Welcome to GamerTell Talks, a weekly feature where readers can talk games. Just email Jeremy Hill and I at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com with what you want to talk about, and we’ll put it on the site and give you a game in return. Next week’s contributor receives a Desura code for Bleed (Windows). This week, Jerimiah Mueller talks about his love affair with Super Metroid.
April 18, 1994. I was 12 years old at the time. I have zero recollection whatsoever of anything that may have happened that day. I assume I was at school, bored out of my mind. Some Googling reveals that a quite a few things happened that day: Space Shuttle Endeavor landed after completing mission STS-59, former President Richard Nixon suffered what would turn out to be a fatal stroke, Lebanon formally dropped political relations with Iraq, and Rosanne Barr filed for divorce from Tom Arnold (huh, I kinda do remember that actually). Something else happened that day though; something that by comparison was quite trivial, but whose effect would be felt by the gaming industry to this day: This was the day Super Metroid was released in North America.
I didn’t get Super Metroid on that fateful day. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know it existed. At some point however my Dad who was, and still is, a huge gamer did buy it. I don’t think he liked it much, as every time I went over to his house on the weekends the save file never really advanced. I played it here and there and I loved it, but never got much time with it. Summer came along and there was much bike riding, and hiking, and fort building to be done I’m sure. At some point I got my own copy. I have no idea how, or when; I assume I traded some stuff in at Funcoland for it, or it was a gift. Chances are I just wound up adopting my Dad’s copy. Point is: I owned Super Metroid.
I played the Hell out of it, practically non-stop whenever I had the chance. Countless hours spent in my Mom’s bedroom where the SNES lived, sitting at the end of her bed staring into a truly wretched Emerson T.V. that you had to stick your finger inside of to press the broken power button. I don’t remember getting the game but I remember mundane details like that, I’m weird. Eventually I would beat Super Metroid. It took forever. An appallingly long time looking back at it, but so much of that time was spent just exploring. Visiting and revisiting all the secret rooms I could find, replaying through areas I enjoyed the most, just staring into what were undoubtedly the most gorgeous backgrounds to ever grace a 2D game up to then, wondering what the world looked like beyond those mountains, and what purpose those glowing tubes served. I very distinctly remember going to the area outside the Wrecked Ship, you know the one with all the Grapple Beam points where you had to swing across over the water? There was a missile tank there. Something else it had there was some seriously rockin’ music. I went into that area and just sat there with the T.V. speakers cranked, basking in that almost out of place hard driving and wonderfully melodic music. In retrospect it may have helped lead me to a lifetime of listening to heavy metal. I can still hear the T.V.s cheap plastic rattling while the speakers were distorting from the bass. I also remember getting yelled at to turn it down.
Eventually however, beat Super Metroid I did. It was so bittersweet, that first playthrough coming to an end. But my, what an ending it was. Anyone who got to play it unspoiled back then remembers the shock of Mother Brain’s second form. The game was over, Mother Brain died in exactly the same way as in the first game (which I only knew from watching a friend beat it because to this day I have never managed to despite about a million attempts). A blob of gray matter in a jar, defenseless from my Super Missiles whilst I dodged those annoying ring laser-y things. Then she transformed into that giant biomechanical demon spawn as I frantically fired away , looking for her weak spot, practically no missiles left, hoping I could Charge Beam her to death before my paltry amount of remaining health ran out. Then I died, completely helpless in the face of her Hyper Beam. That’s when “it” happened. The first time my jaw ever dropped playing a game. The first time I experienced a “twist” that left me speechless. The Baby Metroid sacrificed itself for me. The baby that I remembered saving in monochrome little dot form on my Game Boy the summer before, the baby that I had almost forgotten the entire plot revolved around, died. I was angry. I was angry, but in death the Baby Metroid gave me my tool of retribution: the Mother Brain’s own Hyper Beam. Probably about the most over powered weapon of the 16 bit era, aside from Super Metroid’s own Screw Attack which pretty much breaks the game. I got my vengeance on the Mother Brain and escaped the planet before it exploded.
Naturally, at school that week I had to talk about it with my friends. Then they asked me a question that would change me as a gamer: “Did you save the Etecoons?” “Did I save the Etewhatnow?” That’s when they told me they used the strategy guide which explains how to save the little jumping dudes from earlier in the game. “There’s a strategy guide?” They told me how to save the Etecoons, so I went home that night and reloaded the last save. Killed that evil baby killing bitch again, and followed their directions. I was pretty sure my friends were just screwing with me, but then there they were: all the strange little alien creatures that had helped me on my adventure. The Etecoons, and the Dachora (which I only knew as the monkey things and bird creature until then) were trapped in that room trying to escape. How they got to there in the first place is one of the great mysteries of the gaming universe, but I rescued them. Then I got to see their little space ship escape the planet as it exploded. I felt wonderful.
But what other mysteries did this strategy guide hold? I had to find out. I begged and pleaded with my Mom to buy me a strategy guide for a game I already beat. I’m sure it took some doing, probably crying, but in the end I had it. The vaunted Official Super Metroid Nintendo Player’s Guide. I spent the whole car ride home just marveling at the art work. Strategy guides were so awesome back then, damn you internet. That weekend I played the game over again, determined to get a 100% completion. It took forever, but I did it. I collected every single item in every secret place. I spent probably an hour just trying to pull off that ridiculous horizontal Shinespark move above the gunship. Then I had to do it twice. I learned how to “cheat” against the boss in Maridia using that truly amazing “Grapple Beam into the electricity” trick. Oh all the detail, and little one off things the developers put into this world. The Etecoons were saved once again, and I was just getting started.
This was the beginning of a theme. Next I had to get the “best” ending where you see Samus sans Power Suit. It took me 2 more playthroughs to pull it off. Then it was “how fast could I actually beat the game?” I spent a few weeks speed running the game. I think my best time was just under 2 hours. “How fast could I get 100%?” “I just want to play it again.” I beat that game a couple times a week for months. Even when other games came along, I would still get in at least one Super Metroid run every weekend. I stopped counting at 21 times. I know I probably did it at least another 15 after that before I stopped playing it all the time. It tapered to once or so a month. Eventually my SNES was replaced by a PlayStation and I wouldn’t own that game again for years.
I wandered into my local E.B. Games one day before work and noticed they had a couple of SNES cartridges on the counter. Knowing full well they had long since stopped accepting SNES games I asked what the deal was. Apparently the manager had just bought them off someone who came in looking to trade in a SNES. He said he would sell me the system and both games for $20. Sold. I now had myself a practically mint SNES and two games. What games you ask? Chrono Trigger (one of the best RPGs ever made) and Super Metroid. Of course Super Metroid was the first game I played. I was a kid again. It was astonishing how completely I still had the entire game memorized a decade later. I played it monthly for a good year. Nowadays I still sit down and play it about once yearly. I don’t usually get all the way through it anymore, but it will never leave my life either. There are so few games that can recapture that level of detail, that have so much love poured into it by their creators. They made Zebes a living breathing place. It may have been built out of 2D sprites, but it was still real. It was a lived-in, mysterious, history-filled ancient world that I visited and blew up time and time again.
Many games have tried to copy or improve the formula. They’ve all failed. Eventually Konami would steal the formula wholesale and use it to reinvent the Castlevania series with Symphony of the Night. Another amazing and rich gaming experience that led to the term Metroidvania. It still couldn’t quite match what Nintendo had done a few years earlier. Metroid invented this little subgenre of gaming. Super Metroid would prove to be the pinnacle, never to be matched nearly two decades later. Furthermore, Super Metroid would not only define the Metroidvania niche, it would transcend its own subgenre to remain one of the greatest games ever made, period. It is also a huge part of my childhood and heavily shaped who I am as a gamer today.
Jerimiah Mueller lives in Northern Illinois. At 30 years old he has been playing video games almost that entire time since his Dad first taught him how to play Pole Position on his Atari 2600. He currently works as an I.T. technician and spends most of his gaming time these days on PC or his Vita. Amongst his favorite games are Deus Ex, Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Final Fantasy IX, Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, and of course Super Metroid.