Thursday, February 2

Metroid: Zero Mission

It all begins here.

It's been a while, Zebes. These games have been a staple of vicarious action, adventure, and mystery for me throughout the years since my introduction to the series with the release of Metroid II on the original Game Boy; and because it was a vast departure from anything in my young gaming experience to that point, it instantly became a favorite. I was eager to play every chapter to come, and to this day the overall story still has me intrigued.

Before sharing this game with Claudia, I realized it'd been a few years since last playing it and that I'd forgotten some of the many secrets within the subterranean corridors of the planet. Revisiting this world was exciting for me, and my hope was that her first foray into the galaxy of Metroid would be as well. It turns out that it was, and she is excited to continue exploring this part of my life.

For the uninitiated, Metroid: Zero Mission retells and expands upon the events portrayed in the original Metroid on the NES, and completely overhauls the gameplay and art direction with the capabilities of the Game Boy Advance. This was significant to me for one critical reason: the gameplay in the 1986 classic was atrocious. The physics programming was brutal; regaining energy was a tedious, time-consuming task; the signature map system had to wait until 1993 to be born; and for some reason, Metroid (and Kid Icarus) missed out on the save feature that was introduced with The Legend of Zelda that same year… and all this was just for starters.

Had I been introduced to Metroid when it was still the only game in the series, my only choice would have been to adapt if I wanted to play. However, because I'd only made my first attempt with it many years after its debut, it felt more like a punishment than a challenge; hence, I've never finished it.

Zero Mission is a completely different creature. Thanks to the GBA hardware, the development staff recreated the beginning of this series as it may have initially been envisioned. Visually, only a few cues of the old classic remain within the brilliant new design. The music is re-orchestrated and supplemented, and the sound effects are fresh but familiar. The continuity of Samus' abilities is a peculiarity throughout the series because of the chapters chosen to be told on each successive platform, but this game does a great job of explaining how she first acquired the signature capabilities for which she is known.

Classic 2D platforming and shooting action at its best, Metroid: Zero Mission is an excellent introduction for anyone interested in the series, and is why I chose it for Claudia as well. She explained to me that her gaming expertise lies in other genres, so she was most appreciative to have my experience at her disposal. Puzzling obstacles requiring timing and precision await those seeking a 100% item collection rate and fast mission clear times for the customary chance of meeting the heroine inside the suit. For this particular session, our clear time was 7:19:20, and our collection rate was 88%, but I'm thankful the game saves the acquired gallery entries for later viewing, so Claudia still got the opportunity.


So here are my thoughts about the game:

Pros

- The update is immense. Metroid: Zero Mission is a complete recreation of the original in every detail, and it's all for the best. Nintendo started an extraordinary, profound concept in this series, but a little time was needed before reaching its renown.

- The art direction is unique within the series: the high contrast motion-comic cut scenes give the story a style of its own. During gameplay, the pixel art is highly detailed, and the red terrain outlines help the action plane stand out from the atmospheric backgrounds.

- Perfect remixes of classic tunes, entirely new music, and masterful sound effects breathe life into everything on screen. Audio is a bigger factor in presentations of any sort than are the visuals, and this title delivers.

- Taking every advantage of the Game Boy Advance, the game adheres more to the conventions established in the innovative Super Metroid; thus providing intricate, yet intuitive control to the player.

- Storytelling during gameplay has become a bigger part of the series, thanks again to Super Metroid, wherein the transition from simple text narratives to animated cinematics began. Most story details can still be found in the manuals, but the inclusion of more elaborate theater helps immerse the player further.

- Gameplay is paramount for me, and is therefore more fundamental in determining the quality of a game than are its audio and visual properties. Zero Mission not only preserves what makes the series so outstanding, but refines and expands upon previous installments.


Cons

- Collecting some of the more valuable items like energy tanks requires some fairly over-the-top executions of skill by the player. Although I remembered the solution to some of these, multiple attempts (and plenty of patience) were necessary.

- Not exactly a point of objection, but favorite experiences are awesome when they're longer. Understanding, however, that part of the quintessential Metroid experience involves the potential for short clear-times makes this list entry almost moot, as every 2D game in the series encourages and rewards swiftness.


Metroid is one of my absolute favorite game series, so naturally Zero Mission also comes with my utmost accolades and recommendations.

Happy gaming,
- Aaron -

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