Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Review

With a name like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the Switch’s edition to Nintendo’s massively-successful crossover fighter certainly gave itself a lot to live up to. Somewhat miraculously, Ultimate manages to pull that very feat off, delivering what is undoubtedly the best entry in the long-running series to date. Bursting at the seams with content and fine-tuning the series’ gameplay, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate lives up to its lofty expectations, even if a lackluster adventure mode and a thin (and inconsistent) lineup of new fighters means it doesn’t quite surpass them.

Super Smash Bros. really doesn’t need an introduction at this point. The franchise has become one of Nintendo’s biggest sellers thanks to its engrossing gameplay, which combines elements of traditional fighting games with Mario Kart-esque party elements, all while incorporating sumo style rules that make it unique unto itself.

By ‘sumo style’ rules, I of course refer to Super Smash Bros’ key mechanic of sending opponents off the screen – similar to sumos throwing each other out of the ring – in order to defeat them, as opposed to depleting a health bar as in most fighters. Though with that said, the ‘Stamina mode’ first introduced to the series in Melee, in which players do deplete each other’s health, returns as one of Ultimate’s primary game modes, no longer relegated to a kind of bonus mode as in the past.

That seemingly small change is indicative of the very nature of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. This is the Super Smash Bros. that attempts to legitimize every play style for the series, and to appease every type of Smash fan. And for the most part, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate wildly succeeds in doing just that.

If you’re a serious Smash player, you can remove items and play on flat stages a la Final Destination or small stages with minimal platforms in the vein of the classic Battlefield stage, with no match-altering Final Smashes included. Players who want chaotic fun can have all items active, Final Smashes turned on, and enable every last, crazy stage hazard and gimmick. Or, if you’re somewhere in between, you can play on the standard stages with the gimmicks turned off, only allow Final Smashes by means of building up a power meter during battle, and only enable the occasional Pokeball and Assist Trophy in regards to items.

The ways in which you can customize matches are boundless. This really is the Super Smash Bros. that can appeal to any Nintendo fan. At least in terms of the core gameplay, that is.

If there is one glaring downside with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, it’s with the game’s adventure mode. Dubbed ‘World of Light,’ Ultimate’s adventure mode is mind-numbingly tedious, and simply not worth the time and effort it takes to see it to the end.

In World of Light, players initially take control of Kirby, the only survivor of a Thanos-style mass extinction, as they progress through one battle after another, unlocking the other characters and collecting ‘Spirits,’ which are won after defeating opponents in possession of said Spirits.

These Spirits are a new feature in Ultimate, replacing the series’ long-standing trophy collectibles. It’s ultimately an unfair trade. While the trophies of Smash’s past featured unique character models and gave some insights into Nintendo (and gaming) history, the Spirits are merely presented as stock promotional art from past games, and provide statistical bonuses to your characters when equipped. Spirits can grant boosts to attributes like strength or speed, or provide you with a special ability (such as starting fights with a particular item, or being resistant to certain types of attacks).

This may sound interesting in concept, but it kind of goes against the very nature of Super Smash Bros. This is a fighting series all about learning the different play styles of the various characters. So if you have Spirits activated in the standard game, it makes things more about who has the best Spirits equipped, as opposed to who played the best in any given round.

Suffice to say the Spirits find all of their appeal in the single player World of Light mode. Though even then, the game often mishandles their usage. Pulling a page out of Paper Marios Sticker Star and Color Splash, there are a number of battles in World of Light in which it is necessary to have specific Spirits equipped in order to win. If the Spirits gave you advantages in these situations, that’d be fine. But on more than one occasion you will come across a battle in which victory is impossible unless you have a specific Spirit equipped.

Another issue with World of Light is that it’s just too long for its own good. It features an unnecessary amount of branching paths, alternate routes, and  overall battles. And when it finally looks like you’re done with it, World of Light pulls a Ghosts ‘N’ Goblins on the player and extends the adventure by rather lazy means. To detract from the experience even further, World of Light is exclusively played by a single player. Super Smash Bros. Brawl’s adventure mode, Subspace Emissary, was far from a winner, but at least I could play that with a friend.

Not to mention Subspace Emissary served as a fast means of unlocking every character. But World of Light just drags on and on, with the lonesome tedium making you seek one of the many other means of unlocking the characters (thankfully, there are no shortage of options when it comes to expanding the roster). The fact that World of Light actually makes me long for Subspace Emissary could be a sign that maybe Super Smash Bros. is better off without an adventure mode at all.

Of course, the adventure mode is just a small part of the overall package, and every other mode included in the game delivers in spades: Classic Mode is more fun than ever, and includes unique challenges for every last fighter. Tournaments are easier to set up than ever before. New Squad Strikes have players selecting teams of characters and eliminating them one by one. Smashdown sees players cycle through the entire roster one at a time, with previously selected characters getting locked out after use. The variety never ceases to impress.

On the concept of variety, the biggest selling point of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is that every playable character from the franchise’s history is present. If they were playable in a past Super Smash Bros. title, they’re playable here. So those of you who missed Solid Snake for being omitted from Super Smash Bros. on Wii U/3DS, he’s back. Young Link and Toon Link can now face off against one another. Pichu makes his return after seventeen years (they can’t all be winners). The DLC characters from Wii U/3DS return. Even the good ol’ Ice Climbers have found their way back to the series, after technical limitations on the 3DS prevented their appearance in the last installments. And yes, we even get a handful of new characters joining the fray, meaning that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has all of the character variety of each and every one of its predecessors put together and then some.

“You’re the man now, Croc!”

Speaking of the new characters, that’s where things can be a bit inconsistent when it comes to selections. Ridley and King K. Rool feel like the most meaningful newcomers, given that they’ve been in high demand from fans since Melee. Splatoon’s Inklings also make sense as they represent one of Nintendo’s contemporary success stories. And Simon Belmont feels long overdue in the third-party character department (seriously, besides Mega Man, what other third-party character even compares to Castlevania’s early history with Nintendo?).

The remaining newcomers, however, are a bit of a mixed bag. Isabelle from Animal Crossing – though a welcome addition in her own right – doesn’t exactly come across as a character fans were dying to see join the series. Incineroar feels like he could have been any randomly selected Pokemon. And the downloadable Piranha Plant just feels like a big middle finger to the fans who have been requesting their favorite characters for years. That’s not to say that these characters detract from the gameplay by any means. But for a series so grounded in fanservice, some of these character selections feel misguided.

“Evil kings from classic series are the coolest!”

Perhaps with more newcomers the more disappointing entries wouldn’t stick out so much. But with most of the emphasis going towards bringing back every past character, you kind of wish that the smaller quantity of newcomers would have translated to a consistent quality. And that’s unfortunately not always the case.

Some fans may also lament that clone characters – now officially referred to as “echo fighters” – are still present, but at least now they’re categorized appropriately, and not treated as though they’re full-on additions to the franchise.

“The colors, Duke! The colors!”

Still, it’s hard to complain too much when Ultimate boasts seventy unique characters (with more on the way via DLC. Here’s hoping some favorites make the cut). There’s simply never a shortage of characters to choose from, and all of them bring their own sense of fun to the gameplay (with the possible exceptions of the excessive amount of sword fighters from Fire Emblem, who often feel interchangeable even when they aren’t clones).

Each character’s Final Smash has also been altered this time around, as they take on a more cinematic approach. Unfortunately, while the Final Smashes look more impressive than ever, their infrequent interactivity makes them less fun than in previous installments. This was probably done for the sake of balance, which is admirable. Though chances are, if you have Final Smashes active, you aren’t exactly aiming for a balanced, competitive bout.

The stages also adhere to Ultimate’s “everything but the kitchen sink” mentality. Although there are a few omissions, the majority of stage’s from past Super Smash Bros. titles make a return (unfortunately, Brawl’s Electroplankton-inspired stage is bafflingly among them). There are only four brand-new stages in the base game: Odyssey and Breath of the Wild themed levels for Mario and Zelda, and courses based on newly-represented series Splatoon and Castlevania. That may not sound like a whole lot of newness, but more stages are planned to be added along with the DLC characters. Besides, with the returning courses, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate includes over one-hundred different locations to do battle. And as stated, every last stage comes in three different versions (standard, Battlefield, and Final Destination), so you’re not very likely to get bored from repetition.

For those who don’t always have someone at the ready for some couch multiplayer, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate also expands the series’ online capabilities. Creating online matches has been streamlined by means of creating arenas, where players can set the rules as they see fit. You can even search for specific rulesets if you want to join an arena that’s more to your play style (though admittedly, the search engine needs some work). It’s now much, much easier to set up or join an online match and play with or against Smash players from around the world.

Sadly, the online functionality still isn’t perfect. Though lag is considerably less frequent than in Brawl or Wii U/3DS, it’s still present more often than you’d like. It isn’t limited to worldwide matches, either. I’ve encountered some slowdowns in games against my friends. Again, the lag isn’t so common as to detract from the overall experience, but considering that in five years’ time I’ve never encountered any lag issues in Mario Kart 8 (whether on Wii U or Switch), you have to wonder how and why Nintendo can’t replicate that level of online functionality with their other multiplayer franchises.

Other quibbles with the online mode include some minor (but no less irritating) design quirks, such as leaving your place in cue for the next fight in an arena just to change your character’s color (let alone change your character). Or why entering the spectator stands also removes you from cue (why the cue and spectator stands aren’t one and the same is anyone’s guess). Again, these are all just minor annoyances, but you have to wonder why they’re there at all.

Of course, it must be emphasized that, with the exception of the World of Light adventure mode, all of the complaints to be had with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate are minor grievances in the big picture. The series’ signature gameplay has never felt so polished, the content has never felt this endless, and with every last character in franchise history present, Super Smash Bros. has never felt this complete.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is also a technical showcase of the Switch’s capabilities. Though it retains a similar overall look to Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS and Brawl, the graphics are much sharper and more refined. The level of background detail in the stages themselves – often so small you’d never see them in the heat of battle – is a testament to the abilities of the artists behind the game. The character animations are similarly impressive, especially those with unique characteristics (such as DK’s eyes bulging out of his head when hit, Donkey Kong Country-style; or Wario’s manic, sporadic movements).

Complimenting these visuals is a soundtrack that represents an unrivaled array of video game music, featured in both their original and new remixed forms in addition to many remixes from past Super Smash Bros. installments. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s quite as many new pieces of music added into the fray as Brawl and Wii U/3DS brought to the table, but it’s hard to complain too much when the music is this terrific. Not to mention the soundtrack to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is inarguably the biggest library of classic video game themes ever compacted into a single game.

On the whole, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is an absolute winner. Its overall sense of newness may not be as prominent as the past few entries, but its inclusion of the best elements of every past installment, along with each and every last one of their characters, makes this the definitive entry in the long-running Super Smash Bros. series to date. With the exception of its egregious adventure mode, everything about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is exploding with fun. With so many characters, stages, modes, and options, the content included in the package is seemingly bottomless, leading to an unparalleled replay value.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is not only the best game in the series, it’s one of the greatest multiplayer games ever made.

 

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Metroid: Samus Returns Review

Metroid: Samus Returns serves two primary purposes: the first is to remake Metroid II: Return of Samus, originally released on the Nintendo Gameboy in 1991, and bring it up-to-date for a modern age. The second, and more important purpose, is to bring Metroid back on track, after the last decade has soiled the series’ once nearly-flawless track record. After Metroid: Other M delivered an all-time stinker on Nintendo’s part, the series laid dormant for a few years before the mediocre Metroid Prime: Federation Force polarized fans. While Metroid: Samus Returns is definitely a step in the right direction to get the series back to its former glory, its far from the franchise revival the series really needs at this point.

On the plus side to things, Samus Returns resurrects the 2D, sidescrolling ‘Metroidvania’ gameplay that the series pioneered, which is definitely a return to form as far as structure is concerned. Improvements have been made to the outdated Gameboy title, however, as Samus can now fire her weapons in any direction, and many features that didn’t arrive in the series until well after Metroid II’s original release (such as the Super Missiles and Grapple Beams) are now part of Samus’ arsenal. Additionally, Samus now has a melee counterattack she can use on enemies for critical damage, which is a nice – if maybe a bit overused – addition to the gameplay. To add a touch of RPG mechanics into the mix, Samus can now also learn “Aeion abilities,” which are performed with the usage of an energy gauge, akin to the magic points of an RPG.

These are all fine additions to the game – as are the new 3D visuals and updated music – but at the same time, they only elevate the experience so far, as Samus herself doesn’t seem all that fun to control this time around. That’s not to say that the controls are bad per se, but Samus seems to move stiffer than she did in Super Metroid way back in 1994, and the flow of the game ultimately stumbles because of it.

The setting of the game – the Metroids’ homeworld of SR388, also doesn’t make for very captivating level design. Metroidvania titles are at their best when they have you return to previously-explored areas with new abilities, thus being able to uncover all new paths that you couldn’t during your initial visit. But Samus Returns seems to lack that sense of surprise and discovery. With Samus’ progression being dictated by exterminating the Metroids that appear on her radar, the experience feels hallowed out to simply being about going from one point to another to shoot something. Samus Returns lacks the ‘eureka moments’ of the genre’s more refined titles like Super Metroid or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

If you’re a diehard Metroid fan who has felt that Nintendo has left the series out to die in recent years, Samus Returns may serve up enough classic Metroid goodness to help ease the pain of Other M and Federation Force. But it also lacks the sense of depth and engagement that the series is known for with its best entries.

It’s one small step for Samus, but we’re still waiting for that next giant leap for Metroid-kind.

 

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Metroid Prime: Federation Force Review

Federation Force

Few games in Nintendo’s history have caused as much of a stir as Metroid Prime: Federation Force. With the Metroid series laying dormant for six years – with it’s most recent release being the atrocious Metroid: Other M – fans had been begging for a new iteration in the franchise like never before. So when Federation Force was revealed, with a cartoony look and simplified action-based gameplay that was a stark contrast to the atmosphere and exploration the series is known for, the game was all but dead on arrival. Now that Federation Force is out on 3DS, does it prove it’s naysayers wrong in the same vein as The Wind Waker? Or were the cries of Nintendo fans actually justified for once?

It’s obvious from the get-go that Metroid Prime: Federation Force is not like other Metroid games. The most obvious differences being the aforementioned art style (possibly implemented to gloss over the 3DS’ aging hardware), and the fact that players do not take on the role of series’ protagonist Samus Aran. Samus still shows up from time to time, but here, players control members of the titular Federation Force, who embark on various missions aboard mech suits.

Gameplay-wise, Federation Force is more than capable. The game takes on a first-person perspective, with the usual controls of the genre being well translated onto the 3DS. The only issue I ran into with the core gameplay was switching between secondary weapons. Though the mechs have a blaster canon as their primary weapon, secondary weapons and items include health packs, fireballs, lightning bursts, and ice attacks to freeze enemies. The secondary items are switched by pressing the X button, and are fired by pressing the Y button. Because you can only cycle through the secondary weapons by going forward, it often gets confusing, since you instinctively think the two buttons would cycle through the item in different directions. I often ended up shooting the items and wasting precious ammo when I was just trying to switch abilities.

A very welcome addition to the game are the customization options. Players can add mods to their mechs, which grant special bonuses like extra damage, double health, and other such things. You can also paint different designs on your mech, and even alter your character’s voice. Best of all, you can swap with mods you’re using in between missions, meaning you can play the game in whatever way you want until you find the method you like best. These mods also give the game a tiny taste of the series’ explorative elements, as players have to search high and low to find the mods hidden within the missions.

Unfortunately, searching for the mods doesn’t add a whole lot of depth to what are otherwise pretty uninspired levels. While the missions at least have some variety with their objectives, the level design itself leaves a lot to be desired. There’s just not much to them. There are a few puzzles, enemy encounters and boss fights to be had, but the puzzles feel bland, the enemy encounters can get monotonous, and the boss fights are just too tedious.

Things can pick up a little if you’re playing with a few friends. Federation Force allows up to four players to take part in the game’s campaign. When all four players are active, Federation Force begins to feel like the game it was meant to be. The largely empty levels begin to come to life with four players working in tandem. Unfortunately, even having all four players on board doesn’t help the puzzles or boss fights stand out more.

Blast BallMetroid Prime: Federation Force also includes a competitive multplayer mode known as Blast Ball, which is more or less Rocket League but with mechs shooting the ball into the other team’s goal instead of using cars to do the job. Though Blast Ball can provide some bursts of fun, the concept doesn’t always mesh with the game’s mechanics, and you quickly feel like you’d rather be playing the actual Rocket League instead.

As a whole, Metroid Prime: Federation Force is not the disaster that Nintendo’s fans made it out to be, and it’s an insurmountably better game than Other M. But it’s also incredibly unspectacular. The gameplay works, and though the art direction may not be what one would expect from a Metroid title, it does help make the visuals pop, especially with the 3DS’ 3D effects turned on. Unfortunately, the bland level design and emptiness within them prevent  Federation Force from putting up much of an argument against its naysayers.

Still though, it’s not Other M. Be thankful for that.

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Five Nintendo Franchise I Want to see Receive the Mario Maker Treatment

Super Mario Maker

Super Mario Maker is undoubtedly one of the best modern Nintendo games. In recent weeks I’ve found myself playing it as extensively as I did when it was first released. That’s the kind of longevity and replayability most games couldn’t hope for.

Why is it so addictive? It’s like I’ve said in the past, it turns the process of level editing into something that’s not only accessible, but fun in its own right. And playing the levels of other players provides countless surprises (some pleasant, others not so much).

While there were some limitations when the game first launched (and there still are a few that could be addressed), Super Mario Maker’s updates through the months have smoothened things out all the more, and added some great new features (the Fire Koopa Clown Car allows for more accurate shooter levels, for example).

Playing Super Mario Maker again has made me think about what other Nintendo franchises I’d like to see receive similar treatment. So here are five other such Nintendo series that I would like to see get a “Maker” of their own. They may not all be realistic options for one reason or another. But I want them anyway. Continue reading “Five Nintendo Franchise I Want to see Receive the Mario Maker Treatment”

Metroid: Other M Review

Metroid: Other M

When Metroid: Other M was released on the Nintendo Wii in 2010, it looked to bring a greater emphasis to storytelling and character development to the Metroid series. Up to that point, every Metroid release was a quality title to one degree or another (the original Metroid may have aged poorly, but there’s no denying the influence of many of its ideas). So a story-focused Metroid title seemed like a promising concept. Unfortunately, Other M proved that anything is possible by delivering the first bad game in the Metroid series. It’s such a misstep that Nintendo has seemed at a loss as to how to salvage the series almost six years later.

Chronologically, Other M takes place after the beloved Nintendo classic, Super Metroid. After having defeated Mother Brain with the help of the last Metroid, which sacrificed itself to save Samus in that game’s finale. The effect of the baby Metroid’s sacrifice seems to have had a deep impact on Samus, as she seems to regularly reflect on the incident with one needless, exposition-laden monologue after another.

Samus receives a distress signal coming from a space station called the “Bottle Ship,” and investigates. There she encounters many of her old allies from the Galactic Federation military, from her days before bounty hunting. She becomes embroiled in the Galactic Federation’s mission to investigate the Bottle Ship, as the facility is suspected of conducting illegal bioweapon experiments.

The meeting between Samus and her old military buddies is used as a means to give us insight into Samus’ past, but all it ends up doing is contribute to Other M’s devolving of Samus’ character.

The Samus of Other M all but destroys the intrigue of the character. Long-considered to be one of the strongest heroines in gaming, Other M reduces Samus into a whiny, insecure crybaby who lacks any independence.

You can sum up this evisceration of character by the way Samus gains additional weapons and abilities. In most Metroid games, Samus finds upgrades to her armor and weapons throughout the game world. Here, Samus still supposedly has all of the abilities she gained in Super Metroid, but she denies herself access to them until her former commanding officer gives her the okay to do so. Samus even endures health-depleting heat in lava-filled craters for a good while before she is given permission to activate the heat-resistant capabilities of her suit. Why Samus lacks the independence to activate such abilities on her own in order to save her life in a hostile environment destroys both her character and logic.

It also doesn’t help that Samus speaks in the most lethargic, monotonous, and poorly-acted voice imaginable. She also seems to constantly be talking about how she’s feeling about every situation as it happens, because who needs subtlety?

It’s some of the worst character building in video game history, made all the worse by the fact that it diminishes an iconic video game character so greatly.

I seem to be rambling on about the story and character development (rather, the lack thereof), but how does Metroid: Other M hold up as a game? Well the good news is it’s better than the narrative aspects. The bad news is that’s only because of how abysmal said narrative is.

Metroid: Other MThe gameplay works as a third-person action game, with Samus being controlled by holding the Wii remote sideways. Samus’ standard actions include jumping, shooting, and turning into her morph ball form to plant bombs and squeeze into small spaces.

Additionally, players can go into first-person mode by pointing the Wii remote forward. When in first-person mode, Samus can look around to investigate, lock on to enemies, and shoot missiles. But she can’t move in first-person view.

This makes the gameplay feel slow, clunky, and segmented. You’ll frequently be fighting waves of enemies (with many of them taking far too long to kill), where you’ll be charging your laser repeatedly, then switching to first-person view to fire a missile. It not only works awkwardly, but one of the seemingly countless enemies can easily hit you when in first-person. The combat segments are just overlong and riddled in poor mechanics.

To pour more salt on the gameplay wound, players recharge Samus’ missiles by pointing the Wii remote upward and holding the A button. This same action can be used to heal some of Samus’ health when she’s in critical condition. There are so many instances where you’ll be trying to charge your missiles, refill health, or go into first-person view only to do one of the undesired actions that it becomes exhausting.

Other M also feels incredibly straightforward when compared to the Metroid titles that preceded it. There’s a bit of backtracking to be done, but for the most part you’ll just feel like you’re constantly pushing forward, with the exploration aspects the series is famous for being nowhere to be found.

Perhaps the worst part of the gameplay are moments that force (yes, force) players into first-person view so they can search an area for a clue of where to go next. Not only can the player not progress until they find the item in question, but said items are largely left unexplained to the player, and the objects you’re usually looking for tend to be the size of a single pixel, making it easy to get stuck in these moments for up to ten minutes at a time!

While the storytelling is atrocious and the gameplay is frustrating, Other M can at the very least boast about its production values. The game was one of the better looking Wii titles, and you’d be forgiven for thinking the cinematics came from a PS3 or Xbox 360 title. Though it’s hard to care too much about how fancy the cinematics look when the story they’re telling is such a stinker (not to mention they’re unskippable).

Metroid: Other MIt’s a great irony that Samus has never looked more beautiful than she does in Other M, considering this game is the one blemish on Metroid’s record. Some of Nintendo’s critics say the Big N no longer cares about the series, but I think they simply want Other M to become a distant enough memory so the series can pick itself up.

You could find worse games than Metroid: Other M. But you’d be hard pressed to find another game that bares the name of one of Nintendo’s most revered franchises that fails so devastatingly.

 

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Metroid Review

Metroid

For thirty years, the Metroid series has been one of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises. Many consider it to be one of the “Big Three” Nintendo properties, alongside Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda (in all fairness, Donkey Kong should probably be included as well and make it a “Big Four”). Like many of Nintendo’s ongoing series, Metroid got its start on the NES. Revisiting the original Metroid today comes with some good and bad. On the plus side, when playing Metroid today, it’s obvious to see how many of its elements continue to inspire game design even today. On the down side, many of the game’s elements have aged rather poorly, making it seem nearly obsolete in the face of its sequels.

Metroid is a 2D action game, but unlike Nintendo’s platform-oriented Super Mario series, Metroid is far more open-ended. Samus, the protagonist bounty hunter, must traverse a single labyrinthian world on her quest to destroy the Metroids and the evil Mother Brain.

Samus begins her quest with little more than the ability to jump and shoot lasers from her arm canon. Throughout the game, Samus can find items that give her additional abilities, like missiles, more powerful and longer-ranged lasers, the power to morph into a ball and plant bombs, extensions to her health, and others. In one of the game’s great innovations, there are many areas that require specific abilities in order to be progressed, making Metroid a trailblazer in video game backtracking.

Unfortunately, while Mario’s earliest entries remain timeless, the years have been wearing on Metroid in a number of ways. Perhaps the most prominent sign of the game’s prototypical nature is its lack of a map. Metroid is a game that is built around a labyrinth, and requires players to revisit areas, yet they are left to memory alone to remember where they’ve been and figure out where to go next. Considering that the game’s 8-bit limitations can make many areas look similar to one another, it can lead to many instances of accidental revisits. It can become downright confusing at times.

Then there’s the difficulty. Samus begins the game with thirty hit points, which can initially be increased to ninety-nine by picking up health drops from enemies. Finding some of the aforementioned hidden items can grant additional sets of ninety-nine hit points, so Samus’ increasing health means there’s no need for extra lives. But before you think Samus is some kind of unstoppable tank, it needs to be said that many enemies can be hard to kill, do a notable amount of damage to Samus, and have hard to figure out patterns. Combine that with a number of moments where enemies flood the screen (slowing the action in the process), and you may think Samus is a lot more fragile than her amor may suggest.

What’s worse is that, after every death, Samus’ health reverts back to thirty. There are certain ‘checkpoints’ if you continue playing right after dying, but if they’re next to a more difficult area, you may want to find a good spot to farm health drops before moving on, since it can be frustrating tackling these areas with so few hit points.

MetroidThe game has no save feature, instead opting for a password system. Thankfully, if you’re playing through the Wii U’s Virtual Console, the password system becomes entirely unnecessary, as you can end the game at any point and start back right where you left off.

Metroid was also made famous for speed-running, with completing the game under certain time limits altering Samus’ action in the end. Take too long and she won’t even look at the player. Finish fast enough and she removes her helmet to reveal she’s a woman (her identity may be common knowledge now, but back in the day the reveal was revelatory). And if you manage to beat the entire adventure in an hour, Samus will go all-out and reveal her bikini body. Though considering she’s an 8-bit sprite here, her appearance is hardly reward enough for the hefty task.

There’s certainly still a place in history for Metroid. Its ideas were ahead of its time, its heroine is one of the best in gaming, and the music – even in these 8-bit days – displayed how Nintendo games took video game soundtracks to the next level. But it would be a lie to say that the original Metroid holds up nearly as well as many other Nintendo classics. And if one were to compare it with its Super NES sequel, well, there is no comparison.

Whether it’s Super Metroid’s perfecting of the series’ ideas, or Zero Mission’s re-imagining of this very adventure, Metroid’s own sequels have more or less turned the original into something of a relic.

Yes, Metroid was a work of genius. But its genius shines much brighter in the games that succeeded it.

 

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