Saturday 1 June 2019

Metroid (NES review)

Developer: Nintendo R&D1, Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1987

Metroid is an action-adventure game that was originally released on the Famicom Disk System in 1986.

Playing as a space hunter named Samus Aran, your mission is to penetrate the fortress planet Zebes and destroy the Mother Brain. Initially, you're armed only with a Beam, but additional weapons and abilities (such as Missiles and a High Jump) can be obtained. Where the game excels is in its level design, and the amount of unique areas is impressive. I also like how many secrets are littered throughout the fortress, as it encourages you to explore and use recently acquired items to your advantage (e.g. using Bombs to blast holes in the floor). A huge and obvious omission is an in-game map... certainly not ideal in a game this large and I'd highly recommend using an online map to guide you! Saying that, while a lot of backtracking is required it's actually quite satisfying to do so once you know the correct route, and most of that is due to being able to use your new powerful weapons on previously formidable foes! The Ice Beam is a particular highlight and I really enjoy its different uses that affect the gameplay style. For example, you can choose to blast enemies to dispose of them, or temporarily freeze them into a makeshift platform to reach higher areas; this opens up the level design in a grander fashion. The game is tough, but thankfully there are opportunities in pretty much every screen to pick up energy or items by defeating enemies. There is a ton of slowdown when too many sprites are on screen though, something you'll see all too often. The music is very minimalist which creates a dark, brooding atmosphere that lends itself perfectly to making you feel isolated and alone.

Metroid is a game that was well ahead of its time and its huge world and open-ended nature shows how developers were beginning to push the NES console in fresh and exciting ways. It's a shame then that it's not particularly accessible to new players today, and the lack of an in-game map is a real head scratcher.

Random trivia: There's multiple endings depending on how quickly you beat the game.

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