The Story of Metroid — The Game’s and My Own

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The bounty hunter Samus Aran.

There’s a great post over on Kotaku, actually a series of two posts, about the backstory behind one of my all time favourite games, Metroid.

Back when I was little, the Nintendo Entertainment System was sweeping the nation. Kids everywhere begged their parents to get a NES and a game or two. Most of them got Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt on the same cartridge because they bought the system with the Zapper light gun. Me, I asked for the basic system because the light gun didn’t interest me, and I asked for Metroid to go with it instead.

I’d never played it, but I’d seen pictures and read about it. A friend told me it was awesome. It looked much more interesting than Super Mario and, to this day, I still think it is. The biggest issue I’ve always had with Super Mario is that there is one overarching game mechanic: run to the right. Everything else you do in Super Mario Brothers is geared toward making sure you keep running to the right. If you stop running to the right, you will die. Simple as that. If an enemy doesn’t kill you, the timer will.

Metroid dropped you into a massive world, a world that is still big enough to satisfy a modern gamer. You could run right, left, jump on things, explore, shoot, discover…. There was no timer, so you had all the time in the world. It was far better than jumping plumbers and shooting ducks.

Unfortunately, the store was out of Metroid, so I got The Legend of Zelda instead. I don’t regret that for the same reasons I love Metroid. Zelda was huge and it drew you in. However, for my birthday, I got Metroid. I remember my mom called one of the local shops and asked if they had it. They did, one last copy. She asked them to please hold it and that her son really wanted it for his birthday and she’d be right down. When she got there, she had to explain the clerk that she was, indeed, the parent who called. The clerk didn’t want to give it up because there was a little boy out there who wanted it for his birthday.

I love my parents. They fed their little geek so well!

From the time I popped it in, I didn’t play anything else for at least two months. Everything I heard and read was true, it was the best game ever. It still is, and I play it on an emulator these days when I feel the urge.

All of this happened before the Internet so, when I finally beat it, I knew nothing of the surprise at the end. The main character, a powerful and cybernetically armoured bounty hunter named Samus Aran, is the person you control throughout the the game. Samus runs and jumps and shoots and collects items and you solved puzzles, fought epic battles, and defeated the evil Mother Brain along with her space pirates. Then you had to get the hell out of there because the entire base was going to explode.

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What the FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUU?!

After all that, Samus takes off the mask and… it’s a woman.

Make no mistake, this was a time before Lara Croft, before Hana Tsu-Vachel, before Alyx Vance or any of those characters. This was mind blowing shit. The entire time you played this game you had no idea Samus Aran is a woman. After beating it, after going through that epic game, and discovering that your badass bounty hunter is female, it forced you to ask a question.

Does it matter? She and I kicked some serious ass and got out alive. Does it matter that she’s  a… a girl? (Keep in mind, this was a kid asking this question. All females were “girls.”)

Many other kids came to the same conclusion I did. It didn’t matter in the slightest. Not at all. Samus Aran was a killer, kick ass galactic bounty hunter with a cannon mounted on her arm. Indeed, the fact that she was a girl was awesome! A girl bounty hunter in an exosuit having adventures in the future? That was a hell of a lot more interesting than Italian plumbers stomping mushrooms and kicking turtles.

So dig the write ups, they’re lengthy and amazing. If you’ve never played the original Metroid, go get an emulator and do it. It’s exhilarating. I still play it today and I smile every time I do.

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