The SeedsVideo

Inner Space

Metroid challenged players to explore both inward and outward.

By John Teti • October 11, 2012

The Seeds continues today (if you missed the inaugural episode about Grand Theft Auto III, check it out) with a game from the highest echelon of the ’80s NES canon, Metroid.

Metroid is a study in contradictions. It’s cartoony yet creepy. Bright yet bleak. Most significantly, it’s expansive but claustrophobic. Metroid invited players to explore the two-dimensional space of the TV screen in new ways. The game had an unprecedented verticality, and the flow of the quest was structured around restrictions—portions of the world that were walled off until you upgraded yourself with a gadget that would let you pass. Sure, there were plenty of games that featured locked doors and hidden keys, but the keys to Metroid were abilities that were integrated into your character’s very person—pairing internal growth with external exploration.

The final moments also produced one of video games’ first twist endings, one that Evan Narcisse characterized as a sort of generational Rorschach test: How you reacted to hero Samus’ big reveal said a lot about who you were as a person in that moment. Tell us how you reacted, and what the big ideas in Metroid mean to you, in the comments. I’m looking forward to hearing what you have to say, and thanks for watching!

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  • Mike Mariano

    All of my Metroid love goes to my first experience with the series: Metroid II.  Space jumping in the darkness with the atmospheric soundscape really grabbed me.

    The first Metroid has only ever gotten me completely lost.  Luckily I’ve beaten Zero Mission and can pretend that counts as beating Metroid!

    • BarbleBapkins

      Like once a year I say to myself, “You are going to actually play through Metroid this time.” And every year I play until I eventually die, get lost on my way back, and quit, disappointing myself terribly.

      I am just going to have to get some damn graphing paper and make a map so I can finally get through it. It is one of the few gaming blind spots that actually kind of gnaws at me, because I have tried and given up on it so many times.

      • ApesMa

        Graphing paper? Why not find a map here in the tubes?

        • Bad Horse

          Hardly sporting, old chap.

        • BarbleBapkins

          Metroid’s already getting pretty smug after years of victory, so I just don’t want to give it that satisfaction.

        • JuliusKassendorf

          @Bad_Horse:disqus We used to have Nintendo Power for that as well.  That may not have been sporting either.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

      Zero Mission is the only Metroid game I’ve beaten. I invariably get to a boss that I can’t beat after an hour of trying. 

      Lots of games have elements I can’t stand, like Metroid 2′s spider ball or Super Metroid’s grappling hook. 

    • Bad Horse

      Finishing the original Metroid for NES without emulation or guides is truly among my most herculean gaming achievements.

    • Dikachu

      Zero Mission is what Metroid would have been had they had the capability… I don’t feel guilty about never playing much of the original.  It wasn’t just ludicrously hard, it was also BORING.

      I’ve beaten all the SNES/GB-era Metroids which are far and away superior to anything that’s come before or since.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

         I feel a little guilty that I, too, count Zero Mission towards my feeling that I’ve beaten the “original” Metroid.

        I don’t really have the patience for Metroid I, and never got into it as a kid so I don’t have the built up childhood nostalgia/tenacity to keep me engaged during the less awesome parts, but I also abstractly respect that it’s its own thing, and that there are certain elements of its abstract, “rudimentary” design that could be seen as more evocative or interesting than the smoothed-over 16-bit remake. Maybe someday I’ll play it through in earnest, but that day hasn’t happened yet.

      • Kevin Irmiter

        Zero Mission is not what Metroid “would have been if they had the technology.” They just had a different design philosophy back then. There were a lot of games where the whole point was to just wander around, not really knowing where you were supposed to go. The fun was in exploring, and finding things on your own. But when Zero Mission came out, people expected that games would let them know where to go at all times.

        Now, I’m not saying the old way is better, but I do wish there was room for the old-school, find-out-where-to-go-as-you-play design to exist alongside games that make your goals more clear.

    • PaganPoet

      The game is great, but confusing as hell thanks to the Gameboy being black and white. I guess I wasn’t crafty enough as a youngster to consider making a map.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

        I had the Nintendo Power map and I still got lost.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

         Thar was so engrossing, but so confusing. I might’ve detailed elsewhere in these comments the elaborate quest I made my mom take me on to a remote library branch with the back issue of Nintendo Power with the Metroid II guide in it, which I then spent too much money xeroxing every page of and making my own “Player’s Guide” map book to try and make sense of that labyrinthine game.

    • http://twitter.com/itisdancing djur

      My first introduction to Metroid was Metroid II as well. Actually, much of my early gaming was on the Game Boy (since my older brother got to monopolize the NES and later the SNES, natch) so I got into a lot of series through their monochromatic, portable entries. Link’s Awakening is still actually my favorite Zelda game. Metroid II is great (although I have to admit Super Metroid is the pinnacle). I played more Final Fantasy Legend (SaGa) than the actual Final Fantasy series. Played the shit out of Final Fantasy Adventure (although I also played its sequel on the SNES a ton). Played the Game Boy Kirby game a lot, too.

      Hell, I think my first Mario game was Super Mario Land. I had mostly moved on from the game boy by the time Pokemon showed up, and I was definitely a couple years past the target age group, but a kid at a day camp I was volunteering at (no joke) lent me Pokemon Red and I got sucked in. It was pretty hilarious, especially since I had an original-model GB with this huge, clunky rubber case and all the kids had the mini models that Nintendo released at the time.

      … so, uh, Metroid. Cool game!

  • PugsMalone

    Metroid was one of the very first video games I ever saw. I loved watching my cousins defeat the Mother Brain.

    Other games that my cousins had that I remember:

    Kung Fu
    Ducktales
    Super Mario Bros.
    One of the Dragon Warrior games
    Tecmo Bowl

    Also, the US manual referred to Samus as being male, but that was probably a translation error (Japanese doesn’t have much in the way of pronouns)

    And there’s a Super Metroid ROMhack called Justin Bailey where she’s in her bikini for the entire time. (Why do I know this?)

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      When I was doing the interviews for this, there were a LOT of cousin/sibling stories like that. (You hear Ever mention her cousin in the video.) It seems like Metroid was one of those games.

      For me it was watching my older brother dominate Grand Prix on the Atari 2600 and my cousin achieve megalopolis status on the Super NES version of SimCity, a mark I could never quite reach.

      • PugsMalone

        This needs to be on this site’s version of AVQ&A.

        • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

          Yes! Great idea.

        • Patrick Batman

          @JohnTeti:disqus Please make this happen!

      • http://twitter.com/#!/FuriousGiorge Craig

        It wasn’t a cousin but actually being over at a friend’s house and watching them move the story forward in Castlevania 2 was pretty revelatory.

        • WL14

          My first Metroid game was Super Metroid, which was rad. It’s the only game I’ll still plug my SNES in to play. It’s weird we’re talking about cousins playing games – my cousin introduced me to the other half of metroidvania roots, specifically Symphony of the Night. I remember him being so proud of getting a customizable cloak which he promptly turned pink and white. He played the rest of the game as this strawberry shortcake simulacrum of Alucard. The cloak was hella shitty, so I’m retroactively impressed he was able to pull it off.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

        The trick to a SimCity megalopolis is that commercial zones need to be built next to water in order to top out. 

        • HobbesMkii

          Ah, if only I’d had this information in the early-90s.

      • Bad Horse

        Or better yet, cousin/sibling/peer misinformation. I once had someone tell me on the playground that if you put in a 5″ floppy disk with the sleeve on, it acted as a Game Genie.

        No, I didn’t try it. Absolutely did not try that on the Oregon Trail. At school. Stop looking at me!

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          My sister told me that the first three levels of Commander Keen IV were the only ones worth playing. From age 5 to age 6, these were the only levels I played. Then, one day, on a whim, I tried another level and realized that the only reason my sister didn’t want to play the later levels was because she was scared of them.

      • GaryX

        @JohnTeti:disqus (I realize I’m replying off topic, but I just wanted to comment to you directly.)
        It’s related to my own professional bias, but I really appreciate the insight to spacial uniqueness of Metroid and how it really freed up, spatially, what a video game can be and just wanted to say thank you for that blurb. I feel like this is one aspect of games that has to be one deeply considered during development but never really touched upon by any of our modern forms of criticism. I suppose it often gets lumped under talks of level or world design, but I feel like the incredible ways video games allow you to interact with architectural and natural spaces and landscapes is such a unique and important aspect of the medium. 

        If I ever end up teaching architecture on the side, I think I’m going to make kids play some games for research. The profession completely overlooks its potential.

        • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

          Thank you for that comment, and we’re experiencing some real synchronicity here. As I was re-playing Metroid for this video, I had the thought that I needed to study up on some basic principles of architecture, because I had the notion that the two disciplines have a lot to say to each other / a lot in common. 

      • GaryX

        Absolutely. It’s something I’ve brought up a lot when talking with others about it, but even in college in Brooklyn, people still looks at you odd when you suggest that it’s a medium in which we (by we I mean, architects) need to explore. Some tend to think its some kind of nostalgia talking–which, granted, is pretty prevalent these days–but I think there’s a missed opportunity to not look towards the ways something like seen the Halo ring stretch upward creates a grand sense of awe, Metroid challenges my own understanding of video game space, or Portal causes spaces to fold in on themselves. These experiences aren’t the same as, say, going to see the Villa Savoye or losing yourself in a Raimund Abraham drawing, but they’re no less valid. In some cases, video games such as BioShock or the original Legend of Zelda fuse narrative and place in ways theorists could have never even dreamed. I couldn’t agree with you more that each could learn a lot from another, and in ways, we’re already having that conversation even if its implicit.

        I need to just finally start a blog.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          I could maybe understand them having trouble abstracting those ideas out to an old 2-D game, but it seems like they should pretty readily be able to grok how contemporary 3-D gaming and level design relates to architecture. I mean, for God’s sake, they are speculative, designed spaces through which people navigate! That should ring all kinds of bells for architects.

          Video game engines are used as visualization tools by architecture firms.

          It seems like in fine art there’s more receptivity (probably because it’s a more “anything goes” arts field than architecture), though you still have people wary of kitsch or nostalgia (and lane artists perpetuating kitsch and nostalgia, justifying those concerns). Even so (and maybe this is because I went to a very nerdy art school at a technical university), it seems like art folks would be more receptive to the idea of, say, drawing connections between the type of abstraction in Byzantine mosaics and NES-era sprites than it sounds like architects (or at least your architect colleagues/friends) are to drawing similar aesthetic/functional connections from games. And folks like Cory Arcangel and Paper Rad were pretty big in the ‘art world’ during the whole Fort Thunder zeitgeist thing that was going on during the 00s.

        • GaryX

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus It does vary, and I would occasionally find a receptive ear at architecture school (I went to a fairly “hip” art school, I guess), but on the whole, it’s much more prevalent in fine arts than architecture from what I’ve seen. Most of my personal friends are receptive to it–and it’s something we discuss here and there–but architecture is an old man’s game so it’ll be some time before there’s any large discussion, I feel like. I think architects might be interested in something like a relationship between Byzantine mosiacs and NES-era sprites on one level of abstraction, but I think we’d probably use it to cannibalize some kind of concept (or, more likely, justification) for a only partially related design decision.
          At the same time, the idea of parametrics/scripting/renders are still controversial in architectural discourse because many lament the loss of drawing as a fundamental skill, so destroying the idea of “the image” even further through the use of 3D space in video games is probably even more controversial in that scale. I’ll confess, though, that I still consider drawing to be incredibly important (and an increasingly lost art in the field) part of one’s education and skill, but I do think there is something to experiencing architectural in a digital realm. For me, it increasingly seems like video games might become Hejduk’s “The Flatness of Death” par-excellence. I’ve been trying to work on some stuff that will flesh all this out further, but I’ve been too busy with real work (both a blessing and a shame).

          And I don’t recall if I’ve seen that link specifically, but a buddy and I used Unreal to real-time render a project or two during school (though never actually in studio), but that’s the first time I’ve seen it used professionally. Thanks for it. Most firms use something like Maya, Rhinocerous, Revit, or 3D Max. While in school, I imported my 3d model of my housing project into Left4Dead: nothing illuminates your egress, circulation, and spacial awareness quite like a never ending horde of zombies.

  • HobbesMkii

    Isn’t the practice of developing a character’s abilities over the long term both well established and oftentimes dismissed these days?

    I’m just thinking about this in terms of GTA III last week, where it was obtaining praise for just kicking you off as a fully powered individual. I’ve heard other games praised for their willingness to trust the player to start as about a powerful individual as they’ll ever be, rather than slowly introducing you to each new potential way of interacting with the world.

    It seems to me then there’s two schools of game design, one in which the player slowly accrues abilities of the course of gameplay, and one in which the player starts with all the abilities they will ever have and experiences gameplay from that perspective. I hesitate to suggest one has an advantage over the other, although I recognize there’s probably more examples of the Metroid school than the…um…Mario(?) school.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      It seems that the rpg-ification of games has definitely tipped the balance into the former, whereas older games, reliant more on player skill than avatar ability favored the latter.
         Given the type of game player I am, I tend to favor the former.  But that said, it has become… I dunno… a developer’s shorthand; a skinner box or method of indicating progress instead of a holistic game design decision.
         That might be a bit unfair, but I think having just watched the video does make me reflect on what an interconnected system of measure power ups Metroid was, and what a holistic vibe it gave to the game, as opposed to unlocking a skill tree branch simply as an indication you’re farther along in the game.
         And I say this as both a pen-and-paper and video game rpg-er.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

      I can’t think of too many games that don’t withhold some skills and power-ups. Mario 3′s coolest suits don’t come until late in the game. In Vice City, new weapons and half the city open up as you complete the missions. 

      The most recent example I can think of is the original Jak and Daxter, not counting puzzle and sport games. 

      • HobbesMkii

        A fair amount of indie games give you everything you need to start. Super Meat Boy comes to mind. Most modern shooters no longer follow the Doom/Metroid model, where you’ll obtain the best guns in the late game and/or have to search a level for keys to open doors, favoring an approach instead where the player is static in ability and the situations he/she encounters change. A fair number of shooters and RPGs actually don’t follow the Metroid to the full degree: they allow the player to progress further in the game or explore the map without necessarily improving. Sleeping Dogs, for instance, doesn’t ever require that you obtain a skill in order to go somewhere or do a mission (though the game may have missions where the objective is to obtain a skill).

        • http://www.facebook.com/arthur.chu.94 Arthur Chu

          This is true except that the actual *best* gun in Doom you get in the very first level, or the second level if you’re playing on super-easy mode.

          That would be the shotgun, of course. The plasma rifle and BFG look appealing but chew through ammo way too fast to actually be “best” at anything compared to what slowly and methodically mastering the shotgun can accomplish.

          Star Control 2 was like this too — Fwiffo the Spathi is the first alien ship you acquire and if you practice with him at all he’s the only ship you need to beat the whole damn game, since using him to blow up anything bigger and slower than he is (which is the vast majority of enemy ships in the campaign) is simply a matter of patience.

    • Bad Horse

      Some of the biggest blockbusters this generation don’t really have character development as such at all. CoD soldiers are just soldiers that the game occasionally decides to bestow a really cool toy on (and then take it away), and the Uncharted games have Drake start with all the skills he’ll ever have. Of course, both of those games embrace leveling in the multiplayer, so whatever, I guess.

    • http://www.facebook.com/paul.wilmot.shuster Paul Shuster

      I like the “growing into an unstoppable monster” school of game design, especially in games where it makes sense, like System Shock II.

  • The_Misanthrope

    I had always heard that “Justin Bailey” was Brit slang:  “Just In”, with “Bailey” being the slang term for a bikini or whatever.  However, the internet, that well-known disseminator of rumors and half-truths, won’t back me up on this, so I might just be wrong on that.  Plus, why would a Japanese game use Brit slang?

    I found it interesting how Super Metroid used the whole Samus-removing-her-armor to a different end.  Instead of being the reward for completing the game well, it was what happened when you died:  your armor disintegrates in a flash of light and suddenly Samus is exposed and vulnerable. 

    It also has one of the most compelling attract screens in an SNES game:  just that panning into a view of the metroid contained in a lab with alien screeching in the background.  It hooked me from the start.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      Super Metroid remains for me, in many ways an unimpeachable game.  Not only was it able to expand on it’s predecessors in really bold ways while still maintaining the vibe that earned the original it’s reputation, it surpassed almost every other game of it’s generation in both mood and game play.
         The level where you must explore a dilapidated ghost ship of some other, unspoken race was both a super-cool thematic divergence to the main planet that was still in the spirit of the game, and also far creepier than any 16-bit level had right to be.
         Super Metroid is the best, is what I mean to say.

      • PaganPoet

        Memorable moments from SM:

        -Exploring the destroyed ruins of Tourain from the first Metroid, including Mother Brain’s shattered tank
        -Having the world “activate” so to speak when you pick up the rolling ball, the little faces in the walls light up and turn towards you, and a light shines on you and you just think “Uh-oh”
        -Falling cherry blossoms in Brinstar; I know this is a pretty standard aesthetic trope in Japanese media, but when this came out in 1994 I thought it was the prettiest thing ever
        -The red area in Brinstar, with the soothing minimalist music, with a giant pulsating organic-looking organ in the background
        -Picking up a treasure from a Chozo statue only to have the portal bubble lock, and the statue stands up and starts attacking
        -The cute little ostrich/monkey aliens that show you how to do the super dash and wall jump; I always had trouble with that wall jump, never understood why it was so difficult to do
        -Fighting the dragonesque boss in Norfair, tricking him into falling into the lava, only to have his skeleton pop up and try to attack you one last time
        -Everything about the haunted Wrecked Ship-you’re right, that place was creepy

        That’s just scratching the surface too. What an incredible experience Super Metroid is. It’s a shame that I haven’t owned any Nintendo systems since the SNES, as Super Metroid was also the last Metroid game I ever played. =[

    • RidleyFGJ

      Metroid is a game that was so heavily indebted to Alien to the point of naming one of the bosses after the director of that film. Justin Bailey being a slang joke doesn’t sound that unlikely.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       ”Bailey” isn’t slang for swimsuit or leotard anywhere in the world, and the JUSTIN BAILEY password is actually parsed by Metroid’s standard password algorithm (with which you can generate other “leotard codes” that take you to different points of the game). It wasn’t deliberately “added” as a cheat code by the programmers, and consequently has no intended meaning.

      This is in contrast to the game’s only genuine “cheat code,” NARPA SWORD, which doesn’t parse in the game’s password system, and was deliberately coded in to give you a sort of “God Mode.”

      • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

        This is all true, but I think you’re missing an “S” in the hard-coded special password. It’s NARPAS SWORD, which has led people to think of it as some sort of sword. I tend to believe it’s just three letters of unknown meaning followed by “PASSWORD,” but the six-letter word spacing on the Metroid password screen has allowed some folks to dream of a more romantic interpretation.

        • HobbesMkii

          The keys used for “NAR” on a QWERTY keyboard would align as “GOD” on a Dvorak keyboard.

          I mean, you’d have to pry the keys off and rearrange them to make it that way, first, but wouldn’t it have been amazing if that’d been true?

        • George_Liquor

          We’re through the looking glass here, people!

          Here’s another unusual password:

          ENGAGE RIDLEY
          MOTHER FUCKER

          If this one’s just a coincident, it’s one of the more entertaining ones.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           (Switches to playground Nintendo rumor mode) “Well, yeah, everyone knows about NARPAS SWORD, but if you hold down select for 60 seconds on the title screen, you can go to a secret password screen with 5 spaces for the first part, and if you type in NARPA SWORD, Samus is naked and has badass bat wings and can fly. And breathe fire. My older cousin did it once, but he has one of the original copies of Metroid. On the newer releases, they took the code out because it was too powerful, so it probably won’t work on yours.”

        • http://www.facebook.com/arthur.chu.94 Arthur Chu

          I used to think the Game Genie codes you plugged in for cheats on NES cartridges had some kind of meaning, until I got older and learned that this couldn’t possibly be true because Game Genie had no connection with the companies that made the games and that a Game Genie was in fact a kind of hacking device (which is why you could in fact totally fuck up your game by using it).

        • Patrick Batman

          As a kid I had always heard that “Nar” was the shortened name or nickname of one of the programmers, who designed the password so he could run through the game without trouble during the QA process.  Which would definitely support the ”Nar Password” interpretation. Although now, looking over the credits to the game, I don’t see any names for which Nar would make a reasonable nickname, at least not to my English-speaking brain.

        • Kevin Irmiter

          The explanation that sounds most likely to me is that it stands for (N)orth (A)merican (R)elease Password. Because the password system was coded in for the game’s release in the USA–Japan’s Metroid used save game files.

    • PaganPoet

      I agree with you about the attract screen, but also want to mention that there are also dead scientists lying around the metroid.

      Super Metroid really upped the vague horror elements of the Metroid franchise, between the slaughtering of the scientists in the space station, the corpse right before battling Kraid with little parasites feeding on it that scurry away when Samus gets near, and the frozen aliens in Tourain with their life force sucked dry that disintegrate into dust when they’re touched.

      I’ve actually always wanted Metroid to up the horror aspect even more, but I think I shall go wanting. I guess we have Dead Space for sci-fi horror.

      • The_Misanthrope

        Yeah, those small touches really gave the impression of a ravaged world once home to the once-great Chozo civilization. It’s the sci-fi equivalent of a haunted house.

        I would probably have more to say about the Metroid Prime series, but me and the Gamecube controller didn’t quite work together well. I found the control scheme for firing the super missile–charge the beam them hit the missile button–extremely inconvenient.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

         You mention up-thread that you haven’t played a Metroid game since Super – the horror elements definitely remain a thread through several of the games. Metroid Fusion for the GBA has so genuinely chilling run-ins with doppleganger who just shows up from time to time to be ominous (and it really works).

        The Prime games, especially the second one, have their Alien style moments of tension and horror, too.

        The Wii collection is crazy over-priced now that it’s out of print, but I’d recommend picking up cheap used Gamecube copies of the games and giving them a shot on a borrowed/cheap/used Gamecube/Wii. It sounds like you’d really enjoy them. (They are literally the only FPSes I’ve genuinely enjoyed playing).

        • Patrick Batman

          I second that, brother.  I would be much more comfortable with FPSes if they all came with a lock-on option for the aim–I share your discomfort with the standard FPS control scheme, and for some reason when I try to play an FPS my reflexes get ssssllllooooowwwwww.

  • Spacemonkey Mafia

    Scott Jones -Contributor, The Gameological Society

       “Third grade was rapidly proving to be a phenomenal pain in my ass.  All the sudden I’m expected to understand this long division thing and my art teacher is telling me my crepe paper flower isn’t “A realistic representation” because I used a bunch of different colored sheets of paper instead of just one.
       So 3:18 finally rolls around and the second that bell rings, I am out of there.  Forget the monkey bars, don’t even look at the swings, just head right over to Stumann’s to grab a sixer of Special Export and it’s straight home to decompress with some brewski’s and the NES.  Back then it wasn’t such a problem that I only got a new video game, like twice a year, because I was usually so lit by the time I got into the groove of things, I’d forget where half the damn missile upgrades were and the game ended up taking me eight months to pass.  Besides, when I’ve had a few, my lowercase L’s look just like my capital I’s so half my passwords were worthless anyway.
      Things finally calmed down by fifth grade.  I was acing pre-algebra and the rest was O’Doul’s and Star Tropics.”
     

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

      Any time I try to play Startropics, it drives me to drink. It’s one of the most objectively unfair games ever. (The easiest examples are the instant death rooms and stairs that take you back to the beginning).

      • Patrick Batman

        I love Startropics with an unreasonable fervor, but yeah, you’re right.  And on top of all the blackout rooms and leap-of-faith jumps you had to make (offscreen!),  if you didn’t have the original manual (or the Nintendo Power issue with the complete walkthrough!) the game was literally unbeatable! 

        …I laugh at the people who complain about Dark Souls.  Startropics was soul-crushing.

    • HobbesMkii

      Aww, c’mon. Maybe he’s just aged into his 40s gracefully, just as Nintendo did.

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      Scott will love this comment. The funniest part is the notion that he was still in grade school when Metroid came out. 

  • rvb1023

    Metroid is my favorite Nintendo franchise and I am totally willing to admit I did not start this series until Prime (Which I will stand by as one of the greatest games ever made). I’ve since gone back and played all of them, barring II, which I have been unable to find anywhere and will probably have to resort to an emulator. 

    Except for the very first game (And Other M), all of them hold up incredibly well and still have the thickest atmosphere in gaming. And Samus is still one of my favorite characters in gaming.  I mean, how many video game characters can claim they’ve committed genocide.

    • Fixda Fernback

      I know it’s blasphemous, but I love Metroid so fucking much that I even enjoyed Other M. The story was atrocious, and the voice acting for Samus was the single most *emo* thing I’ve ever heard, but the gameplay itself was fun and I enjoyed the actual game.

      • http://thewavefunctionjunction.blogspot.com/ trilobiter

         Other M was sort of a lightweight experience, and the decision to put in voices (especially those voices) was terrible, but it was still Metroid and still fun.  I was actually starting a new game a couple of months ago, but then my Wii broke.  Now I am sad.

      • PugsMalone

        Other M would be a million times better if you replace Samus with Leela and Adam with Zap Brannigan. Then Adam’s personality would make sense.

        Other lowlights in the story:

        Ridley’s life cycle
        The volcano on a space station
        The secret area on a space station that can be jettisoned- but only if someone does it from the inside
        The fact that the space pirates are mindless without Mother Brain’s presence- despite the fact that they were fine without her in the Prime games

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

      Oh, man.  Please comment on Return Of Samus when you get around to it, especially since you started with Retro’s games.

      Also, I feel like turning Metroid into a quasi-horror adventure series (that is: the Fusion path) was the obvious path and not doing so was a missed opportunity for Nintendo to innovatve.  I’m admittedly not a diehard fan of the series, though I’ve played through them all.  Fusion is my favorite, and most people I’ve encountered who disliked it still admit that they had something in the concept if not the execution.

      • rvb1023

        Will do.  I too actually enjoyed Fusion a ton, I think mos of the hate comes from the fact it was quite a bit more linear than every other game in the series except MOM. It was certainly the scariest of the series that’s for sure.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

          Great! 

          It’s incredibly claustrophobic, weird, and action-oriented, so I (and others) have seen a lot of parallels between those 5 games.  Its tonal choices come at the expense of “efficient” design choices, which is why it’s divisive, but it’s a very good game for analysis.  I think it’s okay, but much more interesting than some other entries in the series.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      I don’t have much to add except, yes, Metroid Prime is one of the best games ever made.

      • PugsMalone

        I think that everything from the Phazon Mines up to the final battle was dull at best. The worst part was the regenerating Metroids right before Metroid Prime.

        The rest was great, though.

        • Alkaron

          Morph ball Super Bombs, yo. Blows those suckers right up.

          I thought the interior of the Impact Crater was really cool and kind of creepy, in a “what the hell is going on down here?” way.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/FuriousGiorge Craig

    My copy of Metroid (which I bought from Toys R’ Us, not used or anything) smelled distinctly like leather, especially the book.  Why did it smell like leather?  Fuck if I know, but that smell always brings me back to memories of playing this game for hours on end.

    But just as a statement of fact, I don’t think I could have loved this game if I didn’t have the issue of Nintendo Power with all its maps.  I’ve tried to play it again as an adult, without that crutch, and just get hopelessly lost immediately.  Super Metroid is a better game in pretty much every single way, with the primary reason being that the damn thing gives you a map.  And I like it a lot, but it has never felt nearly as cool and atmospheric as the original.  The music of this game is probably not underrated because everyone agrees that it is amazing but it can’t be said often enough – the music of this game is incredible, and sets the stage from the start screen perfectly for a genuine sci-fi adventure.

    • HighlyFunctioningTimTebow

      I’d go so far as to say the music and black backgrounds make the game’s atmosphere. The ingenious and labirinthe level design help feed the player’s sense of alienation, though. As far as 8-bit games go, Metroid serves as the perfect counterpoint to Super Mario Bros’ pop-art stylings.

      My copy smelled like electric celery.

      • Patrick Batman

        Nice secret “Adventure Time” reference. 

    • TheWhiteBoomBoom

      I recently played this on an emulator, and I too wondered how I ever completed it as a child.  Now that you mention it, I probably had the Nintendo Power maps. 

      That said, I still had a blast playing it again, 25 years later.

    • ThatsAPaddlin

       My brother still has the map he drew of the Metroid universe when he was I think 10?

  • Spacemonkey Mafia

    Oh.  Also, this is the first The Seeds video I’ve watched and that opening animation is boss.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/FuriousGiorge Craig

    Also, the Screw Attack must be one of the first game-breaking power-ups.  

    • Kevin Irmiter

      The screw attack makes you feel like a totally unstoppable killing machine. You can just turn into an invincible spinning ball of death and destroy everything without even losing a single energy tank–let alone the six of them you probably have. 

      …Then you get to Tourian and find your screw attack is almost useless. And it is filled with things that can drain your energy tanks away in seconds.

  • frogandbanjo

    My “friends’” reactions to Metroid pretty much summed up the time and town in which I lived when I finally purchased it: “if you beat it again really fast, you get to see her naked.”

    I was a relative latecomer to the NES. I think I was 7 or 8 when I got my own, which means that I was playing Metroid a full 3 years after it had been released.

    There were definitely no pubes in play – just a bunch of little boys who knew that naked girls were naughty, probably because they overheard their chain-smoking, alcoholic fathers talking loudly about inappropriate things after cub scout meetings.

    Man, what a shitty town. We moved in 1991. In hindsight, it was probably one of the best parenting decisions my folks ever made.

    Although it would be repeated ad nauseam over the course of countless games, Metroid was my first exposure to the idea that alien threats could be so organic. Prior to that, science fiction for me was all about spaceships and laser guns. Metroid introduced this whole new perspective, and I couldn’t really appreciate at the time just how novel it was. And the game really pushed it. Shooting or bombing a wall felt like you were blasting a chunk out of a living creature (even when they were supposed to be rocks.) When I froze enemies, it really sounded and felt like I was freezing something that had been alive (and would be again, if I didn’t blast it some more.) Even the wave gun’s bubbles were reminiscent of cartoony double-helix graphics. And then of course, the Metroids, and Mother Brain.

    It’s amazing that they could impart and reinforce that theme so powerfully with such limited technology. Just think back to how they set up such a  stark contrast with the antiseptic white-gray upgrade rooms. The Chozo felt like a race that had transcended the ickiness of biology, and that’s what had made them so great. Samus was like their chosen avenger from beyond the grave, plunging headlong into the muck that they themselves would’ve been fighting against, had they survived.

  • DavidHilbert

    Never realized back then how much the game was just Alien, right down to the buttkicking-babe protagonist.

  • Gameological Society Commenter

    Seeing this video brought back wonderful memories for me. There was a time when Metroid was my entire life. I used to race home every afternoon and play it with my brother for hours until Mom told us to go to bed.

    But then I turned 32 and decided to try other things, Super Mario 2, MegaMan, Zelda. But Metroid left an indelible mark. This kickass lady could do anything, which inspired me into thinking I too could conquer anything I set my mind to. But it transpired that after almost 4 months into a liberal arts diploma at community college I should be setting my mind to conquering something a little less challenging. As fate would have it, this lead me to my new career as video game blogger.

    Metroid is actually the subject of an essay for my blog that I have been working on for some time now (I will post the link once I have condensed it down to under 20,000 words).   My work ties together the complicated themes of Metroid with crucial events of the 20th century such as the Suffragette movement, World War II, the Cold War and Space Race, and the rise of consumerism.

    When my daughter was born, my 2nd wife and I agreed that she would be called Samus. Unfortunately, she wasn’t the mother. Nevertheless, little Shakira loves to watch me play Metroid Prime into the wee hours every second weekend, as did her half brother Yoshi when he was the same age. It is my hope that when they get together and have children of their own they too will play Metroid together and pass it down as a family tradition through the ages.

    • Bad Horse

      That’s a lot of words to say NEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERDS

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      I appreciate that you give Gameological commenters credit for being successful enough with the ladies as to be married twice.
      I’m still cohabitating with a Rachel Ray cardboard cutout I stole from the grocery store.

      • HobbesMkii

        Someday you’ll meet a nice girl and it’ll lead to the saddest eBay listing of all: “Rachel Ray cardboard cutout *SLIGHTLY USED*”

    • HobbesMkii

      The most horrifyingly delightful part of this gimmick is its Frankenstein Monster profile pic.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

        I really hope to see it on Game Blog #1523′s next “Horrible Video Game Tattoos” feature.

    • http://avclub.com/ A.V. Club Commenter

      OF COCK

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      I nearly snorted milk all over my keyboard when I read this. And now I’m a little sad that @HobbesMkii:disqus overtook me in the Top Commenters list because I would have liked to be in that franken-avatar.

      • HobbesMkii

        A Frankentar of the top 5 active commenters would have been amazing.

    • George_Liquor

      The Gameological Society: Attracting a better kind of troll.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        I was all for it until the commentor got to the part about tying Metroid’s thematic elements in with the notable socio-cultural forces of the 20th century.
           I mean that game is so totally a product of post-Vietnam fatalism that to ignore that in place of WW II is just crazy.

  • http://gameological.com/author/derricksanskrit/ Derrick Sanskrit

    I’d never thought about it until Evan’s comment, but I suppose it says something about my upbringing—drawing Mega Man maps in a notebook under the table at my mother’s League of Women Voters meetings and in the hall outside my elder sister’s Girl Scouts meetings—that Samus being a woman seemed perfectly natural to me. I never once questioned what it meant in the larger scheme of games, storytelling, or heroism until the era of Tomb Raider and Perfect Dark, when kickass female leads were suddenly a marketing bullet.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      It’s interesting that Samus’ gender reveal was such a huge thing back in the day. As someone who didn’t own consoles growing up, my first exposure to Samus came through Super Smash Bros. at a friend’s place.

      Me: Samus, eh? What game’s he from?
      Friend: Metroid. And it’s actually a she.
      Me: Oh. Cool.

      And I didn’t think anything of it until a few years later when I found out on the Internet what a big deal it was.

      • PaganPoet

        Unfortunately the reveal was lost on me. The game is so brutally difficult, I never beat it properly until adulthood. I knew of the Justin Bailey code long before it knew it was supposed to be a surprise that Samus was a woman.

      • Kevin Irmiter

        I think the internet makes it seem like more of a big deal than it was at the time. It was a cool little twist, but I don’t think it blew people’s minds the way people say it did.

      • PhonyPope

        Yeah, I call bullshit on the claim that it was some sort of “generation Rorshach test”.  I don’t remember any reactions stronger than “huh, that’s interesting”.

      • innocent_passerby

        I had the Samus realization in an odd way.  In a college class, we had a very professionally put-together student presentation (by non-gamers) where they were pointing out how the visual representations of men and women are different in video games and how they correspond to gender stereotypes about career choices and activity/passivity, and very unfortunately chose Samus as their example of a male character with overblown masculinity, doing a close reading of the armor and everything.  It could have been really interesting if they’d done their research– as it was it was just an example of how someone can be factually inaccurate and get away with it because their presentation style is so slick. 

    • Goon Diapers

      I drew so many Megaman maps in school instead of paying attention.

      • Patrick Batman

        Ha!  I created maps for new levels for Super Mario Bros. 2 instead of learning long division in 4th grade. 

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       I was just young enough, and came to the Metroid series late enough, that that “secret” had been thoroughly spoiled (it was printed in just about every game-related thing I read/owned that mentioned Metroid, as if it was breaking news, like, yeah “Nintendo Power Player Calendar 1993,” you were definitely the first publication to divulge this crazy secret!). So I’ve never had the opportunity to learn how I would have reacted. I remember when I finally beat it, I had done so crappily enough that all Samus removed was her helmet, and I was like “I can’t even tell that she’s a woman. THIS is what all of those magazines and stuff were flipping out about?”

  • BeDemonKleener

    As good as the other Metroid games are, the first is still my favorite. Super Metroid just didn’t nail the feeling of isolation and the unknown that this one did-the stark scenery and score helped this feeling greatly. Plus, all the glitches in the game actually add to the world, like the fake Kraid, or some of the unfinished corridors you can discover gave a general feeling of “what the hell was that?”

    I actually first played it in 1997, when even the good nes games were still incredibly cheap. Coming off a Star Wars kick, I thought it was cool that there was a game where you get to play a space bounty hunter (other than Shadows of the Empire) and also realized that it had nods to the Minotaur and the Labyrinth, and especially Aliens, which I also have great memories of watching around this time.

    And the Alien influence with the protagonist being a heroine added greatly, though I think I tried the Justin Bailey code before I actually beat the game (took forever to find the ice beam!). 

  • Shain Eighmey

    I don’t know what it is, but this videoplayer seems to hate Google Chrome on my PC for some reason… 

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      Yeah, I actually had to crack open Internet Explorer to watch the video.  It smelled like damp mushrooms and ghosts flew out.  bing offered me a tug if I’d just search for something on it.
         I don’t like Internet Explorer is what I guess I’m getting at.

      • HobbesMkii

        Do it! Bing is super grateful with its tugs.

    • Mike Mariano

      The video cannot run full screen in Firefox on my ancient MacBook.

      • BarbleBapkins

        It runs about 2 frames a second full screen on my relatively beefy gaming computer, so I think the video player just doesn’t get along well with Firefox.

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus @google-75b01ca07f65fad60c1abd1c21d655b2:disqus The AV Club tech crew has identified the problem — it’s due to a recent update in Chrome (specifically this one) that is causing the wrong video player to be served to the browser. They’re trying to put together a workaround ASAP.

  • JokersNuts

    How did I react?  I saw the reveal in a magazine like Nintendo Power or something.  and the reaction was basically “whoa cool!”

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

      I was a bit too young to have played Metroid when it was new, and I read about it years later in Nintendo Power.
       
      The reveal had little impact on me. The idea of a young girl in power armor wasn’t new to me. (I was a fan of Marvel’s “Spitfire”, which had already come and gone by the time Metroid came out in the US)

  • Citric

    I was never able to get into Metroid because of the piddly little pea shooter you get at the start of the game. Super Metroid, however, is sweet and rad.

  • Ignacio Cavero

    People here are really missing the point of this series, it is really not about power ups, character progression or a vertical platforms, it’s about getting lost in a maze and ending up enjoying the aimless wandering more than the reaching of your destination, and that is something mostly missing in modern games where it is unconceivable to leave the player cluelessly exploring without a defined objective (even in Metroid Prime there was a hint system ON by default to avoid ADD sufferers from abandoning the game). The holes on the walls for example where there mostly to block you from progressing too fast in the game and make you revisit previous chambers until you lucked your way into a hidden passage.

  • http://twitter.com/jeblucas Jeb Adams

    METROID is the game by which I define my video gaming life. I cajoled my sister into coughing up her gift money to go in on it with me and never looked back at her while I devoured it (sorry, Cait!).

    The first /whoa/ moment came for me in Ridley’s world (Norfair?) when I was just goofing off and bombing randomly when a chunk of floor disappeared. There… there were /worlds/ down there! I started bombing every sprite I could reach. It was unreal. Mind you, kids, this was back when they didn’t drum up some new sprite with “cracks” or “rubble” or some visual hint that said “BOMB HERE.” You just had to look around, and look I did. It was amazing.

    When I first beat the game (in a fucking /panic/ as I almost didn’t make it out of the tunnel after defeating MB), I had taken so long in my bombing runs that all Samus did was walk away. The I beat it again in a much smaller time and got the reveal. I was not super shocked or anything, certainly not compared to the bombed floor stunner.

    I remember being distinctly disappointed that SUPER METROID had a built-in map. I could still navigate a lot of METROID now, some 25 years on.

  • Famous_Original_Feigenbaum

    Because of Metroid I’ve always played a girl in games whenever possible.

    • PaganPoet

      I used to always be drawn to the girls in fighting games as a child, and it’s not because they were hot. (Hell, if anything, as an adult, whenever I start a new fighting game, I always go for the hottest male character who’s wearing the least amount of clothing)

    • Citric

      I always try to play as the guy with the beard. I later grew up to be a guy with a beard.

      • Fixda Fernback

        As a Guy With a Beard, I fully support this platform!

  • Effigy_Power

    I always got the job and the girl, so that’s why I can’t relate to Metroid.
    Nah, nice episode, I find this whole concept very endearing.

    PS: I never put together that Scott Jones is the Scott Jones who was on the Canadian and much less boob’splosiony G4TechTV. I be damned.

  • Mercenary_Security_number_4

     I’m going to be lazy and just pose a question and expect someone else to do the legwork: do you think the whole think with Samus being female overshadowed the quality of Metroid as a game?  Because to this day, I feel like all I ever hear about (this artilce/video excluded) is that big reveal at the end.  Did the value of the gameplay itself ever feel lost in the wake of the reveal at the end?

    • Fixda Fernback

      I would have to say, no. As much as people talk about the “big” reveal at the end these days, I agree with posters above who said it seems like most people actually just had a “Huh. Cool?” reaction, if they even beat it at all as a child (before word had spread about Samus being female). Whereas there’s no doubt the impact of Metroid (and also, Castlevania, hence the genre Metroidvania) was one that really resonated in game design, as far as progression not having to be directly linear; starting weak but becoming ultimately rather powerful, but not ever really invincible; the exploration, and rewarding said exploration, which was a huge part of the experience itself. 

  • ByronAytch

    Anybody here try Astronot?

    I kinda crapped out on the game after I got the X-Ray vision, and realized I had to re-canvass the entire map, carefully turning on and off the ray so I didn’t fall in any lava. After I realized what a pain in the ass that was gonna be, I haven’t had a single urge to fire up the game.

    I’m a little bummed about it. The X-ray mechanic seems fun at first, but it really ruins a nice original Metroid homage, for me at least.

    Maybe I’m just getting soft in my old age. Don’t have time to sit there and bomb every wall like I used to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dpants1 Davey Pants

    Super Metroid is one of my fav games of all time, right up there with the best Zelda games.  Amazingly long, big and detailed.  And SO satisfying when you discover those new weapons or secret passageways.  Brilliant brilliant game.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andy.tuttle.79 Andy Tuttle

    I feel like I was too young to play Metroid and fully appreciate it. I was the kid who used the Justin Bailey code and then walked around not knowing what the hell I was doing. My love for the series begins with Super Metroid which I feel took the exploration and isolation of the first game and really perfected it. Super Metroid is about as close to a perfect game as you can get.

    I’m still not sold on the format of these videos, but I enjoyed it more than the GTA one, keep improving Mr. Teti!

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      Ha, will do. Andy, you crack me up.

      • http://www.facebook.com/andy.tuttle.79 Andy Tuttle

         Thanks?

    • Justin Leeper

       I found Metroid too daunting a game. I agree that Super Metroid was amazing — a top 5 game for me. You play it lately, though? It’s actually kinda short.

      • http://www.facebook.com/andy.tuttle.79 Andy Tuttle

         I picked it up on the Virtual Console a couple of years back and replayed it, although I used my handy dandy Nintendo Player’s Guide from the 90′s to find all the secrets and be a total badass. I don’t remember it being short, but I could totally see myself beating it in a day. I played Metroid Fusion on an emulator recently and I beat it in about a week after playing in 2 to 3 hour chunks. I thought that game was really well done too.

  • skoober

    Hmph. I was more of a TI-99/4a “Tunnels of Doom” guy myself.

    • Justin Leeper

       It was worth all 300 seconds it took to load that game off of a cassette. To this day, no kobold will fuck with me because of my performance in Tunnels of Doom.

  • skoober

    Our great grandchildren are going to make fun of us for this shit.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      Yeah, I just make fun of my great-granndparent’s generation for being institutional racists who didn’t believe women had sufficient wisdom to vote.

      • skoober

         Are you telling me that women can vote now?

        • http://www.facebook.com/andy.tuttle.79 Andy Tuttle

           There’s also a NEW Mexico.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/SMPHMFKGPBTGX2EA6CMZLB2Q2I Yogesh

     Really?  You discuss cinematic influences on the look of Metroid and don’t even  mention Dario Argento?

     http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2010/03/metroid-gdc/

  • criswell8

    Really?  You discuss cinematic influences on the look of Metroid and don’t even mention Dario Argento?

     http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2010/03/metroid-gdc/

  • Conatonc

    Metroid came out right in my videogaming sweet spot. I was about 11 or 12 and in middle school, with plenty of free time to play and play and play the game. It is probably still my favorite NES game of all time, although it’s slow and clunky when compared to, say, Zero Mission (which was an excellent update- wish they had done that with Metroid II as well, I could never get into that game with its original Gameboy excuse for graphics).

    Anyway, I worked for hours on the game with my friend and my brother, and eventually beat the whole thing many, many times, earning every ending in the game. The series has had an amazingly good run of games, from Super Metroid all the way through Prime 2. I wish they had continued the slow evolution of Samus beyond the events of Fusion, but apparently that’s never going to happen.

    I never managed to beat Prime 3 because I had a really hard time with the Wii controls and couldn’t beat the first major boss, and I never made it through Other M because it just wasn’t that good of a game and I got stuck somewhere in the first 1/3 and didn’t care enough to figure out what I was missing.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4LTIVXRL6IW4XIHDNQYWYFWPFE Ryan

    True story: as a child, I found the Metroid title screen music so chilling that I’d press the Start button as soon as the title graphic showed up, because doing so somehow kept the song from playing. And if I hit Start too late, I’d start the game over ’cause the music was literally just TOO BLEEPIN’ EERIE. Such a bleak, bewildering, amazing game.