Retro Review: Metroid: Zero Mission

Genre: Metroidvania / Action Platformer
Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Game Boy Advance / Wii U
Releasedate: April 2004 / 2016

Welcome to another in-depth videogame review, this time of Metroid: Zero MissionMetroid is one of my favourite game series of all time and has been around since the NES days. With the recent release of Metroid: Dread for the Nintendo Switch I thought it would be fun to start the entire series (or at least the regular series) over from scratch. But instead of starting with Metroid from the NES, I thought I should start right here, with the remake of the classic, because Metroid: Zero Mission is one of the best remakes in video game history. So let’s dive right in, shall we?

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(His)story

Metroid: Zero Mission is one of the few remakes of the famous Metroid game series by Nintendo. In particular, this is a remake of the 1986 original NES game: Metroid that started the series. This game uses a heavily modified Metroid Fusion engine and was the second and only other original Game Boy Advance release in the series. The third game being simply a port of the original NES game called: Classic NES Series: Metroid.

Metroid along with the Castlevania series from Konami are considered to be the founders of a subgenre of action platform games which we now call Metroidvania. The base gameplay elements of these types of games are a large map with lots of secrets to explore, the main character gaining upgrades that allow you to access areas that were previously inaccessible and lots of backtracking. These two game series do this so well that many other game developers started copying the formula from these games and now there are tons of Metroidvania games, most notably indie games.

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Since Metroid: Zero Mission is a remake of the original, the story remains largely the same, however this remake adds a whole segment after the original NES game finishes, which really fleshes out the story further and helps us to better understand Samus Aran, the series protagonist and player character. Here is the official prologue:

In the year 20X5 of the Cosmic Calendar, the Space Pirates attacked a deep-space research vessel and seized capsules containing samples of an unknown species that had been discovered on planet SR388. The Space Pirates’ objective was to acquire these life-forms; known simply as Metroids, these floating organisms were incredibly dangerous as they could latch onto any other organism and drain its life-energy. Furthermore, it was possible to replicate Metroids in vast numbers by exposing them to beta radiation. The hypothesis that the Metroids were responsible for one of the greatest mysteries in the entire galaxy — the extinction of all life on planet SR388 — was generally accepted as fact.

Motherbrain

Samus is a bounty hunter hired to hunt down the space pirates and destroy Mother Brain, a mechanical life form that controls the space pirate headquarters and its defences.

Gameplay & Gamedesign

The Metroid series sets itself apart in the fact that you start the game with only a simple weapon and capabilities and as you progress through the game you’ll gain new skills, weapons and upgrades. These new skills will allow you to reach places that you previously found impossible to get to. For instance you’ll encounter walls that you can’t break, or doors you can’t open. This means you have to memorize these places so you can go back to them later and see what’s behind them.

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Now when Metroid was originally released the game didn’t have a map and you had to either make notes and draw a map yourself, or be lucky enough to have a guide with the map. Sometimes these were included in magazines, or you could just buy a guide for the game. I’m really glad that in this remake Nintendo decided to just add the map in-game, so you can just check that instead. This makes the game a whole lot easier than its NES counterpart, but for me, also a whole lot more enjoyable. When you find certain Chozo statues, you’ll be told where to go next. This is also an addition that really makes the game easier, although it might also sometimes feel a bit like handholding, which is something some modern games are very notorious for. In the case of Metroid: Zero Mission however I find that it’s just the right amount of guidance the game gives you.

When it comes to the controls Samus reacts to the player input really well and her moves and controls feel very fluid. The only thing I didn’t like as much was how long it takes before she starts running once you get the upgrade that allows you to do so, but this is only such a minor part of the gameplay that it isn’t that big of a bother.

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Overall the gamedesign and design of the map is superb. This is one of those classic games everyone should have at least tried. I’m not saying that Metroid is for everyone, because that’s clearly not true, but the level of challenge, puzzling your way through the mazes of the maps and trying to find all the secrets so you can get more upgrades in order to more easily defeat the bosses is what makes these games so great. The story and the game world are intriguing and Samus is just a bad ass character. She’s one of the first videogame heroines in existence and this remake is a great testament to her and her legacy.

Soundtrack

Ahh, yes, one of my favourite parts to discuss, the soundtrack of the videogame! Metroid: Zero Mission has a soundtrack with some memorable tunes. I can’t say I particularly love the game’s OST as much as I love others, but overall the soundtrack is quite heavy on creating a lot of suspense for the player. Low bass tones and a lot of synthesizer tunes. It’s quite typical for scifi themes to be heavy on the latter. One thing that sets the Metroid games apart is the fact that the Chozo are also a heavy influence on the story. This ancient civilization of bird-men is everywhere in the game and Samus herself was even raised by them, which explains why her powersuit is compatible with all their ancient technology. Most of the Chozo area themes are more heavy on choires. Overall the soundtrack really fits the game, but as I said before, there are only a few really memorable tunes. Mainly the Brinstar theme and the ending theme. Their Smash Bros versions are much better arangements, mainly because they were done as full orhcestral themes.

While searching for the Metroid: Zero Mission OST I also found this little gem, which deserves a whole lot more views than it currently has. But I love it when fans recreate the songs from the games they love:

And here are the versions of the Metroid songs from the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate soundtrack:

Conclusion

If you never played any of the 2D Metroid games before and you don’t know where to start, this is it. I’m afraid that if you would try and play the original Metroid, there’s a big chance you’ll be let down simply because of how hard the game is by modern standards. While the original has its charm and I’ve definitely played it, I feel like this is the better version of the game in many ways. Nintendo has improved upon the original in phenomenal ways. Not just by upgrading the graphics, but also by adding another segment after the original ending, and also by adding the map and many upgrades that weren’t in the original that make this game so much better. After completing the game you’ll be able to play the game in hard-mode and if you manage to complete the game in a faster time, you’ll even get a different ending. All great additions to entice you to play the game again, or maybe even try doing a speedrun?

Graphics: 🌟🌟🌟🌟½
Gameplay: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Soundtrack: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Originality: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Story: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Overall: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Happy gaming!

~Jeffrey

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