It was a shocking piece of news for many Metroid fans at the time of the young year 2019: The Metroid Prime 4, which had already been announced for the Switch last year and had been under development for some time, was postponed for an indefinite period. The work on the new Samus adventure was not going as planned, so they threw everything overboard and commissioned the Texas retro studios to do the project. They have already produced the first three Prime Games and then started development from scratch. Hopefully we'll get the latest news about Metroid Prime 4 in 2020, for example at E3, but Switch has had another great game for a long time as part of the offer for Switch online subscribers: Super Metroid! It is not without good reason that the 1994 Super Nintendo game, which was released in 1994, is widely regarded as one of the best video games of all time. But why is that actually the case?
But first to the basics. Super Metroid was released in 1994 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, or SNES for short, Nintendo's second large home console. The action adventure was developed by around 15 employees at Nintendo R & D1 under the direction of producer Makoto Kano with the support of the external developer Intelligent Systems. A very small team by today's standards. Yoshio Sakamoto acted as director, the musical composition comes from Kenji Yamamoto. The publishing was done by Nintendo itself. At the time, delays in the release of games were still common in different regions, and these were sometimes large, just think of Pokémon, which, for example, only appeared in the first generation in this country around three years later than in Japan. Not so with Super Metroid: it was released in Japan in March 1994, a month later in North America and finally in July of the same year in the PAL region and thus also in Germany.
Like all (main) games in the series, the super Nintendo spin-off revolves around the protagonist in the futuristic combat suit: the space bounty hunter Samus Aran. After taking the last Metroid to the Ceres space colony for research, Samus makes an emergency call. She returns to the space station, where she finds all the scientists dead. The baby metroid was also kidnapped by space pirate leader Ridley! Samus escapes the colony and pursues Ridley to the planet Zebes. She explores the planet and finds that the space pirates have rebuilt their base. After defeating all boss opponents including Kraid and Ridley, Samus reaches Tourian.
There she meets the baby metroid, which has now grown to enormous size. He almost kills Samus, but recognizes her at the last moment and flees first. Then Samus meets Mother Brain, the biomechanical creature that controls the planet Zebes. The end boss is about to kill Samus when the baby Metroid comes back, sucks Mother Brain the energy and transfers it to Samus. However, Mother Brain regains consciousness and kills the baby Metroid. However, this leads to the fact that Samus receives the hyper-beam from the dying baby Metroid and thus ultimately carries Mother Brain effortlessly into the afterlife. In the end, Samus escapes the planet Zebes from its complete self-destruction.
So much for history. This alone is comparatively deep for a Nintendo game, for example if you compare the plot of almost all Mario games with it. When it comes to the actual gameplay, Super Metroid seems to be quite puristic by today's standards, but all the more perfect. The few elements used in gameplay just work great. You explore a two-dimensional game world, basically a debauched cave system with countless ramifications, cross-connections and secrets. On your way you not only kill numerous opponents and some bosses, but also constantly improve your skills or get completely new features or weapons.
This progress gradually makes larger and larger parts of the 2D game world accessible, which often remain closed to you when you first roam. Backtracking is therefore an integral part of the game principle of Super Metroid. Thanks to a large map in the break menu and a mini map visible at all times in the top right corner of the screen, you always have an overview of your exploration tour. From today's perspective, this may sound banal, but around 25 years ago the card was new and a big step forward. Together with Castlevania, Super Metroid founded the Metroidvania sub-genre, a special type of action adventure, in the mid-1990s, and is still a model for many games, often indie titles, to this day.
After the opening scene in the space colony, the rest of the game takes place on the planet Zebes, where the evil space pirates have spread. Gradually you roam the upper world Crateria, which is the only one partially on the surface of the planet. The plant-dominated world of Brinstar follows. In the further course you go twice into the fire and lava world Norfair, also into the mystical water world Maridia and into the abandoned spaceship haunted by ghosts. In the end, you'll be drawn to the biomechanical world of Tourian, where you'll meet Mother Brain, the final boss of the game. The whole game world is characterized by diversity and many elements that arouse curiosity and invite you to explore.
The around 20 different types of opponents you encounter in the course of the game also contribute to the engaging properties of the game world. These include the title-giving Metroids, strange cactus-like adversaries in Brinstar called Cacatac, small alien-like creatures named Sidehopper in different parts of the game world and of course the beetle-like space pirates in different variations with different abilities and powers. The boss fights are staged particularly impressively. In Brinstar you meet Kraid, in the abandoned spaceship on Phantoon, in Maridia on Draygon and in Norfair on Ridley. Particularly in view of the limitations of the Super Nintendo, which are technically strong by today's standards, it is impressive how epic the battles against Obermotze still seem today. This is especially true for the very last boss fight of the game against Mother Brain. The staging is still simply breathtaking.
In turn, the game promotes motivation to explore and continue playing through the numerous improvements, weapons and other collectables that have just been mentioned, which are often rewarded or which need to be searched for and found. So you start as a Samus with minimal equipment in the adventure and in this form of your self you are extremely susceptible to attacks and inhospitable environments, can only cause minor damage and open few gates. That changes noticeably the more collectibles you collect and at the end of the game you are many times stronger than just a few hours ago. This motivates immensely and gives the game a clear thread that is visible and understandable at all times.
There are 14 energy tanks and four reserve tanks to discover, as well as a maximum of 230 rockets in packs of 5 as well as 50 super rockets and 50 super bombs, each with 5-pack extensions. Also the Grappling Beam abilities to hold on in certain places as well as the X-Ray Scope, with which you can examine your surroundings. With Charge, Ice, Wave, Spazer, Plasma and Hyper you collect up to six beam features for your primary weapon, with Varia and Gravity Suit you improve your combat suit twice to withstand heat and move underwater as well as on land to be able to. You can also upgrade your shoes with hi-jump boots, space jump and speed boosters in jumping power, speed and Co. And last but not least, you get other powerful and useful skills with the Morphing Ball, Spring Ball, Bombs and Screw Attack. A lot of stuff, right?
Super Metroid is often praised for gameplay, graphics, atmosphere and music. The latter contributes significantly to the fun of the game by being very dark, minimalistic, oppressive and engaging, which reinforces the alien-like atmosphere that Super Metroid is inherent. No wonder the alien films were and are a great role model for the Metroid series. According to the composer, many of the melodies came to mind spontaneously on the way to work when he simply hummed them in front of him. All areas of the game world have their own, harmonious pieces of music.
Super Metroid 1994 was also impressive graphically, luckily the 16-bit style has aged well and is still pretty to look at today. A total of 1.42 million units of the SNES game were sold. Not very much by today's standards, but on the one hand Metroid has always been a relatively smaller Nintendo series. On the other hand, the entire game market was not nearly as big as it is today. There just weren't that many players. There weren't nearly as many people as there are today! The game sold particularly well in the USA, less in Japan.
Super Metroid, the third part of the series after Metroid for the NES (1986) and Metroid 2: Return of Samus for the Game Boy (1991), is currently available and playable in several ways. In 2007 the Wii Virtual Console was released (the Wii eShop has since been discontinued), in 2013 for the Wii U VC, in 2016 on the 3DS as well. Super Metroid is also pre-installed on the Mini-SNES, which was released in 2017, and since September 2019, as already mentioned, the game has also been playable on the Switch for Nintendo Switch online subscribers.
After Super Metroid, the series took a long break of around eight years before Metroid Fusion for the Game Boy Advance and Metroid Prime for the Gamecube finally appeared in 2002. Since then, Zero Mission, Prime 2: Echoes, Prime Pinball, Prime Hunters, Prime 3: Corruption, Prime: Trilogy, Other M, Prime Federation Force, Samus Returns and sometime in the next few years Prime 4 followed. The series is so lively like never before. OK then. If the future Metroid games are anywhere near as ingenious as Super Metroid, some masterpieces are still to come.
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