Metroid is a platform adventure game with a science fiction theme released by Nintendo on the Famicom Disk System in 1986 and ported to the NES in 1987. You play the bounty hunter Samus Aran who is trying to stop Mother Brain from making an army of Metroids, a terrible organism which can suck the life out of all living things.
Metroid is a pioneer of the Metroidvania genre, which is one of my favorite types of games. Unfortunately, like many pioneers, it suffers from several serious flaws that prevents it from being accessible to modern gamers. Thankfully, Nintendo remade it as Metroid: Zero Mission, which I suggest as the starting point for anyone wanting to get into the series. Metroid is also the sister project of Kid Icarus: Angel Land Story, and they share similar game engines. A lot of awesome sequels have been made, some with a similar 2D platform style, others with a first-person 3D format.
I never owned Metroid growing up, but I must have borrowed it from a friend, because I remember playing it while I was still quite young. I didn't get very far on my initial run and died as I was ascending the first vertical shaft! I was a bit shocked to find that you only got one life, which gives you an idea of how popular the 3-life arcade style was at the time. Later, my brother and I beat the game with a lot of help from The Official Nintendo Player's Guide. I still remember wasting hours trying to fill up energy at an enemy spawn site. Much later, in my 30s I decided to try and beat the game again, just from my memory. I did pretty good (only needed to consult a map a couple times), and got a better ending because I did it all in one sitting.
I own this game and have beaten it and seen the ashamed ending and helmet reveal ending.
- The graphics are great for the time. Each zone has its own feel and ambience. Areas like Norfair have a hellish inferno feel, Kraid's hideout is alive and creepy, while Ridley's hideout is desolate and dangerous.
- Hirokazu Tanaka's score adds so much to the feel of the game from the motivational Brinstar theme, to the loneliness of Norfair, the power of Kraid's hideout, and the insidiousness of Ridley's hideout and Tourain. The title and ending themes are fantastic and even the quietness of the item rooms and the game start and get item jingles are very hummable.
- While the game has the typical platformer power-ups (high jump, longer range shot, better armor, etc.), Metroid pioneered a lot of interesting ideas like the ability to morph into a ball and drop bombs, the screw attack, and the ice beam turning enemies into platforms.
- There are a lot of bonus items to find if you keep at it long enough.
- Having Samus be a female was quite progressive of the game creators, and I like that expert players could play with her as an obvious female.
- The game is very difficult, too much of which comes from the poor player control. You can't shoot at angles, you can't duck, you slide while walking, getting hit throws you around erratically, etc. Thankfully, these problems were fixed in subsequent Metroid games.
- Without a basic map or quest log, it is pretty much a given that you're going to get lost a lot and spend much of your time back-tracking. You're pretty much forced to draw your own map, but this is difficult due to the scrolling nature of the screens.
- Several sections of the map are useless (especially in Ridley's lair) and serve only to waste your time.
- While there are a lot of bonus items, many of them are really hard to find, and, due the difficulty of the game, they're more mandatory than optional (like the screw attack and varia).
- Rewarding players by having Samus take more of her clothes the better they do is not only inappropriate for a kid's game, but also makes the game insulting to female players. If they had stopped with the final reveal that Samus was a woman, it would have been much better.
- Refilling energy and missiles is a very tedious process, and you're forced to do it every time you restart a game with a password, killing your chance at getting the best ending.
- While the FDS version records your time and displays it to you at the character selection screen, the cartridge versions do not, which is disappointing, and instead require a long complicated password.
- Most of the secret items are hidden without any visible hints, which makes you end up trying to bomb the floor, ceiling, and walls of nearly every room to find them. Also, since the maps must reuse rooms, several places have what appear to be hidden passages, only to turn into a dead-end.
- The fake Ice Beam room in Brinstar is really obnoxious and punishes you for exploring.
- The battle with Kraid is hard, getting his secret energy tank is torturous, and getting back up the long tower from his hideout is stupid frustrating.
The game was originally released on the Famicom Disk System in Japan which would let you save your character on disk. All other regions got a regular cart with a password system. Two versions were created for the Game Boy Advance, one could be unlocked in Metroid Fusion. Unfortunately, the GBA's height resolution isn't as tall as the NES, so all the graphics are squished making them look terrible. There are four different versions of box art.