The title screen music to Metroid is stark and foreboding. It’s an electronic space lullaby that perfectly prepares the player for the type of adventure they are about to embark on. Metroid was released for the NES in North America in the summer of 1987, right before the system’s popularity peaked. Originally marketed as part of Nintendo’s “Adventure series” in silver packaging, Metroid was an expansive password enhanced game released concurrently with other adventure games such as Kid Icarus and The Legend of Zelda. This was the period of time in the NES’s life span where Nintendo was gaining traction with kids as a must own toy. By 1987, the original black box games (with the exception of Super Mario Bros) were starting to show their age since most of them were developed several years prior for the Japanese Famicom. Nintendo developers were pushing the system’s limits with enormous worlds providing players multiple paths to explore and it’s exactly what early adopters of the NES were looking for.
Metroid is a side scrolling adventure game that allows the player full directional movement around the planet Zebes. You play the role of Samus Aran, a galactic bounty hunter sent to Zebes to retrieve Metroids stolen by space pirates. Metroids are parasitic organisms that were stolen in order to be used as biological weapons. The game’s plot includes numerous homages to the Alien movie franchise including the use of a female protagonist which wasn’t immediately apparent to players until they finished the game with a good ending. Metroid changed the rules of side scrollers by teaching players that left to right movement wasn’t your only option. One of the first things you have to do in order to progress to the right is go left and retrieve a power-up allowing Samus to roll into a ball. Additional power-ups can be found throughout the game giving Samus new skills that will be imperative to finishing the game. There are also two mini-bosses, Kraid and Ridley, that you will battle before the final boss fight against Mother Brain. You have to fight Mother Brain while avoiding the energy sucking Metroids and bubbles (?!?!) that knock you into the toxic cauldron. The final escape from the plant provides an extra level of intensity to what was already intense battle and can be soul crushing if you are unable to climb the top of the tower in the allotted time and lose the game AFTER defeating the final boss.
Full disclosure time as I believe the statute of limitations has expired on the crime I am about to admit to (plus I was 12 at the time). In the summer and fall of 1987 when I was at my peak NES obsession before owning my own console, I would stare at and read the backs of the game boxes when at my local Wal-Mart. Back then, NES games were not shrink-wrapped and instead were hung up on store racks using hang tabs on the back of the boxes. This meant that anyone could open the game box and look inside. I must have been so interested in this particular game that I felt compelled to open up the box and steal the manual to take home and study. Sorry Wal-Mart and whatever kid bought and took home that copy of Metroid only to find that it was manual free. Once home, I began poring over the contents of the manual. I couldn’t understand how it was possible to have such an open world set-up in a video game. The concept was so drastically different from what the arcade games I was familiar with offered that I couldn’t even imagine what it would look like to have multiple paths to take. This wasn’t a straightforward point A to B to C video game and it blew my mind. Once I finally got my NES and my Super Mario Bros obsession waned, Metroid was one of the early games I rented then finally owned. After playing and finishing the game, I sold my original version but I must have quickly regretted it as I eventually re-bought Metroid later in the lifespan of the console. At this point, Nintendo was no longer selling Metroid in it’s original packaging configuration but instead sold it as part of the “Classic Series”, which is the complete copy I own today. I still have the silver manual that I stole from Wal-Mart that day back in 1987 and not too long ago picked up a silver label cartridge to go with my stolen loot.
Currently in my collection: 2 copies of the game (original silver and yellow “Classic” labelled versions), 2 manuals (silver and yellow), box (yellow “Classic” version)
Wish list: Silver box