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In 2004, Nintendo released Metroid: Zero Mission, which is still arguably one of the greatest remakes of all-time. This was how a remake should be done being faithful to the original while feeling like a modern 2D Metroid at the time with save and map stations, upgrades introduced in Super Metroid & Fusion, multiple difficulties and new twists thrown in that fans were pleased with. It was finally released on the Wii U’s Virtual Console last month and I recently played through it for the first time. Despite watching so many speedruns of this game and Super Metroid in the past few years, actually playing them still is unlike any of the recent “Metroidvanias.” The originators are still classics in gaming history and Zero Mission is a superb example of those.
Just like the original, you start as Samus Aran going left to get the Morph Ball in Brinstar. The first big change is the chozo statues that can heal you but also act similar to Fusion’s Navigation Rooms directing you to an objective. This is where Zero Mission is more accessible because you can get lost easily in the original. After getting your first missiles, you’re already facing your first mini-boss requiring your recent pickup to defeat it. Right away, this remake feels so new yet so familiar if you played the original back in the late 80s and that’s what I love about it.
Metroid: Zero Mission did add areas to extend the game because the original can be short if you know where to go, defeat the two bosses and take down the Mother Brain in Tourian. The Power Grip that was introduced in Fusion works well for this game’s level designs and also unknown items you acquire that can’t be used until later in this remake. Even Kraid & Ridley have different boss fights because of them being bigger in size and fought similarly to their Super Metroid incarnations where you have to use missiles to open Kraid’s mouth to damage him. Speaking of missiles, another homage to the original is the reliance on them to deal big damage compared to Super. The charge beam that you can get after defeating the first mini-boss is not as good as it was in Super, but this game design decision felt fine personally for me.
After you deal with the Metroids and Mother Brain in Tourian, the game is over right? Wrong. Samus tried to escape a Space Pirates attack in her airship, but was unsuccessful at it as her airship crashes back at Zebes. Her power suit was damaged and has to survive with just her stun pistol. This was the debut of Zero Suit Samus you see in later Metroid games and Super Smash Bros. We see her at her most vulnerable with the odds stacked against an army of Space Pirates in their mothership. Also another first for the series: stealth. Samus can’t be seen by her enemies or activate an alarm by hitting the spotlights otherwise the Space Pirates will chase her for a period of time. Plus, they deal significant damage leading to a quick game over if you’re not careful. This surprise back in 2004 was another example of Nintendo at their best.
The moment after you defeat the boss in Chozodia in Zero Suit form, you get your Power Suit back along with the unknown items being usable now. The result is Samus at her most badass form in Metroid: Zero Mission. Remember those Space Pirates you can only measly stun? Some plasma beam shots later and they’re out of the picture. That instant gratification felt so satisfying after being so powerless before to not even make a dent. Power bombs are also found in the mothership even though they were introduced late compared to Super. It wouldn’t be a Metroid game without another encounter with another familiar foe for the finale and also another escape sequence. The last third of Zero Mission felt different but also worthwhile because fans were pleased because they wanted more.
When Metroid: Zero Mission came out on Wii U last month, I couldn’t stop playing and beaten it in a single day. From the crisp controls, sense of exploration collecting every pickup, new twists into a classic and playing as a great character especially all powered up (well before Metroid: Other M existed), this game had it all. High execution moves such as bomb jumping and shinesparking seen in speedruns weren’t required to beat the game but definitely to 100% it. Zero Mission was Nintendo’s love letter to Metroid fans before Retro Studios concluded the Prime trilogy and Team Ninja developing the disappointing Other M. It’s a shame Nintendo themselves haven’t made a new Metroid game since this one and with the NX supposedly coming this year, it’s finally time for them to return to this revolutionary franchise.