Metroid Zero Mission: The game that ruined every other remake
My views on video game remakes is something I’ve already written before. Back then I mentioned a few examples as I was defending my stance that most remakes (or HD editions) are a wasted opportunity to improve a game’s playability to newer standards.
Just recently The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D was released for the Nintendo 3DS. While I’ve seen there are some changes here and there, it was not enough to make me eager to play it since there are actual new games waiting for my attention back in my backlog.
I also complained talked about how much I regret 343 Industries finally got around making an HD edition of Halo 2 (during part one of my three article homage of the series), and they didn’t do much else beside the improved graphics and added cinematics.
During both of those aforementioned articles I had this urge to mention Metroid Zero Mission, but there was just so much I wanted to talk about this game that I had to restrain myself from doing so.
It took me some time to realize why I wanted to bring that game up so badly on those articles; it’s because that’s the game. That’s the best example of a remake done right. That’s why now I’m writing this article all about Metroid Zero Mission: the game that spoiled me and ruined every remake I’ve laid my eyes on ever since.
So, what’s Metroid Zero Mission?
Metroid Zero Mission is a Game Boy Advance remake of the 1986 classic Metroid, released for the Nintendo Entertainment System; it follows the story of Samus Aran, a space bounty hunter tasked to track and destroy Mother Brain and the Metroid found in planet Zebeth.
The original Metroid is an outstanding game for its times; it’s the first action/adventure game where exploration plays a big role in your playthrough. In order to advance through the game, you’re tasked to explore the planet’s different caverns and passageways in order to find various weapons and abilities you can use to open up your way to what previously seemed like an impassable area.
Metroid remains one of Nintendo’s eldest legacies, and by 2004 newer audiences may’ve been eager to know more about Samus Aran thanks to the success of both her appearances on Super Smash Bros, or her triumphant revival in Metroid Prime for the Nintendo GameCube, so a remake of her original first mission seemed like a viable idea.
So, what did Metroid Zero Mission actually remade?
While the original Metroid for the NES is a good game as it is, it’s not a game that you would introduce to a newer generation and expect they’d appreciate the same as people did back in the 80’s, I mean… trying to sell the exact old game is just a stupid, stupid, idea… (Nintendo had already tried that before)
Of course the graphics department was the first thing to receive a major overhaul since the Game Boy Advance was capable of so much more, so they’d better use all that potential this time around.
At the same time, someone figured out that something had to be done about the gameplay itself. The original Metroid remains as one of the toughest games ever made for the NES, most of it is due to its simplistic nature that characterizes games from that era (as they were a little vague about what you had to do, where you should be going, and you couldn’t quite tell you if you were making any progress at all.)
Having that in mind the developers actually started working on the game itself past its newer graphics, therefore the first question comes to mind…
Why would someone tamper on a classic game? Isn’t that heresy?
Don’t get me wrong, the original Metroid is an amazing game, and while—legendary game designer—Gunpei Yokoi worked wonders with the limitations at hand, there’s no reason to keep working around those limitations.
We’re talking about one of the first games being released for the NES. Metroid is the product of a throughout experimentation of what the—then new—Nintendo console could do, and by that time, Metroid’s highest milestone was being “the first game where you could walk to the left.”
Basically, this is the game that made backtracking into a thing.
Right at the start of the game you have two choices: walk to right, get stuck within minutes; walk to the left, find the item that will help you out.
And you can explain how big of a deal that was, but that’s something a newer generation will easily take for granted. More importantly, graphics weren’t the only thing that became obsolete by that time, 1994’s Super Metroid for the Super Nintendo managed to make everything else in the game obsolete.
Super Metroid leveled the game up to impossible standards for the original to even compare. If Nintendo was about to introduce Samus’ first mission to a newer generation eager to know more about that awesome bounty hunter they may’ve met in more recent Nintendo titles, they’d better did it right.
And so they did.
So, what exactly did they do in Metroid: Zero Mission?
Let me start saying what they didn’t: They didn’t just replace the old graphics with newer graphics, and leave as it is, claiming that there’s some sort of magic in the original gameplay that shouldn’t be replaced no matter what. What they did, was a complete re-engineering of the whole game.
I could go on and on about the newer technicalities added to Zero Mission, but in far fewer words I can sum it up by saying that they simply Super Metroid’ed the original game by giving Samus all the abilities found in newer releases; from simple abilities like shooting diagonally, dashing and grabbing from ledges; to acquiring super missiles, power bombs and all range of upgrades to your weapon.
Since all the added arsenal would fit way too large for the original game, the entire game was leveled up accordingly; there are a newer range of enemies, as well as the map and different environments feel bigger and more complex so you can actually make use of everything the game now offers.
Talking about enemies and scenarios, they both collide in one single improvement that almost makes the whole experience worth of your time: Boss fights.
Awesomely big monstrous boss fights.
I can’t stress this enough, as much as the publisher praises the newer graphical upgrades of any remake, that won’t just make me (a jaded long time follower of a game series) care about the shinier new version. Let’s look at Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary; yes, it does look better, but they could have done a lot better to convince me.
In Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary you can switch between the updated and original graphics with the tap of a button; I used this feature exactly once.
This is how an updated boss fight looks like; I don’t need to switch between these two… I can’t go back now.
And that’s it. Better graphics, updated gameplay and enemies, revamped map and environments, and badass huge boss fights. That’s all I need to stop complaining about a developer not doing anything on a classic game before they start asking for my money. Metroid Zero Mission excels in all these departments and gained a place in my heart as the very best remake ever made.
Except the updates didn’t stop there…
How could a remake of the classic Metroid game possibly be made even better?
The biggest surprise at the end of the original game back in the 80’s was that you get to see Samus out of her suit and realize that she’s actually a woman. But of course that wouldn’t be a surprise to many of us back in 2004, so instead of aiming for that same outdated cultural shock, Nintendo simply decided to blow everyone’s mind.
I won’t spoil anything to anyone who hasn’t tried this title yet (you can read all about it here), but suffice to say the game just doesn’t end where it did back in the original; Zero Mission added an entire new area to explore after what previously was the game’s ending. And you won’t only get to see Samus without her armor, you’ll get to play as her with an entirely differently gameplay, introducing for the very first time…
Zero Suit Samus.
So, this is it. This is why every remake made after Metroid Zero Mission makes me so angry:
- This game just proves me that a developer can actually care and do a lot more in order to make a game not only better-looking, but better in every way.
- A remake can aspire a lot more than being an upgraded version of a classic game; it can become a great game itself
- Despite whatever people say about the sacredness of classic titles, fans can not only endure a classic game being revamped to newer standards, but also praise it enough that the newer title will gain insta-classic recognition.
And—In the case of Metroid Zero Mission—it would even end up inspiring a new character for the Super Smash Bros series. Enough said.