#1: Metroid

This is a bit of a cheat, as I technically started it in 2013. I’m still counting it though.

So, Metroid. Inventor of the genre that became known as “Metroidvania”. The first game in one of the bigger Nintendo series in the US (For whatever reason, Metroid was always more popular in the US than in Japan). Its historical value is undeniable, but is it any fun to play today? Well…it depends.

The link above sums up the game in terms of both plot and gameplay better than I can, but I’ll try anyway–you’re Samus Aran, a bounty hunter trying to stop the Space Pirates from using the mysterious lifeforms known as Metroids for nefarious purposes. To do this, you explore the planet Zebes, collecting powerups to defeat two mini-bosses, Kraid and Ridley, before moving down to Tourian to fight the Metroids and Mother Brain.

The game was released for the first time in 1986, and has seen numerous re-releases since then, both by itself and as an unlockable in other games, EG as a bonus for beating Metroid: Zero Mission. The key part to focus on here is “released…in 1986”, though, as it informs a lot of how the game plays, for good and (Mostly) bad.

First of all, to save space in memory, many room layouts are re-used multiple times, making it difficult to navigate without a map handy (Or without making your own). If you’re like me, and actually enjoy using graph paper to make your own maps, you’ll probably enjoy working your way through Metroid, providing you know that Bombs can reveal hidden passageways. Otherwise, due to the lack of a minimap (Or any in-game map of any kind), you’ll likely wander around frustrated, wondering what the heck you’re supposed to do next, and if you’ve been to a particular area before.

There’s also the fact that you start the game with 30 energy out of a maximum of 99. Collecting E-Tanks (There are 8 total in the game; you can hold up to 6, and the last 2 serve as energy refills) refills your energy, but when you die, you restart with 30 energy out of whatever your max is. Restart from a password and it’s the same thing–30 energy. And unlike later games in the series, there are no energy or missile recharge stations, meaning starting the game after a death (Or from a password) will involve farming energy and missile refills off of enemies, sometimes for a long time (Metroid doesn’t try to weight its drops toward whatever you need, unlike Super Metroid).

Control-wise, I find the game slippery compared to later games in the series. Samus has a momentum that can be hard to get used to, especially if you’re playing this after other 2D Metroids.

Finally, the original version of the game in the US used passwords to save your game. Later releases, like the GBA NES Classics version, fixed this problem, but if you’re playing the original US version, it’s something of a pain to enter in the passwords manually (And start with 30 energy) every time you need to take a break.

Overall, I appreciate this game’s contribution to gaming history, and it’s important and influential in innovating the Metroidvania genre. Today, though, I can’t really recommend you play it without a map handy, unless you like making your own. If you really want to experience the earliest of Samus’s exploits on Zebes, I would just play Zero Mission instead.

-EE

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