Twenty years ago today, a brand new instalment of Metroid was released on the Super Famicom system in Japan titled "Super Metroid". The game is widely regarded as one of the best Metroid games, and rates highly as one of the greatest Nintendo games of all time.
While my first introduction to Metroid was with Metroid Prime, Super Metroid was the game that encouraged me to explore every other title in the franchise. The 2D side-scrolling adventure was a departure from the first-person approach I was familiar with, but it allowed me to appreciate the franchise on a whole new level.
Super Metroid's title screen opens with a dark and creepy scene from the Ceres Space Colony, the bodies of scientists surround a capsule containing the last Metroid in existence. You are given an introduction by Samus about this infant Metroid and her two previous missions in Metroid (NES) and Metroid II: Return of Samus where she encountered the newly hatched Metroid for the very first time, mistaking Samus for its mother. She then goes on to explain how she delivered the baby Metroid to the Research Station to be studied for the good of mankind. This is where our game begins, and from this point forward you are on your own...or are you?
While the game has no further dialogue, Super Metroid did a great job at explaining what the objective was from the very beginning, I didn't feel like I was thrown in at the deep end. In the first section of the game there are a few essential power-ups to collect, such as missile and bomb abilities and the iconic Morph Ball. There are also couple of mini bosses to defeat and an Energy Tank or two to collect. With increased power, health and a better understanding of how to control Samus and use my weapons, I had the confidence to move into the next area. This was true throughout my experience of Super Metroid, becoming a stronger, more confident player with each collectable and every victory. Even with this heightened sense of power, if I was low on health and ammo, the game dropped a convenient energy orb or missile from enemies, allowing me to replenish them and move on.
I discovered that Super Metroid has a vast open world, a game that encourages you to explore and not feel restricted. Sure, there are areas you can't access immediately, it might be an area that is too hot, or a ledge you can't quite reach. There was also those annoying orange doors I couldn't penetrate... By exploring the varied surroundings of Planet Zebes, I located a variety of upgrades that took me one step closer to my goal. Finding a power-up and realising that it could be used to reach a previously inaccessible area was one of Super Metroid's most rewarding features for me.
The environments you traverse are vibrant, diverse and become increasingly more challenging and deadly as you progress. Each major area in the game has a guardian, a boss standing in your way. Defeating these guardians, which includes Samus' arch-nemesis Ridley, is no easy task. I had to use everything I had learned throughout the game and plenty of patience to defeat them. Defeating Crocomire by pushing him back into a pool of acid and watching Draygon sink beneath the sand to its grave were memorable, leaving a lasting impression.
But they were nothing compared to the penultimate and final moments of the game, where you come face to face with the baby Metroid, now a gigantic mass of its former self after being exposed to beta rays, which attacks Samus and drains her of almost all of her life energy until it suddenly realises who she is, Samus! The individual the Metroid perceives to be its mother.