As you see in the title, this is the first game in 2014 that I beat for the first time (Metroid and especially Metroid II are games I’ve played through multiple times before).
Released for the Game Boy Advance in 2004, Metroid: Zero Mission is similar to Super Castlevania IV in that, rather than being a straight port of a previous game (The original Castlevania in the case of CVIV, the original Metroid in the case of Zero Mission), it’s a re-release that’s better described as an update and expansion of the original. Suffice to say that this expansion makes it a lot more enjoyable than the original Metroid nowadays, but more on that later.
At its most basic, the plot and gameplay are the same as in Metroid. Both have been expanded though. The story is told and augmented through brief cinematics as you enter new areas or boss rooms. The graphical update and these scenes, particularly in Tourian, do a great job showing what’s happening, and addresses a bit of an issue with the original Metroid–namely that, while your main foes are the Space Pirates (And their leader, Mother Brain), you never actually meet any Space Pirates in the game. Zero Mission shows that this is because their experiments went horribly right to the point that the Metroids actually took over Tourian and killed all the Pirates.
The gameplay has also been brought into the modern age, so to speak. Little “Creature Comforts” such as an in-game map and save points have been added, largely eliminating the “I have no idea where I am” feeling of the first two Metroids. There are also energy and missile recharge stations scattered about the game, meaning no more slow farming on enemies. Some power-ups from later in the series, such as the Speed Booster and Spring Ball (Included as part of the High-Jump Boots), have also been added. These changes, plus the quicker, tighter controls compared to the original, make the game a lot more engaging and less frustrating.
Mere updates aren’t the only additions, though. After the “end” of the original Metroid, Zero Mission isn’t done yet. There’s a second portion of the game involving a severely de-powered Samus having to sneak around the Space Pirate Mother Ship to reacquire her Power Suit.
Now, I’ve previously written about how knowing what’s going to happen in advance can influence your opinion of a game (Or book, movie, whatever). So do keep in mind that I knew that this “Metroid Gear Solid” part of the game was coming, having watched a bunch of speedruns in advance, although not memorizing the path through the section. Also keep in mind that, unlike a lot of Metroid fans, I’ve never thought about Samus in terms much beyond “The character I control in the Metroid games”, or, as Mrs. Emptyeye once phrased it, “A girl, rolling around, with a bunch of weapons”.
Having said that, that portion of the game is very different from any Metroid experience I’ve ever had. And, speaking as someone who is terrible at stealth objectives in games in general…I thought it was brilliant. Luckily, I had collected enough E-Tanks at that point that I could afford to occasionally get spotted and take damage. Even still, the section was more tense than a lot of games I’ve played, with me calling out “OH GEEZ there’s a pirate RUN RUN RUN I’m not even sure where I’m going but RUN!” And getting the full power of the Power Suit back and being able to turn the tables was exhilarating–more than once, I would taunt the Space Pirates about my strength and tell them they couldn’t stop me, even when I didn’t necessarily have to.
In the Metroid entry, I mentioned that if you really want to re-live Samus’s first adventure, you should just play this game. There’s one obvious reason for this that I had forgotten about: After beating Zero Mission for the first time, the original Metroid unlocks, meaning you can play through and enjoy Zero Mission, then easily see for yourself why I said that in the first place.
Either way, especially if going through for the first time today, I can highly recommend this game, especially over the first two games I beat this year.