Retro Review: Super Metroid (SNES)

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The recent release of the game Metroid Dread has sparked renewed interest in the Metroid games. While as of this writing, I am still playing Metroid Dread for review, I have decided to look back at the genre defining game of the Metroid series, Super Metroid. Super Metroid influenced an entire subgenre of video game, now called “Metroidvanias” due to how the Metroid and Castlevania games were among the most common games to have the features of this subgenre of 2D platformer. Does Super Metroid still hold up today, with so many other games like it? I’m here to help you find out.

The main features of the Metroidvania style games involve a large, interconnected map in a 2D platformer game. Unlike early Super Mario games, you can travel throughout the entire game world without being interrupted by a world map or the end of a level due to a goal post of some sort. In games like Super Metroid, you have free reign to explore the entire game with the aid of an updating map, with some areas blocked off until you collect an upgrade, or complete a specific task.

SuperMetroidMap

Super Metroid follows the story of a heroic bounty hunter named Samus Aran, who fights the space pirates on the planet Zebes. Samus is trying to find the captured Metroid larva and restore peace in the galaxy in her mission. The story is pretty basic, and mostly doesn’t get much more complex than that, but considering that the game is as old as it is, it is enough to get the player’s attention.

What really grabs one’s attention about Super Metroid is the use of attention to detail in the visuals. Planet Zebes is a dark and alien place, often times one will feel isolated from familiar territory while playing this game. Of greater note is that the small and big details that lead to a subtle sense of fear. When you first land of the planet, it is quiet and empty. You then travel past where the final battle takes place in the first Metroid game, then follow an elevator that leads to the morph ball. Once you grab the item, a security camera activates, making you realize you are being watched. As you go back up the elevator, you might notice the two face-like objects in the background, once unmoving, now turn to face you as you move past them. Now the area you just came from is crawling with the space pirates that you have to fight off, and the planet is now alive with strange and hostile alien life forms. It’s moments like these where the game Super Metroid really shine.

SuperMetroidGameplay

Super Metroid doesn’t give you any instructions on how to play, so it is up to the level design to guide you forward to help you decide if you can go somewhere based on what upgrades you currently have available. The previously mentioned morph ball allows Samus to change into a ball and slip into short, narrow passages. Other upgrades, such as the ice beam are even more creative in how they alter your navigation of the planet. In this example, you can freeze enemies and use them as a platform to reach higher areas that you couldn’t before. Both of these items are fairly unique to the Metroid series, and you won’t see them in most other games.

Super Metroid is full of secret paths, and rewards you for exploring with a new toy around every corner. It could be as simple as an expansion to your health or missile capacity, or it could be something far more useful, such as the grapple beam, which functions like a grappling hook. There are even a few hidden actions you can pull off with certain upgrades, most notably the shine spark action from the speed booster upgrade, which can allow Samus to shoot off like a rocket, or the wall jump which can greatly improve mobility, if you know about it.

SuperMetroidSamus

The game is solidly built, and the on screen map helps you find places to reexplore as you gain new abilities. Even the bosses on this game can be tough in a good way, and some are rather frightening in both appearance, difficulty, and movement patterns. The only criticism of the level structure are the occasional single square wide platforms in some areas that are hard to safely jump onto.

Even with all this praise and influence, Super Metroid does have a few flaws that made the game age a little bit. The controls are a little bit stiff, especially in comparison to future Metroid games. This is most noticeable when trying to wall jump or space jump. Both actions are unreliable, and the wall jump in particular is very hard to pull off. While you don’t need to wall jump to beat the game, you do need the space jump, which doesn’t always work for some reason.

Also of note is how there is a point of no return at the last save point. With the exception of a glitch I have only recently heard rumor of, you will be stuck at right before the final battle if you save here. Since the many collectibles can determine how hard the game is, not being able to go back and find more of them could mean having to replay the entire game over again just to see the (very worthwhile) ending. In fact, on my first playthrough of this game, I also found out that the final battle is impossible if you don’t have enough health pickups near the end of the fight. This game is kinder to players who either are more observant, or already know the game very well in order to avoid this game design blunder.

In the end, Super Metroid is a classic game that gets atmosphere, style, and (mostly) good level design that almost can’t be beat. If you are looking for eerie sci-fi action, with a bunch of visual storytelling, this is the game for you!

Recommendations:

  • Before you start the game, adjust the control scheme to your liking. It does not match the controls of similar Super Nintendo games.
  • Explore and collect as much as possible.
  • Use the map to check out new areas that may have new items that might help you out.
  • Do not use the last save point, especially if you want to gather more power ups!
  • If you love this game, be sure to try and find all the power ups. You may also want to try and beat the game with a faster play time, as you will get a slightly different ending.

Pros:

  • Excellent exploration.
  • Well executed atmosphere.
  • Good graphics, especially for the time.
  • Appropriate music.
  • The game encourages mastery and speed.
  • Clever level design.

Cons:

  • Awkward default controls.
  • Movement can feel stiff.
  • A single point of no return near the end of the game.
  • The final battle is impossible if you don’t have enough power ups. (might not happen to all players).

Verdict:

8.5/10* A Great, Atmospheric Platformer

*First things first, the game’s range is roughly 8.5-9.3.* Super Metroid is incredible for its time, although some things aged a little bit. The controls are the most notable issue with this game, but can be worked with. Obviously, those nostalgic for this game would rate it on the higher end of this spectrum, as could those who put more weight on the game’s influence on the game industry. I found it hard to give a specific rating for this game, so I felt the game couldn’t be any lower than the score I gave. Even with what I’ve listed here, Super Metroid is definitely worth your time, and is a classic, especially for those curious about foundational points in gaming history.


That was what I thought of Super Metroid. What is your favorite hidden technique in this game? Favorite secret? What is your best completion time and items found? Let me know in the comments below! If you enjoyed this review, then click that like button and share on social media. You can also subscribe via email or WordPress to keep up with That’s All Games. Until next time, have fun gaming!

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