Last month, after witnessing the complete ruination of one of my favorite franchises, I needed to get away from the computer for a while. This, however, did not mean I would stop playing video games. As I was rummaging through my old cartridges (you remember those, right?), a few titles caught my eye. I decided to plug in some of my old consoles and play through Nintendo’s great sci-fi adventure series: Metroid, which includes eleven captivating games between 1986 and 2010.
For those unfamiliar with them, the Metroid games are exploration-based platformers. They started as 2-D adventures reminiscent of both Contra and The Legend of Zelda. You walk around perilous labyrinths in search of power-ups to upgrade your armor and arsenal. Every weapon allows you to uncover new areas and unveil the secrets of the alien metroids, energy-sucking parasites used as bio-weapons. Along the way, you encounter hordes of enemies, puzzles, secret passages, and tough mini-bosses that, in turn, unlock the final boss.
The advent of the Gamecube added a new dimension to the gameplay. I mean this literally as Nintendo switched the series to 3-D, starting with 2002’s Metroid Prime, which takes place shortly after the events of the original game. All in all, saving the galaxy has kept the main character, Samus Aran, quite busy, yet she’s also found time to appear in games from other franchises such as the Super Smash Bros trilogy and, before that, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars and Kirby Super Star. These offbeat excursions aside, one thing has remained the same throughout the series’ history: the eerie music that adds to the games’ unique sense of danger.
Metroid’s legacy goes beyond music though. As I mentioned in my contribution to the site’s piece for Women’s History Month, Samus broke the gender barrier in the video game world after she removed her helmet at the end of the first game and revealed herself to be an eight-bit woman with flowing brown hair. This may not seem so impressive today, but back then control pads were for boys, so female characters tended to be relegated to supporting roles like damsel in distress, damsel in distress, and, uh, damsel in distress. Without Metroid, we may have never got Lara Croft the Tomb Raider, Jill Valentine from Resident Evil, or, you know, some less sexualised example if you can think of any.
My next couple of articles will focus on each game through which I have had the pleasure of playing. This includes the original Metroid for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Metroid II: Return of Samus for the Gameboy, Super Metroid for the Super Nintendo, and Metroid Prime for the Gamecube. If the project hasn’t worn out its welcome by then, I may take a gander at the two Gameboy Advance entries as well: Metroid Fusion and Metroid: Zero Mission. Hopefully, my reviews will be able to convey what developers can achieve when they respect their franchise instead of exploiting it for a quick buck. I hope you’ll stay tuned, and please post your comments!