(Game Boy Advance)

Metroid: Zero Mission (Game Boy Advance)

Game Review

Metroid: Zero Mission Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Laurie Blake

From zero to hero

First things first, Metroid: Zero Mission is not a straight remake of the original NES Metroid with GBA quality graphics. It's a complete retelling and retooling of Samus' first 2D space adventure, including remixed areas, new power-ups and over a decade of refinements added to the formula. Nintendo has freshened the experience whilst retaining the elements that made the original great. In fact, Zero Mission's refinements are integrated so well that you'll start believing that Metroid played this way from the very beginning.

The story sees Samus sent to the crustacean-like Space Pirates' base planet Zebes (a world that was once her home) to eradicate the Metroids: a race of flying brain things that have a penchant for sucking all the liquid out of people. The Pirates have been harvesting Metroids for use as biological weapons and it is up to the buxom bounty hunter to destroy the base and its guardian Mother Brain. This is achieved through exploring different locations on Zebes, defeating bosses and collecting power-ups until you are strong enough to blast the big brain right in the grey matter.

From the outset the differences in gameplay between Zero Mission and the first Metroid are easily apparent. The new game keeps all of Samus' platforming and shooting fun intact, but adds in some modern game design common sense for good measure. Firstly, the controls have had an overhaul: Samus can now easily toggle between beam and missiles by holding down the GBA's R button and shoot diagonally by holding the L button. Nintendo has also seen fit to include now-iconic abilities such as the Charge Beam and Space Jump that weren't in the original, and skills like the Power Grip that allows Samus to hang from ledges are sensible inclusions that make the adventure more manageable. Sporadic gamers will be glad that the old password save system has also been jettisoned in favour of Save Rooms, so while there may be no 'JUSTIN BAILEY' code at least you don't have to be Rain Man to load a game. The planet Zebes itself is also enhanced with far more than just a lick of paint.

While players of the original Metroid could be described as free-range gamers – allowed to go off, explore and find their own way around the sprawling planet of Zebes, players of Zero Mission are in for a more linear experience. That's not to say the game will wrap you up in cotton wool; it'll just give you a map and point you in the right direction, which is better suited to handheld play than the sometimes needle-in-haystack design of NES Metroid. Even veterans of the original will be thankful for the map as the developers completely restructured the game's progression, added all-new areas and made alterations to old locations such as Norfair and Tourian. The traditional exploration elements are expedited by the new Chozo statues that mark target locations on the map in a more toned-down way than Adam did in Metroid Fusion. This means that you'll always have an idea of where to go, but due to lack of verbal instruction you'll have to find your own way there. The new guidance system is a blessing due to Zebes' labyrinthian structure, however the vague nature of the orientation keeps Metroid's classic sense of isolation intact.

No more so is this isolation felt than in the completely new area of Chozodia. After defeating Mother Brain and making a mad dash from the exploding planet, Samus' ship is attacked and crash lands in this never before seen part of Zebes. With her ship wrecked and wearing only the leotard-like Zero Suit, Samus is left with no option but to infiltrate the Space Pirate Mothership in her skivvies armed with nought but a pistol and a disarmingly innocent look. This Zero Suit segment has some of the most interesting gameplay in recent Metroid history and feels like quite a departure – in a good way. Having lost all her power-ups save her energy tanks and a laser pistol that can only be set to stun, the aim is to sneak through the Mothership hiding in shadows whilst avoiding pirates, tripwires and spotlights. Detection puts the ship on high alert with swarms of Space Pirates hunting you down; these sections can be incredibly tense as you make a mad dash for the safety of the shadows. The Zero Suit section not only expands the game beyond the ending of the original Metroid, but takes Zero Mission far beyond the realms of remake, adding an entirely new play style that could easily be a standalone game.

If there is one hole in Zero Mission's Power Suit it would be the length; even with the Chozodia epilogue the game will only take five or so hours to complete. This is partly due to a decreased difficulty level when compared to NES Metroid, as expert players will find themselves vanquishing the final boss (who isn't Mother Brain) quite quickly. Even rookies will find it easy to chug on through to the end credits with the help of the map and the guidance system. Fortunately, Zero Mission includes three difficulty settings which up the replayability; there are also multiple ending shots to unlock depending on completion time and the percentage of items collected. Even players who suddenly get a hankering to play the original game are catered for, as Nintendo saw fit to include a perfect emulation of Metroid for the NES on the Zero Mission cart – talk about value for money.

Graphically Zero Mission is similar to its GBA predecessor Metroid Fusion, which in turn was like an updated Super Metroid. Although not as full of graphical flourishes as Fusion, the game still has its moments, like the way in which the titular Metroids fly in from the back of the screen in Tourian. As ever the boss fights mark real high points for the graphics, and it's great to see Kraid and Ridley given a modern makeover and a real sense of scale. The size of the sprites for these two iconic bosses really adds some menace to the showdowns, and alters the tactics needed to survive the encounters. Prior to the fights players are also treated to short cutscenes featuring the bosses, boosting the atmosphere for the coming brawl and excited to see the bosses in all their glory.

The music throughout the game is of a similar quality, as the developers have taken many of the original tracks and updated them to GBA quality. By creating new tracks for the new areas that are in-keeping with Metroid style the sound team have managed to weave together a cohesive soundscape across the entire game. The new music really captures the magic of the series, and the classic tunes like the theme that plays when Samus lands in Brinstar for the first time is guaranteed to elicit puppy-dog eyed nostalgia from even the most stone-hearted Metroid player.


If you loved the original Metroid you are bound to love Zero Mission: the game has all the atmosphere of its forefather and enough modern gaming savvy to keep it fresh and interesting. Even gamers who had trouble liking the NES original are bound to find something to love in Zero Mission, as the game refines the formula making it accessible to newbies whilst retaining the depth in exploration and compelling action that veterans love. Nintendo could quite easily have churned out a blow-for-blow remake of the NES game with updated graphics and the fans would have been happy. Instead they went above and beyond the call of duty, creating a title that could quite easily pass for an entirely new and thoroughly entertaining entry in the franchise.

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User Comments (44)



WolfRamHeart said:

Fantastic review for a fantastic game! This is one of my all time favorites. It doesn't get much better than this. How can you not love the game that gave us Zero Suit Samus?:)



JamieO said:

Spooky! I was literally just having a second read of Laurie's review of Metroid Fusion and this Metroid: Zero Mission review popped up live on Nlife!

I love these games in equal measure: Fusion was a bit more linear and tight, while Zero Mission was more of a roaming, exploring adventure, with retro kudos harking back to the original NES Metroid game.

August has been a month of 2D Game Boy Advance Metroid treats here at Nintendo Life. GBA Metroid games are completely fantastic!

Big cheers to Laurie for making August a month for celebrating GBA retro Metroid! :)



Tails said:

This is a game franchise i want to get back into. I have the first metroid and the SNES one. So i hope one day i might find a copy of this for a good price somewhere. Very nice review :)



Cia said:

"Went above and beyond the call of duty", is certainly true in many meanings.



Slapshot said:

This is by far my favorite Metroid. Great review! Looking forward to getting off work this afternoon and dropping a few hours into Other M.



Shiryu said:

What a nice twist after the batle with Mother Brain on this one. Love it!



Var said:

I love this game and end up replaying it almost monthly, if you are a fan of Metroid games then this is definately worth a look in.



LuWiiGi said:

This is one of many reasons the 3DS needs a Virtual Handheld. I'm embarassed to admit it, but I've never played most of the retro classics (that's right, I've never played SMB 3) and since I don't have a Wii (yet) I can't get them on VC.



Rensch said:

I thought Fusion was just a tad better even though it was slightly more linear.



Supermegaman said:

So the difficulty settings and the original are unlocked only after you beat the game?
Anyhoo, fantastic review! Im planning on getting this game soon :)



zionich said:

Now if they would only put Zero Mission, Metroid II, Super Metroid and Fusion on a single ds cart.



Mayhem said:

I hated Metroid on the NES, because it seemingly just too vague. I almost missed out on Super Metroid as a result. Zero Mission corrected all the flaws I had with the original and it well worth the score given above.



fishman100 said:

I really ant this one, but I can't find it anywhere at a Gamestop near my house. I could look on eBay, but, meh.



cyrus_zuo said:

Absolutely loved Zero Mission.
The pacing was fantastic, I much prefer to getting a new power-up ever 15-30 minutes to having to wait 2-3 hours between power-ups (Prime series), and jumping just felt right to me (Super Metroid is way too floaty for my tastes).
I enjoy all the Metroid games, but this one is my favorite...so far... ;)



Chozo85 said:

This was a brilliant game. The original Metroid may be a classic but it hasn't aged well and feels very dated by today's standards. Zero Mission is an excellent remake and in turn makes the original chapter of this series far more approachable. Its my second favorite game in the series behind Super Metroid.



SwerdMurd said:

Grrr....this game, Castlevania Aria of Sorrow, and Final Fantasy 4 GBA werre all stolen a few years back. :(

GBA games up and got stupid-expensive too.



Punny said:

This is a great game with a great review. If you own a Game Boy Advance (or anything that can play GBA games), give it a go. In my opinion, it's the one of the best games the GBA has to offer.



csad said:

This game is actually one of the least linear games in the series. With the right skills, Ridley can be fought before Kraid, almost every power-up in the game can be avoided, and the entire game experience changes. The best part is that the designers purposely made it so you can never get stuck while going out of order.



NeoShinobi said:

This is the only Metroid game that I have beaten so far. I've beaten it twice, actually, and I got the same damn ending...

oh well, I'm not much of a Metroid fan but this still was a good game.



KDR_11k said:

Honestly I felt disappointed when I played the game, something about the level design wasn't good and of course there's that awful part where you have no suit.



StarBoy91 said:

"From zero to hero"

Are you a fan of Hercules, Laurie? That tagline made me think the song "Zero to Hero" from the movie, which I thought was good. :)
Good review, Laurie. :)



CanisWolfred said:

One of the greatest games ever made. I do agree that it's too short, but it's got plenty of replay to it to make up for it.



Knux said:

Awesome game, and an awesome review. I dislike the original, but Zero Mission is one of my favorite Metroid games. I am still far from completing it though, but I am enjoying every miniute of it.



Kid_A said:

Your review pushed me to pick this one one, and boy am I glad I did. It just might be my favorite Metroid game.



Megajack said:

Does the 3ds have this game on the VC? i dont wanna get it for the gba since its to expensive? please reply



Geonjaha said:

@Classicgamer - No the 3DS only has GB games and one GBC game for its virtual console so far. Metroid (NES) will be selling before the end of the year though and Metroid II (GB) is now on the VC.



ToxieDogg said:

@Geonjaha It's rumoured to be one of the 10 free downloadable GBA games for 3DS 'Ambassadors' though that will be made available by the end of the year (hopefully!)



noxusprime06 said:

amazing game and one of my favorite gameboy advance games. i hope it comes to the eshop as an ambassodor reward



Varia01 said:

Is this still selling in Game Stop, cuz this looks like another one of Metroid's legends. It looks so cool, I gotta have. If they are selling this at game stop, is it cheap?

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