PREFACE: I decided to go about this entry in a different format. Metroid is one of the only original entries to a Nintendo staple franchise that I’ve never beaten (before this undertaking anyway). I played, beat and loved Super Metroid, Metroid Prime, and a few of the handheld games, but this one always seemed too evil…too unrelenting…just full of good, old fashioned, classical torture. I would start it and immediately lose my way within 10 minutes of playing, having no idea where I came from or where I was supposed to be going. So, the very nature of this blog was the perfect excuse to go back, start fresh and conquer it once and for all. As always, my goal was to not look anything up, and use nothing but the gaming resources I’ve developed over the past couple decades to get me through. The following is my descent into madness, which occurred over four sittings of getting through this game. It’s not pretty, but it’s an accurate account of my experience with Metroid. Content-wise, it starts off PG and becomes a hard R rating by the end, for some course language and mild peril.
DAY 1 – First off, my ground rules I’m going to try and play by. I’m playing this on the Wii U Virtual Console, which gives me the ability to save whenever I want. Since I’m trying to replicate the experience of playing this like it’s 1987, I’m going to do my best and not abuse that feature. Having said that, I’m not 6 years old with nothing else to do with my life other than play Nintendo, so life will force me to use it at times. Also, I’m (hopefully) not going to look anything up. I Googled the instruction manual to at least give myself that limited info, so armed with that, I’m off.
The music is just so great in all these games. How did Nintendo musically hit it out of the park with all of their franchises, right in their origins? As soon as the Metroid theme kicks off, you’re immediately inspired to kick the game’s ass.
… But before you know it, you’re frustrated. Okay, I got the rolling-morph-ball powerup, they basically handed me that one. I climb all the way up one shaft, and there’s a red door I can’t open. Great, first dead end already. A little early for this.
I’m probably subconsciously playing this the exact same time, every time. Well, at least I’m eliminating possible routes. I eventually make my way down a different corridor and the music and color schemes have changed. This feels like progress.
Soon after, I find the missile upgrade. I can now bust open red doors! Too many options at this point. I keep pushing forward and find another elevator, which takes me to a new area with new music. My gut says I should turn back and explore other areas I couldn’t access before, but I press on through this new purple bubble area. I find another missile upgrade, but; more dead ends. I fight my way up a column, only to find a bunch of birds flying above. I’m thinking maybe I can freeze them later and use them as platforms. From here I make my way down, very carelessly, and end up dead. Crap. How the hell are you supposed to navigate this? Draw your own map? It makes the Zelda dungeons a cakewalk, even without the maps. This whole game is pretty much the Lost Woods if it was set in the Alien universe. I start to realize I sound like a gamer who is a complete noob to the retro stuff, so I really need to beat this.
I wander and wander on, eventually finding a room with statues of Ridley and Kraid. (Speaking of Alien, I always wondered – was Ridley given his name as a nod to Ridley Scott?)
I make yet another mental note to return here after I find them and kill them, and get back to exploring. After more wandering, I feel I’ve made decent progress for day one. I end this session with having found the roll powerup, missile, bomb and long shot upgrades, as well as a couple missile and health upgrades.
DAY 2 – I returned to purple bubble land. Stumble on secret passages that lead to dead ends or missile upgrades. Sigh. Forget it, I’m taking myself back to the beginning of this game with all the upgrades I now have. I check the tiny cartoon map in the manual that, in no way whatsoever, does this excruciatingly confounding labyrinth justice. It looks like maybe I can make my way to Kraid now, so I head that way.
Oh yeah, I know this tune. Brinstar Depths, with Kraid spinning the actual stage, was one of my favorite battlegrounds in Super Smash Bros Melee, although all my friends hated it. This song is pure nostalgia for me, and weirdly more for 2004 than 1988, because of Smash.
I learned somewhere around here that red doors, opened by missiles, stay open after you blast them. This is good for missile conservation, but better for tracking where it is you’ve been, and where you haven’t. Because I’m so damn smart, I leave the unopened red doors unblasted and hit up the blue doors first. Let’s see how this goes!
…Good God, this place is kicking my ass. Falling all the time, flying-homing-bats that rise up non-stop… I can barely survive. A lot of exploring that is leading to nothing but misery, the ongoing beeping warning me that I’m on my last legs has me ready to
quit for the day when I stumble on a health upgrade. Back at it! Let’s find this spiny son of a bitch. I find my way to a… green Kraid. I beat him and, what’s the reward? Of course! NOTHING. I find an empty pedestal. Cool. More nothing. Eventually I can’t stand it and look up an actual map, but even that doesn’t help me. I have been everywhere you can go, except for one red door I can’t reach. I know I’m going to need a freeze ray or something. So now I have to leave, having only killed faux-Kraid. Urgggggh. I head back to Norfair (purple bubble land). Let me go scour that goddam dump again – brb!
IT’S STILL NO USE. I can’t go anywhere new here! Giant columns that I climb but just can’t reach the top, I’m missing upgrades. That’s it. I’m broken. I’ve been everywhere. I’ll die trying to find where I go next. Not Metroid die, like real life die. I have to look it up. It kills me to do it, but I’ll feel better if it’s something I never would have figured out. I’ll feel terrible if it’s obvious.
And there it is. I found what I missed. My blood starts boiling. How can that be it? How? I’ve dropped bombs over every piece of floor I could find. But it looks like, I may have missed a pixel. Because THERE’S A COUPLE LITTLE BUBBLES IN THE BOTTOM CORNER OF ONE ROOM THAT YOU HAVE TO BOMB THEN FALL THROUGH. I BOMBED THIS ROOM, I MUST HAVE JUST MISSED THAT ONE SPOT. Unbelievable. Unreal. Fine, one thing looked up. Let’s move on.
I immediately find the long jump. With less than 0 satisfaction. God DAMMIT. Time to end this sitting. I end with having found 3 missile upgrades, 1 energy upgrade, and the very undeserved long jump upgrade.
I love you, Nintendo. I love you, Metroid franchise. But original Metroid… You are nothing but a wart on the ass of Wart from Super Mario Bros 2.
DAY 3 – After exploring Norfair with my new high jump, I eventually find another elevator that takes me further down… red/purple blocks and even more foreboding music. I think this is Ridley’s pad. Something tells me I should take care of Kraid first. Ridley is the bigger baddie, no? Shouldn’t he be the penultimate boss? (A better question: why am I trying to deduct reason from this interactive equivalent of exploring an empty, dimly-neon-lit skyscraper filled with rabid booger bats?) Now that I can long jump and get to that red door, I’m gonna go there first. REMINDER: TO GET TO THE SUPPOSED RIDLEY LEVEL, FALL DOWN STUPID HIDDEN PATH I HAD TO LOOK UP, BOTTOM DOOR.
I find and fight Kraid and my God, was he tough. Maybe I should have found other beams, but I felt like I was supposed to beat him next, and I was dying for some semblance of progression.
I tried jumping around and using missiles, but took way too much damage. I ended up just morphing into a ball and bombing the balls out of him until he finally died and I had 0 life left. NO UPGRADES OR ANYTHING FOR BEATING HIM? Cool! I probably should have explored Ridley’s lair then came back here.
(Oh… I come back and realize I have ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTEEN MISSILES. As opposed to the 40 maximum I just had. I guess I did get something outta that bloodbath. I could edit that sentence above, but I’d like to keep the descent into madness portrayed here as accurately as possible.)
I wander around what I hope is Ridley’s crib and realize I should have been careful what I wished for… After hitting dead ends and praying for a new upgrade, I just ran into the purple dragon-dactyl himself. I back out to look for something, ANYTHING. Ice Beam? Wave Beam? Screw Attack? New Armor? Where are they?!
(Insert lots and lots of exploring, a few deaths and a bunch of beers here. And then…)
THIS GAME IS SUCH AN ASSHOLE. I JUST HIT THE BOTTOM-MOST DOOR, BATTLED MY WAY THROUGH FUCKING HELL, only to get to AN EMPTY ROOM WITH A HUGE CEILING AND NOWHERE TO GO. I CHECKED EVERY GOODAMN SQUARE, THERE ARE NO HIDDEN PASSAGES. THAT TOOK ME SO FUCKING LONG. Seriously. You have to harvest those flies that come out of pipes for FIVE HEALTH per kill and missiles. If you mess up and they hit you, you take THIRTY DAMAGE. They rise up until they’re at your level (so if you’re jumping or crouching, that won’t save you) then stop and race at you. They immediately respawn. They only way to make them lag in respawn is kill them until one drops health or a missle, then DON’T grab it. They won’t respawn until it disappears. So eventually AVOIDING HEALTH is the only way to survive, or else they’re all over the goddamn place. AND, if you use them to fill your health to max (which is definitely their purpose sometimes, i.e. right before Kraid), eventually they just stop giving health/missiles. And at that point, they’re just on automatic respawn until you’re fucking DEAD, so get the hell through a door and reset the screen or you’re toast. I did find another missile upgrade which meant BASICALLY NOTHING SINCE THAT DICKBUG KRAID GAVE ME 75 MISSILES.
Alright. This was another rough sitting. Kraid was HELL, and although I’ve now gotten much farther than I ever have, I’m in desperate need for a new power up or better defense. My exploring was very limited this time. Far left door of Ridley’s lair is still off limits, as is far bottom door of right side (NOTHING THERE) or second bottom (RIDLEY IS IN THERE). Tomorrow’s goal is to find some new beams or something so I can survive! I end this day with 2 missile upgrades and the huge amount of missiles I got from slaying Kraid. NOTHING ELSE BESIDES THAT.
Day 4 – Okay, I explored the other rooms. I hate to sound like a broken record, but I can’t find anything. Dead ends and nothing. So I decide to fight Ridley. Wow, MUCH easier than Kraid – jumped over his projectiles, went face to face with him then retreated and repeat. Ended up in the little crevice in the door behind him, just shot him from there. He couldn’t hit me. Beat him easily, got a shitload of more missiles. The next room had lava that I just jumped through while eating damage for breakfast so I could find ANYTHING. Got an energy pack and another seemingly dead end. JESUS. HELP ME.
Alright. One thing I learned from my one look up is I guess I need to be dropping bombs fucking everywhere. Which I always have, but I mean LITERALLY everywhere. A little ridiculous, but this is the NES so shame on me. I decide to head to Norfair and use this strategy there, but while bouncing around Brinstar, I find out the little tunnel screens with doors on either end (similar to the Mega Man boss pre-rooms) are usually where secrets are held by using bombs. I found both the Varia suit and the Ice Beam. I’m pissed. Part of me feels like such useful items shouldn’t be so well-hidden, that’s for more missiles and energy, but again… This is the NES so all that hand-holding logic is thrown out the window. Forget the Wave Beam and Screw Attack. I’m gonna see if I can finish this game without them. Now that Ridley and Kraid are dead, I’m heading to their statue room.
Here we go, I must be near the end. I’m finally fighting the titular monsters, who, naturally, are a massive pain. Luckily you only need to freeze them then lay missiles into them and you are rewarded with a buttload of life or missiles. And my God, do you need missiles. They’re needed to break a lot of barriers leading up to Mother Brain, and then you need a lot more to throw at that throbbing matriarchal blubber-bitch herself. You’re bombarded by an onslaught of red rings coming from all directions as you try and take her down. I start to get the feeling if I had the Screw Attack, just jumping would get them off my back. But too late for that now. Enough of this game. Come on kid, let’s blow this thing and go home. Somehow, I manage to take her down with a sliver of life left needed to make the dramatic escape. I’ve played Super Metroid, how did I not guess? You finally kill the final boss and before you can let loose a sigh of relief, you’re immediately
confronted with a ton of platforms and music that, even in its primitive form, tells you THIS PLACE IS ABOUT TO BLOW THE CHRIST UP. Hoping to spare myself one last shitfit, I manage to make it out with plenty of time left (somewhere in the 600’s) before this miserable, pixelated land of misery and shit is blown to kingdom come. The game is over and there is the Empire Strikes Back equivalent of NES twist endings – Samus is a woman. In my ending, all she did was take her helmet off, and a quick Google search tells me this is far from the best ending. Whatever. The game is finally over.
My final thoughts: like Zelda, and Mario, the Metroid precedent was set with this initial entry. The groundwork was laid for future Nintendo staples that are arguably some of the best games ever made. Eventually, there’s some story to the sequels if you’re looking for it (but you need to be actively looking for it). All in all, I’m glad this game happened if for nothing more than the realized potential further down the line. I most likely played this game in all the wrong ways, and if you’re a big fan of it, you probably scoff at all of this. But bottom line – I don’t think this game is given enough credit for how brutally difficult and unforgiving it is, especially compared to other Nintendo franchises. I’m always going to revisit these locations with Samus, but never on a system that predates the SNES. For me, those places in their 8-bit form have been blown up forever, so PEACE OUT NORFAIR.