Metroid: Zero Mission (2004)
I’ve been thinking lately about what’s been the worst event of my life. I just about managed to avoid soiling myself in school, which means I don’t have a guaranteed winner to submit here. Any other possibility I conjure up, they really all just fade in comparison to the one and only time I ever had to wear a wetsuit.
Boy, I’m not the outdoors type at all, you know. Even when I have to put on one of those worryingly loose safety harnesses for something minor like indoor rock climbing, I get pretty well out of sorts. I’m too preoccupied thinking about all the other filthy buggers before me who’d been wearing this crap gear. And with the amount of wear and tear that harness must take every day, you’re wondering when it’s finally going to give way on you.
I also consider myself thoroughly embarrassed when even the slightest flash of my love-handles are visible to anyone, because I’m forever narcissistic enough to believe that everyone is watching me. With this in mind, my idea of hell is getting hung by the knackers via a harness, or having my hairy arse suspended in mid air, mooning everyone like a cheeky pig.
And that’s just indoor rock-climbing. That’s about all I could muster in terms of outdoor activities without risking severe loss of limb. If you took me out there onto a real rockface, to get out there doing it like Stallone, I would be dead, there’s no two ways about that. I don’t have the luck to get away with that sort of thing. And when they create harnesses and bodysuits for this stuff, they don’t take bellies like mine into account. The outdoors types want rid of sneerers like me, no question, so I’d be taking my life in my hands trying to haul my ass up a rockface.
But the classic wetsuit might just as well be my wooden overcoat when you consider that I can’t swim, so there’s absolutely no way I should ever be in water deep enough to necessitate such a rubber horror. Anyway, struggle into one I did as the adventure centre wouldn’t let me out there on the open sea without one. I almost needed to be greased into the bloody thing, which they had promised was a one-size-fits-all affair. Well, I suppose that’s true, but I was left with a Ned Kelly that resembled a beach ball under there. With a derby that big, would I really need a wetsuit to stay afloat?
Yes I did, as it turned out, because things quickly fell to pieces once we took to the open sea. There I was, out there on some sort of makeshift raft which, as usually ends up the case with anything I help craft, immediately fell apart and was destroyed. We had to swim back to shore, where my natational difficulties were laid bare. Hence a real man, moreso a young colossus really, had.to drag me back to shore as I desperately tried to stay afloat.
OK, I’m exaggerating all of this majorly. It only took me two hours to stop coughing up salty sea water. But what the hell was I doing out there in the Irish Sea, floundering in an environment as alien to me as, oh, Planet Zebes? Aha, I bet you never saw a segue like that coming – you thought I was going to liken my wetsuit stint to Samus’s first appearance in her zero suit, didn’t you? Well, now they are linked and both of our fantasies are ruined, so let’s just move on swiftly.
it’s easy to forget that we were quite spoiled with Metroid around the early 2000s, when a nice dose of games in both 2D and 3D abseiled our way. Metroid Fusion kicked things off for portable Metroid (I’m not forgetting Metroid 2, though I wish we both could) and kept the story going, on into the long-awaited Metroid Dread. Metroid: Zero Mission from 2004 however, brought us back to square one, just like I was brought back to shore where it all began.
It’s a remake of the first Metroid game for NES which, just like the Game Boy sequel, is best left in the past. And you know I love a retro game, and I even tend to vehemently defend those classic old games which are accused of having aged like arse, such as GoldenEye 007. But the first two Metroid games really are stinkers.
You can even test this for yourself, because the NES version of Metroid is unlockable within Zero Mission if you do well enough and beat the game on Hard. That’ll save you form buying those GBA ports of NES games, the very antithesis of value for money.
And you’ll have a great time playing through this game’s difficulty levels, because this is Metroid in its purest form, the quintessence of Metroid. I’d call this, Super and Metroid Prime 1 the holy trinity of the series, and that doesn’t mean there isn’t other great games in the series. But with those three you’re fully set for life. The first Metroid game desperately needed a remake, and here it is, in the early days of remakes, remasters and rehashes.
Add to that it’s expanded, exploded, explicit… no, it isn’t that last one, but In the last third of the game you’ll play as Samus in her zero suit, in what’s mostly a kind of awkward stealth mission. Strange way to end the game, but it quickly becomes the most fun retribution of your life when Samus does that annoying thing that all girls do, and puts some clobber back on. I suppose we’re only talking about a little sprite on the screen, but this was 2004 and I’d just turned 13.
And remember that if you beat the game in less than 6 minutes, you’ll get pics of Samus in her smalls, which is a hell of a reminder – that’s the only reason Metroid speedrunning ever took off, you know, because neckbeards at the time had no other means of seeing women. Hence, you have your reminder to rush through the game, provided by Samus’s very presence in her tight blue jumpsuit. I’d call that one of the best character design decisions of all time, since it meant we all eventually got to look at Zero Suit Samus in Smash Bros for as long as we wanted.
The graphics are perfect, and most of the gameplay is perfect too. It’s one of those games that you would never say is the best ever, but you’ll struggle to name any better in a polite gaming conversation. Even the sound and music isn’t butchered too badly by the glass cardboard strip of a sound chip they dolefully dropped into the Game Boy Advance.
This game really came to life on the old GBA SP as well, because you know how mean the original model GBA is with colours and backlight. Metroid is atmospheric, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be colourful, and Zero Mission is one of the nicest looking GBA games out there. And it just doesn’t get old, especially with all of the self-imposed, sequence-breaking challenges you can do, which top dog players like myself missed from the railroaded nature of Fusion.
There you go then, rough and ready Metroid gameplay in portable form, and more traditional than Metroid Fusion, which is also a great game in its own right. Play it at home, play it outside, play it while travelling, it’s your choice. If you’re really extreme, you could play it out there on the rockface, or inches above the waves. I reckon you’d look really cool, with your wetsuit belly and your non-waterproof Game Boy. But it wouldn’t be for me.
27 May 2022