Happy 30th Anniversary, Metroid!
Today is August 6th, and sadly not many outside of the dedicated Metroid fan sites and forums seem to remember that today is Nintendo's renowned space franchise's anniversary. It's not just any birthday either. Today marks Samus's 30th anniversary!
Fear not, Samus. Even though I've had my grievances with your series in days past, this GameSkinny writer has not forgotten about you or your struggle against the evil space pirates!
It's been awhile since Samus Aran's most recent adventure, Other M, but at least it won't be much longer until Metroid Prime: Federation Force arrives on store shelves - August 19th to be precise. Sadly, neither game has received particularly good attention as Other M suffered from a weak plot, despite arguably having good gameplay. Meanwhile, Federation Force appears destined to face a similar fate before it is even released.
The lack of a popular Metroid title in the last six years makes these two Amiibo the most popular entry to the Metroid series since Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and they were designed for Super Smash Bros.!
It's hard to believe nowadays that the Metroid series is actually one of the more important video games out there. After all, it is the founder of the "Metroidvania" genre - despite Castlevania trying to get in on that name. So while Nintendo seems to have forgotten about it, and fans are too busy bashing on the next game, let's take a moment to remember what Metroid has done for video games.
Up and Down and All Around!
Fun fact! Metroid was actually among the first - if not the first - to actually implement all four directions at the same time in a side scrolling video game without a set goal in mind. This meant that those who played the original Metroid on the NES were among the first people to experience this kind of freedom in a side scroller.
Nowadays we take this kind of freedom in a side scroller for granted. It's easy to forget that games such as Super Mario Bros. only moved from left to right, or that Kid Icarus moved from bottom to top. This innovation actually made a few things possible that weren't before, namely a new form of gameplay known as...
Super Metroid was undoubtedly a great game. While I have my own reservations over the title due to some of the less well-aged sections of the game, it did innovate the side-scroller adventure genre by introducing something we couldn't dream of not having: a large interconnected map and interchangeable upgrades.
That's right. Believe it or not, Super Metroid was the first title to fully implement this style of gaming. While we had maps and upgrades for a while at that point in history in video games, Super Metroid innovated the gaming industry by providing a fully interconnected map with a map system.
Metroid and Metroid II both had large maps, but no game at the time had matched the scale of Super Metroid in a side scrolling environment. This was in part accomplished by the notorious elevators that are laced around Planet Zebes, locking together multiple worlds that would otherwise be expected to be connected by a HUB world.
Interchangeable upgrades were also a new feature as most video games at the time had players simply replace their old weapons with a new superweapon. Super Metroid was different in that there were no straight upgrades when it came to suit upgrades. While you could certainly play the game with all upgrades activated, shutting down certain upgrades actually helped the player in certain sections - namely due to boss enemies being unaffected by certain beam types.
An Icon of Female Empowerment
When the first Metroid title released on the Famicom and Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986, the concept of a playable female character on a home console was unheard of. Sure, we had Ms. PAC-MAN and the rarely heard of "Kissy" from Namco's Alien Sector, but Samus Aran was by far the first to be easily recognized.
As such, it was a safe assumption at the time that players were playing as a robotic warrior or a spaceman in a suit. Even the official instruction manual referred to Samus as a "he". It wouldn't be until players beat the game in under 5 hours that they would learn that underneath the powered suit was actually a female protagonist.
Underneath the Armor...
While her dimensions and general appearance have changed over the years, Samus has always been one of Nintendo's biggest butt kickers. After all, she does maintain the highest kill count of any Nintendo franchise, literally annihilating entire planets - approximately 4 of the 12 she has visited. Technically this is a terrible thing to do, but unlike archvillains such as Bowser or Ganondorf she does it for the forces of good so that counts for something, right?
Despite being a primarily silent protagonist outside of Metroid: Fusion and Other M, Samus is often cited as being one of the strongest female role models in gaming. She is also somewhat of a rarity among the gaming genre as she is one of the few characters who not only sports the title of "strong female character" but is still an attractive character who does not have a copped-out "butch" personality for the sake of being "boyish".
In fact, through the visual and narrative storytelling in Metroid II, Metroid: Fusion, and Metroid: Other M we have learned time and time again that Samus is actually a very caring character. While some might send me to the gallows for saying this, even the earliest of Metroid titles have often shown a softer - more insecure - side to Samus. This can often be found in her respect for Adam Malkovich or her inability to simply vaporize the last defenseless metroid in Metroid II.
This makes Samus an indispensable character to the video game industry, and hopefully Nintendo will bring her back soon.
As for the Future...
(Comic courtesy of Double-Xp)
The future looks fairly bleak for the Metroid series. Admittedly, I believe that at this point I am holding an unhealthy level of hope for Metroid Prime: Federation Force. Maybe it's just my mind finally caving in to the hate bandwagon for the game, but it's been so long since we had a main series Metroid title that it gets somewhat depressing to think about as a fan of the series. As someone who actually didn't mind going through Other M, I can only imagine what it feels like for those who don't believe there has been a worthy title since 2007 (or even earlier if they weren't a fan of the Prime sequels).
As Corley and Crandall have parodied in their comic, Samus Aran is quickly becoming "that hot chick from Smash Bros." which is disappointing considering the history the series has. While the prospects of a new main series title are low for the time being, hopefully we'll soon see Samus blasting aliens again. After all, Metroid: Other M and Metroid: Fusion left some seriously big questions about the Galactic Federation that need some serious answering - preferably at arm-cannon point!