Super Metroid

Super Metroid

When someone recommends you play a Metroid game with most certainty the game in question would be the Super one. In 2015 it turned twenty one years old. The secret to staying relevant is staying simple. It all begins with just two short voiced phrases:

The last metroid is in captivity.
The galaxy is at peace…

After that the game quickly retells the events of first two games from the point of view of the protagonist, space bounty hunter Samus Aran. Few years ago (in 20X5 as stated in the official guide for the first Metroid) she has disrupted the space pirates’ evil plan. A bunch of weirdly looking dinosaurs ruled by a giant spiky brain with a single eye tried to enslave the population of flying green jellyfish called metroids. This titular macguffin of the series is a dangerous parasite which sucks “life energy” out of anything it comes close to. After stopping the pirates with direct rocket-laser-beam-bomb therapy Samus has blown up the whole facility leaving only one infant metroid alive, which she then took along to the nearest space station for scientists to dissect and experiment on. And then, shortly after our hero has left, she’s receives a distress signal from the station. Something isn’t right. She returns.

And so the game begins. Everyone on the station is dead. The little metroid packed in a glass tube is snatched by pterodactyl-looking space pirate Ridley. These events are not mere static images with text or even animated cut-scenes. Super Metroid ditches dialogues and other non-interactive storytelling techniques in favor of developing the story through action. You can’t really do anything about kidnapping, but if you shoot precisely and dodge attacks long enough you’ll be rewarded with a view of Ridley dropping its prey for a few seconds before flying away. There’s nothing left to do here. It’s time to go back to Zebes. Pirates didn’t lose any time and have built a new base underground. These tunnels are filled with aggressive xeno-fauna, but in the remote caves and nooks you can find various upgrades for exoskeleton costume of the protagonist.

Welcome to the machine

Without dialogues the game becomes an exercise in solitude. Your explore the world, you make your way through, you become stronger, faster, deadlier. You’re more experienced now, when you’ve filled the black corner of the screen with the white borders of explored segments of the map.

Metroid in its essence is the story of gradual empowerment. Samus Aran is impressive from the start being nearly two meters high and weighing ninety kilograms according to the official game guide. Collecting additional abilities and weapons turns her into an unstoppable force which will obliterate everything in its way. Those pirates will pay for messing with the metroids. And if simple firepower isn’t enough, Samus has a lot of tricks under her sleeve. The most iconic one is of course turning herself into a ball with the help of improbable sci-fi physics. Compared to all other crazy stuff happening in the fictional universe this is normal. The exhuberance of story's backgrounds only goes hand-in-hand with unconventionally minimalistic approach to telling its story.

Restraint is key property of Super Metroid. The game ditches everything that may stand in the way of player’s interaction with the world. The flow stays simple and elegant. Most of the secrets are well hidden so you would overlook them. It’s just another little bit of extra help for you to deal with the aggressive Zebes’ fauna, nothing more. Sometimes though it’s more than that. Some of the suit’s unique abilities are optional. In order to find everything you’d better use that X-Ray Scope (of course, you can miss it too). If that wasn’t enough, even some things that every new player would certainly pick up can be skipped. It helps to have higher jumps when you’re just exploring, but if you’re a veteran gunning for speedrun you can just use wall-jumping technique which is available right from the start.

Super Metroid doesn’t have the biggest or most complex world; its secrets are not that mind-blowing. But it’s a combination of a thrilling soundtrack and alien design coated in a thick layer of intense action. And that is enough. Every secret you find feels like a true discovery. Every defeated boss is an accomplishment. It’s an adventure that stays in your memory because it knows how to limit itself to a few core things and make them near perfect.

And the cycle continues…