinespark sections.  I would also describe this as bombastic, since I am trying to use the word “epic” as little as possible. 

So in the end we have a game that is good on the surface, but has many annoyances underneath, and a wonderful and top tier presentation.  It is a bit of a mixed bag, but I think that nearly everything that I complained about could be ignored.  The rockin’ shades of nostalgia have been lifted, and all the flaws shine deeper because of it.  Even the plot and formula which I enjoyed as a child, now shines through as being pretty much broken due to a really dumb execution.  I know that many of my gripes can be excused, but if you look at 1080p for 5 years, standard definition looks like arse, and you just cannot ignore it.

Above Average
There is promise in the title, but the execution is lacking in nearly every way.  Only appealing to select fans of the games genre.

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