Is it just nostalgia?: Metroid (NES)
E3 was huge for Nintendo fans, for finally it was announced that they would be given not one but two new Metroid titles in both Metroid Prime 4 for the Switch and Metroid: Samus Returns for the 3DS. Metroid has been a long beloved franchise for me that unfortunately hasn’t had a new instalment since 2011 (which even then, the Other M was mediocre) and the Spinoff was panned so much that people pretend it doesn’t exist. After these announcements I became more aware of the fact that I haven’t actually finished a Metroid title outside of Zero Mission all those years ago, despite loving the series it is one where I found myself getting to the end of the title and then just stopping for whatever reason, and so I decided to play the original Metroid title. Sadly not having an original NES hampered my ability to play this in its natural setting but fortunately, I do have an NES Mini Classic, so I played it on that instead.
If you’ve gotten this far and somehow don’t know what Metroid is it’s the tale of Samus Aran, an intergalactic Bounty Hunter who travels through the planet Zebes taking on the Space Pirates including Ridley, Kraid and Mother Brain. This game takes place completely inside the labyrinth planet of Zebes, you take control of Samus Aran with initially minimum equipment, as you explore the caverns of the planet you eventually acquire upgrades allowing you either access to areas you previously couldn’t access or power ups to make life easier in the caverns.
The controls in the game are incredibly simple, as, with most of the NES titles, the D-Pad takes Samus where you want while the B & A allow to shoot and jump. The Start menu pauses and the select button toggles between Samus’ beam and missiles. While this is simple I did find the toggle for the missiles to be a little bit annoying and frustrating when under attack.
Samus can upgrade her Missiles and Energy with Missile Packs and Energy Packs found around the world, often in plain sight but some require some simple puzzle solving, usually requiring to shoot or bomb a wall and find a hidden passage to go further, in order to replenish missiles or energy she must kill enemies along the way, this quickly becomes an issue when you discover that a single hit from an enemy does more damage than getting most health packs. In fact, the game itself goes out of its way to punish the player as if you should die on your adventure you’ll start from the lift into the area with 30 health. You could have 6 health packs (with 100 health each) and the game will start you with 30 and it’s incredibly slow and tedious to get this backup. Fortunately, once you pick up the Varia suit this becomes less and less an issue as you’ll take far less damage.
Unlike later games in the series, Metroid doesn’t have a built in map and it’s up to you to recall where things are and where you must travel back to once you’ve gained further upgrades. Making a map of where things are is something that was essential back in the day but now you can find a map online just about anywhere. Metroid is a game of simple fun but will ramp up the difficulty at times and the bosses have their own ways of ways of making things easy, usually requiring you to jump in lava and shoot them, the final Boss Mother Brian instead was a bit more challenging compared to the second half of the game which was a nice finish to the game.
Graphically the game is well defined on the NES system, enemies are clear on the screen and Samus is easily identifiable at all times, while there are little to no backgrounds the screen rarely feels cluttered and difficult to follow. Although the game does seem to struggle when there are too many enemies, bullets or explosions happening on the screen, something which was annoying to replay. Due to lack of an internal battery the game doesn’t have any ability to save, instead, you’ve got to get a password. Having to write down a password every time you want to power off the console is annoying and some of the digits are hard to read, thankfully the 3DS and Wii U ports of the game featured save states, while most may say that it’s not the ‘true’ way to play I personally don’t want to have to repeat parts of the game.
It’s hard to pinpoint Metroid as simply just a nostalgia title, the game works in its own right and has few issues, most gamers are going to want to simply pick up Zero Mission, a remake of the title with an expanded narrative and brought up to date but there is some merit to playing the original simply to see how the title is like.
However this is in no shape or forms the best Metroid has offered or will offer, it’s a classic game due to being the first in the series and is no more than that, for that reason I would simply state the only reason anyone would touch Metroid on the NES is down to nostalgia. A true classic but not much reason to go back to it with Zero Mission existing.