Ending with the beginning: Metroid Zero Mission

You never play the original Metroid?! Why not?

Metroid Zero Mission cover art © Nintendo
Metroid Zero Mission cover art © Nintendo (source)

Hmm.  That is a question that never plagued me. Never bothered me in the least. But the easiest answer I can give to the purists is that we didn’t have the NES when the original Metroid was released in the mid 1980s. Yep, being behind the times from the start, we were just getting into the Atari 7800 around that time. Sure, we eventually got an NES, but by then, Metroid was off the mainstream game map. And since we didn’t have a Gameboy either, Metroid II: Return of Samus never made it into my hands either. So there.

I don’t even know why I’m mad at nothing, because Super Metroid is all that matters anyway, and there’s no arguing with it as one of the greatest games of all time.

But this strange combination of words and thoughts is meant to “segue” into Metroid Zero Mission, since I did promise of follow up on my Metroid Fusion post and all. So just to recap: no original Metroid for me. Get a DS, buy GBA games Fusion and Zero Mission. Start with Fusion – it’s really awesome but kinda scary. Then onto Zero Mission.

Noooo, there's no trap between me and that energy tank. No trap at all.
Noooo, there’s no trap between me and that energy tank. No trap at all. (source)

As I came to understand it, Zero Mission was a better retelling of the original Metroid story, replete with the Metroids themselves and our favorite bosses: Kraid, Motherbrain, and Ridley. I don’t know if it’s possible to spoil the plot at this point, but I’ll say spoilers anyway, because it’s the nice thing to do.

Zero Mission/Metroid was Samus Aran’s formal introduction to the series. After Federation scientists discovered the power of Metroids – they could drain energy from living things, thereby killing them —  a space ship carrying the creatures was attacked by pirates who planned to use them for their own nefarious plans. At the head of the pirate operation was Mother Brain. Assisted by her commander, Ridley, and partner, Kraid, the group returned to their home base on Zebes. There they were attacked by the Federation, which was driven back. With that defeat, the Federation called on Samus Aran, the universe’s greatest bounty hunter, to infiltrate the base and retrieve the Metroids. She succeeded in defeating the lot and tried to escape Zebes, only to be attacked again and end up back on the planet where she met one final obstacle: Mecha-Ridley! (Okay, I think the game called him “Robot Ridley” or something like that, but we all know that “mecha”-anything sounds so much cooler.)

Can I get a light? No no, just one, thanks. (source)
Can I get a light? No no, just one, thanks. (source)

Neat and tidy, no? The gameplay mechanics of Zero Mission were hardly anything new, but it was immensely fun exploring areas that were vaguely familiar and meeting up with a regular and memorable cavalcade of enemies.  Thankfully, there was no awful Nightmare here…and there also wasn’t Crocomire. He was my favorite Super Metroid boss and I kinda wished he had been in there somewhere.

Of course you;'re more awesome than Crocomire. That's what I meant to say. (source)
Of course you’re more awesome than Crocomire. That’s what I meant to say. (source)

I can’t compare Zero Mission to the original Metroid, so I’m not sure just how well the game built upon the original story, but Zero Mission is damn near as perfect as Super Metroid and Fusion. The ideas behind Zero Mission’s level designs were similar to the other games, and yet they were unique; and those walls hid plenty of secrets. And there wasn’t a set “reach point A to reach point B to reach point C” path. Sure, you could play it like a linear side-scroller, or you could play it with a little more exploration in mind.

So how’s about ending with a teeny bit of hype and hyperbole? Zero Mission is an incredible game that’s as fun as it fascinating.  Zero Mission, Super Metroid, and Metroid Fusion make up THE PERFECT gaming trilogy. Introduction, defeat, and victory in part one. Reintroduction, retribution, and victory in part two. Creation, departure, and victory in part three. There are plenty of gaming series that follow and mix-up this formula really well – Mass Effect easily comes to mind. But there’s something so inherently beautiful and compelling about Samus’s story and actions in these three games that sets this group apart from others.

And Ridley is the glue that holds them together. (source)
And Ridley is the glue that holds them together. (source)

If I ever get around to the other handheld and 3D Metroid games, maybe I’ll be singing a different tune. (And maybe, just maybe, the world needs another 2D Metroid game…just sayin’.) Zero Mission was enough to bring me and Samus back around; and Zero Mission, Super Metroid, and Fusion rest firmly and forever in my hall of true, pure video game happiness.

Postscript: As the fates would have it, I will soon be in possession of the Metroid trilogy: Prime, Echoes, Corruption, as well as (gulp) Other M. Given the Metroid high I’m on of late, I figured why the hell not — strike while the iron’s hot, right? But the games aren’t even in my hands yet and thoughts of Prime are already making me nervous. God, I hope our Wii survives. This should be interesting…or something.

5 thoughts on “Ending with the beginning: Metroid Zero Mission”

  1. I’ve never thought of these as a trilogy before – not sure why – but you’re totally right. And not only is it a trilogy, it’s the strongest trilogy of this series. I might need to go back and play these now…

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    1. Yeah, they aren’t billed that way, but they do build upon one another like any series — despite the fact that Super Metroid is a beefed up Metroid. But Zero Mission’s “retelling” makes for a great opener. The trio’s solid storytelling brings it all together. It certainly does make me wish I still had my DS.

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