Metroid (NES): My Thoughts

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Welcome to the first edition of ‘My Thoughts’, my own versions of reviews! There are no scores but pros and cons at the bottom of the article, so if you want the quick of it, feel free to scroll on down. As you have likely noticed and possibly read in my biographical article, the games I review are at my own discretion. The order I review games is the order I play them, not the order that games are released. Today that happens to be a game from 1986, so let’s kick it off!

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Metroid is a sci-fi, action adventure game developed by Nintendo for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Metroid is a game that was definitive not only for the system of the time, but the whole genre of exploration games and the mechanics of Metorid are still prevalent today. To really show the brevity of how influential this game is, Metorid is the game that makes up part of ‘Metroidvania’, the gaming buzzword used to define 2.5D action adventure games with upgrade systems. But how does the grandaddy of great games hold up? Read on to find out how I think it did. Note: I’m not holding technological limitations against a game this old, I am reviewing what the game did at the time it originally released and how much fun I had with it today, which can be said for all games I review in the future.

The beauty, and occasional short fall, in Metroid is how minimalist the story is. The story starts with Samus being dropped on an alien planet and as a player, you receive no direction or exposition, just that you are on this planet and that you should probably kill those things trying to kill you. The solemness that Metorid sets up is very ambient and genuinely scary, which carries out through the game, with slow and simple 8-bit music that sets the tone that you are truly alone on this alien planet. Samus starts out really weak with a basic, short-ranged arm cannon and a small amount of health, but risks and experimentation are usually rewarded in Metroid, players who don’t branch out and try to power through the bosses will likely die quickly and frequently. Metorid does a great job of making players feel independent in that sense, every thing you accomplish, or fail to accomplish, is totally on the player, the game isn’t going to pat you on the back but also won’t rub your face in your failure. Sometimes I wish the game would have thrown me a bone though, on more than one occasion I got an upgrade but didn’t know what it did or what it even was. Again, experimentation usually gave me the answer, but at the expense of very precious health.

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The limitation of the tech is a not a drawback, but is integral to how the game is played. If an enemy walks off the screen, you can generally tell what his path is and go after him if you so choose. Reversely, you can’t really run from enemies because they will continue on their path, no matter where the screen is focused. The limitation is what dictates how the player plays the game, not something players need to work around. There were a couple of issues or glitches I did find detrimental to the game, all of them revolving around doors. First off, if there were charging enemies coming at you as you were trying to go through a door, they would phase through the door and the wall to damage you while you were frozen because of the screen transitioning to the new room. It felt unfair because I couldn’t fight back, something I prided myself on through the rest of the game and even earlier in this review. Another glitch was a time warp like effect when you walked into a room with a lot of enemies. Parts of the room near the door, including Samus, would be stuck in slow motion, but enemies further out would move at regular speed and take advantage of your predicament. Weather these issues are because of the technology of the time or emulation, I played on my 3DS, is unclear to me but in the big picture, these glitches are very minor and took virtually nothing away from the overall experience.

There’s a reason games like Metorid are still made today and it’s because the mechanics are incredibly addictive. Everything that makes this genre great started with Metroid and after playing through the game that started it all, it is easy to see why. Age is just a number for Metorid, even though it will turn 30 next year, the gameplay is still incredibly solid and completing Metorid is something I will always consider an achievement.

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Pros:

  • Player driven story with meaningful upgrade system provides a rewarding sense of accomplishment
  • A perfect feeling of loneliness through lack of direction and great music choice sets a scary and ambient tone for the world
  • Risk and experimentation is usually rewarded

Cons:

  • Sometimes objectives are too vague, a little direction would be helpful in some places
  • Very minor glitches

Well there it is, my first review! Thanks for sticking around and expect more reviews soon. So did you ever play Metorid? Did you beat it, or did you never even find the morph ball? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter

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