SNES Review: Super Metroid. Samus Aran’s finest hour in her 16-bit masterpiece

8 July 2006
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Get Super Metroid for the SNESRegarded by many gamers as the greatest game of all time, Super Metroid is well-known as Samus‘ defining moment.

A game which is so well designed that it’s held up as the ideal way to make a 2D side-scrolling action platform game, it has influenced everything from Castlevania to modern games where collecting new power-ups to reach previously unaccessible areas is the crux of the gameplay.

Super Metroid is a game that anyone and everyone should play. It’s top-notch in all regards and is an integral piece of gaming history and game development done right. And now I present my full review of this iconic masterpiece.

For those that have missed it, see my previous reviews of Metroid, Metroid: Zero Mission and Metroid II: Return of Samus. Complete the classics by reading below. Have a great weekend!

Super Metroid Logo
“The last Metroid is in captivity. The galaxy, is at peace.” With those immortal words, one of Samus’ greatest adventures would begin.

Super Metroid was released on the Super Nintendo in 1994. The game was the latest in Gunpei Yokoi’s sci-fi series and for many would be the series’ most revered moment. Also known as Metroid 3, it followed up the Game Boy entry in the series, Metroid II: Return of Samus.

Planet Zebes The storyline sees the titular heroine heading back to planet Zebes, where she fought Mother Brain in the original, after a baby Metroid hatchling (which followed her like a confused child at the end of Metroid 2) is stolen from a research facility. Where Samus left it to be studied for mankind’s benefit, due to the unique properties of the Metroid’s that could be harnessed if properly studied. Of course those responsible for the crime are none other than Ridley, the Mother Brain’s top Space Pirate general, and his cohorts.

Super Metroid Title ScreenThe game starts off in grand fashion. The intro to the game is very mysterious and easily ranks as one of the most engrossing, especially on the Super Nintendo. It shows scenes of the desolate Ceres Research Facility, as the words “1994”, “Nintendo”, “Presents”, “Metroid 3” scroll across, in red letters on an all black background, between each scene. It shows the Metroid hatchling incased in it’s large test tube. The scientists lie dead on the floor. It’s dark, cold, desolate. The music starts out subdued and low with a very creepy feeling until it booms as the camera pans back from the hatchling and the words “Super Metroid” are splashed across the top.

Super Metroid ControlsThe beginning of the game is even better, but before that come the option settings. Where you can change the default control scheme (which has the X Button as shoot and the A Button as jump), toggle how the game cancels your “select” weapons (if turned to auto it will turn them off each time you exit a room. If toggled on, you can manually cancel by hitting the Y Button) and some strange options that include a “moonwalk” ability, which allows you to shoot while walking backwards.

Super Metroid StoryThe opening cut-scene for the game is absolutely excellent and it starts as soon as you finish setting options. It opens up with Samus talking about her past (via text on-screen, after the opening sentence is spoken), and going through the games storyline. Leading from the events of her defeating Mother Brain in Metroid one, to the Metroid hatchling following her (thinking Samus is it’s mother) in Metroid 2, to the events that lead up to her current adventure. From there, Samus’ ship is shown zooming through space and into the Ceres research facility.

CeresFrom there the game switches to gameplay. You control Samus as she makes here way through the desolate and ransacked facility, including the room from the intro. Of course, the hatchling is no where to be found and now the test tube has been cracked open. As you reach the last room, the door shuts on you and all is silent . . . . I won’t spoil the surprise, but needless to say, the game latches onto you like a violent metroid out for revenge. And like a Metroid, the game never lets go after that. Sucking you in for all it’s worth.

MetroidSuper Metroid is critically acclaimed and beloved by fans for good reason. It’s been heralded as the greatest game of all time by such respected magazines as Electronic Gaming Monthly, nabbing the coveted #1 spot on their “Best Games of All Time” list in issue #150. Once Samus lands on the planet Zebes and the gameplay starts, it’s easy to see why.

Samus' ShipThe most striking thing about the game right of the bat is definitely the atmosphere. Your ship lands on the planet during the middle of a storm, with the rain bouncing off the ship and ground and even Samus’ suit. A nice touch of detail. The graphics are very crisp and the music is fitting as the planet seems desolate and cold; lifeless.

SamusThe music will eventually pick up as you make your way beneath the surface to uncover the first of many famous Metroid power-ups. The Morph Ball.

Super Metroid plays like the other games, except the formula has been refined to give this game a very cool feel. While it’s not nearly as fast or refined as the latest GBA games, the R&L buttons for example independently control diagonally aiming right and left, it’s all very good for the time and fits well on the Super Nintendo controller.

Like all Metroid titles, you make your way through the various environments (such iconic Metroid standby’s as Brinstar, Norfair, Crateria and the very awesome underwater Maridia, which makes it’s debut), picking up power-ups that increase your weapons and abilities that in turn allow you to reach areas of the world you couldn’t get into before. All the while fighting various little enemies that come across your path, destroying them to pick up energy and discovering new power-ups, weapons and abilities to uncover new areas as well as give you the power to defeat the larger boss monsters you will encounter.

ElevatorCertain doors are only opened by certain weapons (red doors take five Missiles or one Super Missile, Green doors take one Super Missile, etc.) and secrets abound throughout the game world. Like all Metroids, the Morph Ball and Bombs are integral to the experience. Using bombs you can blow up sections and blocks that are breakable in floors, walls and even ceilings (sometimes the blocks can only be broken by a required weapon or ability). These lead to packs that when collected increase how much missiles you can carry. The world is also scattered with Energy Tanks, that increase how much energy you have by 99 units.

Super Metroid introduces some of the best new weapons in the series (yes including the new games). Specifically the Grappling Beam is easily one of the coolest and most unique weapons. It’s actually not a weapon so much as a navigation tool. Although it can be used to attack enemies (although it’s weak, it can kill certain enemies with one hit) you’ll largely use it to grapple onto certain blocks.

Grapple BeamOnce grappled, you can move the control pad right and left to make Samus swing. There is some technique to be had and it is fun to simply swing around on the grappling beam. It makes for a very nice addition to the Metriod power-up family. Other cool new weapons include the X-Ray Visor and the Power Bomb’s, which made their debut.

Chozo BossSuper Metroid also has some great, memorable bosses. Series’ mainstays Kraid and Ridley have been given complete make-overs from their initial Metroid debut (in the original 1986 NES game) and the new bosses and mini-bosses that were added fit very nicely in the Metroid canon. All bosses are massive and some can be quite difficult.

PhantoonOne big issue though is that bosses can generally be easily defeated with Super Missiles. I almost feel that this is cheating and you should somehow be blocked from using Super Missiles on bosses. Regardless, the bosses are all very cool and very memorable. Great designs as well (gotta love the Norfair mini-boss, even the fight itself is unique).

QuagmireDefinitely the best part of Metroid outside it’s gameplay are it’s environments. From the graphics to the music, the game has a great sense of atmosphere. All the tunes, especially Brinstar and Maridia, are classics and simply great music, and all of them fit their stages really well. Each environment is unique, from Brinstar’s plant-based theme to the mysterious dark red section once you get deeper within (and it’s awesome music) to the lava-filled Norfair or the underwater Maridia.

Broken TubeThe game is also very nicely detailed. Samus suit lights up and looks really cool, and the world is full of neat touches. When you first go through the planet, you make your way through what looks like Mother Brain’s lair from the first game! Accept it’s obviously completely destroyed and desolate. Some secrets are even mirrored from the original game! And one of the greatest touches in the newest Metroid games, especially Metroid: Zero Mission, is that a lot of the environments from that game play into Super Metroid, so even if you’ve never played this game and you played Zero Mission before, you will notice some cool touches.

Snake BossThe gameplay is fun like always and the new weapons and the way the game updates the look of the power-ups from the previous games really adds a lot (the Space Jump and Screw Attack in particular look really cool). It’s fun to just go through blasting enemies and if it’s your first-time playing you’ll have a lot of fun looking for secrets and using Samus’ abilities to find them.

Speed BoosterSamus has a unique feel in this game that’s different from the others and the secrets in the game are very clever. Some of them are downright devious and will take you quite a long time of searching before you can complete the game with that elusive 100%. The game will feel a bit dated though if you’ve played the newer titles. While the secrets are very well done, they are not nearly as intricate as some in the newer titles are, although a few make really clever use of the Speed Booster and that naturally inspired the really insane Speed Booster secrets of the newer Metroid Fusion and Metroid: Zero Mission games.

Chozo Boss FigureOne very cool aspect of Super Metroid is that Samus actually has hidden abilities. These are abilities that are NOT listed and the game never tells you how to pull them off. With the exception of the wall jump, which can be performed by jumping at a wall and quickly pressing back and jump.

Inventory ScreenIf you watch the rolling gameplay that follows the intro (after you’ve beaten the game) you can see a sneak peek of some of these abilities. The first requires you to select your Power Bombs, press start and press R to go into Samus’ Ability Screen, which lists all the abilities. From here you can toggle abilities and weapons on and off (something I complained about not being available in Zero Mission). One really cool aspect of Super Metroid is that you can mix and match abilities by turning certain ones off and leaving others on.

Her hidden weapon abilities require you to turn off every weapon accept the charge beam and the weapon you want to perform her move with (each weapon from Ice Beam to Plasma will give you a new special ability). Then you simply select the Power Bomb and charge her weapon. Have fun experimenting, I won’t reveal what they do, you’ll just have to figure out for yourself.
MetroidsThe second hidden ability allows Samus to completely recharge her health to capacity. Unfortunately, the game is easy to the point where you will likely never use this, even if you know about it. Again you need to select your Power Bombs. And then you can only do this move if you have met certain requirements.

Crystal FlashYou must have less than 49 units of energy and more than 10 Missiles, 10 Super Missiles and 11 Power bombs. To do the move (called Crystal Flash) select Power Bomb and roll into a ball. Then hold L&R and press fire, holding the button down. Samus will absorb the energy and be surrounded by a sphere (lying inside in a fetal position). This will refill your energy to max! (Draining your weapons in the process) and is a really neat trick.

Sadly though (in one of the only bad points about the game) is that these secret abilities will never be used since the game is not difficult enough. And on top of that, some of the other new cool stuff, like Reserve Tanks (which store energy for you when you collect energy orbs past capacity and can be used on the option menu or if you die), are practically worthless since you rarely will be that low on energy. The game is pretty easy overall. It’s too bad they couldn’t have added at least a difficulty selection to the game. There also are no unlockables. But like the other Metroids, the game does contain multiple endings.

SavingIn the end however, nothing really matters when the overall game is so cool and so refined. Super Metroid is a game whose flaws are nearly non-existent. The gameplay is Metroid perfection, the graphics are great, the music is great, the atmosphere is unique and extremely well fitting and the game contains some of the most memorable moments in gaming. Super Metroid actually has one of the greatest in-game endings of all time. The game is worth playing just to see this amazing scene, and it is one you will not soon forget.

Super Metroid power-ups
Regardless of your tastes or what games you have or have not played, Super Metroid is a game that all people simply must experience. Even if you’ve never played a Metroid game before, the game is extremely accessible and requires no previous Metroid knowledge. Super Metroid gets my highest recommendation and if you have not played the game, it is worth tracking down a Super Nintendo to do so! And when the Wii hits, you better believe that it should be the first game on your Virtual Console wish list! Super Metroid is quite simply one of the best games ever made. Period.

Super Metroid SamusFUN FACTOR: 10 – The game is Metroid perfection. There is really nothing to complain about and the game is as fun as Metroid gets.

Graphics: 9.0 – This game has great graphics that use the power of the Super Nintendo to great effect.

Music & Sound: 9.5 – Great tunes and classic Metroid sounds, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Ingenuity: 8.0 – Super Metroid is classic Metroid gameplay refined with some cool new mechanics like the Grappling Beam. The game doesn’t contain anything truely innovative though. It’s simply Metroid refined.

Presentation: 9.5 – The presentation in Super Metroid is top-notch. From the moody feel and great cut-scenes to the nearly film-like ending, great touches harkening back to older games and more, you can’t ask for more.

Tourain EntranceReplay Value: 7.5 – Nothing to unlock and standard Metroid endings. The game does contain lots of secrets so that will definitely keep you coming back for more. But especially in relation to newer titles, Super Metroid simply can’t compete.

Reviewer’s Tilt: 10 – Super Metroid is one of my favorite games of all time. If not in the #1 slot. A true masterpiece and a 16-bit classic.

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About the author

Josh Romero By Josh Romero: He is a lover of videogames, as well as metal music, Gilmore Girls, chatting, social networking, Phoenix Suns, reading, writing and many other nerdy things. Read his posts here and connect with him on Youtube.


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