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Entry updated 2 April 2015. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (1986). Nintendo. Designed by Gunpei Yokoi, Yoshio Sakamoto. Platforms: NES (1986); GBA (2005); Wii (2007).

Similarly to its contemporary Exile (1988), Metroid is a combination of platform and puzzle game (see Videogames), displayed from the side in two dimensions. As with many examples of the more recent action Adventure form, the solution of simple physical problems is an important aspect of the gameplay. A great deal of wide ranging exploration and potentially frustrating experimentation is required to complete the game, as the player acquires various powers – such as the ability to roll through tight spaces while curled up into a "morph ball" – and returns to previously encountered barriers to determine whether they can now be bypassed. The design of Metroid drew on three major influences: Shigeru Miyamoto's Super Mario Bros (1985 Nintendo, NES; 2004 GBA; 2006 Wii), from which it took the basic gameplay of jumping from pillar to platform in a side view; Miyamoto's The Legend of Zelda (1986 Nintendo, NES; 2004 GBA; 2006 Wii), which contributed the idea of exploring a single large world, and the film Alien (1979), which inspired much of the game's background and its isolated, threatening ambience. While Metroid is not especially original as a work of sf, and its story is minimal, it deploys its mutated insectoid space pirates and eponymous hostile aliens with élan. The game's protagonist is the iconic Samus Aran, raised by a vanished Forerunner race known as the Chozo, who gave her a unique suit of Powered Armour which she makes use of as a bounty hunter for the future "Galactic Federation". Perhaps the best remembered parts of the game are the various closing sequences in which, if the player achieves a sufficiently high score, Samus Aran removes the helmet of her suit and – after being referred to repeatedly as "he" in the English version of the game's manual – reveals herself to be a woman. This could not exactly be described as a Feminist statement, however; the ending displayed for the best possible performance shows Aran in a skimpy bikini.

Metroid was later remade as Metroid: Zero Mission (2004 Nintendo, GBA) designed by Yoshio Sakamoto. Zero Mission's gameplay is similar to that of its original, but it adds additional locations and a great deal of guidance for the player, reducing the amount of trial and error required to progress through the game. Metroid II: Return of Samus (1992 Nintendo, GB) designed by Gunpei Yokoi, Hirojii Kiyotake, Hiroyuki Kimura is a more combat-oriented sequel to Metroid, possibly inspired by Aliens (1986), in which Aran is given the task of exterminating the entire Metroid species. Should the player complete the game, however, they will discover that their character eventually decides to spare one alien, a newly born specimen which imprints on Aran as its mother. In Super Metroid (1994 Intelligent Systems / Nintendo, SNES; 2007 Wii) designed by Yoshio Sakamoto, Makoto Kanoh this last survivor is kidnapped by adversaries who intend to use it to breed a new generation of monsters. The design of Super Metroid returns to the gameplay model established in the original game, but refines it to create an experience superior to that offered by its prototype. Metroid Fusion (2002 Nintendo, GBA) designed by Yoshio Sakamoto replaces the now apparently extinct Metroids with a new enemy, the X-Parasites, which are capable of possessing human hosts. Eventually, it is revealed that the Metroids were created by Samus Aran's Forerunner benefactors to control the X-Parasites; now that their predators have been exterminated, the Parasites' population has exploded. While it is still a two-dimensional platform game displayed in side view, Metroid Fusion is less exploratory and more strongly plotted than its predecessors, with a broadly linear storyline (see Interactive Narrative) through which Aran is guided by a helpful AI. Metroid: Other M (2010 Team Ninja, Wii) designed by Yoshio Sakamoto, Yosuke Hayashi, Takehiro Hosokawa is a late interpolation in the series, taking place between Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion. The game begins with Aran responding to a distress call from a Galactic Federation research vessel, only to find it overrun by experimental bioweapons and artificially created Metroids controlled by a genocidal AI. Other M's gameplay is far more directed and less exploratory than that of most previous games in the franchise, concentrating on intense combat sequences and physical puzzles and acrobatics resembling those found in many action Adventures. Three-dimensional graphics are used for the display, seen from a variety of angles including a side view and both third and first person cameras (see First Person Shooters). In another departure for the series, the game presents a detailed linear narrative, though the story is dominated by melodramatic Clichés.

A new branch in the series began with Metroid Prime (2002 Retro Studios [RS], GC) designed by Mark Pacini, a three-dimensional game whose design draws upon both action Adventures and First Person Shooters. The earlier games' focus on exploration is retained, but the puzzles concentrate less on jumping from platform to platform and more on manipulating exotic machines in lushly visualized alien landscapes. An integrated targeting system can be used to automatically aim weapons, making the gameplay less dependent on physical skills than in most games influenced by First Person Shooters. As with Metroid, there is little explicit narrative, but a considerable amount of backstory is embedded in the environment of the game (see Interactive Narrative). Metroid Prime is set between the original Metroid and Metroid II, including such canonical elements from the previous games as space pirates and the ruins of the Chozo civilization as well as the newly invented Phazon, a mutagenic compound which creates dangerous new forms of Metroid. There are two sequels with broadly similar gameplay: Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (2004 RS, GC) designed by Mark Pacini – set on a planet at war with its own dark reflection – and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (2007 RS, Wii) designed by Mark Pacini.

Related works: Metroid Prime: Hunters (2006 Nintendo, NDS) designed by Masamichi Abe is a spinoff from the Metroid Prime sequence which more closely resembles a typical First Person Shooter, and is generally better regarded as a competitive multiplayer game than as a single player experience. Unusually for a member of the Metroid series, the eponymous aliens do not appear; the game is instead based on an extragalactic competition between various bounty hunters, including Aran. Metroid Prime Pinball (2007 Fuse Games, NDS) designed by Adrian Barritt is a virtual pinball game which makes thematic use of various elements drawn from the Metroid Prime series. [NT]

see also: Triple A.


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