Also available on Wii U via Virtual Console
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 07/01/2021 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
Having recently played through the original Metroid on NES, I decided I might as well play through its enhanced remake on GBA, Metroid: Zero Mission. Along with the other GBA Metroid, Metroid Fusion, this is one of the two 2D Metroid games that I’d never finished. With the release of Metroid Dread on the Switch looming on the horizon, I figured now was a pretty good time to go back through the 2D Metroid games.
Metroid: Zero Mission is, at its heart, a remake of the NES original, but “retelling” or “reimagining” would probably be more accurate as it’s not the NES game in GBA graphics. It tells the story of the original game – Samus’s battle with Kraid, Ridley, and Mother Brain on planet Zebes to prevent the Metroids from spreading across the galaxy – but it’s more than that. The map has been reworked, quality of life improvements have been made, and a whole section of the game has been added following the defeat of Mother Brain. Instead of escaping after beating Mother Brain and the game-ending, you end up going through a Space Pirate mothership and fighting more enemies and an additional boss. It not only makes this the definitive way to get the first story in the Metroid series, but it does so in a way that doesn’t invalidate the NES original; the 8-bit progenitor game is absolutely still worth playing even if you’ve played Zero Mission.
That said, the technical enhancements over the original on NES can’t be overstated. Obviously, it looks leagues better, but it runs significantly better, too. The original had slow down and sprite flicker; you’re not going to encounter any of that here. The smoother and somewhat faster gameplay makes it a delight to play and really shows how fantastic an old-school 2D Metroid game can be even in 2021 when we’ve become used to 3D games with 4K visuals. If I have any complaint about Zero Mission, it’s that there just isn’t enough of it. Even with the added content after you beat Mother Brain, the game leaves you wanting more. That’s not entirely a strike against it, though; a lot of that is because of the huge quality of life improvements that force you to spend less time wandering aimlessly, the save points that will have you wasting less time when you die, and the fact that it’s not as brutally difficult as the original.
On the topic of difficulty, some may argue that it’s a bit too easy as it’s definitely one of the less difficult entries in the series, but I would say that it’s perfect as it is. When you start the game, you can choose between an Easy and a Hard difficulty, and beyond that, I think that having this game be less difficult while retelling the story that started the Metroid series makes it a perfect entry point for prospective new fans who might otherwise be turned off by the difficulty and technical limitations of the NES original.
I really cannot overstate how much I enjoyed my time playing through Metroid: Zero Mission. While I’m openly not particularly good as most video games, I found it to have enough challenge where it needed to – the bosses – while not being frustrating in the bulk of the game. Most importantly, it’s just a blast to play. This is definitely a game I can see myself going back to just to spend a half hour playing when I get the itch regardless of whether or not I beat it again. The game itself is just a perfect 2D Metroid experience. It’s on the Wii U Virtual Console which is how I would recommend playing it if you don’t already have a GBA copy or a GBA Everdrive as prices have shot up in the lead-up to Metroid Dread’s release. However you play it, though, you’re in for a hell of a good time.