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The History of Metroid

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Metroid was released exclusively for the Famicom Disk System on August 6, two months after the larger 128k cartridges arrived on the market, effectively killing off all need for the 3" floppy disks. Even though an astonishing 40 percent of Japanese NES owners purchased the Disk System (a record for a console add-on) it still wasn't enough to make Metroid a Mario-calibre success.

A year later Samus was ported to cartridge (sans a battery save, which Nintendo decided to give to Zelda instead) and sales faired better in North America, but Legend of Zelda's marketing blitz didn't help much. R&D1 moved on to other projects and Samus didn't return for a full five years...

In 1991 Yokoi had released the most important creation of his career; the Game Boy. Nintendo's handheld had taken the world by storm, even outselling the market-leading NES. The original Metroid had sold well enough in the West, but after bombing in Japan the series' future was in question. Now, R&D1 decided to take advantage of its position of power to create a new Metroid on its own hardware.

Metroid II: The Return of Samus was the only 2D instalment not to be directed by Yoshio Sakamoto. Instead original artist Hiroji Kiyotake took charge of the Game Boy instalment - and his influence at the helm shows even today.



Despite the simple monochrome graphics Return of Samus looked a world above the NES original. A lack of colour forced the designers to give visual cues for Samus's different suits, and the handheld versions' distinctive giant shoulder pads have remained a staple of Samus' look ever since.

Kiyotake opted for a much more linear design than in the previous game, tasking Samus with hunting out Metroids on their home planet SR-388 to fulfil her bounty hunter contract. Advancing was based completely on killing off the famous critters, and the wild departure left many series fans with mixed opinions. Even so it introduced plenty of traditional franchise gameplay, including wave beams, bombs and a wall-crawling morph ball.

In a twist similar to the still-famous female reveal, Return of Samus ended with the bounty hunter killing off the reptilian Metroid queen, leaving only one of the ancient creatures alive... a small Metroid hatchling, who Samus decided to spare.

Again like its predecessor, the handheld sequel was relatively successful but nothing up to the world-smash calibre of Zelda and Mario. In retrospect the sequel suffered somewhat from its linear concept, but put in stone plenty of series hallmarks, and set the stage for the game R&D1 always wanted to make...

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10 comments

  • JosefMotley - January 8, 2010 3:53 a.m.

    they totally ruined metroid when it went 3D. everything that makes it metroid remained (unlike say mario 64) but these traits are the most ill-suited to adapt into a first person game ever. exploration? hard enough in 2D, in 3D the hidden passages and non-linear routes are just intensely frustrating, especially with a HUD that covers so much of the screen you feel completely removed from the action. i spent most of metroid prime rolling around in a ball just so i could actually see what the hell was going on. platforming is something that no first person game has ever done well and this is no exception. lastly the metroid prime games just don't feel anything like the old ones, they feel americanised and generally less cartoony and stylish. they should have just been a seperate series of games rather than running such a beloved and understocked franchise into the ground for the sake of fashion. PAH
  • AyJay - September 21, 2008 2:28 a.m.

    W00t first comment! metroid is always underrated
  • DARK HUNTER - November 17, 2008 8:49 p.m.

    Halo got boring real quick. Metroid prime did'nt. I have the first two in the trilogy and i'm going to get the third and i can say that between halo and metroid, i'd pick metroid. Metroid prime 1, 2 and 3 are awsome games and last longer and do better than halo. i like first person shotters and all, but halo is justlike every other shooter, while metroid should be in its own genre. It is that different feel that metriod gives that makes it way better than playing halo over and over.
  • Nodoudt - August 28, 2009 1:33 a.m.

    And I agree with Dark Hunter, Metroid beats Halo 1-3 ANY DAY. Hands down.
  • Cyberninja - August 25, 2009 7:32 p.m.

    the 2d metroids are the best
  • ihopethisisnotantistasblood - September 20, 2009 4:59 p.m.

    "Metroid Prime Hunters online beats Halo online" come on, i'm a metroid fan and i don't like halo that much but i know that's a big lie
  • madasivad - September 3, 2009 1:14 a.m.

    Return of Samus didn't introduce the Wave Beam or Bombs. It did introduce the Spider Ball though.
  • Dread - September 2, 2009 10:20 p.m.

    Why the hell does it say it doesnt rival the legend of zelda?Ive played nearly all of the legend of zeldas except oracle of seasons/ages & 4 swords, Metroid sick owns Zelda. Maybe not Mario but still.The only Metroid game i havent playd r Metroid 2. Metroid Prime Hunters online beats Halo online,but i think its a tie on which franchise its bettr since Metroid doesnt really hav multiplayer games except Hunters & Echoes.
  • Edge2k10 - August 30, 2009 7:29 p.m.

    I didn't realize that Metroid had such a struggle to get off the ground. It's very fortunate that Nintendo finally realized how to market the series.
  • Nodoudt - August 28, 2009 1:32 a.m.

    A little bit of me died inside when the gave this to Ninja...Next thing you know it's gonna be Metroid Extreme Beach Volleyball o_O

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