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Metroid: Zero Mission


Written by: Prof. Purble

Published: 11th, January, 2023


Metroid: Zero Mission is a GameBoy Advanced action-adventure retelling of the 1986 game, Metroid, developed by Nintendo's R&D1 team. Many quality of life improvements have been added, such as difficulty options and the addition of manual Saving rooms for better accessibility, as well as more content was added near the end of the game.


At a casual pace, it took a little over 5 hours to finish the campaign.


The story presented within the game is very short and brief. The text blurb before you start playing says this is how Samus remembers her first mission, along with a few cutscenes hinting at her past, but doesn't go any deeper than that.


A Japanese manga was released to serve as supplemental material, going over past events that gives a bit more context to who she is and what her motives are, but it's not necessarily needed to enjoy the game as you're given just the essential information: The mission objective.


Bounty Hunter, Samus is sent by the Galactic Federation to infiltrate the Pirate base on planet Zebes, where they are experimenting on a parasitic species, known as Metroids. These creatures have the ability to drain the life out of anything they latch onto and the pirates intend to create a bioweapon by harnessing their power. With this knowledge in mind, Samus is tasked with investigating the scene and neutralizing the Metroids!


Samus can shoot up, horizontally and diagonally while standing, crouching or running. She can even shoot down while jumping. The amount of precision control you're given, while having extra responsive mobility makes for an absolute fun time exploring environments and discovering secrets. No area felt particularly too difficult to get by thanks to how swiftly you can move around. Although the Wii U version gives the added bonus of controlling Samus with a joystick, the D-pad felt the most reliable for precise mobility. 

At first, you start with just a standard blaster cannon, along with 99 health. Missiles and health upgrades can be found dotted around the environments. Each upgrade increases the maximum capacity you can hold by a certain amount. It pays to be extra attentive to your surroundings, shooting walls as you run through the corridors and morph bombing around every nook and cranny is an effective strategy to finding them, but getting them all will require the player to think outside of the box and experiment with the many different item upgrades you'll obtain along the way.


Some areas require the use of a specific item upgrade that you'll have to track down first before you can see what's beyond and there are plenty of secrets to discover, especially if you can master the morph bomb jump technique, which is performed by timing your bomb placements such that Samus will continually jump as high as you want her to, letting you get to places not normally reachable or using the Shine Spark ability after a charged run up lets you send Samus hurtling through the air at blistering velocity that can not only destroy enemies, but it can break certain walls that may lead to hidden goodies found on the other side.


As you stumble into a secret or hidden room, the map will mark these areas in green, letting you keep track of where that was. Some areas actually use an illusion such as the floor being lava, but wild life seems to be able to move through it unscathed, giving the hint that there is a potential hidden area below that may hold another item upgrade.

Different colored doors also require the use of different weapons. Blue are standard and can be opened with the regular blaster, while red needs a single missile and gray usually indicates a certain objective requirement needs to be met before you can proceed. Green doors are only able to be opened by using a single super missile, however unless you know how to get it super early, it's a minor inconvenience for the player to go the longer way around, but thankfully these aren't too prevalent.

Chozo statues are found throughout all areas, either offering an item upgrade or giving a visual hint, telling the player where to go next but it's absolutely possible to finish the game without them. It certainly helps with the accessibility for newcomers and map rooms can be found in every area, revealing the full layout to help make navigation more manageable, but the developers also chose to include multiple routes and possibilities if you wish to go off the intended beaten path, and even allowing you to skip certain areas or take on boss fights out of the intended order if you know how to.


Throughout your journey, you'll encounter several bosses, all with their own unique attack pattern and weaknesses, although they go down pretty easy once you figure out how to effectively take them on, especially if you have a lot of disposable missiles, with the only exception being the final boss due to its health and strength being more aggressive depending if you got 100% of items gained throughout the adventure, but it's certainly do-able.


Thanks to the capabilities of six generational hardware, the environments throughout are bursting with color and life! Every area of the game has its own theme style with their own unique enemies. Samus herself sports a high level of quality bar on every front, from the suit designs, to the presentation of her animations and item usage all looking more beautiful than ever.


A common problem with the Virtual Console is that there is usually some noticeable input lag, and that's apparent here as well. You’ll have to adapt to pressing buttons slightly earlier to compensate for the slight input delay, but otherwise this runs and looks great overall. There are options for viewing at the original resolution, or fullscreen while maintaining the aspect ratio. Full controller rebind support is implemented. An option for smoothing the picture is available, but this never looks good as it tries to smear the pixels together by trying to use anti-aliasing on a low resolution image. You can even utilize Restore Points, another tool for saving your progress, letting you continue exactly from where you last left off.


An in-game menu offers toggle-able sound options, however stereo mode seems to dampen the audio output significantly for some reason, regardless if you use the internal gamepad speakers or a pair of headphones, it's best to just crank the audio up from the TV or sound system itself so you can properly enjoy this awesome OST. From the title screen giving that classic Metroid theme that I never get tired of, to the giddiness of listening to Brinstar, the perfect motivational introduction, letting you know there's stuff to be explored and secrets to uncover! The rest of the soundtrack dynamically changes as you traverse to different areas, growing more sinister as you creep into deeper depths of the planet. While the tracks do loop, nothing stuck out as overstaying their welcome.


After finishing the game, an Artwork of Samus herself is given as a reward. Depending on the game's difficulty, time beaten and item percentage, one of six Artworks is rewarded and can be viewed from the in-game Image Gallery menu. The Fusion link mode, allowing you to link to another GBA to access Metroid Fusion's unique Artworks being added to the Image Gallery is unfortunately inoperable on the Wii U version, but a quick google search for them will point you in the right direction.


And finally, beating the game also unlocks the original 1986 Metroid from the options menu. This genuinely surprised me and it's a neat novelty reward. Everything from the NES title has been left fully intact in this version from what I can tell with a neat little QoL feature added to save the password upon death onto the system's memory, letting you keep your item upgrades more easily, although you still start with the default 30 health and you're taken back to the beginning area upon reboot. You're better off using Restore Points to save yourself from trekking all the way back to where you were. There are no Save rooms either, so good luck.

Final Verdict

While this review covers the Wii U Virtual Console release, the Wii U store has since closed down. Unless you have the disposable cash for a physical GBA copy, the Switch Online Service now has a GBA library. While not yet available there, it's likely only a matter of time.

Metroid: Zero Mission was a product ahead of its time. Its accessibility and presentation sends the ball flying out of the park and finding itself on the outskirts of the galaxy. It earns itself the right of being considered a true masterpiece of a gem that is absolutely worth experiencing and is a perfect introduction for all newcomers of the franchise.

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