I would say I really started playing video games with the SNES and early PC games like DOOM. I never really got into what Metroid was until Metroid Prime, and even more so with Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. It wasn’t until after that I actually went back and played Metroid on the NES. During that time I took a step back to play other NES games as well and, I have to say, I missed a lot of good stuff.
Before Metroidvania games became more commonplace as it is today, I didn’t…play any. I played Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, but only for like ten minutes. So that doesn’t count. Metroid and Castlevania are the main ancestors of the genre, and that is why we are here today. I wanted to know what this genre was really about. And it is about a guided open world.
Metroid is a game with a large, 2D world to traverse. You play as Samus Aran, the bounty hunter, who is sent by the Galactic Federation to stop evil people from creating a bioweapon using metroids, those jellyfish looking things you see in relation to the series. The main thing about exploring the planet Zebes is that you cannot explore all of it at once. There are always limitations, some ability, some knowledge, or some event that prevents you from exploring everything, and that is the biggest thing about metroidvanias that make them the genre they are.
Different items like suits or weapons open new places where you’re allowed to go, and they also open new locations in old spots. In a sense, every time you get something new, you unlock content for what’s ahead, as well as everything you’ve done in the past as well. I think that is one of the big appeals for the genre. Your character’s growth is shown by what you’re allowed to explore. You genuinely feel stronger and better. This isn’t because it’s the only thing placed in front of you either. It’s not like, “Hey, with this ice pick, you can now climb ice walls,” and then they place an ice wall like, in the next room. It is more like getting an ice pick and recognizing the fact I can go all the back to the beginning because it’s one huge level. All those ice walls I saw before are now applicable. (Ice Pick is not an item in the game.)
This means there are only so many things you can do before you’re forced to move on or to discover the next thing for advancing the story. This is the genius thing about metroidvania games, and in this case Metroid. You do have a choice to do what you want, but the game can still guide you to progression. If you feel too weak, you’re not going to go grind. You are going to go and explore. The replacement of redundant grinding with exploration is what makes metroidvania games so satisfying. If you are those of the adventurous nature and would do this regardless of your character’s strength, then your exploring will be rewarded! So there is a good funneling of gameplay loops for either situation.
This does create an issue of backtracking, and each game and gamer has their own way of handling that. It’s a matter of shortcuts, transports, or fast traveling. Sometimes it’s up to you to decide when to go backtrack as well.
Proper gameplay loops should be fun or rewarding in all parts of the loop and I think Metroid does a wonderful job at that. Being an awesome bounty hunter woman is definitely a plus as well.
Metroid is at number 132 on the ULTRA. Things have shifted around the ULTRA since we last wrote anything. That is my fault, because we haven’t…written much. Thank you for reading this though! We’ll see you next time!