The Metroid Retrospective Pt. 2: Reminisce Harder

You know what? I was supposed to have this article up earlier today. It’s been a couple of days since Gametrailers released part two of their Metroid retrospective series, and I’ve been slacking.

The reason for this is simple: After watching the retrospective, I felt compelled to play a little Super Metroid, I figured a few minutes of playtime would be a good way to freshen up my memories.

That was several hours ago.

By watching the video, you can see that Gametrailers does an amazing job of pointing out how well the third installment to the Metroid universe had taken everything good about the previous two Metroids, mixed it all together, and then cranked the series up to 11 for the SNES version.

Gametrailers is also correct in saying that the expectations for Super Metroid were huge; not only had the SNES come out of the gate hot with Super Mario World, but Nintendo followed that dose of awesomesauce with Zelda: A Link to the Past. Expectations were high.

So, did Super Metroid end up being the strike-three fastball that Nintendo, and the fans, hoped it would be?

Your damn right it was. Super Metroid was not only everything I wanted in a sequel, but also everything I wanted in a game. Samus’ third adventure began with a bang and didn’t stop. Literally. My friends and I – being hardcore Metroid fans – were determined to beat the SNES version in less than two hours.

As you know, the only way to get the good ending in any Metroid is to beat the game within this time limit. So to achieve this goal, my friends and I had decided to set up camp at our friend’s house and play Super Metroid until we beat it. This action may sound like par for the course in our video game world, but keep in mind that we never actually stopped playing the game. It was a Metroid marathon.

It was like this: The three of us would take turns on our speed runs, trying to remember where item was so that we could zip through the game ASAP. If we didn’t finish the game in less than two hours, we’d reset, then start over.

The first run came in ridiculously high at around 9 hours. So, we immediately hit reset and started over. 6 hours. Better, but not good enough. Reset. The next run came in again at about 6 hours again; it was still not good enough, not even close. Reset. Finished again: 5 hours. Reset. 4 hours. Reset. 

This pattern when on ‘round the clock, each one of us taking turns whenever the others got tired, or just pissed off. Eventually we made a map. (I know — the game has a map, but it doesn’t tell you where all the items are.) We used this map to show us the where all the important, and semi-important items were. Then we planned out the fastest way through each of the areas, always making sure to be aware of two things: Time, and Ridley. Yes, Ridley.

To get the good ending, not only did you have to be swift, you also had to be strong enough to able to get past Ridley. Ridley is, by far, and without a doubt, the hardest boss in the entire game. If you didn’t have enough missiles, super missiles, and energy tanks when you reached him: you just had to start over.

See, what Super Metroid had that most games then — and sometimes even now — don’t have, is their ability to be harder or easier depending on your goal and play style. Think about it, how many difficulty levels does Super Metroid have? Only one. But the game can either be hard as hell, or completely easy, depending on how you want to finish the game.

Fast players get a more difficult experience, because they have to pick and choose which power-ups to leave behind so that they can make the ending in under two hours – thereby making the game harder. And slower, more item-collection friendly gamers, will have an easier experience because they’ll be over supplied with missiles and whatnot when they reach the boss battles; even though they will lose out on the complete ending.

Having the player’s own play style determine his or her own difficulty level? That’s what we call angelic game design, folks!

So anyway, we finally had the formula down. We kept playing the game over, and over, and over again: our finish time improving with every run. It took about two, maybe two and a half days, but we finally broke the two-hour limit with a finish time of 1:57.

“Goddamn, that took a long time,” was the first thing that went through my mind after we pulled off the good ending.  But to be honest, every moment had been worth it. We had gotten the good ending, seen Samus in her skivvies, and now had a new goal of beating the game with a %100 item collection rank.

Yeah, we were masochists, but we just couldn’t stop playing.

Super Metroid is just that good.

(So good, in fact, that instead of continuing on here about Metroid Fusion, I’m going to head back to the game I started playing earlier, the one that delayed this article. My play time is at 1:38, and I’m nowhere near the ending. This, my friends, is unacceptable. I highly recommend that if you haven’t played this game before, do so now. Without cheating or using emulation “tricks,” see if you can beat the two hour mark. I dare you.)