Metroid (NES)

Game Review

Metroid Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

By Zebes, it’s Metroid on the Wii U

The NES section of the Wii U's Virtual Console expands by another notch with the addition of Metroid, regarded by many as one of the best entries that amazing series has to offer. The great news is that it's every bit as wonderful as you remember; the bad news is that it's no more interested in holding your hand now than it was in 1986. Of course, for many, that's a huge part of its charm.

Metroid sees intergalactic bounty hunter Samus Aran exploring the treacherous Planet Zebes (or Zebeth, for those Engrish speakers among us) in search of the evil Mother Brain, who plans on breeding and weaponising the eponymous energy-sapping creatures. Unfortunately the path ahead is a winding and complicated one, and Samus is ill-equipped to even find Mother Brain, let alone defeat her. Enter the upgrades.

Upgrades gave the first Metroid game its identity. With various creative weapons and utilities scattered around Zebes, Samus uses them in ways that gradually allow her access to areas that were previously inaccessible. These include Hi-Jump Boots, the Morph Ball and the endlessly enjoyable Screw Attack. There are also weapon upgrades that allow her to change the type of projectiles she fires, in order to better suit her needs for any given area. While the game at first seems stuffy and claustrophobic, the periodic expansion of Samus's arsenal allows her increasing access to the world around her, and also thrusts her into even more dangerous situations.

Along the way Samus will battle an extraordinarily large number of unique enemy types. There are also an enormous variety of environments, so many so that it remains impressive today; transport yourself back to its original release and it's easy to see why Metroid stood out so quickly. From cool blue stone to mossy undergrowth to an industrial nightmare, the game does a fantastic job of establishing mood just by swapping out its tile sets. This is resourcefulness at its absolute best.

In addition to Mother Brain, Samus will also have to battle her two minions, Kraid and Ridley. Defeating each of them will grant access to the final area, and doing so — and making it back out alive — won't be easy. Fortunately there's an absolutely brilliant (and often gorgeous) soundtrack to keep you company, with compositions that will alternately thrill and disorient you. It's one of gaming's most enduring musical accompaniments, and it's just as effective now as it ever was.

There are a lot of great things to say about Metroid, but there are also a few issues. Firstly, the lack of overt in-game guidance can be troublesome for gamers, particularly younger players who might not remember a time when this was the standard. The game teaches you literally nothing: you are always on your own to figure out what upgrade you've found, what it does, how to use it, and why you need it. This feeling of disorientation suits the game quite well (Samus is also discovering this stuff for the first time, after all), but it can intimidate players pretty easily; of course, with this Wii U release you could hop onto Miiverse to seek help.

The similarity of many corridors and towers can also catch unsuspecting players off guard. Whereas the separate areas of Zebes are thankfully identifiable by sight, rooms within those areas often have their layouts duplicated several times over, and that can cause a great deal of confusion. While this approach does have its uses (hint: if you found a bombable wall in one room that led nowhere, it's worth bombing that same wall when you find a similar room elsewhere...) it's bound to frustrate many newcomers, and they may not bother coming back.

This lack of guidance, though, also gives the game one of its most legendary aspects: sequence breaking. Without mandatory tutorials and a forced progression through the game, players can discover new and varied ways to make their way forward... or backward. The ability to discover unintended uses for items and creative ways of bypassing obstacles without first obtaining certain upgrades has given Metroid a versatility unlike many other games, and that's why it's still one of the most popular speed-running games to date. No two players will find their same way through Zebes; every attempt is a unique adventure.

Metroid does, however, suffer from its own largesse. Slowdown is common, as rooms are often flooded with enemies that the game struggles to process. There's also a number of glitches that can make it impossible to progress, or to escape from a death trap, and many of these are so easily triggered that even a casual player is likely to find at least a few of them. This is what makes the Wii U Virtual Console's restore points worth their weight in gold; constant saving can allow you to undo a glitch that has otherwise barred you from progressing further, and it saves you the hassle of having to reset and start fresh. Of course, if you use those restore points for anything else, you're officially cheating.

Glitches and slowdown aside, Metroid's main barrier to enjoyment is simply its own layout: Zebes is a confusing and too-similar maze of featureless hallways and repeating layouts. It's worth pressing through, but it's also worth cautioning newcomers. Those without the patience to follow long corridors into dead-ends that they've already found and forgot about will be quickly frustrated. For those who know that this is just the price to pay for a game that believes so heavily in the thrill of exploration that it doesn't want to give you even one word of guidance, there's no better playground than the original Metroid.


A desolate atmosphere, innovative upgrades and a perfect soundtrack all come together to cement Metroid as one of gaming's true masterpieces. If a lack of in-game guidance of any kind bothers you, then this is probably not going to be a very welcome addition to your collection. But for those who can engage the game on its own terms, and who don't mind stumbling now and again as they seek the correct path, Metroid offers an experience like no other.

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User Comments (44)



Assassinated said:

How similar is it to Super Metroid, in terms of no handholding? I made it through that okay, but they seem to be cautioning far more with this game.



OorWullie said:

Good review man.Never actually played the original and I had completed Prime 1 and 3 before I got round to playing Super Metroid.Just never got round to finishing it.There's a section I've been stuck on for ages and I refuse to look up the answer online so I gave up on it.Reading this has made me want to start again though haha.

Has Europe got the US version or a gimped optimized version like last time?



Einherjar said:

@Assassinated There is absolutely no handholding whatsoever. You dont even have a map or any other "go there next" thingy. Also, its pretty unforgiving with its dificulty. Everytime you start from a password, you life meter will be set a 30 units, regalrdless of how many e-tanks you have collected (you still have them, they are simply empty)



FineLerv said:

Such a good game. Got this and Kid Icarus (my favourite NES game) taking advantage of the sale offer. Hopefully we'll see more VC offers down the line.



McHaggis said:

I had this back on the NES, and sank countless hours into it. The only really annoying thing about playing it now is that you try to crouch but you just can't!

I think NES games look better on the 3DS than on the Wii U, though



LunaticPandora said:

By Zebes, its a 3 decade old game that has been re-released on every Nintendo console since the GBA.



Senate_Guard said:

This game is one tough cookie after being spoiled by maps and "beacon recieved" moments from later Metroid games.

I caution anyone new to the series who wants to jump in where it all started.



AJWolfTill said:

Well I got through Super Metroid and Metroid 2 return of Samus was my first video game back when I was 6. I guess I could probably manage right?



WiiLovePeace said:

@Aqueous Still enjoying it? This is the exact same review as the 3DS one, copied & pasted except a different tag line & replacing "3DS" with "Wii U" Though it is obviously exactly the same as the Metroid on the 3DS & Wii VCs basically. So it doesn't need a new review, I guess.



retro_player_22 said:

Still a fun game but with only 3 bosses and area, it's kinda short. I would say if you hadn't own it yet then by all means get it but if you want better value of this just get Metroid: Zero Mission for GBA. It had both this and its remake.



Dr_Corndog said:

Glad this review wasn't "oh, no, it's too hard! Go play a modern virtual nanny instead!"



WiiLovePeace said:

@Humphries90 hahaha yeah. Our comments still got removed though, strangely. I thought they'd post a new review since they removed it from the front page, but they didn't. So why did they hide it? I don't get it.



KAHN said:

eh. love metroid, but this one is not among my favorites. i'd prefer metroid 3.



t3g said:

I played and beat Zero Mission for the GBA about a week ago and had a great time experiencing the original storyline. I know its a remake with some things changed around, but I don't know if I would play the original Metroid in the future. Probably stick to Zero Mission if I had an itch.



DerpSandwich said:

As usual I'll have to pass on this. Super Metroid was great, but every time I pick up an NES game I just end up getting confused and frustrated. Hopefully we'll get Zero Mission on the VC sometime in the near future.



RR529 said:

Have it on 3DS, and while I did push through it, the game has simply aged terribly.

It's not the fact that it doesn't guide you that I didn't care for, it's that everything looks too samey, and there's no map feature (it originally came with a physical map, which showed you the location of the nearest missle tank, which means the VC versions have less direction than even in the NES original).

Then there's the fact that Ridley & Kraid were pretty easy (and very similar), while Mother Brain is the cheapest boss I've ever encountered. Oh, and the slowdown mentioned.

I greatly prefer Super Metroid & Metroid Fusion (heck, I even had a better time with Metroid II).



Rect_Pola said:

This one is still the bottom of the 2D Metroids for me. That said, It can be considered a masterclass from the era game makers demanded you to be a pro.



sonik said:

This game made me mad back in the Days, but the remake (zero mission to gba) I finally get my revange on this hard mother*Piiip* game.



One-Winged-Pit said:

I prefer Zero Mission, I could not stand how every room looked the same in this and there was no map to make it worse.



SyntheticPerson said:

This is one good game ... once you get into it. I struggled at first to get my head around it; stick with it though, and it's a cracker.

The game does get silly-hard though!



GraveLordXD said:

@RR529 I'm pretty sure the original did not come with a map feature, I should know because as a kid me and my family drew detailed maps of every missile tank energy tank and so on
I prefer super metroid over this but for its time its hard to beat this classic, I remember this the original Zelda and kid Icarus was the first three games I had for my nes and loved all 3 of them its what got me hooked on games in the first place



thepitt said:

I never did really like Metroid for the NES, but like 99.9% of the games I play I don't use FAQs, Guides, Cheats, Maps, online forums because then when I would reach the end I would just be like "y0, I just cheated my way through a game because I suck at gaming". I really enjoyed Metroid for the Gameboy (Mono). I even have an unofficial Metroid Gameboy Color Cartridge.


No, the original did not come with some lame "map" included. All of these remakes really disappoint me due to the dumbed down factor and even though they've dumbed them down to the point where its about pointless to even play them people still can't figure out what to do and cheat their way through them.



Melkaticox said:

NEStroid sucks...now, so this score is imo a little too high for it, but...eh, whatever



RR529 said:

Guess I'm wrong about the physical map that supposedly came with the original.

(I swear I heard that from somewhere, though...)



Matthew94 said:

@Assassinated It's pretty awful to be honest, it's a disgrace that they gave it an 8, 5 at most I say.

Certain items are needed to beat the game like in Super but the locations have no rhyme or reason, every surface can potentially be destroyed so you end up bombing every surface forever.

On top of this, you respawn with 30 health and there is no way to refill it without grinding for many minutes.

Avoid at all costs.



MeWario said:

@RR529 I agree. Not all classics deserve high scores and I defiantly don't think this is anymore then a 6. It is absolutely a classic, by every definition of the word, but it's not that great to play through today. It has aged a lot, similar to the first Zelda; where as Super Mario Bros is still a blast! 6/10 from me.



deafwalrus said:

Meh. After playing fusion before this one, fusion def is more "baller" and also free to all ambassador certificate owners. If you have an ambassador certificate and you haven't played though metroid fusion, you a wet swamp donkey.



JustinH said:

@RR529 I entirely agree. The amount of grinding to get your life back to full in this game is just nuts, but the gamebreaking issue is the near-total lack of landmarks. In a game with as much back-tracking as this, it wrecks the experience.

It's slow but I'm making my way through it, and having a decent time. I use save states every now and then through the hallways, more than anything just to keep my head straight as to which rooms I have and haven't been through yet. I guess Phil thinks this is cheating but I don't dislike myself enough to spend most of my playtime grinding for health and fruitlessly searching the same rooms again and again.



globalisateur said:

This game really hasn't aged well.
Much prefered Metroid Zero Mission (and Fusion) on GBA.
I think this is a 8/10 only with nostalgic eyes otherwise 6/10 for any newcomers of the serie compared to the 9/10 for both Zero Mission and Fusion.



Ralizah said:

Zero Mission is my favorite GBA game and favorite Metroid game overall. I'm not a huge fan of the original, though...



fluggy said:

Mmmmmmeh! A total relic and wasted opportunity! Y not give us Zero Mission (which has the NES Metroid included anyway)!! Really hate playing this now.



RainbowGazelle said:

I love exploration and puzzles, but the difficulty of this game just destroys it completely. Every time you die, you're back to 30 HP. I want to like this game, but I just can't feckin' do it (and I refuse to use restore points).



HawkeyeWii said:

They need to come out with Zero Mission on 3DS VC and/or maybe even a port of ZM for Wii U

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