Review: Metroid: Zero Mission (Game Boy Advance)

Game: Metroid: Zero Mission
System: Game Boy Advance
Genre: Action-Platforming
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 2/9/04

I have to admit that I was a “late bloomer” when it came to the Metroid series. I had previously skipped the first three games (Metroid, Metroid II, Super Metroid), and wasn’t that interested until the games that much until I received the gift of Metroid Fusion on the GBA. I remember sitting down, popping the cartridge in…and not getting up from that spot for six hours straight. That game made me sit in one spot, and hold me there for six hours when most of my normal game time comes in at a maximum of two. Needless to say, I was hooked on Metroid after that day.

The next step for me was Metroid Prime, which was only natural. It was new, it was 3D, and it was hotly anticipated that year. Played it. Enjoyed it. Beat it. Then, I linked Fusion up to it and got (da da da DAAAAA) the original NES Metroid! I can’t say I was any good at it, nor can I say I could find my way around it well, but it was a nice little throwback to the good ol’ days when Nintendo ruled the 8-Bit roost.

So now we come to the GBA remake of Samus Aran’s first adventure: Metroid: Zero Mission. As with any remake, I’m sure a lot of you are wondering how this compares to the original, and if the remake is worth buying if you already can play the original. All will be revealed here as we delve into…


THE OFFICIAL 411GAMES REVIEW


STORY

Like with any re-release, the game’s story is much like the original. The Galactic Federation calls a bounty hunter by the name of Samus Aran for a very important mission. A band of Space Pirates have begun researching the Metroid, a race of creatures known for their powers of harnessing energy. The pirates want to use the Metroid for their own evil purposes, so it’s up to Samus to stop them. She must infiltrate their base on Planet Zebes (which was once her home), destroy the Metroid there, and defeat the Space Pirate leader: Mother Brain.

While the story is old, the way it’s carried through the game is not. There are animated cut scenes at certain parts of the game that detail Samus’ landing, the main bosses, and other things of that ilk. The story is nowhere near as fleshed out as the story of Metroid Fusion, but seems to tell you more with pictures than with words anyway. Especially when you get to the “end” of the game…

Story: 7/10


GRAPHICS

This is a first-party Nintendo game on their prized handheld system. Those expecting bad graphics on a first-party Nintendo game on their prized handheld system really have no idea what Nintendo is capable of.

The original NES game never relied on detailing the innards of Planet Zebes. The entire game was filled with black rooms, black shafts, black tunnels…every aspect of the game was dark and dingy, pretty much. The only real detail in a level came from the platforms, acid/lava areas, enemies, and Chozo statues. Considering the GBA’s power, however, such level design would have been atrocious and wrong. Therefore, we get perhaps the GREATEST graphical upgrades from any Nintendo remake…well, ever!

The world of Planet Zebes is much more intimidating looking than it was before. To begin with, we have ACTUAL BACKGROUNDS! The cave areas of Brinstar contain rocky formations. Nofair looks to have high-temperature hubs in between areas of solid rock. The lairs of Kraid and Ridley look to be areas where ruins once lay, but now house the powerful Space Pirate soldiers. Also included are areas that came from the SNES version of the game, such as Crateria. And maybe if you go far enough, you’ll encounter brand new areas as well…

But enough with that potential spoiler! All these areas have been done/redone with INCREDIBLE amounts of detail and color. Much brighter color than the NES game. Still, the game carries the dark overtone that the original was famous for.

You’ll also notice that there are many new additions to Zebes that the NES game never included. The levels have been redesigned to include slanted floors, bigger rooms, and many various traps. Plus, you have the addition of Save Rooms, Map Rooms, and new ways to navigate the sectors of Zebes. Still, even though much has been redesigned, much has been kept the same and true to the original. The beginning of the game is exactly as you remember it. You start in a room; you go to the left, and BINGO! The Morph Ball power-up! And this is only one of the many areas that have been kept the same as the original.

Samus herself has received an overhaul. Her special suit seems thinner than before, and she animates very well. The only problem I see is that there are only marginal differences between her suit colors. Granted this observation may be due to my SP backlight, but still, she doesn’t look all that different when she upgrades.

Graphics: 9/10


We never saw THIS bad boy on the NES…


SOUND

Those who’ve played the original know all of the classic tunes. The “main” theme from Brinstar, the haunting Kraid song, the mysterious Nofair ballad…all engraved in the minds of Metroid fans. And much like the graphics, the sound has also gone under a grand transformation.

You’ll notice it mostly in the music. Each theme from the original game has been remixed to take advantage of the GBA’s sound processor. The Brinstar theme is now orchestrated, and sounds much more powerful than before. The Nofair theme sounds as though a choir is backing it up. And the other songs sound equally as incredibly. The only drawback is that there doesn’t seem to be many new songs outside of the remixes.

As far as the sound effects go, all you have to do is make Samus do…well…ANYTHING. You can here each footstep she makes. Fire her blaster. Heck, just jump! All produce wondrous sounds with crystal clarity.

Perhaps the best thing involving sound is that you can switch it from monaural to stereo (the headphone option). Not many GBA games feature this option, but it makes the Metroid experience more involving. The sound surrounds your senses, and pulls you in that much more.

Sound: 8/10


CONTROLS

Like with most Metroid games, the controls are pretty easy to learn. You’ll start out with A as your Jump, B as your blaster, and holding L will allow you to fire diagonally. As you gain power-ups, you’ll be able to morph into a ball by crouching, then pressing Down again. In your ball form, you’ll be able to lay bombs with B. You’ll also be able to shoot missiles by holding R and pressing B. Keep in mind these are the basic controls, and you’ll learn many more abilities as the game goes on.

You’ll get the hang of the controls pretty quick. They’re very responsive, perhaps even too responsive. I’ve had several instances when I had a finger lay gingerly on the L or R triggers, and then I ended up firing a diagonal missile when I didn’t mean to. Other than that, you’ll find Samus a DREAM to handle…no, not THAT way! PERVERT!

Controls: 9/10


Missiles + Zebes natives = Barbeque!


REPLAYABILITY

Now I’m not going to lie to you here. The game is short. VERY short. So short that it can be completed in less than two hours. However, it was designed to be that way from the beginning. Completing the game with different times and different collection percentages under various difficulties will get you different ending pictures. These pictures range from seeing Samus with full armor, with her helmet off, with her armor off, and even in a skimpy red top/shorts combo. Not only that, but you can view these pictures again in a special Gallery Mode found in the options menu.

So the replay value in this title lies in completing the game multiple times, and finding all the items there are to find. So if you want to play through the game multiple times, than there is a lot to see and do here. Otherwise, you might find the game a bit lacking in substance.

Replayability: 7/10


BALANCE

The game’s learning curve is a decent one. The difficulty is light when you begin, but slowly gets more difficult as you collect your power increases. There are also three difficulty levels to challenge you.

Another aspect of the game’s balance is the WAY you complete the game. You can challenge yourself to complete it with the least time possible. You can try to collect 100% of the power-ups. You can try to pass the game with less than 15% of the power-ups, if you’d like! Each of these tasks carries its own difficulty, and adds to the overall balance curve. Nintendo has given YOU the option of making the game as easy or as hard as you want it to be.

Balance: 8/10


Building a stairway to Heaven out of frozen bodies.


ORIGINALITY

When you first hear the word “remake” or “re-release”, you probably don’t think the game as “original”. After all, we’ve seen the game before. And in this case, many of the original areas have been left intact, only updated graphically.

Granted the basic game and story aren’t original. But so much has been added without really “changing” anything to give it an originality all its own. For instance, there are more boss battles than before. And the returning bosses are bigger and badder than ever. As an example, Kraid has come a long way from being a “vanilla midget dino” from the first game. Now he’s the big green reptilian menace you’ve come to know from Super Metroid. But the awesome thing is despite his size, he still contains the same attacks from the original.

Perhaps the biggest original thing this game has to offer comes at the end. Without giving too much away, just when you think you’ve completed your mission…just when you think the objective is gone…just when you think it’s all over, and its TOO easy…heh…just wait. You didn’t think Nintendo would leave you with a carbon copy of an old game with nothing new, did ya?

Originality: 7/10


ADDICTIVENESS

I don’t know what makes the Metroid series such a compelling one. Maybe it’s the seeking out of the hidden power-ups. Maybe it’s the near-flawless level design. Maybe it’s the multitude of puzzles you need to solve. Maybe it’s to get through the game in the shortest amount of time possible.

Or maybe you want to see Samus slimmed down to her skivvies. In that case, you’re a pervert. PERVERT!

(Ahem) In any case, there’s something in this game that sucks you in and never lets you go. In fact, from the time I started playing, the only breaks I took were to sleep. I beat the thing in a 15-hour period without knowing ANY of the level layouts. Granted part of it is the game’s a bit short, but part is that I couldn’t stop playing the thing! And after I beat it…I played it AGAIN! You’ll be hooked for several play-throughs over. It has that much of a hooking power.

Addictiveness: 10/10


Something tells me you won’t want to be there very long once it’s “potty time”…


APPEAL FACTOR

Being a high-profile Nintendo game, this title has seen plenty of promotion. There isn’t a night that goes by nowadays where I don’t see the “Who Are You?” television ad. I’ve even seen it while I was playing the game itself! So there’s no problem in getting the word out to new people.

The game will definitely appeal to existing Metroid fans, especially fans of the more recent editions, since those are what Zero Mission most emulate. As far as bringing in a new fanbase, those who play the recent run of Castlevania titles will feel right at home, with the layout of the games being similar. Plus, anybody looking for a game they can beat quickly will LOVE this title.

Appeal Factor: 8/10


MISCELLANEOUS

The more I play the game, the more I can’t get over how well the remake was done. Nintendo has put so much effort into this that I can’t begin describe all the little nuances and fine touches there are. The level design has been improved immensely, the power-ups are greater in number, the new bosses are amazing, the additional content is staggering…and yet it still “feels” like the original Metroid. You still “feel” the way you do going after the damn Mother Brain fifteen years prior. The fact Nintendo kept the feeling alive, even after adding so much, makes this one of the finest remakes to date.

Miscellaneous: 10/10


SCORES

Story: 7/10
Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 8/10
Controls: 9/10
Replayability: 7/10
Balance: 8/10
Originality: 7/10
Addictiveness: 10/10
Appeal Factor: 8/10
Miscellaneous: 10/10
TOTAL: 83/100 (Reviewer’s Tilt: 85)