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