Metroid: Zero Mission is the fantastic remake of the original Metroid and like other remakes brought to the GameBoy Advance this one is full of frills for anyone who has ever played it before. A lot of the issues with the original game have been remedied with maps and bite sized chunks that ensure its tough to get lost while still letting you explore on your own. After completing the quick game there’s even an entirely new mission that is more stealth based when Samus is out of her ship fighting hostile aliens.
For anyone that is new to the series Metroid puts you in the suit of Samus Aran in a 2D side scrolling, exploration based platforming shooter with your arm cannon on an alien world crawling with hostiles. The Zero Mission has amplified everything, bigger enemies, more weapons and more abilities than ever before let you traverse a familiar yet different game. This version feels new and fresh rather than Super Mario Advance 2 which only offered minor changes to improve the game. For veterans there are now different difficulties that let enemies do more damage.
Metroid is a game about exploration and traversal and to do so you’ll get abilities such as the morph ball that let you roll through tight tunnels and the high jump. Now there are several new abilities that are familiar from other Metroid games. You have the power grip ledge cling and the dash to smash through certain walls. You’ve always found the bombs to blow up walls, but now there are super bombs as well to destroy specific areas. Some destructible walls you’re shown so anyone new realizes they now have the power to blow up tiles or even shoot them with your arm cannon. You can now fire your arm cannon while crouching and at a diagonal rather than to the side, up and down when you’re falling.
To get each ability you’ll need to tuck into a ball in the arms of a Chozo statue. This is done in an explanatory way in Zero Mission. There’s a giant statue blocking your path, you jump into its arms and morph into a ball. The statue then sits to let you pass along with showing you the location of your next destination. The location, but how to get there is up to you. This takes all the guess work out of the original Metroid and expedites things. Your health and ammunition are both restored for each Chozo statue that cradles you.
Plenty of weapons are here too, more than the original which only had the long beam, the wave beam and the ice beam to freeze enemies and use them as platforms. At least now you can switch between weapons you’ve found. You can also find missile tanks that increase your maximum amount of missiles. These missiles are powerful and limited. You will also need them to open red seals. Super missiles do more damage and let you open green seals.
Most other rooms have changed as well to offer new enemies and different ways of doing things. You’ll find new blocks to destroy and focused routes. Each area is now engaging and thought provoking. Some areas are now flooded and it helps give the game more life rather than vacant areas based on what the NES could muster. The areas are now colorful, rich and diverse. Orange lava, purple resin, aqua outlines of black space rock and even the enemy color pallets are brilliant. It adds a lot to the game to make it fun and appealing.
There were a lot of bland vertical maps in the original, but Zero Mission has put a lot of flare and style to them. Now its difficult to completely fall down a shaft as it was in the first game. Instead there are rock areas protruding out and blocking doors that require you to use bombs or something else before you can ever reach a door. I see it as less of a saving grace and more of an intriguing new way to guide you to your destination.
Classic bosses are here, but with bigger twists. Kraid is now a giant alien reptile rather than one Samus can see eye to eye with. Ridley is back and bigger than ever too with a different battle, but the real interest is the new mini bosses that Zero Mission brings. These new mini bosses add some much needed diversity to keep the game from getting as stale as the original. With Kraid and Ridley out of the way, it unlocks the area to Mother Brain, your main objective for playing.
Mother Brain’s lair is full of the game’s namesake, metroids. These gelatinous, triple eyed floating jellyfish will attach themselves to you and drain your life. If you ever want them to release, you need to bomb your way out of them and hope another doesn’t latch on. To compensate, you need to freeze them and then destroy them with missiles. You need your precious missiles to destroy Mother Brain and the regenerating barriers that defend her from you. In the original, you could run past the metroids, but here, you’re locked in with them.
New to the game are plenty of save rooms and map rooms that reveal a section of map. Originally you had a long password that would put you down at the last elevator, but now for the mobile version you can save at key locations. Save rooms will also refill your health and missiles depending on the difficulty.
The first part of game is broken up into four major areas and new to the game are the cut scenes and beautifully drawn images as you ride the elevators to the next zone. These cut scenes are a prelude and a hint of what’s to come after you complete this first half of the game. To pad out the original game, there is a new Chozo ruins that you’ll encounter. Its a nice addition and there are other new shortcuts including pedestals that cannon you upward between areas.
Well with the first part of the game covered, what about the all new second part that relies on stealth and cunning more than exploration and gunning? Without your suit you need to crawl rather than roll. Its a slower pace and play different with a more linear exhilarating direction of getting chased. You have a pistol that stuns rather than your arm cannon that kills. The pistol can still shoot through walls, because your bombs are left with the suit. Its a true way to freshen up the entire series beyond just this game.
You’ll be crawling around air ducts avoiding guards. When they spot you the music will change, doors will seal shut and you’ll need to take alternate routes. In essence you are an alien on board a ship. You need to stealthily dodge and defeat enemies as you make your way through. The hazards get more interesting, there’s laser censors and search lights at some point.
After breath stealing around, you find your suit and become the Samus we all know. You become powerful again and get that victorious rush. Now you can freeze and missile the guards paroling.
Another interesting choice for Zero Mission was to include a demo reel with helpful visual aides showing you different and more puzzling sections of the game. Its good to watch if you ever get stumped. Once you complete the game, you unlock the original NES version which is a great addition to compare the two.
Metroid Zero Mission is so good that it makes it tough to return to the original. All of the advancements, the better graphics and the additional frills make it a must own and a reason to forget the original. Its short and sweet and that’s another part of its appeal you can finish it in a sitting or so if you’re inclined.