Metroid
Box Shot
Metroid
Platform: NES
Publisher: Nintendo
Designer: Nintendo
Genre: Action/Adventure
Players: 1
Published Date 1987
Reviewed by: Kurt Kalata

Metroid, no doubt, is one of the finest made video games on the face of the planet. By taking the adventure aspects of Zelda and combining it with the action aspects of a side-scroller, Nintendo has made a video gaming legend. It's structure was the basis for its sequel, Super Metroid (one of the best Super NES games in existence) and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (one of the best Playstation games in existence.) The plot first: on the surface of a bizarre planet, a new life forms is discovered. It has been code named Metroid. While relatively harmless at first, it needs to be taken in for study. They soon learned that when the Metroid was properly exposed to gamma rays, it could morph into a horrible creature. Well, some space pirates decided to go in and steal the Metroid for their nefarious purposes. Now they're going to replicae this creature and turn it into a vile killing machine, making them near invincible. The Space Federation knows this spells certain doom...their only choice is to hire a space bounty hunter. They choose Samus Aran, the best of the best. Wearing a cybernetic suit, Samus is extremely powerful and can use a variety of weapons, if they can be found.

So the game starts when Samus is beamed into the lair of the Space Pirates, the planet Zebes. The objective: kill the head of the Pirates (known as the Mother Brain), stop the replication of the Metroids, and get out alive. Before you can even reach Mother Brain, you must find and destroy two of her henchman: Kraid (A spkie-backed monster) and Ridley (a horrendous fire-breathing dragon.)

The planet itself is divided into five sections: Brinstar, the starting area; Norfair, the lava core, the hideouts for Kraid and Ridley, and finally Tourian, where Mother Brain awaits. Samus first starts off with only a short range gun, but shortly finds an item that will let you squeeze through small passageways. The game is generally non-lineaer, but certain obstacles will prevent you from advancing too far...unless you find the correct item to help you overcome them. For instance, you'll soon find that some doors throughout the complex are red...these can only be destroyed by missiles. So, it's off to find missile contaiers. Each missile container will let Samus carry five more missiles. There are also energy tanks that let Samus store an extra 100 points of energy (you can normally only hold 99 without tanks.) Since there are six slots for energy tanks and 255 missiles, there's plenty of exploration to be done.

That's not all though...you'll find artifacts that will allow you to jump higher, sustain only half-damage from enemies, or plant bombs to destroy certain blocks. There's also a long beam extension that will extend the range of your normal weapon, and two additional weapons to find. The Ice Beam will obviously freeze enemies, and the Wave Beam is a very powerful gun that just rips through baddies. Unfortunately, you can only have one of these two beams at one time. If you have one beam and want the other, you have to go back to where you found it originally and get it again. A bit annoying, actually.

Metroid also uses a password feature...it will let you start at whatever zone you were in with all of your items. The only complains I have about this is your life meter...you always start off with 30 life points, which isn't much. Therefore, you must spend your time killing enemies to gain life power-ups just so you can survive. Again, this isn't big, but it's something that probably could've been saved in the password function to at least fill up one of your energy tanks. Since this is an early Nintendo game, don't expect much in the way of graphics. The sprites usually have minimal animation frames, and all of the backgrounds are just black, giving the game a dark look. It doesn't help that many of the tiles are used over and over again too, without much in the way of landmarks. This makes getting lost very easy, and lack of an auto-map doesn't help. The music is downright stunning. The Brinstar piece is very heroic and inspiring, and the rest adds very nicely to the mood of the game. The theme in Kraid's hideout is one the scariest I've heard in any video game...that's just shows how excellent the tunes are. The game's controls aren't bad, but the jumping takes getting used to. If you jump straight up, you can't manuever will to the left or right...you need to get a running start. But since there's many vertical areas to scale, and Samus jumps pretty far, it's easy to accidentally fly out of control and fall. At least you don't have to worry about dying from fallin a great distance.

Metroid is a game of epic proportions. There's plenty of secret stuff, and you'll be spending plenty of time looking for missile containers to help you fight Mother Brain at the end. It's a game of exploration, and finding your ways through the twisted corridors of Zebus, accompanied by awesome mood-generating music, is some of the best fun to be had on the NES. One neat little thing in is that you never actually see the Metroids until the very end...also, there are several different endings, depending on how long it takes you to beat the game. If you beat it under two hours, it's revealed that Samus is a woman (everyone seems to know this nowadays anyway, so it's not like it is a surprise.) Buy Metroid and don't expect to come out away from your Nintendo for a long time.


Reviewed By: Tim Connolly
Many people in NES fandom revere Metroid as one of the all-time classics, a legendary game of epic proportions. In some ways, it deserves such a title: It broke much new ground as it was the first non-linear game on the market, plus it incorporated things like a time-limit and a password. Crazy as I'll sound, though, I see this game as an example of a novel approach but shoddy execution. Hear me out, OK?

While this game has very little eye-candy, the graphics are very utilitarian. The scenery is fairly boring; it's just a black screen behind you, so one can easily mistake the setting as a big cylinder than a planet. Samus is animated very well, though, as well as numerous other enemies. The Metroids look very "lifelike," and the final areas look pretty good considering the age of the game.

One of the game's minor faults is its sound and music. While I'll jump on the bandwagon in saying that the music to Brinstar with its heroic tinge, and the eery theme to Kraid's hideout are done quite well, the others leave a bit to be desired. Ridley's hideout music is larpish, the theme to Norfair has shades of "neener-neener-neener" to it, and Tourian's background sounds like bubbles popping. The sound effects themselves are tiresome: do we really need to hear Samus walk? Another major annoyance is the constant "bop-bop-bop-bop" when your energy is running low.

This game's Play Control is, in a word, ugly. For one thing, Samus recoils like mad when she's hit. Considering that there are numerous areas where dinky little platforms are all that's coming between you and energy-seeping lava, this is a problem. Second, Samus has the mid-air maneuverability of a cinder block. Jumping from small platform to small platform is a major pain, and if you run before you jump, that only makes things harder as your momentum will undoubtedly send you flying. Finally, after collecting an item without which you cannot travel more than two screens, you can't duck. Thus, shooting at ground enemies is impossible. You either have to wait for them to reach eye-level, hope to be luckily enough to plug the enemy with a bomb, or simply jump over it. These three problems lead to an insultingly aggravating Play Control. This might be the only time any game gets so low in this category even without being goofy-footed. The aesthetic parts of this game, though, is where we really see some performance. First of all, the plot has a number of neat points to it: Exploration; abduction; green, squishy things that suck up energy; it's all done quite nicely. Rumor has it that the game was patterned off the movie Aliens, and the similarities are all there. The secret element of Samus being a woman is nicely placed, because that adds that much more suspense and surprise to the game.

Metroid's challenge would have been perfect, if not for a couple problems. First of all, Samus' first weapon is pitifully weak (this is supposed to be the galaxy's best bounty hunter, and yet her laser can't reach 4 feet?). Also, there are a number of areas where you can take a cheap hit from an enemy that clobbers you right as you enter a room. Third, you begin the game with only 30 energy points, and anyone can tell you in the early game it only takes 4 or 5 hits for that to go bye-bye.

Is this game enjoyable? With a Game Genie, yeah. The infinite energy you can get will offset the hits you take and allow you to focus on the roaming around and less on keeping your health up. The timed endings add for even more incentive, as the faster you go, the better the ending. But without a GG, the wonder of exploration is severely limited due to the frustrating Play Control. Take it from me: After my first play, I refused to touch it again until I had a Genie with me.

This game does deserve the classification of "classic," but just barely. If you can forgive its major faults, you'll have a blast, but I tend to hold a grudge.