The new instalment in the Metroid series - Metroid: Other M - hit the Wii yesterday with great excitement. One of the more popular of gaming franchises and biggest sellers, each game typical revolves around the central character Samus Aran - a bounty hunter - and her quest to protect the galaxy from raiding space pirates that are after the powerful weapons Metroids and the like - for no good.
One of the first video games to feature open world (non-linear) exploration elements allowing players to backtrack to locate hidden items and pathways. Also remembered for being one of the pioneering games to have a female protagonist. Probably the most memorable feature of Samus is her ability to roll into a ball allowing access to smaller areas. Often described as a cross between Super Mario Bros and Zelda, albeit with a much more sinister, something bad's gonna happen element to it.
Basic gameplay consists of exploring levels and killing creatures with an arm cannon, along the way collecting items and power-ups for her armoured suit. Originally a 2D side-scroller, Metroid Prime has ventured into the 3D FPS world, and back again. There are now 11 games overs it's 25 years life, all of which have received high levels of acclaim (and are almost always contained in video gaming 'best lists', especially Super Metroid). But for now let's take a look at the chronology of the Metroid games over the years and reflect on the progression of the much-loved series thus far.
Metroid (1986) - NES
With a very vague storyline (as does the sequel) this side scrolling futuristic platformer introduced the world to Samus Aran it brought some highly innovative features to the gaming world, the introduction of the game saving password system, Metroid had five different endings based on how quickly a player could complete the game, a design unheard of at the time and introduced the challenge of having three minutes to escape from either a planet or a ship that is set to self destruct, which is another recurring gameplay innovation of the Metroid series. Set the scene for the series with its eerie suspenseful sci-fi flavour and excellent atmospheric music, even to this day. It all culminates in a showdown with Mother Brain. Was made available on the Wii's Virtual Console a few years back.
Metroid II: Return Of Samus (1991) - GB
Overall the gameplay is much the same as the first. Moving to the handheld, and now on a Metroid planet, it's notable for defining Samus's renowned heavy looking armour. There are more alternate endings including when conquered less than 3 hours, Samus appearing minus her armour and in nothing but a bikini. (Well it was good at the time). Other notable features include the inclusion of three separate save file slots, some changes to Samus arm cannon modes and more evolved species of Metroids. The game ends with Samus stupidly sparing the life of a Metroid hatchling, set-up for the next edition, no doubt
Super Metroid (1994) - SNES
Intended as the final game in the series this installation is widely regarded as the highpoint in the series. It retains its platform game roots, however the whole game is totally open with no levels as such, and it includes better insight into the back-story. One reviewer stated at the time "it's better than the original in literally every conceivable way". More baddies to fight like Ridley and Kraid, and objective is to retrieve the stolen Metroid hatchling from the end of the previous game. Renowned as one of the great speedrunning titles.
Metroid Fusion (2002) - GBA
An eight-year wait, and a direct sequel to Super Metroid now on the GBA. Samus returns with new a couple of new moves and weapons. An inter-connected environment her aim is to unlock the secrets of the X parasite (which has infected her). Released simultaneously with Metroid Prime this title had a top-class aural experience for the Gameboy Little does she know that what she is hunting is also hunting her.
Metroid Prime (2002) - GC
A significant change to a first person 3D shooter, this title was unexpectedly designed out of Japan. Notable additions include increased focus on exploration and Samus's beam now comes with missile and charge capabilities. The scan visor players now look through helps to read information on walls as well as computer terminals. Won lots of game of the year awards and is possibly the best yet in the series. After its success plans were put in place for a trilogy. Another high quality sound package including the sound effects. Different endings determined by amount of pick-ups collected not speed through game. The original Metroid is an unlockable feature in this title and 'Prime' was re-released on the Wii in the as part of Metroid Prime: Trilogy
Metroid: Zero Mission (2004) - GBA
Back to the traditional side-scroller this is kind of a remake of the original Metroid with additional areas, updated graphics and abilities from later games. This chapter see the inclusion of cut scenes can use the power grab form Metroid Fusion. Not only can it be linked to Metroid Fusion (which unlocks some nifty extras) but you can also play the original NES Metroid upon completion.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (2004) - GC
Back to the GameCube and back to FPS this sequel to Metroid Prime also contains some 3rd person perspectives. Some new weapons the dark suit and dark beam. Contains multiplayer deathmatch modes for 4-players and voice acting for the first time in the series aural experience "mesmerizing". Also re-released for Metroid Prime Trilogy.
Metroid Prime Pinball (2005) - DS
A different take on the series, this top-down pinball version was still good nonetheless. The ball is Samus in Morph mode and Metroids and other locations from the series inhabit the table. Contains time constrained tasks and has a pass and play 8-player multiplay mode. Was the first game bundled with the Rumble Pack and players could tilt through the touch screen. Utilised dual screens. There was a previous Metroid pinball game Galactic Pinball on the Virtual Boy. As far as pinball games go it was a very good effort
Metroid Prime Hunters (2006) - DS
It's the DS's turn for some FPS Metroid style and it contains a fair amount of shooting. Other bounty hunters are present. Samus has all her moves from the very beginning, which is usually not the case. Contains a multiplayer mode for the first time in the series that has seven modes, and voice chat out of games. A multiplayer demo, First Hunt, was released with the launch of the DS
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (2007) - Wii
First Metroid for the Wii, first to utilise constant voice acting it again combines the 3D first and third person views. Contains several action-heavy sequences involving firepower. Controls naturally use Wii unique functions. Point the Remote to aim Samus's arm cannon. Use Nunchuk to grappling objects. Samus can now jump while in Morph Ball form without using bombs. As well as call her gunship to assist in battles, travel to other planets, or provide a mobile save point. A selection "Achievements" are earned Once again an upgrade in hardware means an upgrade in visuals and sound.
Metroid Prime Trilogy (2009) - Wii
A compilation of the three 'Prime' games (Metroid Prime, Metroid Prime 2 and Metroid Prime 3), all with Wii control capabilities. Bonus unlockable artwork and music, and a save game system that supports Miis.
Metroid: Other M (2010) - Wii
This new adventure tells the tale of the events between Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion. Samus finally has a voice. What we've (and probably you've) seen looks pretty impressive. But that goes without saying, doesn't it?
So you can see its influence is massive. So big in fact it has spawned manga comics, a couple of soundtrack CD releases and even a band Metroid Metal that covers the music from the Metroid games. Not to mention the fact that various characters have appeared in other Nintendo titles and a canned movie. And don't get me started on Metroid Dread.