Archive for the ‘Video Games’ Category


An Ode to Super Metroid

June 12, 2009


Every once in a while the human race is graced with a video game that is so polished, so immersive and captivating that you find yourself going back to play it again and again.  Fifteen years after its release, I still get cravings to play Super Metroid.  Of course, my Super Nintendo has long since passed from this world into console heaven.  But thanks to the introduction of video game emulators I can play this game as if I were still thirteen years old, holed up in my room for hours on end, drinking litres of Faygo cola and then regretting it later because of the eruption of zits it caused on my face.  For those of you that have played this game, feel free to join me in the tipping of your hats to one of the most significant titles ever released on a home console.  For those who haven’t played Super Metroid, I’m going to try my best to encapsulate all this game has to offer in a magazine-style review so that you may be persuaded to try it out.  After that, do yourself a favour and download ZSNES, the foremost Super Nintendo emulator for PC.  Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to find the Super Metroid ROM file.  This may be tricky because Super Metroid is on the list of games protected by the ESA, and finding a legitimate free download of the ROM wont be easy.  This is due to the fact that Super Metroid has been released on the Nintendo Wii  as a download for the Virtual Console.  Even so, it’s well worth the $10.

First, a brief history lesson on this game seems prudent.  Super Metroid was released on the Super Nintendo in April of 1994 as a follow-up to Metroid II, which was released on the original Gameboy two years prior.  The Metroid series was first introduced to us on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987, and has since gone through many iterations on various Nintendo consoles over the years.  While the Metroid Prime series didn’t hold much interest in me, some of the old glory was restored when Metroid Fusion and Metroid: Zero Mission were released on the Gameboy Advance.  Both those titles are excellent and are definitely worth checking out  if you’re like me and cling to that old-school 2-D platforming action.  Super Metroid will always be numero uno in my heart, though.  So without further ado, let’s get into the meat and potatoes of why this game is still such a gem in a world dominated by first-person shooters and regurgitated sports titles.

Graphics: 5/5

Super_Metroid_Mother_Brain_tankSo let’s be honest – video game graphics have come a long way since 1994.  You don’t need to have your cataracts removed to see that.  I’m not going to try to convince you that this game will hold its own against, say, Killzone 2 for the Playstation 3.  I would even go as far as to say that Metroid Fusion and Metroid: Zero Mission for the Gameboy Advance probably have better graphics overall than their SNES counterpart.  But we’re talking about a piece of hardware that was released in 1990, in an age where consoles were commonly ranked by the amount of on-screen colours they could display (256 for the SNES, the most of all the 16-bit consoles).  The main CPU of the SNES puttered along at 3.5Mhz.  I think I can tap my index finger faster than that.  Hardware limitations aside, this game looks fantastic.  From the intro sequence to the ending sequence when the ship blasts off from the planet, and everything in between, this game is total eye candy.  The amount of detail in the animations is stunning.  The plethora of colours used to paint the various areas of planet Zebes is astounding.  The enemies are plantiful, and in some cases huge – two full screens tall.  And despite the SNES’s reputation of having a slow CPU (those Sega goons always liked to poke fun at that fact), I don’t ever recall this game having an issue with slowdown.  Just wait until you acquire the Speed Booster in Norfair, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  But through and through, this game is all about attention to detail.  You can see it in all areas, and it really shows what a polished product Super Metroid is.

Sound: 5/5

I remember reading the review for Super Metroid in GamePro magazine way back in 1994.  If I recall correctly – and I wouldn’t necessarily trust my recollection abilities – sound was the only area where this game didn’t score a 5/5.  I cant remember if GamePro had a separate rating for sound and music, but I’m going to combine the two anyhow to make things simpler.  So why am I giving it a 5/5?  Maybe it would be easier to explain why I think GamePro magazine didn’t give it a 5/5.  I think they failed to look at the big picture, and let me explain what I mean by that.  Technically, one could argue that there are SNES games out there with better sound effects.  I think that’s pretty much a given.  Many of the sounds are muffled, and sometimes dubbed (ie playing back the same sound sample either slowed down or sped up in different scenarios).  Musically, Super Metroid didn’t win any awards for original score.  Most of the music lacks any kind of creative or foot-tapping melody, and will start to get repetitive as you search for hours on end to find all the items in the game.  However, what the music and sound effects lack in technical prowess, they add immensely to the overall atmosphere of the game, which is what got me hooked from the get-go.  Combined with the visuals, the sound adds a whole other element of feel to Super Metroid that you don’t see too often in games today.

Controls: 5/5

Super Metroid (JU) [!]_00008It’s probably getting obvious at this point that I’m going to score every category 5/5.  The controls in Super Metroid are definitely no exception.  Simple, responsive and effective.  That’s the way a game ought to be, and that’s part of the reason why I have little patience for so-called “next-generation” games.  If a game takes me longer than an hour to learn how to play because there are three dozen different button combinations, chances are I’m going to lose interest before I start having fun.  And that’s what video games were designed for in the first place, right?  To have fun.  Why do you think the Wii is still selling out?  Because it has a controller with twenty-five buttons on it?  No.  Because it has a multi-core processor that can crunch enough numbers to beat Gary Kasparov at a game of chess?  No.  I realize I’m on a bit of a tangent here, but this just proves why applications like the Virtual Console on the Wii, or the ability to download classic titles to your PS3 exist.  People go back to these games because they were simple, and fun.  Pick up your controller and start playing.  Getting back on track here, even compared to other Super Nintendo games, Super Metroid has excellent controls.  Using the Speed Booster may take a few tries to get down, but overall, you wont find yourself mashing buttons in any way.

Fun Factor: 5/5

What do I really need to say about this?  The fact that I’m writing this article proves that this game has enough replay value to keep coming back to it after all these years.  Even though I’ve memorized where every missile, super missile, power bomb, energy tank and reserve tank are located, I still have fun ripping through the various areas of Planet Zebes in attempt to complete the game in as little time as possible.  Check out some of the speed run videos on YouTube.  If you think I’m addicted to Super Metroid, some of these guys must practice for hours to complete the game in under 30 minutes.

Total: 20/20

Hehe, wow…  I just read through this article and realized what a video game nerd I am.  Truth be told, the only game I play nowadays for the most part is Rock Band 2.  I don’t have nearly as much free time as I did back in 1994, so I’d consider myself a casual gamer at best.  And in this day and age, it’s pretty hard to impress me.  I just bought a PS3 last Christmas largely because of Rock Band 2, but I certainly didn’t buy RB2 becuase of the graphics.  These next-gen consoles (well, mainly the PS3 and Xbox 360) are supposed to have all this processing power, but I have yet to see something that really blows me away.  Wipeout HD and MLB ’09: The Show came close, but everything else I’ ve sampled has been just OK for the most part – better than PS2, but not by leaps and bounds by any means.  This is one of the reasons why I like the Playstation Network so much.  At least you can download demos and try the games out before you spend any money them.

In the mean time, while you’re downloading the demo for Fight Night: Round 4 (which has incredibly frustrating controls, by the way), why not find yourself a copy of Super Metroid and relive a little piece of history?  You wont be disappointed!