The Metroid series has been a staple of Nintendo since the original NES.  Say the name Samus Aran and nostalgia will fill the heads of those who have played any of the Metroid incarnations over the years.  In February 2004, Nintendo released the second Metroid game for the GBA, Metroid: Zero Mission.


 


Metroid: Zero Mission is a basic retelling of the first Metroid NES game.  However, Zero Mission isn’t just the same game with better graphics.  Some of the situations and locations may be familiar, but the game has been entirely reworked.


 


M:ZM sends Samus to the planet Zebes on a search for stolen alien life forms called Metroids.  This search will force Samus to penetrate the pirate base and destroy the Mother Brain that controls all the planetary defenses.  Samus is up to the task, since she has completed other missions that were thought to be impossible.


 


M:ZM on a basic level is not much more than an action game with some puzzle elements.  However, the gameplay is crafted in such a manner that it will draw the player in.  While there is jumping, shooting, and exploring, M:ZM shows that a simple sounding game can be much more than the sum of its parts.


Metroid: Zero Mission is one of the best looking games on the GBA.  One area might have a brick setting, while another will look more organic, while another will have an Egyptian feel.  The variety is surprising for a game like this.  Water and acid will rise and fall gently in the caverns.  Luscious backgrounds scroll with the game, giving the 2D graphics a sense of depth. 


 


Samus moves realistically through the game.  Her individual limbs are easy to identify whether running, crouching, or hanging from a ledge.  Her transition from standing position to crouching to morph ball is very smooth and well animated.  The morph ball rolls without looking like a pinball rolling across a table.  As Samus jumps, her shadow will follow close behind.


 


The weapons all have their own unique look.  A regular long beam shot will look different from a freeze beam shot.  Bombs that Samus uses while in ball form will blink before exploding, and give off a noticeable explosion.


 


Enemies are well animated as well.  Creatures that look like horned crabs will walk on the platforms.  Others will spin around in the ceiling before swooping down and exploding into a burst of visible shrapnel.  Some flying creatures will flutter its wings.


Metroid games have always had their own unique sound, and Zero Mission is no different.  The background music is reminiscent of a black and white sci-fi movie.  The eerie sounds match the mysterious feel of the caverns that Samus explores.  The sound is incredibly clear and deep for a GBA game.


 


Great care has been taken to polish the sound effects in ZM.  Samus has audible footsteps while running.  Lasers and bombs have different effects.  Warning sounds will alert Samus to radioactivity or acid.  Explosions sound appropriate.

While Samus has a large move set, she controls fairly easily.  The directional pad moves her, while pressing down once makes Samus crouch.  Hitting down a second time will activate the Morph Ball.  L will aim Samus’ weapon diagonally, and the R key will ready missles.  B will jump, and A fires your weapon or drops a bomb while in Morph Ball mode.


 


While this may sound like a lot of commands, it will feel second nature quickly.  The controls respond quickly, which is important in a game like this.  Grabbing to ledges, jumping on platforms, and rolling around in Morph Ball form requires this type of precision.

With the exception of Metroid Prime, the Metroid games have all pretty much played the same.  Samus is on a planet filled with monsters, and as Samus explores, she will find new abilities and weapons.  Samus gets around through portals that are shot open.  Map rooms will give Samus the entire map for the area she is in, while save rooms will save the progress made in the game.


 


A large part of the game involves exploration and getting Samus to different areas on the planet.  Samus has a full bag (or is that ball) of tricks to achieve this.  Some areas will only be accessible in Morph Ball form, while others require Samus to grab a ledge or jump across platforms.  Some areas have Samus leap after dropping a bomb in Morph Ball mode.  Portals are opened with weapons, but sometimes certain weapons need to be used to open the portals.  Sometimes blocks will need to be destroyed or will fall apart after being walked on.  Discovering these areas is essential to finishing the game.


 


Samus’ weapons and abilities will increase throughout the game.  Initially Samus will be limited to her beam weapon.  A long beam and a freeze beam will be available later.  Samus will also have to eventually discover the Morph Ball and bomb abilities.  Samus also finds a suit that gives her more enhanced capabilities.


 


While the game has a lot of great gameplay, M:ZM really doesn’t do anything new.  Anyone who has played a previous Metroid game will find the exact same gameplay in M:ZM.  If M:ZM has any faults, is that it sticks too closely to the same formula as what has been used before.


With a heavy emphasis on exploration, one might think that this is a boring game.  Yet, Metroid includes the kind of innovation that keeps the gaming fresh.  It does have its problems, but the positives heavily outweigh the negatives.

M:ZM is not a particularly long game.  In fact, it is rather short.  Also, some gamers may feel like there is a lot of hand holding during the game.  However, there are times when the next objective isn’t readily visible, but it’s never in a way where it gets too frustrating.


 


However, there is some incentive to finish the game.  First of all, after finishing the game, a Hard difficulty level becomes available.  However, the greatest incentive for finishing the game is the inclusion of the original Metroid for the NES.  Gamers who haven’t been able to experience the original adventure, and those who want to relive it, will be able to take it along with them.

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