VC Weekly 335

Welcome to VC Weekly, N-Europe’s guide to the wonderful world of Nintendo’s download service. Written by Sam C Gittins

If there is anyone still out there who hasn't played the original Metroid because they were perhaps daunted by its lack of a map and/or general aesthetics then I would highly advise you play Metroid Zero Mission as it's easily the definitive version of the original NES classic. Anyway enough from me and on with the game!
Available for download this week we have...     

Metroid: Zero Mission

Price: GB £6.29, EU €6.99
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Released: 2004
System: GBA
Still retaining the title of best portable game in the Metroid series is something of an achievement being that its been over a decade since it was released on the humble yet very capable Game Boy Advance which had already proven itself very early on when Metroid Fusion was released; this in itself was a real revelation as it was the first portable Metroid to be released since the immortal Metroid II: Return of Samus on the good old original Game Boy which was some time before. But while Fusion proved to be a triumph in its own right there's no denying that it's weaker than other titles in the series in some respects, perhaps the largest part of this is the forced linearity which personally I didn't mind but what I always liked in the series which is especially present in Super Metroid is the sheer amount of freedom which you're afforded meaning you can tackle the huge game world in whichever way you see fit; Metroid Zero Mission brings all of this back being that it's an enhanced re-telling of the original NES Metroid which was amazing for its time yet despite all of its achievements it lacked one simple thing which has thankfully become standard for the series, a map!

Arguably something of a necessity for an exploration game, this was the one thing which let Metroid down for me in the early days as although I can still see the brilliance in the conjoined level design forming one cohesive game world it was always something of a frustration to not really know where you were going, perhaps this was the original intention leading back into exploration of the unknown but maps are certainly a main component of the modern Metroid title so to have such a feature included is something of a blessing as it was sorely needed. All of the original overworld remains intact with only a few small changes made to the map itself relating to certain save rooms being accessible earlier on, every area within the game world feels a lot larger thanks to it all being significantly fleshed out in every way imaginable; Samus now has access to an arsenal which is comparable to that of Super Metroid as it's now possible to shoot diagonally, ledge-grabbing and even dashing, not forgetting series staples such as Super Missiles, Power Bombs plus many other upgrades besides.


There's a wide range of enemies for you obliterate with your Power Beam with them all fitting in accordingly with the varied environments, this helps to bring everything together even more while adding more variation to your continued traversal of this vast, subterranean, extraterrestrial world. Perhaps the most impressive alteration of all though comes from the boss battles which have been beautifully overhauled, in particular when fighting Kraid who now appears in all of his Super Metroid sized glory instead of being a pint-sized inconvenience; even after finishing the game you'll find that you're not actually done, far from it in fact and while I'll try not to spoil it completely for anyone who perhaps hasn't played this fine game yet but has perhaps played one of the recent Super Smash Bros. titles all I'll say is three words... Zero Suit Samus. If that doesn't at least pique your interest then quite possibly nothing will.

During the overhaul everything aesthetic has been completely redesigned from the ground up, this is fantastic as you have a title that not only brings an old well-loved relic of the past up to date, but that also liberally adds layers of pixel paint in a labour of love which results in one of the finest games within the Metroid series which looks just as amazing in the early noughties as Super Metroid looked during the 16-bit era, both games still look equally brilliant today. Of course the soundtrack is spectacular being that it's composed by Kenji Yamamoto alongside Minako Hamano - the same pairing responsible for Super Metroid's soundtrack - who even went to the lengths of consulting with the original Metroid composer Hirokazu Tanaka so there would be no possibility of the music not being true to the original; if anything it by far exceeds the 8-bit soundtrack but it does so respectfully in taking all of the original themes while adding subtle improvements which serve to elevate the aural accomplishment to a higher plain, along with suitable sound effects which make the Metroid series all the more mesmerising.


There are plenty of extras as well upon completing the game as there is a gallery with a whole host of images including some nicely detailed scenes showing Samus' home planet K-2L, her training with the Chozo plus some nice bonus concept images but sadly not the gallery from Metroid Fusion which was a linked bonus originally but then the game is available to purchase separately. Perhaps the best extra is the original NES Metroid which although is effectively made redundant by this brilliant re-telling is still fun to go back to, the emulation for this is top-notch too even if the game is very slow in retrospect - sometimes running at a pace akin to a crawl - it did push new boundaries on the 8-bit console at the time; you'll even unlock Hard Mode where damage is doubled while energy tanks only add fifty points instead of a hundred plus a hidden Time Attack mode by pressing Up, Left, Right plus Down while on the Start Game option of a cleared game.


Easily the most complete re-telling of a game story ever, Metroid Zero Mission is an example of what can be done when you go about releasing a classic game for a new generation, indeed it really is a wonder that Nintendo have yet to apply the same formula to Metroid II which would surely benefit from similar treatment, especially as a 3DS game. In any case if you have yet to experience this stunning title then now is definitely the right time to do so, this is a prime example of a GBA offering which truely shines on the Wii U VC both on the TV screen plus the Gamepad; the ideal starting point for anyone new to the series who wishes to play the games chronologically and a fitting tribute for fans of the series which is still justifiably held in the very highest regard even today. Well worth playing in the wait for Samus' next adventure for who knows when that might be, so for now... See you next mission!  

Verdict : Metroid the way it's meant to be played, with a detailed map and a sizeable Kraid.
That's it for another installment of VC Weekly which will return again soon. So until then, enjoy the rest of the week and Game On!


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