Metroid was always the game from the NES-era that came to mind, especially when thinking about which ones I’d managed to beat. A few years ago, I sat, dogged, on my 3DS, defeating Ganon on The Legend of Zelda, and ticking that one off the list. It was good – it was no Ocarina of Time, but then it you’d have to narrow-minded to expect the same. Rather, it was a nice little adventure, purposefully vague, and at times, a little cramped. It felt like an achievement, anyhow.
And of course, I’ve beaten Super Mario Bros. I’m not sure if I’ve ever beaten it without the warps – I’m not particularly talented at 2D Mario games, but I finished the thing. Again, a fun and ridiculously smooth game. But amongst other staples, I felt neglect; I had never beaten Castlevania, or Kid Icarus. Yet, what really came to mind at all times was Metroid, the original, and prequel to the absolutely classic Super Metroid, a wonderful and vibrant experience. There were a few reasons that my multiple attempts to complete the original fell; firstly, it’s hard. Damn it’s hard at times. Diagonal, downwards and crouched shooting are precariously absent, instead leaving the trusty horizontal and vertical aiming system. It’s also one of the first games which sought to ditch you in an unknown world, to watch you struggle before emerging triumphant, or at least for most; for me, it was more…struggle and quit. Most notable is the respawn rule: regardless of how far in the game you are, you respawn post-death with a mere 30 energy. Ouch.
But, I also think that an important reason was the importance that I placed in beating the game. One of my many New Year’s Resolutions, over multiple years, was to beat the complete Metroid franchise, in release order, alongside other important Sony and Nintendo franchises. This creates an obvious bottleneck: beat the original, and the rest follow, all easier and more/less convenient than the last. Neglect to beat the original, and you don’t have to mix your study, socialising and indulgence time with an almost job-like desire to finally complete this NYR and fulfil the long-awaited goal. Combined with how hard the game can be to somebody with the patience of myself, and suddenly there is a recipe for failure.
Similarly, I allot my success to something similar, if opposite; ditching NYR’s, and not concerning myself with beating all of these classic games, liberated my free time to actually spend it playing video games, when I want to, and not to fulfil some desire based off of my own ‘prestige’ as a gamer. Eventually, I decided to fight past the beginning – I got the long beam, the ice beam, the screw attack, and suddenly I was really enjoying the game. Yes, it was hard, and at times the restore points provided by the 3DS were extremely enticing. Nobody can ever argue that the 30-energy respawn, whilst understandable in the context of the NES itself, makes for a good game; spending 15 minutes refilling health is not fun. But, yes, I enjoyed it – beating Mother Brain, and going on the classic timed escape, was a thrilling end to a very nice game. And now, I’ve moved onto Metroid II, and believe it or not, this isn’t a chore, either – if I beat it soon, great. If not, that’s okay. Sometimes lessening control is to gain it back in spades.