Metroid: Zero Mission brings the franchise back to its ambitious beginnings on the NES in a remake of the game for Game Boy Advance.
Zero Mission reimagines the NES classic as if it had been developed on newer and more capable hardware, while still adding new depth to Samus and her backstory. The game, to date, is my favorite of the Metroid games because of how perfectly the developers were able to realize the vision of this game.
For the first time, Zero Mission makes the classic Metroid playable for me. I have always struggled with Metroid on NES. Something about it just pushes me away after a period of time. It doesn’t quite make sense to me, as it is the most basic form of something I adore and it is the exact game that I can always revert to when I have nothing else to play. It inspired all of my favorite games and it is perfectly shrouded in mystery and suspense. Yet, I still can’t get much further than the beginning.
Suddenly, Zero Mission appears and brings Metroid into a new light. Much of what made Super Metroid so easy to fall in love with is added to the original and placed here on the Game Boy Advance. The areas of the map now appear more segregated and there is a genuine sense of progression and accomplishment that I feel when playing. Samus’ sprite animation is just advanced enough that it removes the (albeit charming) dated flickering of legs that Samus endured in her 8-bit days, and shows a real person running through the game.
Like Fusion before it, Zero Mission just feels right on a handheld console. There is something impressive and natural about playing this game on the Game Boy Advance and being able to take it with you wherever you are. The Castlevania games that were released on both GBA and Nintendo DS too were able to capture something magical in our pockets. This type of game lends itself so naturally to the pick up and play mentality.
What really stands out most to me, outside of how beautiful the art design and direction are in the game; what I remember most is the Zero Suit section of the game. As part homage to the bikini days of the NES and part development of Samus’ character, you play through a section of the game toward the end as Samus in what we now know as the Zero Suit. It requires a much more stealth approach to combat and it changes the dynamic of a Metroid title quite a bit. It’s almost as if playing a Batman-themed Metroid game, years before Batman Arkham Asylum debuted.
Not only do we get to play something a little differently, Metroid: Zero Mission adds cutscenes for the first time and gives the player the choice of difficulty level for the first time. It too was the first time that two Metroid games had been released on the same platform.
Zero Mission marks the last time that the Metroid series saw a traditional 2D release, and its been twelve years since it debuted. It was the first game I ran out to buy once I got my hands on a Game Boy Micro and I feel like it is the perfect companion for the handheld.