Sunday, 23 March 2014

My 5th Favourite Video Game of All Time

Super Metroid (SNES – 1994)

The list of my all time favourite video games now enters the top 5 with a classic game which defies its genre. Super Metroid is the third game in the Metroid series, and, unlike many series of video games, there is a continuing story in the Metroid games, with the events of the first two games briefly recounted at the start of Super Metroid.

The basic premise is that, in the first game, Samus Aran took on the Space Pirates on planet Zebes, and succeeded in preventing them from using the Metroid creatures for evil. Throughout the game, and in the instructions and marketing material, no mention was made as to what gender Samus is. It was only right at the end of the game that it was revealed that she was a woman, something which was a big surprise for game players at the time.

In the second game, Samus went to the homeworld of the Metroids to wipe them out completely. She did so, apart from one larva, which she brought back so that it could be studied. Super Metroid starts with the Space Pirates attacking the research station where the Metroid is being held...

Samus then has no choice but to return to planet Zebes and take on the Space Pirates once more...

Super Metroid is nominally a platform game. However, in standard platform games, the player takes on each level one at a time, moving from the left to the right, getting pass the various obstacles that are in the way. But Super Metroid is different. The player is presented with a whole world to explore, and they can travel back and forth through it. It is through the collection of special items that players are able to reach new parts of the world. When I first played this came 20 years ago this was a new concept to me, and it made for an enjoyable gameplay experience.

The graphics were pretty good for the SNES era, but it’s the music which really helps the game. The whole game has a very cinematic feel to it, which was very unusual for games of the time. The music is very atmospheric, and helps to set the mood for all of the various areas in the game. Here’s Lara de Wit with her rendition of the Rocky Maridia theme:

The game keeps track of how much time you’ve spent playing the game. This results in a slight difference in the ending of the game – although this is just about how much of her armour Samus removes, which is a real shame. But the time keeping element encourages players to see just how fast they can get through the game. I can’t remember how long I took on my first attempt, but it was well over 10 hours. But on a speed run it can be completed in under an hour (although it normally takes me a couple of hours).

For me, Super Metroid is a prime example of excellent gameplay design, a unique game which has stood the test of time, and is still highly playable today.

Join me next week when I’ll be revealing my fourth favourite video game of all time. It’s a game which, whilst having nothing specifically to do with the Chronicles of Narnia, does have something which I feel is in common with the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and it is this “something” which helped to create another unique and memorable gaming experience...

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