In 1987, I still didn’t have a NES…but my neighbor did. He wasn’t much of a gamer and it drove me crazy that he had the technologically superior NES and I didn’t (the family did not even have Super Mario Bros…how sick and twisted is that!!!). The first round of games were fun, but much like the old style of games…full of quick plays and arcade style hits. In August 1987, a new type of game was release with a password system which allowed you to input a code and continue playing an existing game and games suddenly got a lot longer. I had to have it which meant convincing my friend to get it…enter: Metroid! Along with Kid Icarus, Metroid helped changed the video game world…and provided a big surprise.
Metroid wasn’t an easy game and the speed you finished it affected your game ending. Though I finished the game, I didn’t finish it in five hours. Soon, (pre-internet) magazines and rumors arose of a surprise ending which even contradicted the instruction books. Samus Aran, the hero of the game, was always referred to as a “he”…but the entry of a code “Justin Bailey —— ——” revealed the truth about Samus Aron…that he was really a she!
This little twist, plus great gameplay made Metroid an instant classic, and in a world full of male heroes, Samus Aran became a first. Not only was she shooting down aliens and facing dangers that would make Mario squirm, but she did it without gamers knowing she was a woman. Much like a Ripley from the Alien movie series, you had a legitimate and powerful female heroine (ok, putting her in a swimsuit-ish thing was a bit much), and a franchise was born.
Metroid took a while to get off the ground as a franchise but once the secret was out about Samus Aran, her identity often became a plotpoint in the stories. Metroid was followed up by Metroid II: Return of Samus on Gameboy in 1991. Much like the original, Metroid II was a sidescroller and like the first one, I didn’t have a Gameboy to play it on (I had procured a NES and even procured my friend’s Metroid by now). I again was at the mercy of my friends to play it but did manage to do it. The sequel took the first format and improved on it…leading to the series following up with one of the best games of all time.
The new Super NES provided superior graphics and also a superior Metroid. Super Metroid was released in 1994 and featured a smooth, massive side scroller that was loaded with fun and thrills. Samus Aran now had more of a plot and a goal in a plot to eliminate the galactic threat of Mother Brain and the Metroids. The series hits a high point that it never reaches again (in my opinion).
After a pinball game in 1995, Metroid and Samus did not return in a proper game until 2002 with a Gameboy follow-up Metroid Fusion in 2002 which continued the sidescrolling action, but 2002 also presented the game changing Metroid Prime for the GameCube. I am not a first person shooter person, but Metroid Prime was one of the best first person shooters I’ve played. It was smooth, not overly intense and unlike something like Call of Duty, you weren’t bent on keeping up on ammo…you just shot and had fun.
The series faltered a bit with Metroid Prime 2: Echoes in 2004 and had another pinball game for the DS in 2005 based around the Metroid Prime theme. A Gameboy spin-off game Metroid Prime Hunters created a bridge between the GameCube Metroid Prime games to the new Nintendo Wii…and the end of the Prime “trilogy”.
The release of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption tested the Wii’s ability and utilized the motion controls of the Wii. It was a fun game, but didn’t live up to the first Metroid Prime…fortunately Nintendo smartly rereleased Metroid Prime 1 & 2 with these new Wii controls as Metroid Prime: Trilogy…which only had a limited run and can be quite pricy.
With Metroid Prime over, Nintendo released Metroid: The Other M which combined aspects of the 2D games with Metroid Prime style exploration. It wasn’t a perfect game but my love of Metroid did allow me to at least enjoy the game though it was considered a failure by Nintendo.
With the struggles of the Wii U, I worry about the future of Samus and the Metroid series. A lot of the old Nintendo games feel like a nice comfortable shoe that you can slip on and remind you of childhood. Samus has appeared in games like Smash Brothers and little cameos in other games, but it is the Metroid games which make her a star…I hope it is a star that never fails.