Super Metroid Review

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

Super Metroid is often considered to be one of the best games on the SNES, and while some might find it wrong of me, someone who did not grow up on the SNES, let alone touch one, I bought it yonks ago, and I finally beat it.  So does it hold up as a classic, or has it gone moldy after the more polished GBA successors?  Hit the jump and find out!

Metroid 3: Super Metroid Review
Release Date: 18/4/1994
Platform Wii(Reviewed), SNES
Price I Paid: $7.99

Picking up about a day after Metroid II, Samus needs to get back the last Metroid, because they decided to not guard a living weapon that drains energy, and is only weak to ice.  So she needs to go back to Zebes, the planet from Metroid Zero Mission.  After revisiting a small section with some wonderful ambiance given the limitations of the SNES, the hunt to kick the bums of some bosses and get a bunch of upgrades, has begun.

Storywise, it is a blank as ever, although the final battle scene was probably the pinnacle of using gameplay to show the weight of a situation, back in the mid 1990’s.  And in terms of everything else, there is not a lot to be said that won’t just make it sound like its predecessors.  But I must pay tribute to the fact that this was the original Metroidvania title, and I am surprised how well it does a lot of things.  Environments shift very well with one another, but still feel unique, the enemy roster is nice and detailed, and there are only two that I find to be annoying.  

Secrets are everywhere, and backtracking is probably the easiest that it has been out of every game in the series.  For a quick example, the most I visited an area was 3 times throughout one of the earlier areas, and all but one of those times were when I was technically progressing.  Unlike Metroid Zero Mission, which had you backtrack through the entire area when the final boss was tapping his foot and waiting for you.

But moving onto the unique bits, there is a grappling beam, which I loathe because the game, in a very uncommon but large misstep, placed the hardest grappling puzzle in the small nook of the map that the grappling beam was found in, making it my first use of the item.  Forgive me for not liking it when a game requires me to shoot moving targets while in midair, especially a 2D one, but no grappling puzzle in the game is as hard as the first one.  Every other one has you swinging across a ceiling filled with grappling points, and there are maybe two instances of the flying enemies who you grapple in the entire game.  

Shinesparking is thankfully far less used that it is in any other title, and they actually show you how to do it thanks to an Ostrich thing that is pretty easy to find.  So if you are planning on getting the few items that need it, you’ll probably find the tutorial bird.  Oh, and running is now a button, in a very odd move, but they expected speed runners, so I understand its inclusion, since it does make you very, very fast if you feel like using it.  They do something similar to the Ostrich with Wall-Jumping, where you jump on a wall, press the opposite direction of the wall, and then press the jump button to leap from a wall, rinse, repeat, and master for the few times you really ever need it, especially with a space jump.  But the three blue monkeys who teach it to you, they can’t give controls that complex, and you just need to try to imitate them.  I understand its use for sequence breaking and whatnot, but if you are making a game to be broken, it is like writing a story with plot holes, it just looks sloppy.  

But moving back to happier thoughts, I found the game very easy to follow, worsening the reputation of the previous titles, since there is no direction given to you.  No computer telling you where to go like in Metroid Fusion, or Chozo statues like in Metroid Zero Mission,  You just scout and figure out where to go as you walk onwards, Just keep going to new or untouched locations, and the path comes right to you.  

However, why hold out on the ability to jump while in a morph ball, so that it is my second to last upgrade?  I only needed it for about three things.  There are multiple nits similar to that one, I was trapped in a flask shaped room where an, as of right then invisible enemy, one of the seven deadly game design sins, was picking at my health, just because I wanted to explore.  And while I did not encounter much with this since I had a map, a crappy but functional one, don’t put walls that I can only destroy from one end into your game.  Seriously, that just makes backtracking a chore, when it should feel like picking up stuff from a mixture of an Indiana Jones set and a candy store.  But there is no excuse for having the same icon for picked up items, as you have for untouched items.  That, and an area based item obtainment counter would have been nice.  I somehow missed 9 missile packs, and have no clue where they were.

I also can’t say that I am fond of the controls, I am used to diagonal aiming being used solely by the L button, but having the R button handle upwards aiming , means that all 5 of the alternate first items need to be sorted through via select.  There is a button that resets the selection of missiles, grapple beam, and power bombs, but I kept forgetting about it about it, since it does not function as a toggle.  And the decision to make the run and fire buttons be B and X, it makes the combination of speed boosting, and shooting, to bit awkward.  I grew up on the other method, so I am bias, but I never had a problem with the controls of the GBA titles, so this just feels very clunky to me.

But moving onto the arbitrary visual dispute, I find the game to be quite pretty and the atmosphere to be as thick as 24-bits can allow.  The animations of everything just looks off, but in the good way, I was never able to place my finger onto it, but it makes everything feel more alive.  And the music is the best in the series, featuring memorable and classic melodies, yet it does what I want nearly every game to do, and mix it with appropriate ambiance.  Although, the screen could use a bit of zooming out, since a chunk of the top is already eaten up by the HUD.

As a whole, Super Metroid is pretty great.  It goes beyond the given solid gameplay that I expect from the series, and enhanced the atmospheric tone set forth by its predecessor.  But with some great atmosphere, wonderful sense of progression with almost no hints, yet it does not feel linear.  And a very streamlined world that feels most like a planet out of any in the 2D stable of games.  But it is very fragile in its greatness, with the nits growing very visible due to the game’s clear and sharp surface.  The screen size, lack of any indicator if you picked up an item, and a scenario that was impossible to beat.  They all diminish the shine.  It is well worth playing, but the few frustrations are bigger than they should be.  

An impressive product, won’t always astound due to a fair number of flaws, but is very enjoyable and worth a purchase.

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