Friday, September 15, 2017

Metroid (NES) Revisited

Right before the release of Metroid: Samus Return I went through another classic Metroid game. In fact I revisited the classic Metroid game, the first one, released in 1986 on the NES. For this I again used the Wii U Virtual Console. It's a short game overall, so you can easily beat this in one evening, if you want to.

However, at first I was hesitating whether I actually want to play this or not. With the Zelda NES games I usually feel like they offer some unique gameplay within the series, where I enjoy replaying them to a degree. Especially Zelda II - The Adventure of Link is very different from the rest of the series, while The Legend of Zelda simply has his own charm and feels more like a sword beam shooter at times, which can be addicting.

Metroid on the other hand just feels like an underdeveloped prototype for the later games. Super Metroid has a very fitting name, because it's essentially a superior version of Metroid. It even takes place in the world of the first game, but tries to do everything bigger and better. Level design, controls, gameplay - everything has improved by a margin. And on top of that Nintendo even created a remake of the first game in the same style with Zero Mission. So, there doesn't seem to be a good reason to play the first game and unlike The Legend of Zelda it fails to captivate with its own classic 8-bit gameplay.

You can only shoot in three directions (left, up and right) and at the beginning of the game you can't even shoot things at your feet. You need the Wave Beam for that (or to use Bombs). It all feels somewhat quirky compared to the later games and even the most basic enemies like the Rios and Wavers can be super annoying early on, because they are so hard to hit and just fly right through you.

If you die, you start with 30 health and then you're out to farm energy balls, where enemies for the most time only leave 5 points of energy at a time, if any, while every mistake will cost you much more... Also, the Ice Beam does not do more damage and makes killing enemies even slower, because they don't take damage from being frozen. And then you're up to playing the ever-same boring corridors again and again. While getting through Norfair I almost was about to reset the game and say the magic words for the only way I knew the game could be fun:


But I didn't and I have to say that the game gets a lot easier and manageable, as soon as you get the Varia Suit. You take considerably less damage then. I almost was about to enjoy the game, when this happened:

Why can't Metroid wall-jump?

There's one part in Norfair right before the Wave Beam, where you can fall down and not get out of the lava. With the Varia Suit it takes a while, before you die there, so you have to put the game aside and slowly wait for the inevitable. Lava in general seems to be something in this game, where it's easy to get stuck in.

Also, as soon as there are more than two enemies on the screen, the frame rate drops significantly and makes the game hardly playable at times, but it still keeps throwing more enemies at you than it can handle. The Screw Attack also often fails you, where you take damage instead of destroying an enemy... It all just doesn't feel very reliable, where the game is just not fun at times.

I personally think that they did a much better job with the sequel already, Metroid II - Return of Samus. While the controls, gameplay and the graphics are as simple as in the first game, the game works much better with its restrictions. It also introduced points, where you can refill your health and missiles, which is dearly missed in the first game, where grinding is your only option.

Anyway, despite all the shortcomings, I still made it to Tourian to hunt some Metroids and face Mother Brain.

But the latter has proven to be very difficult, because again there's too much happening at once on the screen, where you get hit from every direction, while you're fighting the low frame rate... So, this certainly won't become my favorite Metroid game, it might even be my least favorite. But let's hope that my new favorite Metroid title will be released today.


Eduardo Jencarelli said...

The original NES Metroid is the one I play the least. Besides the frame rate issues, Samus also moves way too slowly. A liability if you're going for the best ending (under 1 hour). Unless you're a crack speedrunner, it's pretty much impossible to collect everything and still beat Mother Brain within that time limit. You have to face her without having every expansion. Fortunately you get plenty of missiles from beating Ridley and Kraid.

But if I were to pick my least favorite game in the series, it would be Hunters. Doing single player was frustrating, having to face harder versions of the same boss over and over, iffy touch controls in first person, not to mention those forced timed escape sequences. Having to play fast while trying not to fall off ledges is stressful. And that's the only game that gives you an actual game over for that.

I just began Federation Force. It's a steep challenge when it comes to getting good scores, but as a whole it's a far more pleasant playthrough than Hunters.

TourianTourist said...

When it comes to singleplayer, Hunters is certainly the worst Metroid game, no contest. I still rank the game higher than the NES Classic, because I enjoy the multiplayer gameplay quite a lot. I'm a huge fan of the Unreal Tournament series and Hunters basically provided this type of gameplay in the Metroid universe.

I'd even like to see something similar on the Switch. Without the horrid singleplayer of course. But maybe Metroid Prime 4 will already have an interesting multiplayer mode. The game will feature Sylux, after all.