Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 02/09/04 | Genre: Action
Having exposed players to the world of Metroid Prime (GameCube, 2002) and Metroid Fusion (Game Boy Advance, 2002), the developers of Fusion thought that it would be a good idea to go back and explore the roots of the Metroid franchise to those who may have never known it. Metroid: Zero Mission is not just a port or mere graphical upgrade of Metroid which first appeared on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986. In fact, the first Metroid game has truly been remade to provide a brand new experience in Zero Mission. While Zero Mission follows the same general structure of the original Metroid, Samus has been given new abilities, new areas to explore, new puzzles to solve, and new enemies to defeat. Even those who know every virtual inch of the original Metroid will enjoy the new experience found in Zero Mission.
If you've never played a Metroid game before, let me give you a quick synopsis to what the series is all about. The main character is a space bounty hunter by the name of Samus Aran. The games take place in some very distant galaxy and/or future. The Galactic Federation employs Samus to take care of problems that they can't otherwise. The story mainly involves an organization of Space Pirates who are always trying to modify Metroids to develop weapons that they can use. Metroids are extremely dangerous parasitic creatures that can extract energy from other life forms and can be mutated.
Metroid: Zero Mission expands upon the plot of the first game. Samus is instructed to eradicate all Metroids and destroy the work of the Space Pirates on the planet Zebes. In the original NES Metroid, the story was given only in the instruction booklet and through a small ending sequence. Fortunately, Zero Mission provides a great retelling of the story with cutscenes that help explain things a lot more. Metroid Prime is the direct sequel to the original Metroid. Thanks to the new story elements, Zero Mission helps to make the connection to Prime much more concrete. The story is mainly delivered through beautifully drawn comic-like panels.
Zero Mission has some really great graphics, like Fusion. Character sprites are very detailed and colorful, as are the surrounding environments and backgrounds. You'll appreciate all of the animations given to Samus and all of the enemies, and if you like paying attention to little details, you'll also enjoy other animations in the environment. In terms of technology, you won't notice anything incredibly new or amazing. You'll see some sprite rotation, and it does look good, but it's not new. However, this is some of the finest 2D graphics that you'll see on the GBA. The environments are filled with so many details and the artwork is so well done that it becomes easy to be drawn into the game's world. It's very atmospheric.
Zero Mission includes all of the music from the original Metroid plus some new stuff as well. Of course, classic tunes have been redone with new sounds. I highly recommend playing with headphones because it sounds great. Of course, the sound effects are also responsible for that.
If you've played Super Metroid or Metroid Fusion, then you'll already have a good idea of what the game feels like. Specifically, if you've played Fusion, then you know how the game will control on the Game Boy Advance as Zero Mission is similar in this regard. The developers did a great job of designing the controls to give players easy access to all of Samus' numerous abilities without getting confused. Nintendo always does a great job with control schemes. The basic structure of the game involves exploring areas by using the abilities of your Power Suit and defeating enemies with your beam weapon. The game involves lots of jumping and shooting of enemies, but the main focus is on finding upgrades for your Power Suit. As Metroid veterans know, you start the game relatively weak. You can jump and shoot with limited range, and that's about it. In Zero Mission (as with the original Metroid), you almost immediately come across the first upgrade, the Morph Ball. It's probably the all-time favorite ability among Metroid fans. The Morph Ball allows Samus to transform into a compact ball, gaining the ability to roll into tight areas that were previously in accessible. In the same manner, you will have to explore the world to find all kinds of upgrades that allow you to access new areas. Upgrades will continue to make Samus more powerful and more versatile.
All of the upgrades from the original Metroid games are in Zero Mission, but there are also some new upgrades. Most of the game has also been redesigned to make use of this. Those who played the original Metroid game will recognize many areas, but they will also enjoy the fact that there are new puzzle elements, new enemies, and even completely new areas to explore. Even though Zero Mission is a recreation of the first Metroid game, you can't play through it the same way. This is why even those who have played the original to death will still enjoy this game. It is a new experience, not just new graphics and sound.
One of the main complaints that fans had about Fusion was how linear it felt which is in contrast to past Metroid games. In Zero Mission that linear feeling is reduced, but it is still there. In Fusion, the player was not only directed where to go, but off-track exploration was limited because many areas would be explicitly blocked off if they were not along the path to the next objective. In the classic Metroid games (Metroid, Metroid II: Return of Samus, and Super Metroid), players were given no indication of where to go next, and they could freely explore the whole world and were only limited by abilities that they did not yet possess. Many players enjoyed this feeling. Zero Mission doesn't restrict the player as much as Fusion did, but it does give the player a marker on the map to the next objective. Some fans are annoyed by this because they always enjoyed the aspect of simply exploring around to find the items they needed to access new areas. So in Zero Mission, you can explore areas that may not be on the path to the next objective (and this is useful to find some upgrades sooner), you will always know that you don't need to be exploring that area at that time, which makes many players feel that the game is more linear.
Another thing that fans will notice is that the boss fights are significantly easier than past Metroid games, including Fusion. The game provides an Easy and Normal mode to star out with, and Metroid fans will probably find the Normal mode to be easy for them. Fortunately, once you beat the game, a Hard mode will provide a more appropriate challenge for Metroid veterans. Probably the thing that people fault Zero Mission the most for is length, which is about par with Fusion. Many people are saying that you can beat the game in 5-6 hours even if you do some extra exploring to find extra upgrades. If you do try to find 100% of the items without using a guide (which requires backtracking and not always going directly to the next objective), then it will take you a significantly longer time. If you just follow the waypoints on your map, you could beat the game fairly quick. Most Metroid fans know that the games usually don't take that long to beat, but a lot of the replay value comes from trying to beat the game under certain conditions such as getting 100%, getting only a minimal amount of upgrades, beating the game as fast as possible and so on. In fact, this is a Metroid tradition. Although the game does reward you with different artwork for beating the game under different conditions, it's not worth that alone. Metroid fans know that it's more about the accomplishment of it. The first time you beat Zero Mission, you will also unlock the original NES Metroid. Although it is technologically outdated, you can still see what a great game it was and you can see just how different Zero Mission is from the game that it reinvents. You can also link Zero Mission with Fusion to unlock some more cool artwork. Not only will you receive all of the ending reward images from Fusion, but you'll also see a short comic that divulges a little bit more of Samus' past.
In the end Metroid: Zero Mission is a game that both newcomers and long time Metroid fans will enjoy. Though veterans might find the initial play through easy, they already know that much of the fun and challenge comes from trying to beat the game under several different conditions. Zero Mission also does a great job of providing a lot of story that we have been missing from the beginning of the Metroid tale. If I haven't made it clear already, Zero Mission reinvents the original Metroid game. It's not just the same old game in a new suit. The developer did a great job of adding new and redesigned elements to bring a fresh new experience to Metroid fans.