On Metroid: Zero Mission

> So I was wondering, why did you never review Metroid Zero Mission?

Because I moved to the other side of the continent, and some plans have gotten kind of lost along the way.

It’s a good game. I really like a few things it does, in particular the way it frames itself and what that means; how it justifies existing alongside the original version of that game. There are some little bits of narrative which I find uncommonly clever and illustrative of just how videogames work, as a medium. The game also tries hard to fix some of the problems in Fusion. Much of that is a success. Some of it, not so much.

I just had a dream in which it was common knowledge (and indeed true) that oranges, left unpicked, grew up to huge gourd-like fruits; their rinds hardened into a shell, while their pulp decayed into a juice then dried away. Oranges also grew along the ground, on vines. There was one orange in particular, on the front porch of my mother’s house in Maine, that had a fungal infection on one corner. Sort of a tumor. I knocked it off, only to realize that if it had the one infection, the whole orange was bad. Especially if I left the hole in the shell which I (unintentionally) did. So I tipped the orange over, adding a flood of rancid matured orange juice to the front lawn.

There are a few things about the game which I don’t like as well as I might, of course. Most of those would take a while to explain, though.

Author: Azure

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7 thoughts on “On Metroid: Zero Mission”

  1. Kickin’, I’m heading out there next month. With the local knowledge and all, you know any good hostels in the city or something? I mean, I’d say cheap hotels too, but “cheap” doesn’t seem to mean cheap in that neck of the woods, at least by my standards. I’ll take what I can get. I think my flight is on November 25th, and it’d be kind of nice if I knew where to go or what to do when I got there. I’m a San Franvirgin. Can you gimmie the skinny on what’s worth getting on over there? Much obliged, sir.

  2. Just the other day I asked the question on IRC about why people seem to dislike the game. The only times I see it mentioned, it’s with a harsh dismissal as if the inferiority of the game is somehow self-evident, yet personally I can find almost nothing to dislike. (Although, I should play it in its entirety a second time; I believe it shall now be my new resident GBA game.)

    I do like the game. The game sacrifices a bit of the … I’ll call it narrative isolation of pre-2002 Metroid games to give a deeper dramatic context to Samus as a character. That this context actually adds to the sense of isolation makes it successful to me. I like how it also ties into the Samus origins manga that Nintendo has posted online — I just wish I could find a translation of that so I could actually understand and appreciate it.

    The shinesparking elements from Super Metroid and Fusion have been further refined in Zero Mission; unlike Fusion’s use of a bunch of simple tricks and a few nearly impossible ones, Zero Mission contains a nice spectrum with many different scenarios. Getting 100% in Zero Mission is well worth the challenge a few of the space jump / shinespark puzzles pose.

    Zero Mission also gets credit for having perhaps the most fearful segment of any Metroid game I’ve played (all but II, and yes, that one’s on my to-play list), and likewise (also, consequentially) the most pronounced feeling of sudden empowerment. That entire added segment, I feel, is both very well-done and original; it’s existence is also quite necessary to balance the pace of the game, which would feel too short without it.

    So, you might elaborate on it later? Even without ten dollars of my dirty drug/sleep money (which I’m quite willing to give away, especially if it means more of your stuff to read) … ?

    (Now the story of that money, which I’ve told in parts to many people here and there, really deserves its own entry or two. I’ve certainly told the story verbally several dozen times in recent weeks.)

  3. I’ve seen at least three hostels around here. The one that I recall offhand is just down the street; around Taylor and Bush, I believe. I’m pretty sure it’s a HI branch. There’s also a HI up by Fisherman’s Wharf. I understand that one’s popular, though I wonder how the price is if it’s right by a tourist area.

    I think it was just yesterday that I saw something out on the other side of Van Ness, but I can’t quite recall where. It was either an indie or some other group.

    Something you might want to check out while you’re here is the Palace of Fine Arts (as featured in a sequence toward the end of Vertigo); it’s on the edge of the Presidio. It’s kind of hard to describe. There’s a pond, and there are what appear to be the relics of some ancient Roman colony. I seem to recall that it’s left over from an old World’s Fair. An unusual space.

    The Haight is the Haight, of course. It’s right by Golden Gate park. This is the area you go if you want strange people to nod at you, knowingly. The whole place feels like it hasn’t yet realized that the rest of the world has progressed past 1971. Though I note a Gap has moved in, trying to burst the bubble. You might want to check out Amoeba Records and the Red Vic — an infamous indie theater.

    Chinatown. San Francisco’s is the biggest in the US. Lots of places to get weird fruit. Can’t get too specific, as I haven’t wandered around enough yet. The gate is on Bush and… something, though. Powell? No, Grant.

    If you follow Montgomery to the north, you’ll pass the Transatlantic Pyramid and the road will begin to slant oddly to the left. Keep following and you’ll be in Little Italy. You can tell by the nose. Lots of porn theaters. Keep looking on the left, and you’ll find a neat little bookshop with a surrealist section right out front.

    The cable cars go all over Nob and Russian Hills, basically. The best place to catch one is down where Powell starts. There’s a turnaround; the cars come in, they spin, they go out again.

    If you want to go all capitalist, there are Market Street and Union Square.

    And Pier 39, of course. There’s an aquarium there. A fudge shop. And. Many other things. Last I passed the shore, there was an elderly gentleman wading through the rocks and balancing them in unlikely and precarious manners. If one happened to fall, due to the waves or otherwise, he would get up and build a new stack.

    There’s more.

  4. The game also seems to take a lot of hints from Metroid Prime. A shame that it remains a little more hand-holdy than it must be; that’s something Nintendo’s been really bad with, the last few years. ZM is better than other recent stuff, though (Fusion included). I’m not sure that I’m thrilled with the way the post-escape section is handled, though I appreciate the effort. It was another attempt on the (usually darned good) ideas in Fusion. I think these parts actually worked better the first time, though. On a design level, anyway.

    Conceptually, I dig it. I also like how the game explains itself right off, as Samus’s own version of events — compared to the story which we had been told.

    That’s… pretty terrific.

  5. It begins hand-holdy, yes. The “mystery chozo upgrades that destroy the blocks in your way” and the “why don’t you go here!” suggestions from the statues in the early game are both over-the-top and superficial.

    But the post-crash section I found worked quite elegantly. The pirates frightened me and chased me back and down and deeper and deeper and suddenly, there I was: exactly where I needed to be. Nintendo had secretly directed and herded me there even as I thought I was frantically running away randomly. … And then it was clear, and it was time for vengeance. Simply put: It worked on me, although I don’t know if it would work a second time. (I shall have to test that)

    On only one occasion did Fusion seem as seamless as this to me, and even in that case it was as I fighting the game and its imperative nature more than experiencing the emotions which on the surface I think the game was trying to elicit.

    … Although. Now that I think about it, perhaps that is the point of Fusion. To rail against micromanagement and demonstrate the power of just letting a professional go and do her thing, on her own, in her own way, without being held back or interfered with. Both the way the gameplay and the story unfold toward the end of Fusion seem to support this notion. Hmm, this requires more thought.

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