"Take on a legion of Space Pirates and a new Metroid force as you forge into the covert underworld of Planet Zebes! It's up to you and Samus to recapture the long-surviving Metroid hatchling before evil hands unleash its energy. An army of ominous creatures are poised for battle at every turn of Zebes' twisted, threatening passageways..."
Gaming's number one heroic female fatale returns in the SNES addition to the Metroid universe. Having been recently re-released onto more modern consoles with the virtual console on the Wii and Wii U, and after seeing slews of images screencapped from forums of people asking for help on getting by select parts I decided to give it a go myself. Needless to say, the average gamer's ability to figure things out just doesn't seem to be as up to par as the older generation - although I'm sure it's just easier to see the selection of folks having difficulty figuring things out nowadays, coupled with people being so used to the punch-in-the-face tutorials smattered everywhere in modern games.
The adventure begins after previous entries, with hero Samus Aran in her sexy powered armor suit dropping off the Metroid (who thinks of Samus as a mother figure) to a team of scientists for study. Before you can get too far from the colony after leaving however, space pirates attack the facility and we witness one of their leaders Ridley (the fearsome looking pterodactyl fellow on the box art) run off with our little Metroid friend. Samus, not one for taking crap from pirate scum, takes off in pursuit to go get back that metroid!
Most of the aforementioned plot is elaborated to us in the first ten minutes or so of the game - a good portion of the "catching up" is done through a monologue by Samus, while the rest we see on screen as we play (during the space station). After that, its a classic romp through a complex maze of passages with quirks and flavors. The world is broken up into five or six distinct play zones, each with its own themes (one much like a volcano, one more akin to a grassy cave, and even a ship) and musical scoring. Granted, in order to fully explore many of these areas it will require the player to backtrack and revisit after certain power-ups have been obtained (such as a grappling hook beam upgrade).
Mechanically, the game works pretty precise and utilizes every single button on the old Super Nintendo control pad (that would be 6 plus directionals). At first this may seem a daunting procedure (especially if one jumps in with nothing more than a cursory glance at the manuals button description, but considering that two of the buttons are just to aim diagonally (without having to move to do so), it can mostly be narrowed down to a shoot button and a jump button. As the game progresses further, more items are obtained giving Samus more "powers", such as a speed boost that allows for critical speeds to be obtained after running for a short period of time or the morphball transformation. These are generally used in a manner that overrides a button (as the improved arm laser types) or use an existing button to do more things (pressing jump at the right moment when doing a moving spin jump allows to jump again). It takes some getting used to, and a little experimenting to figure out how to do it (in the case of not looking at the manual), but in some instances little creatures are place around to show us what to do (a strange bird shows us that if we run to critical speed and then squat, for instance, that it will charge that speed so we can do a super-jump).
I feel that a lot of the issues for the newer generation of gamers will come from this aspect of the game - modern games have tutorials to introduce us to nearly every mechanic ever placed in the game, so there is no real mental engraving to experiment and find out how to do new moves, even ones that are subtly hinted at by in game creatures. Needless to say, the most complex part of the controls is timing morphball explosions to reach higher points than you should be reaching - something easily avoided by just waiting until you have later upgrades and backtracking if I weren't so annoyed by backtracking in games.
Audio here is definitely not skimped on and the 16 bit generation is when music really started to shine through as more than just catchy bit-tunes. In the case of Super Metroid, the sounds are used to great effect to create an atmosphere more than just a tune, being at times downright creepy as you travel through what it has you convinced to be a incredibly dangerous area. Sound indicators (for taking damage, or for firing or swapping a weapon) are all nicely audible, and what one would expect to hear (fwoosh boom for a rocket, for example). It's possible some folks might find them a slight bit dated, but technology and storage space have come a very long way since then so it'd be a bit understandable. Irrespective of overall audio format quality, it still does a wonderful job getting you in the proper mood (including ready to throw down in a hurried fight for your life against bosses).
Graphically, we do end up seeing a lot of enemy sprites reused with minor color changes. It's a shame, but it's something that plagued nearly every game of those older generations and something most never worried too much about - you saw something in a different color, you knew it was going to be harder than the last one you ran into. Samus herself looks wonderful (sprite-wise), with little changes and additions to the suit being visible upon acquiring some of the upgrades (the most noticeable being a color change of the suit itself). The background sprites are detailed and diverse for its time, offering a distinct feel for each of the world's zones. The bosses, as well, all have their own unique looks and fight mechanics, keeping things a bit about trial-and-error as you figure out what to do in order to stay alive during them.
Lengthwise, I took around 8 hours to beat this game, and that was only netting me a 77% item acquisition rate. I'll be totally honest over the fact I died at least once on every single boss (except the final one, surprisingly), and at least two more times from making stupid mistakes elsewhere - a feat considering how many energy containers I had by the end of the game. Now, replayability here could be considered high, as the faster you beat the game, the less and less of the powered suit Samus wears at the end "congratulations" screen after credits - In my case, she merely removed her helmet and gave me a thumbs up, which I was okay with because speed running requires too much practice and skill for what I would call enjoyment.
All in all, it's an enjoyable game. If you enjoy the SNES era titles - as in you don't get enjoyment sloley from graphics that are 3D and HD. I'd say go ahead and play it if you could, as it did help spawn an entire genre (half of the terminology of the term "MetroidVania" came from this series, obviously) of games to come in the future, and is pretty darn well polished at that. It's got a decent enough learning curve that it can prove some form of challenge, yet not be so frustrating that you can't beat it with a little thinking outside of the box. That and let's face it: retro Samus Aran is the coolest heroine to grace gaming.