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Metroid: Zero Mission Review

Written : 03/27/04

Lately, actually, ever since the GBA came out, Nintendo has taken a lot of flak for retooling old NES and SNES classics and putting them on the GBA as if they were new titles. Now there is nothing wrong with porting a few great classics, but when they almost completely stop producing new games, it starts to get a little bit annoying. All of the Super Mario Advance games are ports of either Super Mario World games or the enhances Mario Bros games from Super Mario All-Stars. Every Mario fan has been itching for a new side-scroller for a long time, but Nintendo is refusing to put original content on the system.

Now this sounds really bad, and for the most part it is. Mario & Luigi has held us for some time, but we need our pure platforming action. But enough about Mario, there are a ton of other ports which have seen a lot more improvements than an extra little mini-game. Take Resident Evil for example. Itís quite possibly the best remake ever. Capcom went all-out on this beautiful GCN exclusive, and the fans just ate it up. They completely changed the game. Not only were the graphics, sound, and gameplay improved, but they even added some new twists and turns to throw off vets. Now that Is how you remake a game.

More recently, Nintendo seems to have realized that properly remaking a game goes over quite well. The Kirby port was getting to the point of great remakeness, with a huge graphical update, better music, and several new mini-games. But they left the game itself almost untouched. Sure, Kirby got a barrel of new powers, but the levels were still the exact same. That would have been fine but theyíre pretty damn short. Their latest port really hit the bullís eye though. They took a game and made it as if it was a completely new game, with new gameplay modes, a longer game, and more to be explained later. They really scored with this one, and they couldnít have picked a better game to fix up.

Metroid: Zero Mission, as you might have noticed from the title, is the game Iím talking about. And just to make the situation even clearer, itís a remake of Metroid for the NES. I had played Metroid prior to this one, and it was not exactly the most enjoyable experience Iíve had. Maybe itís because Iíve been too spoiled with the newer generations of games, but I could never really get into it. It was just so hard and (for lack of a better word) limiting. Sure, it was huge for its time, but not anymore.

And now that Iíve seen Zero Mission, I have a renewed faith in Nintendoís remaking skills. This game goes above and beyond the expectations that I had when I heard that they were redoing it, and I canít get enough of it. And the nicest part is that while Metroid Fusion had a deeper plot, was very linear, and held your hand the whole way through, Zero Mission has a very light story and lets you explore as much as you want and move at your own pace.

The first and most noticeable thing about his here remake is the new graphics. Youíll see in the comparison later just how much theyíve changed. Everything looks so great now. The environments no longer look like they were made with building blocks, and Samus looks like Samus. I never got very far in the original, but Iím pretty sure that a lot of enemies have even grown quite a bit. Iím know Kraid wasnít so huge in the original game, and now heís back to his good olí Super Metroid proportions (only this time he doesnít look so retarded). And Ridley, well, Ridley looks somewhat less impressive than Ridley X did in Metroid Fusion, but Iíll let it slide. This timeÖ

The above-all greatest part about this remake is the enhances control you have over Samus. Before all you could really do was move, jump, and aim up. Heck, aiming up was a luxury back in the days of the NES, but it just wasnít enough. There were so many enemies that were smaller than Samus, so you couldnít hit them at all due to a lack of ducking ability. And now not only can Samus duck, but she can shoot in eight directions as well! Now rather than having to run under the dive-bombing bats and risk certain doom, you can pick them off from a safe distance away. The nicest part is that switching to missiles is now a ďholdĒ setup rather than a ďswitchĒ like the original had, making for much less accidental missile wasting.

And donít get the impression that the game is easy either. Sure itíll never be quite as difficult as the NES version, but Normal and Hard modes do give a nice challenge. Easy mode is just as itís described: easy. But Metroid vets know that all Metroid games have multiple endings, and playing though easy mode will only ever let you see one of them, so you have to play on Normal or Hard to see any of the others. And even then, some endings are only available on Hard, with some sick requirements, so youíll be mastering this game for some time before youíve seen them all.

Another big change that Nintendoís been promoting heavily is the ďextended and improvedĒ storyline for the game. Now it is extended a bit right at the end, giving those who played through the original a huge surprise and massive new area to explore. On top of all that, it adds a whole new style of gameplay which Metroid has seen very little to none of in the past. But is it improved? I wouldnít say so. The only improvements are some ďcut-scenesĒ which consist of scarcely animated art and a few monologues by Samus. Itís nice, but it really doesnít help to move the story along or anything, itís purely for styleís sake.

And speaking of the story, hereís the gist of it: Everyone is happy in the future. ďGalactic peaceĒ, as they like to call it, has been achieved. Then Space Pirates come and ruin everything. They plan to use metroids to suck the energy out of everything and rule the galaxy. Samus is dispatched to stop them. She goes down to their base of operations, planet Zebes. Her mission is to wipe out the Space Pirates, any metroids theyíve been hording, and kill the Mother Brain. Along the way, she has to take out the big monster Kraid and the leader of the Space Pirates, Ridley.

And thatís about it. Itís not a very complex story, and there are no plot twists until right at the end, but Iím not going to ruin it for anyone who might not have been through the game yet. Iíd say itís a decent story, due to the fact that it was made up a good 13 or so years ago, and they were lucky to have any story in games back then. These days it wouldnít get very far, but fortunately the game has enough gameplay value to make up for a story of any crapitude.

There are plenty of great changes in the game, and it manages to incorporate a little something from all those other Metroid games and still has a couple new things to throw at us. The one handiest change is the map. The original game had no in-game map, so you could never be sure where you were. It didnít help that the corridors were huge and all looked rather similar. While the game does give you the choice to go wherever your current abilities allow, there is a nice hint system that puts a ďnext pace you need to goĒ beacon on the map that helps if you put the game down and pick it up a long time later and forget where you were headed. Also, like in Metroid Fusion, once youíve completed the game there will be an indicator of how many power-ups youíve found in each area, making finding them all just a bit easier.

Like I said, the game takes elements from all the others, and for the most part, that means tons of abilities. The NES Metroid didnít have all too many abilities for Samus to acquire, but Zero Mission is just stacked with the things. Most of the new ones made their first appearance in Super Metroid, like the Speed Booster and the Power Bombs, but thereís also newer ones like the Power Grip from Metroid Fusion and the all-new zip lines that let Samus cross some very deadly territory. Iím not sure, but I think being able to use the ďShinesparkĒ technique while in Morph Ball mode is new too. I never actually tried it in Fusion and I havenít played enough of Super Metroid to even be able to pretend to know what Iím talking about.

The music in the game is perfect. Theyíve taken all the old tunes and revamped them so that they sound very, very good. I absolutely love the Brinstar and Kraid themes, and the rest of it is pretty good too. If there was one problem with Metroid Prime, itís that I didnít recognize many of the tunes. I know there was new stuff and remixes, but I still canít think up any remixes I noticed besides the Magmoor Caverns theme and Ridleyís theme. Iím not entirely sure if there are any others, but I know Nintendo does a good job of mixing old music to make it sound completely different (See Windfall Island theme from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker). As for sound effects, some of the monster growls are really cool, and Ridleyís ďvoiceĒ is as annoying as ever. Good show, boys.

Now that Iíve explained pretty much all the changes that were made to Metroid to make it into Zero Mission itís time to see how they stacked up. In short, this game rules. It blows away both the original and Metroid II: Return of Samus, slinks by Super Metroid and is a lot less constricting than Metroid Fusion. Iíd compare it to Prime, but thatís a comparison that just canít be made. Theyíre two different types of games. Both hold true the spirit of Metroid, but one is a first-person adventure and the other is a side-scroller. If I had to pick one, it would be Zero Mission. While Prime is longer and more intense, Iím a widely recognized fan of side-scrollers. Itís not that I donít like 3-D games (Super Mario 64 is my favorite game ever), but I was born into the age of platformers, and I just never really completed the jump from 2D to 3D with the rest of the gaming world.

Since I love the game so much, there but be some huge quality that I havenít mentioned yet, donít you think? Well, there are some things that add greatly to my adoration of the game that Iíve yet to bring up. Now could this game be really long? Nope. Like every other 2D Metroid and most survival horror game, this one is short and built around that premise that you should enjoy playing through it over and over. And I do. There are eight endings in all, and the four that I havenít got are going to require a lot of skill that I havenít quite got yet.

ĒWell if itís not super-long, there must be options. Ryan loves optionsĒ Is what youíre probably thinking. And if you were thinking that, youíd be right. There arenít necessarily a ton of options, but the right ones are all present. First of is a necessity of ay great game: difficulty settings. What better way to encourage you to play through more than once? And then we have to options screen seen above. I have one thing to say about it: Hooray for sound tests! Nintendo commonly includes them, often as secrets, and since I love the music in this game so much, itís a very good option to have. Next are the galleries.

The first is unlocked after youíve finished the game once. Here is stored all of the ending pictures youíve earned. Itís not a huge thing, but it beats trying to finish the game a second time with a 100% completion rate in less than 2 hours on Hard mode., so I like it. It also makes for good proof of your 1337 |\/|e7r01d skillz. The quality of the art here is great, just like in the cutscenes, but in my opinion, they made Samus a little less attractive than she was in Fusion. And speaking of whichÖ

If youíve got a Metroid Fusion cart and two GBAs, you can link Ďem up to unlock all of the ending pics that were in Fusion. As a bonus, there are also the ending pics from the Japanese version of Fusion, which differ greatly from that that were in our North American version. And finally, thereís even a couple bonus pics that just sweeten the deal. One is of Metroid Fusion toys. I donít know if they actually exist, but if they do, damn I want them. I just figure that if thereís one Nintendo character that would make a great action figure, it would be Samus.

And the last little bonus thingy is, as some were probably expecting, an emulation of Metroid. I love the fact that itís in here, because the only other way for me to play it is on Metroid Prime, and it really doesnít lend itself well to the GameCube controller. Plus, the fact that itís now portable makes it even more convenient. I still wonít be able to beat it though. I know Iíll try over and over, each time thinking that maybe I wasnít trying hard enough the last time, and fail each and every time. It wouldnít be so bad, but the fact that you start with less than half of your life doesnít make for an easy game.

To give you an idea of just how much the graphics have improved, hereís two shots of the same room. One from the NES game and one from the GBA version. Itís come a long way, and the trek was so very worth it. Itís just too bad that I canít properly put into word just how much everything else in the game has improved. Sure I can tell you about it, but youíll never properly experience it until youíve played both. Hmmm. I really canít think of much else to say, so Iíll just go on to the next paragraph then.

Iíve said pretty much everything that needs saying, so itís time to make that conclusion paragraph. The graphics are excellent. Theyíre slightly better than Fusionís, and we used to think that those were pushing it to the limit. I think itís just a matter of detail and fluent animation. The music is great, even if it is just remastered tunes. The story leaves something to be desired, but at least there arenít any plot holes. The controls are solid and very responsive, which is something that Iím grateful for. I canít stand sloppy controls. The gameplay? Well, itís a damn fun game, and the fact the they change it up a little right near the end makes me happy. Overall, I give this game an A+. I love it. You should buy it if you have a GBA.

If youíll take the time to notice, this is the first GBA review I did while I actually owned the game. See the GB Player border? Yeah. Thatís what that thing is. And yes, I own Advance Wars 2 now, but it and the Wario Ware Inc reviews were based on emulated versions of the games. Itís mostly because I didnít have the GameBoy Player when I did those ones. Yup. It sure was a good investment. But seriously, I was quite angry at my PC while trying to take the pics. It turns out you canít screw with the camera settings when using the Camera Wizard, so I had to go download some crappy software to do it with.

I mentioned Metroid Prime a couple times in the article, and Metroid Prime 2 seems to be currently in development, so since Iíve been so happy with the last few Metroid games, Iím pretty excited about that. I might even review that one when it comes out. But that probably wonít be done for quite some time, so you can expect to see a lot of other reviews before I even seriously consider doing that one. In any case, this week is done with, and so far Iíve kept my ďupdate on SundaysĒ policy pretty well. I think Iím going to keep that in effect from now on. So thatís the end of this weekís article. Until we meet again.

E-Mail: Mr_Hotshot64v2@hotmail.com