Zero Mission is the HD reimagining of the original Metroid that was released on the NES, in the prehistoric era of video gaming.
Metroid is a game that carved its own genre; amidst the myriad of 2D side-scrollers of its time, not very different from one another, it stood out as the only game that allowed players to explore a vast in-game world. It focused heavily on exploration. At the time, there was nothing quite like it, except perhaps for Zelda, but even that didn’t have the dark and foreboding mood of Metroid. It drew direct inspiration from Ridley Scott’s Alien; the scenario was similar, it was one of the first games to feature a female protagonist (another nod to Alien) and it paid homage to its influences by naming one of the bosses Ridley.
Fast-forward to Zero Mission: it was made by R&D1, Nintendo’s first development team, under the supervision of the man who is essentially the father of Metroid, Yoshio Sakamoto.
Zero Mission is more than an HD port. It’s more aptly a reinterpretation; a complete overhaul of the original. Among the better looking sprites and a better sounding OST, it introduces completely new areas which weren’t featured in the original game, new abilities, many new bosses, an end-game scenario which changes how you play the game and finally a new waypoint system which makes it impossible to get lost.
The story begins with the player assuming the character of Samus Aran, a bounty hunter, the best bounty hunter in the whole galaxy according to some, who is hired by the Galactic Federation – a peace keeping organization for the entire galaxy – to take down Space Pirates who have holed up on a planet where research is being done on a mysterious alien species known as the Metroid. The Metroids are rumored to have been the cause of the annihilation of a whole planet, hence it is of the utmost importance that the pirates do not weaponize the creatures, or the galaxy will be under their control. Samus goes to Zebes to exterminate the pirates as well as the Metroids.
I will withhold explaining other aspects of the premise due to spoilers, but that’s the gist of what the game’s plot is about. The game isn’t story-driven at all, but it does have a bare-bones plot for people that want it.
The gameplay is what the series is known for. Like I said, it’s a 2D game with a very strong emphasis on exploration, but there’s a catch!
There are areas that you cannot explore unless you have a specific power-up, ability or a weapon, such as the eponymous Morph Ball to get through tiny openings or the Space Jump which allows you to somersault continuously or Power Bombs which can break all manner of blocks. You attain these power-ups/weapons by getting through bosses and mini-bosses throughout the game or by exploring and finding them, some power-ups are hidden in the world and you can complete the game without getting quite a few of them.
The bosses come in various sizes and forms some are the size of Samus while others are larger than four rooms. The bosses are fun to fight, they are mechanically well designed and usually it is pretty simple to understand what you’re supposed to do to beat them, and there’s a strong sense of achievement once you do beat them.
Remember when I said that exploration is the point of the game? Yeah, I’ve said that a lot. You can’t increase your health or the quantity of ammo you carry for your various weapons unless you explore. You don’t need the extra health or weapons to finish the game, but you do need them to make the bosses and enemies less frustrating. Due to the nature of the game there’s a lot of backtracking to get to new areas or to explore other secrets.
The OST of the game sets the mood of isolation and solitude very well; it has many remixes of the original tracks from the NES Metroid and many original tracks as well for the new areas that were added in this game.
The next paragraph has spoilers for the end-game scenario of Metroid : Zero Mission, read it at your own risk, you can skip to the conclusion if you wish.
After you defeat the last boss, you have to evacuate the area, otherwise you’re going to go boom. After the trademarked metroid escape sequence, you end up back on Zebes, but this time you don’t have your suit or any of your weapons except a mere stun-gun which is mostly useless I might add.
What this means is, you have to infiltrate the space pirate ship via stealth, this completely changes how you play the game; Samus can’t take a direct hit otherwise she will die, that’s right One-Hit KO’s. Even then the game manages to not feel unfair, the game is masterfully designed so that even if you do get spotted you have enough time to run and hide or advance to an area where the enemy can not get to you. You can also utilize the stun-gun to stun any of pirates that are on your tail for a short period of time. This section also manages to expand the story of the game and nicely connects it with the sequel.
There’s quite a bit of replay value to the game as well. The ending you get depends on how fast you finished the game and how many upgrades you managed to collect. After finishing the main game once you unlock the NES Metroid as a reward as well as a harder difficulty for a new playthrough, You can check the differences between this and the original first hand.
Zero Mission is a very fun game and it manages to make itself very accessible as compared to its predecessor, but that’s also one of its downfalls. While trying to cater to the newer gamers it loses a bit of its charm, but that’s balanced out by it featuring new areas and more options to tackle all the different scenarios that the game throws at you.
The waypoint system that was introduced made the game very linear, you’re not forced to follow the way-point but the fact that it’s there is basically going against what the first game wanted to achieve. That’s not to say that the game is in anyway bad because of it, it just makes the game easier which correlates to making it a shorter game.
So, if you’re looking for a short but rewarding and fun experience. Then you should pick up Zero Mission.