The “Metroid” Game Series

She’s certainly got a cannon for an arm!

By that, I mean bounty hunter Samus Aran, heroine of the “Metroid” video game series.  I’m not sure who came up with that phrase (cannon for an arm).  I couldn’t find that exact quote on Google, meaning that hopefully I haven’t plagiarized.  In the 2002 edition of John Madden’s EA sports game, he’s commented hundreds of times that, “He’s obviously got a cannon for an arm; But sometimes, on the shorter throws, you need to put some touch on the ball.”  Obviously, that was describing a male – specifically the quarterback of any given team.

What’s fascinating about the “Metroid” game series?  It’s hard to say!  I’m pretty sure that my first exposure to the series was via a used copy of “Super Metroid” on the Super Nintendo home console.  There was an opening sequence that reviewed the results of completing the previous games in the series.  Was there even voice acting for that sequence?  It’s been a while since I’ve played the game.  From that point on, I was hooked on the story.

Since then, I believe I’ve only played “Metroid Prime” (up to the final boss), and still have a high level of appreciation for the whole series.  Out of curiosity, I looked up a timeline of when each title was released.  The NES title “Metroid” was released close to my birthday in 1987.  It took about 6 years and 8 more months to see Samus make her only appearance on SNES, in April of 1994.

After that point, and based on reading Wikipedia articles, it seemed like the series had a rough patch.  Samus technically appeared on Nintendo’s third home console, the Nintendo 64, but only as a fighter in the “Super Smash Brothers” compilation, which brought together multiple franchises.  I can remember playing a demo of “Metroid Prime” in the days of GameCube, and wondering if the game was too “dark” and bad for my mental or emotional health.  If I were to play it today, I’d probably laugh at that idea – if only because the “real world” is consistently a dangerous place.

Samus’ return to a home system (that “Metroid Prime” appearance mentioned above) came after a hiatus of about 8 years and 7 months!  If you add up all the time between the original “Metroid” and the first GameCube release, it took just over 15 years and 3 months for Samus to appear in three console games!  Then, starting from the success of the first “Prime” title, she appeared in a total of three console games (the Prime Trilogy) over a span of just over 6 years and 9 months.  I believe the pattern has been that she stars in two games starting from the GameCube console, and continued on the Wii (although, an upgraded version of the first Prime was released in Japan, using the Wii controls, and the entire “Prime Trilogy” was published as a Wii title).  Thus far, she’s been missing from the Wii U, though (unless you count a role in the newest “Super Smash Brothers” sequel).

To get back to a question I asked four paragraphs ago, it’s hard to pinpoint how this series has impressed me so much, considering how I’ve only played two of the games.  The games themselves stick out to me as among the best I’ve played on those two consoles.  When you start each adventure, you’re not that powerful.  Actually, you do have some power-ups in a “training” stage of “Prime,” but (spoiler alert) those don’t last (end spoiler).  At first, it can seem frustrating that many areas are blocked off, because you don’t have bombs yet, or whatever attaches to that interesting track along the wall, or a way to swing over a pool of magma.  In that sense, the series reminds me a bit of Zelda.  How often are those silly boulders stopping you from exploring a cave?  If you don’t mind coming back to those areas later in the game, you tend to get rewarded for your sense of exploration.

Technically, there are enemies in the foreign worlds that Samus explores, but it’s sometimes hard to notice!  You might just be enjoying the scenery, and a silly nest of bees or hornets decides to make trouble.

Graphically, I felt like “Prime” was one of the most polished games I’ve played on any system.  The developers took a risk putting you inside Samus’ helmet, with a “heads up display” (HUD), but there was so much attention paid to every detail!  How do you know you’re in a steamy place?  Your visor probably starts to collect condensation.  Is it raining outside?  Did you jump out of a pool of water?  Watch it bead off of the visor!  In a dark room, where you fire off a glowing beam or weapon, you can see a brief reflection of Samus’ face in the visor.  The visor’s infrared and x-ray modes added even more depth and detail.

The environments are creepy, and the soundtrack is almost perfect.  There are hardly any sounds that would remind you of Earth, and that seems to be just fine.

One aspect of these games that I’ve noticed others emphasizing is the idea that you’re alone.  Other than being an introvert, I’m not sure why that sounds appealing.  In Mario games, I suppose you can sometimes play as Luigi (or Peach and Toad).  In Zelda games, part of the plot usually involves Link making friends with nonplayable characters.  In “Metroid,” there’s Samus, and a lonely planet with alien species.  I believe that changed somewhat in “Other M,” but I haven’t played that game.

Overall, it’s an amazing series.  I’m not sure if it stands out because of the relatively low number of titles, or for other reasons.  There doesn’t seem to be a poorly reviewed or low-rated game in the bunch, with the possible exception of “Other M” for the Wii.

For tonight, I believe I’ve written enough.  I’ll have about two weeks to think of a new idea for a Tuesday post.  Look for that entry on May 5th.

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