Metroid is a series that everyone who plays games should be familiar with. One of Nintendo’s iconic franchises, it defined an entire genre of gaming, having a very open ended world that you could explore at your own pace, finding power-ups on the way to help you progress to previously unattainable locations. It’s a standard in today’s market, with many indie and retro-inspired games following this model. It also introduced quite possibly one of the most iconic women in gaming history, intergalactic bounty hunter Samus Aran. Today I will be looking at Metroid:Zero Mission, a Game Boy Advance remake of the very first game in the series.
Released in 2004, Metroid: Zero Mission boasted improved graphics and game-play, as well as a streamlined map and objective based story that removes many of the frustrations of the original 1986 classic. It borrows a lot from other games in the series, in particular the massively popular Super Metroid. Despite being a remake, it does manage to capture the feel of the original game, dropping you right into the game with little explanation and allowing you to explore at your leisure.
The biggest difference in this game is the existence of a built in map, which you slowly reveal as you explore, making all the backtracking you have to do in this game less frustrating. The path has been better streamlined as well, with objectives being shown to you on the map. These objectives are mainly the various power ups that you get throughout the game, which of course are a major part of the Metroid series. While this does hurt the essence of the game slightly by making it more linear, I found that having a general idea of where to go made the experience much more enjoyable and cut down on the frustration factor tremendously.
All of the classic power ups from the original game are here, starting with the morph ball, which allows you to roll up into a ball and enter areas otherwise inaccessible, from missiles and bombs and of course the Ice Beam, to the Screwattack, one of the most powerful attacks in the game. The game has also added power ups from other installments, such as super missiles and power bombs, upgraded versions that deal more damage, as well as the Speed Booster, which allows Samus to run at supersonic speeds and destroy special blocks and access other areas. These power-ups are used to aid you in exploration, the largest part of the game-play Many areas are inaccessible until you get the right power up, whether it’s getting the missiles to open up a certain type of door, or bombs to open up a secret passage within the walls, or using the ice beam to create make shift platforms out of the enemies. With the introduction of these power ups, new areas have been added to the classic map, taking advantage of these new items in order to help progress.
The classic bosses return, all with updated designs that make them look more like their future incarnations. These bosses are challenging, and upon beating them they give you a sense of accomplishment, particularly because they’re usually in between you and the next power up you need. Additional bosses have been added to this game, and while many of them offer a fun challenge, they don’t feel very well integrated into the plot like the core three of Ridley, Kraid, and Mother Brain. The final addition to Zero Mission from the original game is the existence of a bonus level after you defeat the final boss, where the Zero Suit is introduced, a now staple part of Samus’s attire, making appearances in many of the games after this.
Overall Metroid:Zero Mission is a fun game and great remake of a classic title, bringing the first adventure of Samus to a new generation of gamers, and as a fun little bonus you unlock the original version upon beating the game. It is available on Game Boy Advance, though rather hard to find now. If you wish to try your hand at the original 1986 Metroid, it is available on the Virtual Console.