Basic Idea: Play for countless hours to achieve a perfect game so you can see an 8-bit heroine in a bikini.
Review: I’m not sure there’s another game on the NES that I can come up with equally long lists of everything that is both awesome and horrible about it. I spent many an hour on this game in my youth and enjoyed it immensely, but I really can’t stomach it for long today.
It’s an immense game with significant non-linearity. Considering you are given zero direction on where to go or what to do, this would frustrate me to no end today, but it also allowed a freedom rarely seen in 1986, so I was stoked. Exploring the expansive worlds was a treat and I didn’t mind making maps to keep track of all the twists and turns. Discovering secret areas or figuring out how to use bombs to take shortcuts were awesome experiences. The various power-ups are sweet, including the much desired ice beam and awesome screw attack. The music is decent. The final area’s music–where the metroids and Mother Brain hang out–is incredibly haunting. And while the graphics and enemies are fairly unimpressive (no backgrounds!) given the technology at the time, at least they’re consistent with the game’s theme throughout.
The game’s problems, unfortunately, are numerous and make the game feel really dated. The hit recoil is irritating and often sends Samus into lava pits. Controlling her during a spinning jump can also be a bear, especially if you didn’t intend for her to spin in the first place. Enemies can fly through the doors, causing your life to deplete even though you’re doing nothing but waiting for the game to scroll. Timing jumps using your bombs can be endlessly frustrating. The area bosses are also disappointing, as they do little but shoot hundreds of projectiles at you and there is really no other way to defeat them other than having a lot of life and just pounding away at them (or, against Ridley, having a lot of life and hiding in the lava pit). And don’t get me started on the final room where Mother Brain resides, where you not only have to avoid a massive assault and regenerating barriers, but intensive slowdown due to the game’s RAM issues.
Super Metroid is amazing and fixed nearly every problem with this game, so it’s even harder to go back and play this one today. I know it sounds like I’m mostly complaining about it, but it is ranked #19 on the countdown for a reason. It’s epic. It’s great features remain great today. But it would be hard to recommend it to someone born after 1987.