The original Metroid still stands out as a rather different game from Nintendo’s other big name franchises. A feeling of isolation pervades the adventure, allowing us to experience something a lot more mature than in other Nintendo outings. In almost every Metroid release this solitary feeling is combined with the opportunity to explore vast maps with only our own initiative to guide us, allowing the series to stand out from the crowd of other action-adventure games. And of course like all of Nintendo’s biggest franchises each game is very well made and thus the series has remained much beloved by both critics and fans alike in its almost 30 year lifespan.
Samus Aran is also one of gaming’s biggest female icons although her female form was for many years largely restricted to a reward upon a quick completion of each game. This in many ways helped gamers see past the necessity to label their protagonists’ by a gender and when the closing credits rolled it really didn’t matter who we were playing as, the woman was freaking awesome and there was no way of saying otherwise. She has since gained a Zero Suit form allowing gamers today to easily identify the woman behind the power suit.
However for many Metroid fans, the wait for the next game in the series can be quite painful to behold. The original title did not receive a sequel for 5 years with Metroid II: Return of Samus on the Game Boy in 1991. When compared to Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda it seemed unfair considering they had been graced with NES sequels and were well established on the SNES at this point. Samus herself did not appear on the SNES until 1994 with Super Metroid. While many were perhaps disappointed Samus’ first return was on the Game Boy rather than on a console, this taster was certainly worth the wait with Super Metroid smashing all expectations and then some. The game still arguably stands as the definitive Metroid experience. It was lucky this had been the case because for a long time after, no Metroid game would be released for an even longer time period. Missing out on the Nintendo 64 entirely, Samus did not return until 2002 on the Game Boy Advance in Metroid Fusion, 8 years since her last gaming release. This was later followed by an entire remake of the original Metroid titled Metroid: Zero Mission in 2004, which introduced us to Samus in Zero Suit form, allowing a more stealth based tactical approach to the game due to Samus losing the protection of her power suit.
Following the release of Fusion, the series made its first 3D venture on the GameCube in the form of Metroid Prime. Nintendo affectionately named it the first ‘first-person adventure’ game and while fans were dubious to begin with, the game was so well received that it began its own spin-off brand that arguably rivals the original. The Metroid Prime brand would be attached to every single new Metroid release for the next 7 years which thankfully for fans of the series, for the first time ever, they just kept on coming. Only what about the original formula?
Cue 2010 and the release of Metroid: Other M, a game which dropped the Prime but still retained some of its elements. Metroid: Other M took the original 2D action-adventure formula and placed it in a more 3D environment while also allowing players to switch to first-person mode to shoot or discover secrets. More like a hybrid then a true follow-up to Metroid Fusion, the game was received with mixed responses largely because for the first time Samus was given a voice; it was not handled well. Suddenly our kick-ass protagonist was spouting out absolute dribble courtesy of a convoluted script, while becoming overwhelmed by the appearance of Ridley due to childhood trauma. Somehow this felt almost like a betrayal of the woman we’d grown up playing as for 24 years prior, the one who did not falter in the face of danger.
Metroid hasn’t seen a release since then and many fear another lengthy period is in place until we see Samus Aran return to Nintendo consoles. Nintendo has promised it is considering the series from both its original and 3D Prime perspective for future releases. Whether we’re in for another hybrid experience or entirely separate games is currently unknown. Regardless the next release will be a highly anticipated affair, and while gameplay has never truly been a let-down for the series, the handling of its protagonist is perhaps the biggest concern that gamers will have in regards to the future of the series. We shall have to wait and see what happens I guess.
The original Metroid introduced us to Samus who is a veteran fighter from the beginning of the Smash Bros. series. The titular creature Metroid has appeared as an Assist Trophy since Brawl and an enemy in Smash 3DS, whereas the Space Pirate leader Mother Brain also appears as an Assist Trophy in the latest Smash Bros. instalments. The monster Ridley, a boss battle in the original Metroid, fulfils this role also in both Brawl and Smash Wii U games. While Metroid is set on Planet Zebes which houses the areas of Brinstar and Norfair, it is arguably only the stages Planet Zebes (N64) and Brinstar (Melee, Brawl, 3DS) that are directly inspired by this game, although Brinstar Depths and Norfair incorporate nods to it also. The Screw Attack item, a powerful upgrade for Samus in Metroid, has appeared in every game since Melee. Also joining Metroid as enemies in Smash 3DS are Geemer and Reo who both cause problems for Samus in the original NES title.