Loneliness. Despair. Survival. From the ruins of planet Zebes to the unfriendly wilderness of SR388, these terms permeate Samus Aran’s adventures through the cosmos. Between battling Space Pirates and eradicating the treacherous Metroid from existence, Samus’ journey to becoming the ultimate warrior has been fraught with peril. Join us as we continue her story with her first adventure on the NES – the original Metroid.
With the release of Metroid: Samus Returns for the 3DS just a couple of weeks away and Metroid Prime 4 on the distant horizon, The Game Fanatics have decided to dig deep into the narrative of the Metroid series. With a little research and a lot of gaming, we’ve discovered a rich backstory filled with mystery and lore. And if you’re interested in reading about the Metroid series’ unique and tumultuous release history, look no further.
Catch up on the first part of our chronological excavation of the Metroid series, where we examined the canonical Metroid manga to learn exactly where our orange-suited heroine came from. Here, we continue her story with the original Metroid, and we’ll examine the epilogue and differences presented in its remake, Zero Mission.
[Note: images and information throughout this article will come primarily from Zero Mission, as it tells the same story as the original with additional content and higher cinematic quality.]
A Legend Begins
Release: August 6, 1986 (JP)
August 15, 1987 (NA)
Console: Famicom Disc System (JP)
Nintendo Entertainment System (NA/EU)
Director: Satoru Okada
Producer: Gunpei Yokoi
Studio: Nintendo R&D1, Intelligent Systems
Samus Aran lands on planet Zebes equipped with her yellow Chozo Power Suit and a basic power beam. This is her first time returning to Zebes, where she was raised by the Chozo, since initially attempting to destroy Mother Brain and stop the Space Pirates from taking over her home. Unfortunately, the only remains of the Chozo is architecture and statues that hold the power to upgrade her suit. Mother Brain has transformed all else into an unrecognizable wasteland filled with aggressive monsters, poisonous passage ways, and trap-laden rooms.
Samus first journeys through Brinstar, an underground region dense with foliage and danger. Here, she obtains the morph ball, an ability that lets her curl up into a small sphere and roll through tight spaces. She also acquires missiles, which destroy weak stones and grant her access through doors that were previously inaccessible.
A beast known as the King Worm resides in Brinstar and periodically attempts to attack Samus at random. Though her newfound missiles can harm it, if she does not inflict enough damage in a short period of time, he runs away. Once she does cause enough harm, the King Worm dies and leaves the signature charge beam upgrade.
The Belly of the Beast
As Samus takes an elevator down to the volcanic Norfair region of Zebes, Mother Brain awakens. Mother Brain watches Samus through a security camera in the elevator, assessing the threat. She sends word to the Space Pirate Commander Ridley that Samus is on her way. Ridley abandons his battle with the Galactic Federation to protect Mother Brain.
In Norfair, Samus acquires an unknown item from a Chozo statue that is incompatible with her current suit. Though it appears to be useless in this current state, it does allow Samus to remove previously indestructible Chozo structures from her path. She also gets the ice beam – an indispensable weapon for destroying Metroid, as one of their few weaknesses is an extreme aversion to low temperatures.
After exploring and slowly upgrading her suit over time, Samus enters Kraid’s Lair. It’s comprised of Chozo ruins that have been destroyed and repurposed by one of Mother Brain’s most aggressive soldiers. After encountering Acid Worm, King Worm’s superior counterpart, Samus comes face-to-face with Kraid himself. Despite his massive size, she defeats him handily and continues on her mission.
Nightmares From the Past
Samus continues into Ridley’s Lair. While it’s filled with enemies like the deadly Imago insect, Ridley himself is suspiciously absent. That is, until Samus acquires another unknown item. Ridley quickly ambushes Samus and puts his wings, claws, talons, teeth and tail to use in an effort to destroy his old adversary. Though Samus succumbed to a panic attack the last time she encountered the beast that killed her parents, Samus has now grown and strengthened to the point where she can destroy Ridley once and for all. She takes him down and moves forward, assuming she’ll never have to deal with Ridley again.
With Kraid and Ridley defeated, Samus has access to Tourian – the Space Pirates headquarters deep within Zebes. It’s a highly sophisticated, futuristic station filled with automated turrets and traps. However, the real danger that lingers in Zebes’ depths are the Metroid. Weak only to ice beams and missiles, the Metroid multiply when exposed to gamma radiation. Mother Brain has been breeding them with extreme efficiency for years by the time Samus returns to Zebes.
Samus makes her way deeper, destroying each Metroid that attempts to cling onto her and absorb her life force. She reaches Mother Brain’s inner chamber, dodging fire from all sides, and attempts to break through Mother Brain’s Zebetite glass. After breeching these defenses and finally destroying Mother Brain, a self-destruct sequence is initiated, leaving Samus a brief window of escape. She makes it to her ship just in time to watch the Tourian research station explode in her wake. Her objectives to eradicate the Metroid and kill Mother Brain seem to have been completed. The galaxy is at peace for now.
Metroid: Zero Mission
Release: February 9, 2004 (NA)
May 27, 2004 (JP)
Console: Famicom Disc System (JP)
Nintendo Entertainment System (NA/EU)
Director: Yoshio Sakamoto
Producer: Takehiro Izushi
Studio: Nintendo R&D1
Believing that danger is behind her, Samus removes her Varia Suit and takes a moment to relax. However, nearby Space Pirates immediately ambush her small vessel. Caught off guard, Samus crash lands back onto Crateria, the surface of Zebes. Stripped of her Power Suit and weapons, all Samus has to survive is her Zero Suit and a small energy blaster. In this state she is only capable of stunning enemies for a short period of time.
Samus quickly infiltrates the Space Pirate Mother Ship stationed on Crateria, only to find it infested with the crab-like Space Pirates that destroyed her birthplace back on K-2L. She sneaks by her enemies as best she can, though the alarm system regularly alerts them of her presence.
Samus wisely takes to air ducts and hidden passage ways in order to avoid the Space Pirates that can handily take her down without her Power Suit. As Samus journeys deeper into the Mother Ship, she slowly reaches the ancient Chozo Ruins known as Chozodia. Here, as a child, Samus and her mentor Old Bird visited an ancient mural that depicted a great warrior that would one day bring peace to the galaxy.
A Prophecy Fulfilled
Reunited with the mural, Samus now has to display her worth to the Chozo by fighting off a mirror image of herself. After successfully completing the trial, Samus is granted a Fully Powered Chozo Power Suit. It comes equipped with the spherical shoulders that have become iconic for our brave heroine. In addition, the unknown items previously incompatible with her previous suit become new abilities that allow her to mow through the Space Pirates she previously avoided at all costs.
Samus, now a seemingly unstoppable force, continues to explore the Mother Ship in order to destroy it. She soon encounters Mecha Ridley – a robotic approximation of her defeated nemesis. Using the weapons and abilities at her disposal, Samus takes down the unfinished robot. Unfortunately (and predictably), Mecha Ridley’s defeat sets off a self destruct sequence for the Mother Ship.
Once again, Samus makes her way through the ship as quickly as possible to avoid an untimely death, commandeering a Space Pirate vessel and escaping the explosion just in time. Though a lot of Chozo history and culture has been ruined by the blast, Samus has become stronger as a result of her detour. With Zebes behind her, Samus returns to the Galactic Federation with news of Mother Brain’s defeat and the assumed eradication of the Metroid.
Connections Between Metroid and Metroid: Zero Mission
Though they were released nearly 18 years apart, the Nintendo R&D1 team created both Metroid and Metroid: Zero Mission. Of course, many team members had come and gone in that time. However, Metroid‘s legacy was placed in the capable hands of Yoshio Sakamoto. He directed, among other classic games, Super Metroid, Metroid Fusion, and is producing the upcoming Samus Returns. Under his leadership, the franchise has seen countless masterpieces. In directing Zero Mission, he was able to bring the original game’s mechanics and visuals up to Super Metroid‘s high standards. He and Nintendo R&D1 also made liberal changes to the plot of the original, and expanded upon its base.
The story found in the Original Metroid was scant at best. It included all the major plot points preserved in Zero Mission. In it, Samus journeyed to Zebes to destroy Mother Brain and the Metroids. Kraid and Ridley were both present, and Brinstar, Norfair, and Tourian were all the major regions of Zebes. But because the svelte story presented in the game was riddled with poor translations and odd phrasings, it was hard to take seriously. It did, however, definitively declare that the Metroid weren’t eradicated by the game’s finale, leaving plenty of room for sequels.
Furthermore, most of Metroid‘s story came from its quirky instruction booklet. The pages establish that the Galactic Federation is seeking to eliminate the Space Pirates and the mysterious Metroid by using a lone soldier. However, they repeatedly refer to Samus as a cyborg (she isn’t), a space hunter (she’s a bounty hunter), and as a man. Of course, if players beat the original Metroid quickly enough, they discovered Samus is, in fact, a woman. And a bad-ass one at that.
The Real Story
Nintendo effectively enacted a retcon of the early Metroid franchise with Zero Mission. Though much of the plot of the original is intact, the story in Zero Mission is considered the canonical telling of the early events of the franchise. It cemented Samus as an adopted child of the Chozo and established Ridley as one of Samus’ greater adversaries. It even introduced an epilogue that explains how she had a fully upgraded Power Suit by the beginning of Metroid Prime.
Next Time on The Metroid Story
On the third part of our Metroid retrospective, we’ll dive into the stories of both Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime: Hunters. In these first person adventures, Samus learns more about the Chozo and how Metroids came to be. She also nearly dies about a dozen times, but you can’t make a space epic without cracking a few eggs.
For all your video game news, reviews, and more, keep an eye on The Game Fanatics.