When I was in Middle School the rental market was in its prime, with these places being everywhere. I rented two games the most since you only had two days to rent the game. The two games are Mega Man X and Super Metroid for the Super Nintendo or SNES. These two games were my favorites but because Mega Man X was more linear in stage layout I rented Super Metroid more. Because I was young and just wanted to play the game, I didn’t see how the game handled its atmosphere. It’s not just about killing monsters, gathering power-ups, or defeating bosses. It’s a rescue mission with an oppressive atmosphere toward Samus, because she is alone and up against the odds. By the way, this is just my opinion but I do want to share this viewpoint with you. So let’s start from the beginning of the game where it sets up its atmosphere.
When you start the game you see and hear things are wrong with a little Metroid in the center in glass containment. The music is a 16-bit horror score something like dead space would do. When you start a new game you see a log of what happened in the previous games in the Metroid series. The music gives awe of triumph and completing the mission or to improve life as we know it. However, with the final line, the music stops and you the player know even without reading the message something has gone wrong. The message reads the station is under attack and you head back to see what happened. When you arrive at the space colony there is no music and all you hear is the hums of the station and your own footsteps. After a while, you see the glass from the title screen broken and the scientist in the past cut scene dead. This is one of the best things about this game it shows you what happened without telling. Something like this is found in other great games like Dark Souls or the first Bioshock. With the limits of 16-bit, this is not found everywhere but when you do see something that happened you know someone has been there before. Seeing the dead bodies and broken lab you forge ahead and find the small Metroid in a container on the floor. Then you see an eye and then the music revs up as a dragon-like creature appears. When you fight this thing it decides to escape which is weird since he could finish you off, but you hear a countdown to the colony about to self destruct. The dragon creature known as Ridely must have set this up before you came back. This is for reasons unknown but my theory is he wanted to destroy any research from that Metroid.
The Atmosphere Of Exploration
It’s not just the start of the game that is atmospheric it’s also in the rest of the game. When the colony explodes, Samus chases after Ridely to the planet Zebes to get the Metroid back. Samus is a bounty hunter who probably prides herself on getting her mark. When you land on the planet it’s raining and once you get inside your first door there are no enemies. As you go down you see small bugs outside your line of sight and shining lights watching your every move. Not only that but you see what came of your first adventure, which means this is the same planet of your first adventure on the NES. It has destroyed and left decayed and once you collect your equipment and make your way back up, you get ambushed. This means things are happening the background of the planet and knew you were coming and have prepared themselves. It’s you versus the planet’s creatures and pirates who have set up shop on the planet.
As you try to find items to help you survive, the environment will tell you sometimes what has happened before you have arrived. Sometimes you will find bugs on dead bodies and when you get close they will leave, scared by your approach. The lifeless body looks like it’s wearing a suit which means it could’ve been a bounty hunter like you. This person or thing didn’t make it and in fact, the first dead body you find is outside the main boss room. With that being said not everything in the game tells a story, in fact, most areas are just hallways to point A to point B. However, each part of the map has different looks and music to make them feel unique. By getting more items you can explore more which creates shortcuts to past areas. The game even as a hub area where your ship landed, this lets you save your game and recharge all your ammunition. What was once a windy and rainy place with horror tones now has victorious tune which makes you feel like you can do this. The surface is like firelink shrine in Dark Souls, a place to feel safe and make you feel like you can go on.
The Cut Scenes
Since this is a 16-bit game on the Super Nintendo so it doesn’t have many cut scenes and those cut scenes don’t really move. The animations of cut scenes are really just still frames, like an eye-opening and closing. Still, with those limitations, these cut scenes set the tone for the game. With them being rare you pay attention when they do happen. There are even in-game cut scenes where control is taken away from you, but even this is rare, the control is not taken away from you the player. With very to no dialogue, these cut scenes and gameplay tell a story.
The beginning cut scene sets up the story and tone as you come from the destroyed colony to the planet Zebes. Well, the opposite of a beginning is the ending and just warning people spoilers. After finally defeating Ridely you move into the next room and see that the glass container is broken. This either means the small Metroid escaped or Ridely broke the container and set it free. What we know from the beginning cut scene is that the small Metroid imprinted on Samus. This means it has a connection to Samus in a motherly way. When you beat all the bosses you can take an elevator to the last area which has the classic Metroids from the first game. In the middle of this area you encounter a mini-boss you can’t harm and then all the sudden a giant Metroid appears. It sucks the life out of the mini-boss and it heads for you next and nothing you can do. However in the last moments, when your health is so low it moves away.
This giant Metroid seems to recognize you and it hangs around for a bit before leaving. Still having your health low you, you travel along the path and notice all the monsters have been drained of life. This is when you know, the giant Metroid is the one that was in the colony and the one you are tracking down. It seems to be helping you or fed on these monsters beforehand. You find yourself, in the end, to be facing mother brain but everything is not what it seems. When you think you have defeated it mother brain rises and she has an imposing and gross body. She roars at Samus and drools and as the fight goes on mother brain will charge up something. All the sudden you are hit with a beam and there is nothing you can do about it. In this helpless state, the mother brain charges another beam like the one before. Before the beam is launched at the final moment the huge Metroid comes over the creature and begins to drain mother brains life. After a few moments, the Metroid comes over Samus and begins to transfer energy from mother brain to you, healing you. As you are restored, the mother brain comes back to life. The Metroid is loyal and protects you until you are fully healed and once Samus is healed and the Metroid tires to go in again for another life drain. But because it tried to protect you, it’s slower and is blasted again and dies. As it dies its energy goes into Samus making her more powerful. She takes her revenge and kills mother brain but doing so creates a planetary self destruct. You must find your way back to your ship and escape before Zebes explodes.
With all this said I hope to have convinced you or made you think that a 16-bit action game has a good atmosphere. It’s lone and sometimes horror like mode with some creepy music makes other moments feel all the better. Beating the game or hearing a joyful background song has a feeling of coming out of a dark cave. The feeling is like leaving the Spencer mansion in the original Resident Evil, leaving Silent Hill, or going back to a homeworld to level up in dark souls. Just remember the graphics of a game is not all there is to the mood of a game.
Thanks for reading this and I hope you like the game,
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