Monday, December 1, 2008

Metroid Zero Mission & Fusion


After playing through the Super NES classic Super Metroid a while back and enjoying the hell out of it, I bought Metroid Zero Mission and Metroid Fusion and played through those as well, being on a bit of a bender for 2D Metroid titles at the time. And I have to say, they are some of the best GBA games ever made.

Relentlessly fun and interesting, they take the gameplay elements that Super Metroid implemented and extend them while further refining the speed (Samus was a bit slow in the SNES title and the addition of the dash button was uninspired) and jumping mechanic of Samus and really making the game a fluid platformer.

Zero Mission is a remake of the first Metroid for the NES made for the GBA. It is this kind of lovingly done remake that makes you compare every attempt to revitalize an old franchise with snazzy graphics and new gameplay elements to this one. It is exceptionally well done, a perfect update with much care taken to redo the game where it was lacking (quick health power-ups, maddening bomb-jumping mechanic) and further polish the elements that were good in the first game (all of the sub-weapons).

The stages are still alot of fun and the exploratory nature of the game is enhanced fully by the addition of a 20 point health power up that happens to spawn way more often, where the NES version only had 5 point ones for 90% of the enemies in the game, making it very hard to refill your energy. They seem to appear more often as well and you end up pushing farther quicker because you don't need to stop and fill all your energy tanks after some particulatly hard sections.

The soundtrack has also been redone and the remixed versions of the stage themes are even better, more involving and even more striking. Brinstar has never been creepier.

There is also an extra section added into the game once you defeat Mother Brain in the Chozo Ruins where you have to sneak around with only a weak stun gun to find your suit and all the sub-weapons to tackle the end boss in a pretty brutal fight. It's pretty fun, but honestly, I skipped it after the second play through of the game as it can get tedious. Plus, having all of those fun enhancements to Samus stripped away from you is a little bit of a let down.

Metroid Fusion kind of picks up where Super Metroid left off in terms of graphics, layout and extras in the game (recharge stations, map uploaders). The story and atmosphere are solid, still keeping the languid creepyness so prevelant in the SNES classic.

I'm just starting my third playthrough and I'm still pretty excited to dive into the 2D excellence that is the Metroid franchise. They both play very well on the GBA Micro and seem almost tailor made for its small screen and controls.

One of these days I'll have to give the 3D Metroid offerings a shot, but with 2D games as good as these, I may never get a look at them.

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