There is nothing in my mind more iconic than the imagery from the below clip (taken using the Nintendo Switch share feature). It is not surprising that this clip comes from one of the most influential series in video game history, let alone one of that series’ finest entries.
Super Metroid released in 1994 and will always hold a special place in my heart. I have played this title countless times in my life, and just recently started yet another playthrough with its release as part of the Nintendo Switch Online SNES offerings. None will compare to my first two forays into this title though.
My first run through the game took the longest. I played through every area on my own, with no assists from friends with the game, and no maps. I tried to find everything I could and loved every second of the experience. Planet Zebes was so moody and gorgeous in its variety. So many tucked away corners in the map with hidden items, and sometimes characters, waiting to be found.
Once I beat the game, I was not yet at 100%. I think I was actually around 88% or somewhere close to it. That’s when I cracked out my completion map.
The map above is not the original. I can’t remember which magazine I got mine out of, but it was either GamePro or Nintendo Power. The map was complete though. You could see every square of the map fully in its lovely magenta colour, denoting areas that have been explored. I would scour over that map and explore Zebes thoroughly over the next week or so, logging many more hours into the game, and learning all the various advanced mechanics. That was part of the beauty of the game. Sure you didn’t have to fully MASTER the space jump to get to the end of the game, but man did you ever need to be proficient with that and the wall jump to get some of the more difficult secrets in the game. I took my time and found everything that I possibly could and explored what I thought to be every corner of the map. I savored the experience.
Many of these secrets were right in front of you from the game’s onset, just not accessible. It took some deep exploration and some great skill to find them all. In that design choice lays the full beauty of this game and the solidifies its status as the true birthplace of the Metroidvania genre of games. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night would not exist without Super Metroid (and Metroid really, though flawed), but would further refine this game type, leading to the genre moniker and some truly exceptional games like Hollow Knight.
But I digress.
Once I got through my “version 1.5 run” of the game and got that elusive 100%, I wasn’t satisfied. This is not typical for me. I don’t usually continue on after completing a game, and if I do I don’t play the game further times immediately after a 100% completion run. A full “hundo” complete for me is rare anyway. I HAD to with Super Metroid though, as right there in the save screen sat the temptation.
WHY THE F DID IT HAVE TO HAVE THE TIME PLAYED LISTED?
I love this now, but when I was a kid this infuriated me, as I had to beat that time. I HAD to.
After a few non-starter runs through the game (only 20 mins at best), I started the official 2nd run. I had played so much of the game that I knew where everything was. I had scoured the map, and obtaining the little hidden missile expansions and energy tanks had tempered my skills. I couldn’t have been more prepared, and I managed what I felt was a very respectable run at 2.5 hours. Sure, I beat this later on, which again shows how good this game is as I continued to play it again and again as much as I could, but that first under 4 hour run of the game made me feel great. I did get the best ending as well, which is an added bonus.
As I mentioned before, I played a lot of games with my father, and Super Metroid was one of them. He could never crack the 4 hour mark, and it made me both sad to see the age in my dad as he accepted this as a limitation in his reflexes and walked away from the game, but also happy to have my skill demonstrated with that tiny pixelated time score.
After all these years, 25 of them, this game is still perfect. That’s right, perfect.
- Controls– impeccable and tight. Button mapping is laid out perfectly, and allowed some minor customization. The ability to auto cancel weapon selections and moon walk were added bonuses from the get go, and could be turned off. Jumping was a joy, shooting was a dream, and that sprinting…. My god the sprinting!
- Sound Effects– Who can’t hear the door noise as they open right now just with me mentioning it? Who doesn’t hear the death animations sound effects, or the save spot’s scanning sound effect? Who didn’t love that rumbly thump from the super missiles? The growl from Kraid as he pushes toward you? Every sound effect in the game is timeless, easily placed and tuned to perfection.
- Music– It’s a short jingle, but the short piece of music for when Samus saves the game will always be at the forefront, and to me one of the most iconic “jingle” short musical pieces in video games beyond Link opening treasure chests. Pair that with the eerie music from the seemingly deserted Zebes when you first land that transitions to the full Aliens/Ridley Scott Sci-Fi pulse pounding music in Crateria, the hectic and stressful boss battle music from your first bout with Ridley…… there is just too much to mention here. This soundtrack is truly perfect, and one of the few games where I clearly hear entire tracks in my head, and not just short snippets of key moments. Brilliant.
- Gameplay– Super Metroid was amazing on release, but now feels as if it is the framework for every great indie title, action platformer, Rogue-lite game that has released in recent years. The map system is perfect and needs no changes. The shooting mechanics are perfect. The jumping is fully controlled, nuanced and enjoyable. Every blocked off area makes sense, is natural, and doesn’t overly frustrate. In fact, the areas you can’t get to are always just barely visible, and helps remind you that you definitely want to go back there later and see what’s up. The map helps with this too, as you could often go back and see if you had not explored an area yet, even if you didn’t find a map station, and head back there when you were at a loss for what to do next.
- Replay Value– Been there, covered that. This game has been played by myself at least 20 times, across 4 different consoles in my time (SNES, SNES Classic, Nintendo Switch Online…. and a mystery one….) with each time feeling new and exciting, even though I knew the layout of every inch of the map. There is always a way to do better, new tricks to try out, better times to be had. I’ll never be a speed runner, but this game demonstrated the appeal.
I could go on for hours, but I’ll spare you my rambling. If you haven’t played this game, DO IT!!
Seriously though, why are you waiting? Go play it, or play it again. We have a long wait for Metroid Prime 4, you have time!