Rotating Header Image


Review – Metroid: Zero Mission (GBA)

After wrapping up the remake of Metroid II with Metroid: Samus Returns, it seemed like a good idea to look back a bit on Metroid Zero Mission, the remake of the original Metroid put out for the Game Boy Advanced.

Previous to Metroid Zero I had just finished Metroid Classic, the GBA remake of the NES game. The best part of the Classics series is that they are pretty true to the original titles. I’ve previously played bits and pieces of Metroid but the sheer massive randomness of this game has always kept me away. Also it’s “really hard”. Or at least I used to think so. For this outing I decided to cop and use a downloaded map to find my way around. It’s surprisingly easy in Metroid to pick up nearly ever power up and accessory before fighting even one boss. This actually makes the bosses a bit of a push over.

Zero Mission changes things up a bit and gives you a built in map akin to the more modern Metroid titles. The trick here is, many of the areas have been altered slightly requiring special items to access the next area. In fact, Metroid Zero is extremely linear in its storyline.  Many times in the game you’ll find Chozo statues that will point you in the direction you need to head next.

Metroid was pretty ahead of it’s time with it’s free form game play mechanics. Metroid Zero stream lines this idea by adding modern puzzle limitations. The whole experience is very similar to Metroid 3 for the Super Nintendo. It’s still a bit limited by its controls.

In the original Metroid you could shoot, jump and shoot missiles. You access missiles by pressing select. Zero Missions adds a few more items to the mix from its Metroid 3 predecessor, namely Super Missiles and Power Bombs. This makes things a bit tricky however since the Game Boy Advance doesn’t have the same number of buttons as the SNES control pad. Select still cycles through the missile types but the more powerful attack is activated by pressing and holding the R button. The other shoulder button is used for a fairly useless diagonal shot. I can’t help but some sort of scanning power up would have been a better use for the L button. Especially given the number of hidden blocks and the large variety of ways needed to destroy them.

Zero Mission’s map doesn’t make finding everything easier however. I’d estimate that the overall map is at least twice the size of the original if you count the added on final area. Even without that section there are many additional secret hidden paths to find. Oh right, yeah, I said bonus area. I don’t want to spoil things too much but Zero mission doesn’t have quite the same ending you might remember. The bonus area also uses some different play mechanics than players are used to. Play mechanics leaning the irritatingly difficult side of things unfortunately.

Like I said, I don’t want to ruin it too much. Back to the main game. With Zero Mission’s expanded map there is also an expanded selection of bosses. Technically Ridley and Kraid are still the only true bosses but there are a whole slew of new mini bosses that must be defeated throughout your journey across Zebes. The old bosses also got a major facelift. Kraid is now the massive giant he was in Metroid 3, though he’s a lot more of a pushover this round. Ridley is also larger and more resembles his modern pterodactyl self.

In the original Metroid the bosses were not much larger than Samus and followed a simple attack pattern of “Throw lots of things at the player”. This actually made them a bit more difficult as the battles more or less broke down to pounding your opponent with missiles and hoping he died before you did. Zero Mission has more epic scripted boss battled and neither Ridley nor Kraid really do much damage with their attacks. Truth be told, New Ridley is easier to defeat if you let him pick you up so you can pound on him point blank with your missiles. Zero Mission is all around more forgiving of a game. In Metroid, when your health was depleted you were dead. Sure, you had a password but there was no direct continue or save feature. Also in the original Metroid, refilling your health is difficult to do, usually involving killing many of the little bug creatures popping out of the ground.  Also. Zero Mission has health restoring Chozo statues all over. Instantaneous relief.

Finishing the game also unlocks a playable version of the original Metroid.  The remake’s modern mechanics however make it a lot less of a chore to play and much more enjoyable

Review – Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS)

The Good

  • Solid game play from a solid franchise
  • Nice little additions and changes from the original Metroid II
  • Good visuals

The Bad

  • Repetitive enemies and play mechanics
  • Bosses are disproportionately difficult compared to everything else
  • Very linear game play for a “Metroidvania” style game.

In Depth

Metroid: Samus Returns is a 3DS update and remake of the original Metroid II on Game Boy.  It’s essentially to Metroid II, what Zero Mission is to the original Metroid.  The maps in Samus Returns are a little closer to the original Metroid II maps than Zero Mission and Metroid, but there are some changes and additions.  Samus Returns adds Super Missiles and power bombs to Samus’ arsenal, for example, and there is a map revealing scope mechanism as well as the addition fo the Grappling beam.  A lot of the added items are things added during Metroid 3, that became regular staples of the series.

The entire game also has a modern overhaul.  Instead of sprites, everything is polygons and the game is playable in 3D mode, though it is a 2D platform title.  Only one new boss uses the 3D mechanics in 3D space, everything else operates in classic 2D Metroid style.  I really enjoy this style of game, so I am admittedly biased towards the play style.  The game is lacking a bit in the Metroidvania department however.  A lot of the areas have 2 or 3 main path loops that the player must traverse and there isn’t a lot of backtracking done aside from picking up items later, and a lot of this backtracking needs to be done close to the end of the game since you don’t even find the weapon needed to unlock these items until later in the game.  The game itself is broken up into 8 Areas, all generically named “Area”.  The Areas are gate blocked by special pedestals that only open the way after collecting a certain number of Metroid DNA samples.  There isn’t a lot of explanation to what these pedestals are but it’s most likely Chozo related, in classic Metroid fashion.

The core of the game is fun, and everything about the remake works well and helps flesh out the game play from the original title.  Metroid II has always been one of the weaker titles in the series and fleshing it out and giving it a bit more connection to the world of Metroid at large.  Despite taking place on the homeworld of the alien Metroid creatures, it’s always felt a little separated.  Partly because even the Metroids themselves are all mutated “mature” versions that don’t fit the usual Bubble with Claws image of what a Metroid is supposed to be.

Which leads into the core problem with this game, and with Metroid II.  The basic plot involves killing Metroids of various types, more powerful than the last, in order to proceed through the game.  There are 4 types of Metroids, not counting the Queen, and you fight each type several times.  These 40 fights end up being extremely samey as a result.  This problem is exacerbated by Alpha and Gamma Metroid being, more or less the same thing and each of the Omega Metroid battles are literally identical.  There is some variation in the fights by using different environments, sometimes over lava or damaging plants or around movement hindering water, but they all use the same general mechanics until you each the Omega Metroids.  Some of the battles have these moments where the Metroid runs off into a nearby room, which honestly just makes things even more tedious since it mostly just means passing a simple and annoying ball mode tunnel puzzle to progress the fight.

This repetition in boss fights isn’t helped by the normal level enemies either, there’s something like 6 or 7 different ones in different colors that you face… over… and over… and over…  They respawn extremely quickly as well, so sometimes just traveling back and forth a room you get to battle the same enemies over and over.  The game also introduces this gimmicky melee counter attack.  Enemies will charge you, you counter them, then you effectively one shot them if the counter hits.  If you miss, or just try to kill the enemy, you get to shoot it normally, often a dozen or more times.  The whole thing is designed around encounter, wait for charge, counter attack, kill, which itself is slow and tedious the 100th time you perform the action.

There is a new boss that’s added to the game that shows up a few times.  A large Chozo digging robot pops up early on, awakened by Samus.  It later shows up during a stage sequence where you must outrun it’s massive destructive drill arms while passing over and through obstacles.  Eventually you battle it out with the boss.  It’s probably the most difficult boss in the game, though not the final boss, and it’s a nice change of pace from the repetition of the Metroids.

Despite the repetition, it’s a fun game.  It’s not the best Metroid title but it’s a welcome update to one of the less enjoyably and probably less played games int he Metroid franchise.  The new additions do a lot of good freshening things up and the updated graphics are a great step up from the cramped old Game Boy title.

Review – Metroid Prime: Hunters (NDS)

Oh my dear Metroid, where did you go wrong?

Ok, technically I’m not a Metroid fan in any sense of the word. I’ve barely played Metroid on the NES. Metroid 2 was a decent distraction for a while but I’ve since sold my copy. Metroid 3 is an outstanding piece of gaming, but one game does not a series make. I’ve pretty much skipped anything recent on the portable scene other than half an emulated game of Fusion. I don’t have a GameCube.

Enter Metroid Prime: Hunters. I was leery of a FPS style Metroid game but people had good things to say about the Game Cube version. Still, I was also leery of a portable FPS game. How will I aim? Oh right, the DS has a touch pad! It can double as a mouse. Sort of. Barely. Kind of.

The controls on this game make my hands hurt every time I play. I’ve tried different positions, I’ve tried laying the DS on a table. Nothing works. I don’t like using the L button to fire but there wasn’t much other choice considering your right hand will be devoted solely to using the stylus to aim and look around. And to occasionally make an awkward jump. Jumping on this game is accomplished by hitting any of the other buttons on the non control pad side. Essentially, you push your stylus holding right fist into the DS and hope it registers correctly. Meanwhile you’ve often got to maneuver the controls while mashing the jump like this. Controls means moving the stylus to look and pushing forward on the joy pad while looking at a tiny portable game screen (in 3D!).

Needless to say, I do no like the controls on this game. They suck a lot. But the controls aren’t the only bad part of this title.

The level designs are horrid as well!

Imagine if you will, gripping your DS in the most awkward fashion trying to explore an immersive detailed 3D world. Now replace immersive with “repetitive” and “detailed” with “ugly shades of brown and gray”. Now you’re getting closer to the Metroid Prime experience. I’ve only managed to bring myself to complete the intro level but I must have done the same corridor to spiral jumping platforms to round corridor area to large inner chamber control room path a dozen times. I felt like I was running in circles.

But wait! There’s more!

Now, while exploring these repetitive brown and gray corridors and warding off hand cramps, you also get to fight hundreds of random spawning floating enemy things. Occasionally there’s a dog sort of creature or another bounty hunter “boss” to fight but mostly you’ll occasionally fight these little floaty glowing enemies that are killed by standing in place and shooting wildly until they are gone. They spawn out of thin air for a minute or two.

Also those bosses I mentioned. I’ve faced a couple of them. They seem to use the same attack pattern. Shoot a few times, roll about randomly anytime the player gets too close. This is a problem related to the multiplayer aspect of this game. All of the characters are designed to be balanced and equal and this all have more or less the exact same abilities.

Multiplayer is even worse. I will admit hat I’m not a superstar FPS player online. I like to screw around more while playing TFC than I do trying to capture the flag. However I am not horrible and can generally hold my own pretty well when needed. I’m not a huge fan of death match either. That doesn’t change that the multiplayer on this game sucks. The maps are horribly small and the graphics are even tinier on the little screen. While you’re fighting with the controls you’ll be crushed ten times over by the guy you’re against that has enough time to master everything. Even when you get the controls down, good luck finding your opponent in the tiny view screen.

What it comes down to is a crappy idea put forth with crappy implementation. I don’t know who decided to make Metroid 3D, I don’t know who though it would be a good idea to put an FPS on a portable system, I don’t know who thought these controls were good; when I meet them I will however be forced to punch them, assuming of course my hand hasn’t become a crippled mess from trying to play this game.