From one remake to another. From one remake I know about to one I don't. From one I care about to one I have no emotions for at all. Perhaps I'll view Metroid: Zero Mission in the same way Nintendo fans saw Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. And it's on the mighty Game Boy Advance, too, so it's looking positive. I'm hoping for good things here.
Remaking Samus Aran's original Nintendo Entertainment System outing, Zero Mission uses all the improvements the series has developed in the decades since to go back and reimagine a game that perhaps many players didn't get a chance to play.
Updated gameplay, graphics and even new story elements, Zero Mission sounds like a great title for someone like me.
Zero Mission doesn't wait long to get going. The backstory flashes up on the screen, and single-frame images fill the gaps. They're not as detailed as those found in Metroid Fusion, but they do the job. We're heading back to Zebes to deal with a big ol' alien brain.
The controls are simple, with jumping and shooting being your primary actions mapped to the A- and B-buttons. Heading to the left, we soon find out how the few buttons available on the Game Boy Advance will be used to good effect.
Grabbing the ability to morph into a ball practically doubles our movement options, and we've only just started the game. As we traverse the planet, filling in the map screen by screen, we're using our morphball ability to interact with ancient, otherworldy statues, who serve as helpful information kiosks, or something. I'm not too up to date with Metroid lore...
This map is a new addition, unavailable in the original Metroid, and I, for one, welcome its inclusion. The whole point of a Metroid game is to travel to and fro, unlocking more rooms and corridors to explore by upgrading your equipment. Doing so without a map is something I'd try to avoid at all costs. That's a challenge for someone else.
But games like these task you with creating a mental map of places you'll need to return to later because the GBA isn't going to allow you to add notes to your in-game map. This bit here is a clear marker for 'come back when you're ready', as my shots can't reach the final few rocks to blow out of the way.
For that, we need to find something else, like this...
Getting it pushes us off track a little, into new areas that have us using our new equipment a little to get to grips with it. This is a typical design in gaming, especially Metroid and Zelda titles. Give the player a new toy and a safe place to practice, then have them need to use it to overcome the next obstacle.
So far, Zero Mission has a fairly obvious path you need to follow from one place to the next. Perfect for a fool like me.
What isn't perfect is my jumping precision. Samus here has quite a spring in her step, and for the most part, you're mobile enough to hit your marks precisely as you intend to. Until I came within any distance of an acid pit, where I'd always find myself taking a swim.
I don't know what it was about them. Maybe I was so focused on not falling into them that it was inevitable that I'd do the very opposite of my intended plan. Whatever it was, it set me up for failure just a few moments later.
Not content with that, I tried again. I was having a relatively good time otherwise. It controlled well, and I was eager to explore more. So, attempt number two.
Much better. Let's explore. Where to?
Further Fun Times
Now Zero Mission started to open up a little more, as I was beginning to backtrack through my mental map into uncharted territory.
Naturally, it leads to more paths that were off-limits for one reason or another, but I'm sure I'll get to them in due course. Until then, let's push on.
Hmmm. That's an awful lot of rumbling. I wonder what will leap out at me...
Nothing, as it turned out, and I was free to collect a few missiles. They're shot by holding the R-button to switch to your ammunition and pressing the shoot button. Anything new that I've gotten to upgrade my abilities has introduced me to just one new button press. What could be simpler?
Oh, yeah, and I just had to fall into the acid. And there was something about to leap out at me. I just had those missiles first.
See? Get a new toy, allow the players to test it out. This is a challenge, more than an opportunity, but I'll be sure to test out my missiles thoroughly.
Well, that didn't quite go to plan. I saw the pattern - shoot it in the eye - but couldn't aim too well, or when I could, didn't time my shots correctly. They're small mistakes, but they can add up and irk.
I'm a little clunky when it comes to moving in Zero Mission. I play like I'm looking at the buttons each time I have to swap from morphball to legs, or switching from standard shots to missiles. I can assure you I'm not. I know where my buttons are. I just don't do things with any grace or confidence. Hopefully, that'll come in time.
Further Fun Times
I had a couple of deaths, but I wasn't having any of it. I wanted to dive right back in and try again. It meant a bit of backtracking from the last save point, but it wasn't a slog, and there turned out to be a few little skirmishes with that giant pointy rock snake dotted throughout this map.
Speaking off maps, let's update ours.
Cool feature. Maps are amazing. Let's go and fill in some more map.
Acquiring the morphball bomb ability allows us to get through even more obstacles. As ever, you're trained to use it immediately, destroying rock and freeing a bunch of little critters.
Critters that swarmed over me. Critters that started to bite.
In a moment of panic and/or confusion, I began shooting. It's not working! What do I do?! Jumping does nothing either. What do-- oh. Oh. Yeah.
Ahem. Moving on...
More corridors, shafts and challenges laid out before me tested the skills I'd learned up to this point. I wasn't a master at any of them, but I was competent enough to enjoy my time in Zero Mission. Again, it doesn't look as swish as Metroid Fusion, but it does look nice.
After a little backtracking, a little falling into acid, another little mini-boss, I found the lift to take me to the next section we were pointed towards. As I descend, something is alerted to my presence. Something begins to watch me.
It's a great time to save and get back to playing at another time, but no. I want to push forward. I'm enjoying this. It's not too challenging, it's not too confusing. It's not amazing, but it's engaging, and I want to see more of it. What's over this way?
Fire. What's over in the other direction?
Fire and death. Excellent. Maybe I will take a break for the minute.
I've dipped my toes into a few Metroid titles on this 1001 list. Some have kicked the crap out of me, and I got nowhere. Some looked amazing but were a bit too much for me at the time. Zero Mission comes really close to being a Metroid title that I could see myself playing for a while.
Now, to be fair, once I overcome the difficulties I have with Fusion and Prime, I could see myself playing some more of them too, but I think Zero Mission may end up being the one I complete first - not that I have any immediate plans to complete any of them.
Because this is a more straightforward game than Fusion, in looks and in the story, Zero Mission seems the more accessible. It feels like a wonderful entry to the series, because it's a remake of the original, and it's not as overwhelming as the later games.
I don't know how Metroid fans view this game, but for an outsider, I like what it's doing. I want to play more, and that's always what you want to get out of a game.
The intent was to show players that had only experienced Metroid Fusion the roots of the Metroid franchise because Fusion was so different from what had come before.
Metroid: Zero Mission, developed by Nintendo R&D1, first released in 2004.
Version played: Game Boy Advance, 2004, via emulation.