Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Metroid: Zero Mission

Platform:  Game Boy Advance
Developer:  Nintendo R&D1
Released:  2004
Genre:  Action Adventure

The Game
Once again players take on the role of galactic badass Samus Aran as she takes on Mother Brain and the space pirates in an attempt to take back the Metroids that the pirates done stoled.

This is a . . . well, I hesitate to use the word remake, since so much has changed from the original Metroid.  It's sort of an update crossed with a reimagining that still uses the same basic framework as the original while changing almost everything else around and adding on a whole bunch of new stuff.  Despite their similarities, in most ways Metroid and Zero Mission are two completely different games.

The Characters
Samus Aran is pretty much the same as she ever was, with the only addition to her character from the original being a couple of pages of monologue setting up the story.  Her design, while updated for the newer technology, is still more or less the same.

Ridley, Kraid, and Mother Brain, while still as lacking in characterization as ever, have meanwhile gotten massive design upgrades to bring them in line with their appearances in Super Metroid.  Mother Brain is now sportin' a wicked looking cycloptic eye, Kraid's gone on a bulk-up program, and Ridley is larger and more monstrous-pterodactyl-like than ever.

The Writing
For the most part, it's basic boilerplate, same as the original.  The Samus monologues don't really add anything other than allowing the player to pass on reading the story section of the instruction booklet.

But for the rest part, there's been a new mission added to the story!  And I hate it.

I understand that with this "remake" they wanted to add in a bunch of new and exciting stuff.  I applaud them for putting an extra section into the game, as it gives the folks who already played the original Metroid that much more reason to bother playing this game.  What I have a problem with is how they did it.  First off, it was placed after the end of the game, making it feel so extremely tacked on that I swear I could see the thumtacks sitting right at the edge of the screen.  What they should have done, in my opinion, is expand their other main addition to the map, the Chozo Ruins, even further.  Put in a few more mini-bosses, maybe even a whole new Ridley/Kraid-like sub-boss or something.  Y'know, integrate the extra mission into the overall game like Super Metroid did with its new sections instead of making the player go "Yay, I won!  I . . . aw, what?!" at the very end.

The Gameplay
On the good side . . . there's a map!  Oh, sweet merciful heavens, there's a map!  And it tells me where my next major goal can be located!

On the bad side . . . jeez, Samus, did you eat bricks for dinner or what?  This isn't the high-flying daredevil gymnast Samus Aran of Super Metroid to be sure.  And that could be understandable as this is earlier in her career, but the thing is, she was nice and agile and loose in the original Metroid.  So I'm gonna have to peg this one on badly designed character movement.  Driving Samus in Zero Mission is like driving a rock in water, and there's really no excuse for that.  Especially since - and this is truly baffling - it used a modified version of the Metroid Fusion engine, and Metroid Fusion's controls were absolutely wonderful.  I guess "modified" in this case is another word for "ruined".

Adding to the frustration is the claustrophobic feel of the corridors.  The original had its tiny spaces, to be sure, but compared to Zero Mission's hallways you might as well have been leaping around a twelve acre bit of flat land without any trees or other obstructions.

The Challenge
On the good side . . . the main game isn't Nintendo Hard anymore!  Save for the problems caused by Samus' wonky movement, playing through the game is challenging without being hair-pullingly annoying.  Fighting Mother Brain was about the only point where I was ready to start throwing things, but that's understandable really since she's the last boss of the game.

Oh, wait, right, the extra mission thing.  That brings us to the bad side . . . it's straight back to Nintendo Hard again!  Samus starts this mission off bereft of her suit and thus virtually all of the abilities that she's painstakingly garnered over the course of the game.  And to make matters worse, this mission turns Metroid into a sneaking game!  I hate sneaking games!  I just don't have the patience for them.  I wanna kill, and I wanna kill now, and simultaneously forcing me to sneak around while also turning my badass character into a wuss with a tiny little stun gun isn't going to do anything but piss me off.

Sure, eventually Samus regains her suit and you get to tear through the pirate ship like a flamethrower through rice paper, but I don't feel it really makes up for the betrayal that this extra mission pulled on me.  Screw you, pirate ship!

The Graphics
Based almost directly on the Super Metroid graphics, so all good there.

The Music
No major complaints.

The Bottom Line
Many of the problems of the original were ameliorated for this version (ooh, "version" . . . I like that better than "remake"), and for that I'm glad.  Unfortunately, it also brought with it a whole new batch of frustrations.  Overall, I'd say Zero Mission is better than the original Metroid, but it's still pretty bad.  Worth a play if you're a heavy Metroid fan, but otherwise I'd say give it a pass and play Metroid Fusion or Super Metroid instead.

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