Good old Lord Karnage does a great job talking about NES Metroid and what made it so special back in the day:
He’s right on with how special it is. Two great points he makes is:
1) The game is about surviving. Isn’t that the truth. You try to see how far you can go before you die. It was so easy to die too! You’d play for hours and hours and then you’d find a ‘secret’ which was very exciting.
2) Samus is constantly outgunned. You never feel like a ‘death ball of destruction’ in Metroid. This is why the game kept being scary is that everything is so hazardous in the game.
Super Metroid was a huge disappointment to many Metroid fans such as myself. I held off buying the game forever since I nearly finished it in one rental. The value of Metroid, to me, was a giant block of hardness that would take you months to chip away and finish. Super Metroid got the atmosphere right but the ‘quest for survival’ isn’t there and all the enemies are wimps in the game. Samus outguns everyone. So lame.
The hatred of so-called Metroid fans at the original Metroid is to deny the realization that they suck at video games. Metroid was considered an ‘advanced gamer’ game back when it was released. Games like Super Mario Brothers, Legend of Zelda, Ducktales, and Mega Man were for ‘normal gamers’ or children. Not Metroid. Metroid was the non-child, non-noob game. I laugh at these so called hardcore gamers who can’t handle Metroid. “The game is cheap!” No, you just suck. “There is no map!” No, you just suck.
Metroid has two big flaws in it: 1) the password system which sucks. 2) Grinding to replenish health (especially when you start the game). Other than that, the game is perfect.
Back during the Golden Age of the Arcades, game makers learned that games should be accessible and even cute to attract large audiences. One game went against that grain of thought and was super-difficult, not cute, and the opposite of accessible. That game was Defender. And Defender was a massive hit because it gave experienced gamers something to play. Not every game can be ‘for new gamers’. Games like Defender also sealed the deal with the arcades being a pastime for everyone.
This is what Metroid did for the NES as well. NES had three types of ‘gamers’ it attracted. The first were older adults who enjoyed the NES sports games (this phenomenon would be replicated with Wii Sports). The second group were young boys who grew up with the machine (this is where most NES fans from the Internet were). The third group, which no one mentions, was little girls at the tail end of the NES who got into gaming due to their older brothers or fathers. It is not an accident that the last third party games on the NES were girl games (such as Barbie or Cinderella).
The NES had many things going for it. It had cool new games like Super Mario Brothers and Zelda. It had Atari, arcade, and computer ports such as Pac-Man to Gyruss to Archon to Ultima. But for the experienced gamer of the mid 1980s, the NES was just a child’s toy. Then came Metroid. Metroid was not for young kids who struggled with Super Mario Brothers. Metroid was for the advanced gamers. Metroid was not ‘cute’ but very ominous. Metroid was a very dangerous game. It was also a very mysterious game. What was with those pyramids on the title screen? The game world seemed endless.
The video talks of Metroid from the perspective of an experienced gamer. He says he wasn’t jealous of the NES until Metroid came out.
If you look at the big classics of the NES, the reason why Metroid gets placed beside Zelda and Mario in the triumvirate is that each game performs a different job. Mario experience is very different from the Zelda experience. And Metroid performs a different job than Mario and Zelda. This is why Luigi U is a waste of time for Nintendo because people do not want Mario to perform the job for experienced gamers.
Metroid should be developed for experienced gamers. Metroid is not a child’s game. When Nintendo reveals their latest Metroid games, if they ever say how the game is being developed for the ‘new gamer’ or even ‘all gamers’, then that Metroid will fail.
Metroid should be mysterious (should excite the imagination).
Metroid should have the player constantly outgunned (the game is about tapping into one’s survival instinct).
Metroid should rely on the tricks and tactics experienced gamers have learned.
One of the reasons why Super Metroid has been popular with the Fifth Generation onward crowd is that the game imposes no effort on the gamer. It’s difficulty is a nature walk in 16-bit aesthetics. I still think games like Contra 3 are more fun than Super Metroid because at least you have to have some skill at the game.
Kids couldn’t beat Metroid until they were a little harder. The game was that difficult. What people need to get in their heads is that Third Generation gamers did not feel entitled to finish every single video game. Beating a game was bragging rights because 90% of people couldn’t do it. Instead, the joy was simply PLAYING the game. I think everyone, especially the so-called Metroid fans, play Metroid incorrectly. They keep assuming they are entitled to beat the game. They aren’t. The joy is actually just in playing the game, surviving as long as possible, and seeing if you can get further than you did or crack open a new secret. Metroid is not Ninja Gaiden (which came out at the same time) which was about story cutscenes where you do ninja moves (epitomized in the atrocious Metroid: Zero Mission whose sales were very lacking).
Survival mode on Minecraft has more in common with Metroid than any other game I’ve seen recently. In fact, I believe I said as much on this blog when I first played Minecraft.