[[image: ar_042909_metroid_01.jpg:Best title screen music ever? You bet.:left:0]]It turns out Super Metroid isn’t a very long game, even if it’s your first time. I’m actually very pleased about this, since it felt just right and had no padding whatsoever. And, of course, this lends itself to the horrifying world of the speed run, and while I don’t have much interest in that kind of thing, it highlights one of my favorite things about the game: how streamlined it is. This not only apparent in moves like the wall jump that are specifically included – but never required! – to let skilled players tackle the game more quickly (and sequence break the hell out of it), but in the way every item in the game makes Samus more mobile. A great example is the area right before the Space Jump, which takes awhile to traverse until you acquire it and about 10 seconds to travel back afterwards. Once you’ve overcome a challenge, you’ve completely overcome it.
Of course, everyone else in the universe already knows this. I’m probably the last guy on the planet to play the game, after all, so there’s no real point to discussing things everyone got out of their system years ago. I could go on and on about how much fun the boss fights are or how much the music adds to the atmosphere, but that would just be an extreme case of preaching to the choir. The ending, however, was so incredibly impressive to me that you’ll have to excuse my gushing for just a minute.
[[image: ar_042909_metroid_02.jpg:Best boss fight ever? You bet.:right:0]]The best thing about the ending, to me, is that it follows the age-old adage of showing rather than telling. Not a single line of dialogue or explanation appears the entire time. Furthermore, the entire sequence never forgets that this is a game – on the contrary, it uses this fact to its advantage. Finding the enemies turned to dust and then having the giant metroid latch onto you wouldn’t be as intense if it was simply a cutscene; instead, you’re always in control, and Samus’ struggle to survive is your own (as it has been the entire game) while you fire and jump like mad trying to get it off you. When it lets you go just as you’ve resigned yourself to death, it’s instantly clear to both Samus and the player that this was the hatchling, all without the use of a single line of text. Likewise, having Mother Brain activate her powerful beam without ending the boss fight lets the player get caught up in the impact of it, and the spanking you give her – not Samus during a cutscene – as a result of your metroid’s sacrifice is effective because it isn’t divorced from the rest of the game. There are few moments in gaming as satisfying as that, and that the developers used discretion and realized they could heighten the player’s complete immersion without words is still a marvel.
And like any good story, the plot of Super Metroid is comes around full circle. It’s a bittersweet ending, since the hatchling has been lost once again, and for the second time in a row Samus has little time to dwell on it, what with there being another time bomb to escape and all. Few games before or since have had such a good ending, let alone one that really used the strength of the medium to make it something special. I really didn’t want to end this post on a negative note like the last one, but an unfortunate side effect of playing one of the industry’s best games is that you start to wonder why people are still struggling to match it 15 years later.