A landmark of video game exploration, Metroid would eschew many console video game conventions and give birth to a new breed of adventure game; complex, engaging, and at times both vast and claustrophobic.
Japanese Title: メトロイド
English Release: Metroid (NES, 1987)
Release Date: August 6, 1986
Developer: Nintendo R&D1, Intelligent Systems
Genre: Action Adventure
Product Code: FMC-MET
Disk Format: Double-sided
Notable Credits: Produced by Gunpei Yokoi. Directed by Satoru Okada. Designed by Hiroji Kiyotake, Hirofumi Matsuoka and Yoshio Sakamoto. Written by Makoto Kano. Music Composed by Hirokazu Tanaka.
Metroid was the fourth Nintendo produced title created specifically for the Disk System, after The Legend of Zelda, Nazo no Murasamejou and Super Mario Bros. 2, and it’s historical importance is second only to Zelda in this regard. Comparing the two is not exactly fair, as the two games play very differently but Metroid would go on to have nearly as large an impact on the future of video game design.
Created using the same game engine as Hikari Shinwa: Palutena no Kagami (Kid Icarus), Metroid created a game design blueprint that is still being refined even today. The game is seemingly open to you from the beginning and you are given very little in terms of direction. Through exploration you meet with seemly impossible barriers and roadblocks. You also obtain various items and weapons, which, either logically or through trial and error, will allow you to progress further through the game world. So begins the hallmark cycle of this, and many other Metroid-style games that would follow; explore, find dead ends, find new items, and backtrack to all the impassable routes and exercise your new abilities to overcome them.
The Disk System birth of Metroid is fitting, given that the scale of the game in enormous. The notion of beating Metroid in one sitting, especially for a novice player is ludicrous. The Disk based media allowed for multiple save slots where players could record their progress and as with Zelda, this served a secondary function of immersing the player by creating the illusion of a grand continuous adventure. When Metroid was ported westward to the Nintendo Entertainment System the Zelda-style save files were removed in favour an ultimately inferior password system that would not necessitate Zelda’s expensive and technologically advanced (for the time) on board battery back up.
Metroid spawned a cottage industry of copycats, some improving upon the original formula, and some missing the mark completely. Nintendo would ultimately top them all with release of Super Metroid on the Super Famicom in 1994, a game widely regarded as as masterpiece and one of the best video games ever produced. In comparison with its lineage, the first Metroid has lost much of its lustre. Regardless, Metroid remains highly immersive and extremely playable, proving that originality is ultimately timeless.