In a comment to my previous post, Jeff from Jefftovers asked me to “list the Metroid games in order from [my] most-loved to most-despised”. I’ve never actually ranked the games in terms of how much I liked them and why. My response warrants its own post. BTW, I don’t despise any of the Metroid games, but there are some I liked more than others. :)
Super Metroid remains the pinnacle of the Metroid series in my mind. Super Metroid is everything that a Metroid game should be. Despite the availability of map stations littered throughout Zebes, as well as the auto-mapping feature, exploration retains the thrill of discovery. Super Metroid‘s challenges are balanced and fun. The bosses were great and it was fun to figure out the attack patterns. The areas are atmospheric and unique, and obstacles are hard, but not too hard. The excellent music enhances the game and adds a lot to the player’s enjoyment. Super Metroid is the reason I go by “Brinstar” on the internets. The red cave area is my favourite part of Brinstar, and that section of Zebes also plays my favourite background music from the game. The end boss fight had an awesome surprise twist. It’s the perfect Metroid game, and a strong contender for a perfect game in its own right.
Metroid II: The Return of Samus
It was just a “bug hunt” but the improvement from Metroid to Metroid II: Return of Samus was huge. Metroid II established the responsive controls, tight gameplay, and the introduction of new weapons that we later saw in Super Metroid. It had no auto-mapping. Like Metroid you either had to memorise the caverns of planet SR-388 or draw your own maps. However, it wasn’t nearly as confusing as navigating the underground corridors of Zebes in Metroid. The aftermath of the boss fight directly led into the events in Super Metroid. At the end of Metroid II: Return of Samus, we see Samus Aran’s compassion. Prior to this, her personality was a blank slate.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
It was Metroid Prime and more. It had more challenges, new visors and armour, and new enemies. In my opinion, there were a higher number of insanely frustrating minibosses in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes than in Metroid Prime. Metroid games, like the Metal Gear Solid games (actually), drop you into the world in a nearly “naked” state. You need to reacquire your weapons, and much of the game is spent hunting the planet for weapons.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes adds the dimension of the Dark world, which was cool. It was like Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, except Metroid style. Not only did it add a dark version of the planet wtih very creepy environments and awesome music, but the game introduced a dark version of Samus herself. In one of the endings in Metroid Prime, in the wake of the battle between Samus and Metroid Prime, we saw a hand reach up out of the rubble. Dark Samus was a fantastic and challenging enemy.
The thing I disliked about Metroid Prime 2: Echoes was the emphasis on key-collecting in addition to the exploration and the power-up search. I think there were a total of 18 or so keys to collect from the various areas in the game, from both the dark and the light versions of planet Aether. After getting all your weapons and the ultimate power suit, you had to collect even more keys just to access the final areas of the game. The tedium of key-collecting cause me to stop playing, and I’m actually very close to the end. Despite that, however, I like it a little more than Metroid Prime because of Dark Samus and Dark Aether.
The move to 3D was successful. The exploratory elements were there, the weapons, the challenge, the music, the imaginative and challenging bosses, etc. The visor system was wonderful, and it a fantastic way to bring you closer to the character. Some of the bosses were exceedingly frustrating, but after eventual success, the player feels a big sense of accomplishment. More about the Chozo culture and history was revealed through the use of the scan visor, this definitely added to the experience.
There is nothing I particularly dislike about Metroid Prime. When I played it, it was great and cool, and all of that. It’s a little difficult to rank this one just below Metroid Prime 2: Echoes because they’re both good games.
Metroid Zero Mission
A better version of Metroid. Compared to Metroid, Metroid Zero Mission was almost too easy, which was kind of a disappointment. It would have been nicer if this re-envisioning of the first game was a bit more balanced in terms of difficulty. The hardest part was at the very end of the game, and I almost quit in frustration. I kept repeating one section over and over because I kept dying, and there weren’t any save points nearby. At the end of the game, some facts about Samus’s mysterious upbringing were revealed, and this was neat. It peeled away another layer of the character.
This game was hard. I spent countless hours on it, usually getting nowhere. Eventually I became too frustrated to continue playing. I never beat it.
The linearity of Metroid Fusion felt just as confining as the space station that served as the setting. Fusion is the least Metroid-like of all the games because the computer told you where to go and what to do. You could explore only as much as the computer allowed you to, and this felt restrictive. It was irritating when it blocked access from certain areas for one reason or another. While it’s true that games may need to guide the player to the next area, in the case of Metroid, you should never feel as if you’re being herded around. You should feel like you’re the one uncovering mysteries and new frontiers.
After years of “constructing” Samus’s personality in my mind, I was confronted by her inner monologue in Metroid Fusion. It’s not a bad thing, but it was huge change for me to get used to. A lot of people call for more-fleshed out characters in games, but for Metroid I didn’t appreciate it as much as I would had it been a different game. The effort of developers to remove the mystery, to make her more “real”, while it was well-intentioned, also stripped some of the personality from “my” creation. After Metroid Fusion, Samus was no longer “my” character, but a character as written by someone at Nintendo. They removed too much mystery for my taste.
One of the things that I like about the Metroid series is the fact that they had not given us too much information about Samus’s personality to start with. Over the years, bit by bit, we discover more about her personality. We know from her past actions that she is compassionate, dedicated, skilled, determined, strong, independent, and has a sense of justice. The rest of her personality, how she reacts to events, was up for the player to write in their minds to a certain extent, and I liked that. Metroid Fusion, in my opinion, gave us too much personality all at once.
Metroid Prime: Hunters
I can’t put this on the list because I haven’t played enough of the single-player adventure to make any sort of judgment. When I do, I’ll edit this post and place it appropriately.
Metroid Prime: Pinball
I don’t have this game, and I don’t think there is a storyline.