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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Action Adventure
Players: 1
Rated: E (Everyone)
Release Date: February 9, 2004
Written by: Daniel Sims

Back in 1986, Nintendo released a game for their Entertainment System called "Metroid". It presented players with a kind of action and level progression that had never been seen before and hasn't really been seen in other games (save Castelvania) sense. Well, 18 years and 4 games later Nintendo decides to remake the original adventure and remodel it for a new generation.

Before really starting this review I'll also have you know that I never completely made it through the original Metroid. I played it in Gamecube and GBA (in this game) but never got far past the entrance to Norfair. So I probably won't be able to do as many comparisons as I should but I will still review this game in respect to the original version as well as review it as a standalone game.

One separating point between Metroid Zero Mission and the original Metroid is the storyline. Because Zero Mission is a remake of a game made back in the 80s, when plotline was a very very small part of a game, the storyline of Zero Mission is still relatively simple. But according to Nintendo, Zero Mission is supposed to be the "Full Story" that the original Metroid was only the "Cliff notes Version" of. Thus, throughout the game you will occasionally see simple cutscenes depicting the game's major characters or a short diary-like narration from Samus herself. There has even been an entirely new chapter added to the tail end of the game that makes for a challenging new level.

Metroid Zero Mission is a game that's basically an NES original that's been remodeled for a new gaming generation. This at first shows very well in it's visuals but also shows in its gameplay. The gameplay in Zero Mission seems to be much more streamlined than that of the original but in some cases this can also make it an easier game than the original.

This is mostly due to the addition of gameplay elements from the later games in the Metroid series. New weapons and new options. One of these being the save points that have been added to Zero Mission. As far as I know, there were no save points in the original Metroid and with the password function the only way you could save your progress was to die ( I could be very very wrong about this though). When you did die, the next time you played you'd start back at the original starting point with only 30 health on your last tank. Now, like in any later Metroid game you just start wherever you last saved with as much health as you saved with (save points in this game don't recharge your health like they do in Prime). To me this makes the game easier and somewhat quicker (at least it feels that way).

On top of this you are actually given some kind of direction as in where to go. In the original Metroid you were simply to explore and find out where you could go and couldn't go. That was how you got around, by your own curiosity and skill. I'll admit that this was a bit difficult, but looking back it better emphasized the exploration aspect of the game. In Zero Mission, you are directed in where you go almost all the time. From the first time you sit inside one of the Chozo statues, you are given a spot on the map (that's usually in unexplored territory) that you have to get to next, which is usually the next statue and an upgrade or development and that's how it continues for almost the whole game. Although this still makes you go into unexplored territory and find new things, it still doesn't allow you to think "now that I have this what's been opened up to me" but instead tells you. How this really affects things is up to the player. There are still times where you'll come up on something that you can open now and curiously look into it but not as much as before.

As is the original Metroid and every other game in the series, Metroid Zero Mission is a game about action, exploration, and dynamic movement. You run around and shoot through a wide variety of enemies that come towards you. You explore and re-explore through a rather large map to gain upgrades such as new weapons, armor, and health that allow you to explore new areas that were previously unreachable. You must do all of this while running, jumping, and climbing through and around many various obstacles. This is what Metroid is all about and it is these elements (especially the shooting and dynamic movement) that shine in Metroid Zero Mission.

In keeping with the original's style, from the moment you start Zero Mission; you are almost constantly shooting through a new patch of enemies while at the same time jumping over a new pit or a new lake of lava. There are also many "devices" that have undoubtedly been newly added that help you do this. There are cannons that shoot you straight up through obstacles, ceiling rails to carry you across, and more. Not only this, but Samus's new moves from more recent Metroid games only add to the experience. The dash from Metroid Fusion is here as well as many of the other new elements introduced in Metroid Fusion.

The action element in Metroid Zero Mission is mostly unchanged from games like the original Metroid and Metroid Fusion. As far as I can tell there are no new weapons in this game but the need for any here is questionable. You start with a normal laser and upgrade your way up to wave beams and ice beams very much like in Fusion. Of course you also gain the use of missiles and bombs that eventually allow you to reach new areas. However, this lack of change does not prevent the game from still being challenging (although not as challenging as the original). The enemies, which vary, can still get pretty harsh at times and there is never any shortage of them.

One thing that's certainly been upped from the original is boss battles. On top of the original Kraid, Ridley, and Mother Brain, there are also several mini boss battles as well as a fourth major boss. The mini boss battles are challenging in their own right and a couple of them genuinely caught me by surprise on more than one occasion. The first two major boss battles, Kraid and Ridley, are actually pretty easy and never took me more than one try to take down. This cannot be said for the Mother Brain fight, which, according to many, is much more difficult than it was in the original Metroid. While she didn't make me throw my GBA across the room like SA-X didThe map in Zero Mission remains largely the same as in the original, with modifications and additions to accommodate the new abilities and "devices" throughout the game of course. I cannot say how the Zero Mission map compares to the original map because I never got that far through the original game but I will say that the map in Zero Mission is certainly not as big as it was in Fusion. However, looking at and exploring the map will reveal Zero Mission's biggest new addition: a new map that is larger than Brinstar and Norfair combined. This new map called "Chozodia" gives rise to a completely new chapter in the Metroid game in which Samus' ship is shot down when trying to escape from Zebes after you defeat the Mother Brain. This thrusts Samus into a new kind of play where, without here suit, she must infiltrate the Space Pirate's main base and reach the Chozo Ruins, preferably without being seen. Enter a Metroid Stealth Mission.

I personally had a lot of frustration with this section of the game as I had become so used to all of Samus' weapons. Sneaking around the pirates mainly involves jumping into an above alcove or crawling into a tunnel before a pirate comes onscreen and sees you. If one does, you either run or fight, the latter of which is suicide much of the time. Although this section allows players to experience Samus in a new way, I'm not sure if I'd like to see it in future Metroid games like this.

The presentation and designs in Metroid Zero Mission don't seem to be changed from the original game too drastically. All of the character and enemy designs have been given more detail, as have the environments but for the most part things have been kept as they were before. So as to give the game the same kind of feel the NES original had. Like the original version, a lot of the environments in the game kinda look the same (in my opinion). Norfair is really just another version of Brinstar with more lava and each bosses lair looks just like the area you just came from. However the new area that was added in the game looks very different and you can tell it was designed more recently. Calling it one environment in the design sense is actually kind of inaccurate seeing as it encompasses both a pirate base and Chozo Ruins. Every once in a while, like when you enter a new area or reach a boss, a newly-added cutscene will show up. These are very simply done and mostly just involve large well-drawn pictures with some slight movement and scaling to convey movement. At some points these do good to add a sort of mystery to some parts of the game for those who never played the original.

Considering this game is a remake of an almost 20-year-old classic, I'd have to say that the visuals of Zero Mission are fine if not great. I want to say that this is around Super Metroid quality but since I've never played that game myself (I know my Metroid experience is lacking) I'll just say that this game looks very much like Metroid Fusion. So it's kind of the original Metroid put in a big coat of Metroid Fusion.

While the foreground environments in Zero Mission are nicely colored the backgrounds are pretty detailed throughout. On top of this everything in the environments from enemies (especially the pirates) to items is animated very fluidly with slowdown being nonexistent. One thing I like particularly is what they did with Samus' character model in this game. I was always okay with her varia suit (the one with the big shoulders) in Prime and I never liked the Fusion suit but its nice how they took her back to her original Power Suit in this game and at the same time gave it some good modifications. Because of this plus her animation I'd go as far as to say that she's never looked better in 2D. All in all, seeing that this is a remake I just can't see much problem with the visuals and presentation in Metroid Zero Mission at all.

The music in Zero Mission is all the old music from the original game just enhanced to take advantage of the GBA's stereo sound. It still sounds as good as ever with no problems. The same can be said for the explosions and other sound effects. The major bosses (at least Kraid and Ridley) each have a distinctive cry that is a pretty nice addition to the game though.

Metroid Zero Mission's biggest fault is that it's a short game. If you know what you are doing or have played through the original enough times you can probably get through this in a good 5 hours even with the new chapter. To help lengthen things there are three difficulty settings as well as extras that are unlocked by finishing the game under certain conditions regarding percentage and time. These extras can actually get pretty hard to unlock and I doubt I'll ever get them all. On top of this there are extras to be unlocked by linking up with copies of Metroid Fusion. A lot of these extras are just artwork of Samus but they also include a full port of the original NES Metroid. Even with all this, Zero Mission won't be played for long unless you keep coming back to get the best time like those crazy Metroid experts always do.

Closing Comments:
After 18 years Nintendo has come back to take an old classic staple and revive and remodel it for a new generation of gamers. They did this by adding in Metroid Fusion's graphics as well as many of the new gameplay conventions of the later Metroid games. At times these can make the game considerably easier than the original but still challenging at times. Along with these additions have come a completely new chapter that allows players to experience Samus differently than before. All this put together makes for a great game that was made better and applied to a new generation.


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