Let me first say going into this review that I never played the original NES Metroid. My first experiences with the series were of the Super variety. But no one can argue the quality of that particular gaming experience, and I've followed Samus through two more outings since then, not counting this one. So I think I'm as certified as anyone to discuss space pirates and the blasting thereof. That being said, let me put forth a bold statement- this is my favorite Metroid thus far. Is it the magic of the original, shining through across decades and platforms? Or the numerous improvements thrown into this latest iteration of the series? I can't say, but I can tell you that this is one of the easiest games to ever to just pick up and play. I've had it less than a year, and I'm already on my third file. It simply never feels old, never feels at all like work.
Being a retelling of the original Metroid adventure, Zero Mission takes us back to Zebes. Yes, that Zebes. Hellhole that it is, to me it feels almost like coming home. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Metroid Fusion, but that game always seemed a bit watered down. This is Samus Aran where she belongs, exploring the deep caverns of an enemy base within an alien world, with nothing and no one to help her through. Said environments are beautifully recreated with some of the best graphics I've seen on the GBA ever. Every rock face, enemy, even each beam of energy is lush and vibrant with color and detail. The audio is well done, everything sounds like it should but the overall effect is a bit underwhelming due to the GBA's limited capabilities. The designers did the best they could within the constraints of the platform. The music suffers slightly as well, but you won't notice because the tunes themselves are so wonderful. The music from Metroid is some of the most beloved ever to issue from a game, and updated for the next generation, it sounds better than ever. The fresh music is terrific as well, blending perfectly. I have to give special props to the title theme, I've left the game running just to listen to that.
One thing I wasn't disappointed in with Fusion was the gameplay, and the lessons learned there are put to good use in Zero Mission. The controls are the same, right down to the Samus' power grip maneuver, which has been included as part of the Chozo Ruins, one of several new areas. This is Metroid, and you can expect to blast enemies, navigate confusing rooms, roll around as a morph ball and collect new power ups. It's all here, with the quality you've come to expect from the series. What really makes Zero Mission shine is the pacing. The action is continuous and the challenge gradual in rising. Every goal is just a little bit farther, a little bit harder. You're never drawn out of the moment, which is just what makes the game so addictive. Once again Nintendo has included hints in the form of map beacons, however for those of you that scoffed at that in Fusion, good news- many of them can be skipped this time around. You simply don't settle your morph ball self into the corresponding Chozo statues.
It feels like classic Metroid, because this is classic Metroid, in the truest sense. You'll face Kraid, Ridley and Mother Brain while exploring Brinstar, Norfair and Crateria. There's a significant amount of new content that, aside from adding to the fun, fills in a great deal of Metroid canon. I can't explain too much, especially having not played the original, but I will say this- some of the best parts of the game occur after the original ended.
Perfectly executed Metroid gameplay
Control scheme taken from Metroid Fusion. It wasn't broke and they didn't fix it.
Sticks Samus back on Zebes with all her old palss
Enough additional content that even Metroid veterans will enjoy it
Excellent pacing makes for great replay value
Original Metroid game is included, if that's your thing
Highlights the sub-par audio capabilities of the Gameboy Advance
Not quite the epic length and feel of Super Metroid, but for a handheld game that works.
Some of the latter upgrades feel useless as you don't get much chance to use them
Metroid Zero Mission is porting the way it should be. All the glory of a true gaming classic repackaged with all the best advances of today, and plenty of new ground to cover. It is most definitely not "just the same game." If you're holding off on buying this because you've played Metroid, go get it now. You'll never regret it, because this game is everything you love about the series.