Metroid: Zero Mission
Review and Overview by Mike Finkelstein
Customarily Nintendo takes its time when making video games. Although they put out three Super Mario Bros. games in the NES era (four if you count the two different versions of Super Mario Bros. 2), they're no Capcom, usually taking their time to put out a title and regularly delaying games until they're just right (in this regard they're a lot like Blizzard and that companies "it'll come out when it's done" policy"). So it was a bit of a suprise that after the one-two punch of Metroid Fusion and Metroid Prime two years earlier, Nintendo already had two more Metroid games coming out in 2004. One would be the Prime, Metroid Prime 2: Corruption while the other was Metroid: Zero Mission.
Until recently (with the release of Samus Returns), Zero Mission was a bit of an oddity -- the only remake in the entire series of Metroid games. That said, the original Metroid was in direness of a refresh. While a good game in its own right, the game had not aged well when compared to later entries the later entries of Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion. The pacing was slower, the world less detailed, and many of the then-modern convenience people came to expect from Metroidvania titles was missing in the first game.
With Metroid: Zero Mission, Nintendo aimed to correct that. An enhanced remake of the original title, Zero Mission follows the same general shape of the first game while adding in a bunch of stuff to make it look, feel, and play a lot more like Super Metroid. Firstly, Zero Mission included save points and an actual map. Metroid purists might have balked at these additions, but the rest of us were greatful for them -- the original game was hard and anything to make the exploration-heavy adventure a little more bearable was greatly appreciated. Hell, save rooms had been a part of the series since the second game, Metroid II: Return of Samus so their inclusion in this remake was an absolute necessity.
Samus also picked up a number of upgrades that weren't in the original game but were in later entries, such as the Space Jump and Speed Booster, Super Missiles and Power Missles, additional beams (that could also stack and work together), and the Power Grip. This made Samus much more maneuverable in the new version of the game than she'd ever been in the original.
The biggest change, though, came at the end of what would have been the original game. Instead of Zero Mission ending here, it continues on with Samus's ship being shot down. She lands, losing her power suit and access to her various Chozo upgrades, and is forced to go through a Space Pirate ship in just her base uniform (the so-called "Zero Suit"). The additional area has its own tense pacing, making the players work extra hard to survive without all the perks they've gotten used to. It's a great addition to the game that makes you appreciate all the work that went into the remake even more.
The original Metroid is a classic in its own right and, no matter what, there will be a segment of gamers that will never like a remake of a classic game. For our money, though, considering the visual upgrades, the bonus content, and everything else added in, Metroid: Zero Mission is about as good as a remake can really get. It's a worthy game that brings the classic title into the Super Metroid era.
Similarities to Castevania Games
It's hard to argue that Castlevania was a direct influence on Metroid: Zero Mission. The remake really owes a lot more to Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion than any other games. But the time this game had come out, the Metroidvania was pretty clearly set with what was expected and how new games would play.
If anything seems like an inspiration, though, it would be the Castlevania tendency to add more and more to its eventual remakes. Just look at the difference between the original Castlevania and Castlevania X68000 or Dracula X and the Dracula X Chronicles. Those games are both heavily enhanced remakes for games that not only touch up the graphics and sound but add new areas, new modes, and new things to do.
Now, of course, it's a bit of a stretch to say that Nintendo looked at Konami's series and was all "anything they can do in a remake we can do better." And yet, precident had been set so it almost certainly was a (minor) factor, to be sure.