@hisak: I too am hoping for a Metroid: Dread one of these days. It seems like the WiiWare would be a nice place for Samus to return to her 2D roots. (And that vid brings back some horrid memories!)
@hups: Ah yes, the 1% Fusion and 15% Zero Mission runs. I don't know what I'd do with myself. Especially against Serris in Fusion. You have to have practically Jedi reflexes to either dodge or--God forbid--hit that thing's face during the split second you can actually see it before it collides with you. And that's when it's NOT speed boosting across the room like the bloody Millennium Falcon!
Impressive video too: I can safely say I will never attempt that.
So at long last, I've finished Zero Mission. And what a great game this was!
At first I was toying with the thought of playing all three difficulties: Easy, Normal, and Hard. But there was really no point in going through Easy, since nothing is unlocked thereby, so I skipped it and played Normal mode, followed by Hard. That, and the game was pretty much a breeze (for the most part!) on Normal anyway. Hard was quite a different story, so I'll give you a kind of rundown of contrasts in this post. Having never played Easy, I'll give you what I speculate to be the equivalent in that mode. While those will be exaggerations, they may not be by much.
So much like the original, we start in that iconic location in blue rocky Brinstar. Already the gameplay is an improvement over the NES version and even Fusion (well, except for the lack of a Power Grip, which you don't get until later). I was obsessive about wanting that Charge Beam as soon as I could get it, so I would reset every time that giant worm bonus boss would escape before I could kill it. This was trickier on Hard since you only have 2 Missiles at that point (versus 5 in Normal), so I had to farm for one more Missile during the battle from the projectiles it shed. I suspect on Easy, by contrast, it hangs from the ceiling with a target painted on its open eyeball saying, "Let 'er rip!"
Anyway, whereas Fusion had those convenient recharge stations in each sector, this game has Chozo statues where you recharge all health and ammo. Why Metroid games didn't do this before I have no idea. Also, there are Save Rooms EVERYWHERE in this game. You have no excuse for dying and getting sent back particularly far! (With 2 exceptions on Hard, which I'll get to later.) It seems like every other room is a Save. So as if the worm bonus boss weren't enough, we get another worm-like boss in Norfair (I think?) that's grossly easy. Even on Hard--where, it should be noted, the only thing that stays the same from Normal is that all enemies and bosses take the same number of hits in both modes--the only twist is that you run out of Missiles before being able to kill it. And all that means is going to the edge of the room to shoot up the projectiles it shoots at you for ammo. That's on Hard mode. On Easy, it probably just sprouts flowers for you to give to your loved one or something.
After raiding Brinstar and Norfair (and part of Crateria--it was nice they included that in this game, and I was fond of the Chozo Ruins you keep coming across during the game), it was down to the region creatively named Kraid in order to fight, well, Kraid. The battle went well enough in Normal, even if it kind of took a while since I kept falling off the platforms and would have to get up. On Hard, I surprised myself by actually dying on the big brute, not knowing he was dealing so much damage. (Oh Hard mode, how I love thee!) On my second attempt, I absolutely aced him--using a more aggressive approach, I kept pounding Missiles into him, and that sucker died in seconds; I didn't even need to refill my ammo. Meanwhile in Easy mode, Kraid challenges you not to a duel of claws and missiles but a hot dog eating contest. This is the only part of Easy mode that's sufficiently challenging since Kraid is a fat fuck and you can only win an eating contest against him with cheat codes. Anyway, moving on.
After clearing out Kraid and returning to Norfair, it was time to go to the lair known as Ridley, home to a dragon by the same name. On the way there, you come across a series of not one, not two, but three mini-boss battles all in a row. That sounds challenging, and it would be, if all three weren't piss-easy. The two larvae present no challenge at all, and you would have to try to actually be damaged by them. Then the next phase a few rooms later (oh, and did I mention there are Save Rooms between all these battles? because yeah) is yet another pollen-projectile plant based mini-boss in the vein of Spore Spawn from SM and Nettori from MF. And it goes down just as easily. Then after that is the angry hornet boss known as Imago. Just go into Morph Ball mode, let it go over you, and then run behind it firing missiles into its sphincter, I mean, stinger. Not even on Hard mode was there any variation of challenge on these three. I mean, I almost
ran out of missiles against Imago, but that was it. And that's just Normal and Hard, where you activate the Imago battle by trampling its baby eggs, infuriating it into battle. On Easy mode, Imago flies down to apologize profusely for putting its eggs inconveniently in your path before offering its ass to your missile launcher as a peace offering.
Progressing deeper into Ridley's lair (a far cry from Lower Norfair in SM, I might add, but to be fair this is a remake of Metroid 1, not 3), I come across Ridley himself, who continues his GBA tradition of being terribly nerfed compared to his godlike strength in Super Metroid. Seriously, just run under him and fire Super Missiles and normal Missiles up his ass hole, and he goes down in less than a minute. On Hard mode, I didn't even run out of Missiles--I just stood in the corner of the room, aimed up, and fired at him like there was no tomorrow. I almost died, but the point was even on Hard I survived a fairly even exchange of blows against a main antagonist. Still, it's kind of cool how in the beginning there's that cutscene of him swooping down into the room all iconic-like (despite the other lamentable GBA tradition of having Ridley scream like a schoolgirl--seriously, what the hell is up with that?). Of course, in Easy mode, he swoops down into the room to offer Samus tea and biscuits. And he traveled a good long way to deliver these treats as well, I might add.
Both main guardians defeated, and my arsenal as packed as I can make it, it's off to Tourian. Here the difference between Normal and Hard is probably as pronounced as it is in the entire game. On Normal, it's your customary run through a Metroid infested area. Lure one on, freeze it, then missile it to death. I did find these Metroids seemed to unfreeze a good bit faster than in previous games, though. Still I made it through with not much problem. Hard was a different story altogether. There the usual strategy of moving slowly so as to lure only one Metroid at a time doesn't apply. Because those fuckers are EVERYWHERE on Hard. I mean, there are times when you trigger 2 or even 3 all at the same time, all to come rushing at you at warp speed to gang-rape your ass. Thankfully there are Save Rooms all throughout Tourian because in Hard, you need them! This is contrasted with Easy where there's only one Metroid, and it latches onto you just long enough to give you the Hyper Beam from Super Metroid for the rest of the game.
Then there's Mother Brain herself. The Zebetites in her room are tons easier than in the original by far, almost as easy in Super (that last one was a bit tricky, however). And--I didn't find this out until after my Normal run--once all Zebetites are destroyed, you can retreat into the previous room to refill health/ammo and save. This is much needed because Mother Brain is fucking hard, even on Normal mode--it's not as easy as it was in Super! Thankfully it wasn't as hard as in the NES version, but only because you didn't have to freeze a Rinka just to get out of the lava if you fell in. But it's still going to be easy to fall into the lava, don't get me wrong. Oh, and MB fires brain waves at you now. Great. Thankfully, I learned during my Hard run that there is a (relatively) safe spot in the top corner where you can cheese the fight a little bit. Of course, there's no need for cheesing in good ol' Easy mode. Because instead of attacking you with brain waves, Rinkas, and turrets, Mother Brain will attack you with parental nagging and questions about why you never call her anymore, etc. before finally telling you you're grounded for a month.
What follows is the usual escape sequence, which seems a bit easier than in the NES original, except you do have the Crateria portion afterward, and hopefully you know to Speed Boost through those blocks at the end of the cave leading back to your ship. So Mother Brain's defeated, and Samus has successfully escaped Zebes in a Metroid 1 remake. Operation successful, see you next mission, right?
NOT SO FAST, MY FRIEND!
Samus flies right into a Space Pirate ambush (after having conveniently just removed her Power Suit) and is shot back down to Zebes, admittedly now in a different region. So, caught with her pants down both figuratively and almost literally, Samus has to infiltrate the Space Pirate fucking Mother Ship armed with little better than a squirt gun. Thus begins what is easily the most annoying segment in the game (maybe even the whole series), the "stealth" mission to infiltrate the ship, then Chozodia, to pass the trial and gain a new Power Suit. I put the word "stealth" in quotes because there are too many times where you'll have no choice but to cross paths with Pirates who immediately chase you. They also fire at you and can even follow you into different rooms! Thankfully there are Save Room checkpoints where you can not only save your progress but which also completely heal you every time. This is much needed because those Space Pirates do an entire Energy Tank of damage per hit--in Normal mode. In Hard mode, you have only 3 hits until you're dead between Save Rooms. Oh, and did I mention that Hard mode closed off not one but two Save Rooms in this region? And there's absolutely no way to get power-ups between Save Rooms? Because yeah, you can't. In Hard, you've got to be fast, accurate with every jump, and you even need a little blind luck in one or two spots--or you will die. That whole part of the game dwarfs any pursuit sequence with SA-X in Fusion!
In Easy mode, on the other hand, upon spotting Samus, the Space Pirates immediately lead her in a triumphal procession to her next destination, complete with a royal dais, and politely wait outside the dressing room as she changes into her new Power Suit.
So what is your destination in this strange new place called Chozodia? You have to make it to this distant, hidden corner of the map to face a strange mini-boss from Samus's past, a Chozo guardian who requires you to pass this test before obtaining the Power Suit. It's a bit tricky but nothing that can't be outlasted on Normal mode. On Hard, I was lucky to beat it my first time because I was down to one last hit but got fortunate on that fourth and final shot. Oh, but once you get the Power Suit--which is actually a new and legendary Power Suit, not the one you've been wearing--that's when it's time to kick ass! Assuming you got the 3 unknown items earlier in the game, you now have the Plasma Beam, Space Jump, and Gravity Suit. After running around practically in her underwear, Samus is now a walking--and flying--beacon of death. You hear the grandest version of the "Item Acquisition" fanfare when you get it, followed by an epic remix of the original Brinstar theme--complete with drums--as you reemerge and can now deal sweet Plasma-flavored REVENGE to all those bloody Space Pirates that have been hounding you all this time by one-shotting them or, hell, just Screw Attacking them to atoms. It's got to be my favorite part of the game--heck, maybe even of the whole series (except for the Super Metroid's sacrifice in SM of course). On Hard, they still do a whole Energy Tank's worth of damage even with the Gravity Suit, so you can still only afford 7 hits. Yet it remains a vast improvement.
So that brings us to the true final boss of the game, the so-called "Mecha Ridley". (Despite being the final boss, he has no official name. Ergh.) It's a robotic Ridley that's far harder than the flesh-and-blood version ever was. But that's because I play these games to 100% completion, and Zero Mission has a special surprise by for those who 100% this game by tripling the final boss's defensive power and offensive attacks. Even on Normal mode, I kept dying on it because of that friggin' claw taking away so many Energy Tanks. Super Missiles are what guided me through that battle. On Hard, I had to be especially careful--the claw attack alone can kill with just 3 successful swipes, even with all Energy Tanks. The first half I played it safe by crouching underneath the claw attack and space jumping between the fireballs since they conveniently land in only two places. I used normal Missiles to batter away and finally shatter the glass around the boss's "heart." Then came the second phase where Mecha Ridley switches from fireballs to lasers, which are less predictable, and sometimes he threw in missiles--which were good for ammo and could be Screw Attacked. I then used Super Missiles on its weak point from then on, but because my aim sucks and it's such a tiny target that's easily blocked, I still ran out. When the boss was in the red and almost dead, I got one final Super Missile refill from its projectiles and destroyed it.
No need for such theatrics in Easy mode, of course. Not only does the boss not triple in strength on 100% runs, I'm pretty sure, but it probably just gives Samus the keys to the escape vehicle and tells her to drive carefully and return it in one piece please.
So after the final boss, well, it just wouldn't be Metroid without yet another escape sequence, wouldn't it? This one was a bit more harrowing, though. You're given 5 minutes to escape in Normal, which is plenty of time, and 3 in Hard, which is sufficient, but you can't dillydally or make too many mistakes. (You're given 7 minutes in Easy. Basically you have time for a small nap before evacuating the ship at your leisure.) Passing through room after room isn't too tough if you keep on top of the attacking Space Pirates, destroying them as you run--especially in Hard as they'll still deal heavy damage. On Hard mode, realizing I had less time, I decided to get fancy and get a Speed Boost on that one long platform with the robot, then did a chain of Shinesparks up the ramps in the next room and used a Morph Ball horizontal Shinespark all the way across two large rooms almost to the end. It was fucking sweet that I was able to pull that off--and on my first try at that--because I really suck at Shinesparking normally.
Then there are those two black Space Pirates at the end who takes tons of hits each to kill (beam only, no Missiles work). On both runs I attempted this trick to lure them to the top and pummel them as they got stuck in a pattern--and both times they just came up to my level and almost killed me before I luckily shot them both down. I was really lucky with that on Hard Mode since I was almost taken down to my final hit and had earlier gotten some pixel-perfect luck with other Space Pirates during this sequence, destroying one or two a frame before I would've been damaged by it.
Have I mentioned how much I miss the Space Pirates from SM? God, those things were easy. Even the silver/gold ninja ones right outside Ridley's room. These ZM Pirates were rough.
So Samus hijacks a ship and escapes as the Mother Ship explodes, and for some reason there's no ambush this time. I guess they all went to the Mother Ship after Samus crashed? We don't know. And unlike the beginning of the game as well as the interlude after Tourian, we don't get any exposition from Samus or anything. She just flies away and it's credits time. I would've liked at least something
, especially since the previous GBA game of Fusion made an attempt to wrap everything up at the end (and possibly set up a sequel that we now know will never happen) with some exposition on Samus's part. I feel like Zero Mission could've really used something like that, especially with this being Samus's legendary first mission and all that, particularly with how it had almost ended in disaster for her. Oh well.
So yes, I'm glad to say I've beaten this game 100% on both Normal and Hard modes. It kind of sucks you get the same ending for both, but there it is. And 100% isn't an easy accomplishment in this game because ZM continues the Fusion tradition of having devilish item placement. There were a couple Missile Tanks requiring Samus to roll in Morph Ball form over a crumbling block, immediately extend back up and fire Missiles at a block above. Maybe it's because I was using a GameCube controller, but I have a hard time getting Samus to stand up from Morph Ball mode in any swift amount of time. Still, I think the worst one was that one tank (I think in Ridley's lair?) where you have to run into the room, shoot through one bunch of blocks, then another--and fire a Missile at the second one because of a missile block in it--all while building up speed to use your Speed Booster to jump through an extremely narrow corridor of speed blocks, at the end of which is your prize. That one was ruddy insane! The worst of the bunch, I'd say. Still, practice makes perfect, and I did it all twice for each item--Normal and Hard.
Oh, and for the humor impaired, it should be noted, I've never played Easy before. All my little comments throughout this post on Easy mode were for entertainment purposes only. Don't seriously go into the Kraid battle on Easy mode expecting there to be hot dogs. Or I will throw things at you.
Anyway, as you can tell from this post, I had a lot of fun with this game! Visually, this game has some of the best graphics I've ever seen on a GBA game. I don't know if it's quite to Super Metroid level, but I was very, very impressed--more so than I was with Fusion. The soundtrack is also an improvement on Fusion. The remixed tunes from Metroid 1 all sound great, and the most improved entry here goes to Norfair, which in the original had a dull, forgettable melody. It's much more memorable, haunting, and beautiful in this game, and I even found myself humming it once or twice when I was out at a contra dance on Saturday night. Granted, it still doesn't quite compare to the majesty of Super Metroid's Lower Norfair theme, but what does?
So this is a wonderful game that improves on the original in every way and gives us Metroid 1 as it should've been, complete with a little backstory too. It's almost
as good as Super, which is saying a hell of a lot, and there are even some things I like about this one even more than SM. The current rankings now look like this:
1. Super Metroid
2. Metroid: Zero Mission
3. Metroid Fusion
4. Metroid II: Return of Samus
What do we have next? Why it's none other than Metroid Prime
Yes indeed, a long awaited game that alone is spoken of by fans in the same breath as Super Metroid. I feel like at this point I've only just begun the marathon, that all those 2D games were a warm-up and now I'm hitting the much acclaimed (and sometimes maligned) Prime series. Truth be told, I have much trepidation. I tested out all four of the Prime games (including Hunters), and I wasn't comfortable with the controls on any of them. Prime 1 was the only one where I ventured to fight enemies and even the intro boss. That intro boss--who should be easy as pie--almost killed me, and then afterward I actually did die in the escape sequence. And not from running out of time either!
As such, it was very tempting to play at least the first two Prime games on Normal difficulty (which in the Prime Trilogy for Wii--which is the version I'm using--is the easy mode). But I've decided to be a champion and play them all on Veteran (or the real normal mode). I doubt I'm going to play the Hypermode (or hard) difficulty, though, since in Trilogy there's nothing to unlock by doing so for MP1 and 2, and this is going to take me enough time as it is. For Prime 3, however, there are things to unlock in both Normal/Veteran and Hypermode, so that's the only Prime game I'll play through twice in order to obtain everything. Expect lots of rants at that time.
The main thing about me and my completionist nature with regard to these games is going to be scanning. I'm going to want every scan of every object, enemy, etc.--and on one playthrough. So--at the risk of "ruining" the games--I'm going to catalog everything that can be scanned, especially the missable stuff, to make sure I don't miss any.
Anyway, I actually have a lot going on right now IRL, so it'll be a while before I even get started on Metroid Prime--I may not even be able to get to it this week. I'll let you all know when I do. Until then, keep it real. And for god-sakes, call your mother every once in a while before she grounds you. No hot dogs for a month. Tea and biscuits maybe, though. Okay, I'm going to stop now.