Here’s a landmark Nintendo action-adventure game from 1986. Metroid triggered off a serious of critically acclaimed sequels, with the NES original a remarkable achievement for its time.
Metroid: Where It All Began
Set in Zebes, you control Samus Aran and guide the little sprite around a maze-like environment, collecting power-ups along the way.
As you gain new skills, you can open up previously locked areas. That was a landmark concept back in 1986, allowing for a more “mature” game with complex themes and levels.
It helped to forge the foundations of the brilliant Metroidvania genre, which remains highly popular in the indie game scene (check out our post on the best modern 2D platformers for insights there).
Spoiler alert, but the spacesuit wearing hero you presume is a man *shock horror* turns out to be a woman!
Perhaps, then, it’s not surprising Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) was a huge influence for Metroid.
The development team, headed by director Satoru Okada, even named a central antagonist Ridley in honour of the British director.
The game’s name, meanwhile, is a portmanteau (linguistic blend of words) of “metro” and “android”. Good, eh?
The familiar game mechanics of Metroid were right there from the off, even as far back as 1986. Well… except the iconic map that graces the later games is missing.
That does make the first outing more difficult than it needs to be—it’s rather easy to get lost during your adventure as you’re not sure where you are.
Whilst the game is short by modern standards, frustrating backtracking is a common occurrence.
But as you get new power-ups, you’re on your way to get stuck against the many hard as nails bosses. Ho hum.
Hey, at least there’s also that iconic game music, which Nintendo and Retro Studios went on to refine considerably across future iterations.
As a gameplay experience, it’s the usual mixture of intensely bloody difficult NES-era gaming set alongside flourishes that are impressive to this day.
It holds up pretty well and is still enjoyable, but it’s not for anyone on the lookout for a casual shindig.
The same goes for the 1991 sequel, Metroid II, which was released on the Game Boy. It met with divisive reactions from critics and fans. We’ve still not played this one.
And it’s also an example where technological advances really do make a difference. The 1994 SNES classic Super Metroid is a total masterpiece.
And when Nintendo handed the series to America’s Retro Studios in the early 2000s, it really went into the stratosphere of FPS excellence with the Metroid Prime trilogy.
For which the same developer is working on the fourth installment for the Nintendo Switch right now. Hurray!
The Metroid Remake in Zero Mission
Nintendo did a remake of the 1986 original. This launched on the Game Boy Advance in early 2004.
As you can see, it features fancy new graphics and an overhauled soundtrack.
But the backstory was fleshed out considerably, making the remake a more complete vision of what was intended in 1986.
We picked up Metroid: Zero Mission on our Wii U and, yep, it’s bloody excellent. Exactly how you do a remake, thank you very much.