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Metroid

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Metroid
Metroid logo.png
Genre(s)
Developer(s)
Publisher(s)Nintendo
Creator(s)
Platform(s)
First releaseMetroid
August 6, 1986
Latest releaseMetroid Dread
October 8, 2021

Metroid[a] is a Japanese action-adventure game franchise created by Nintendo. The player controls bounty hunter Samus Aran, who protects the galaxy from the Space Pirates and their attempts to harness the power of the parasitic Metroid creatures.

The first Metroid was developed by Nintendo R&D1 and released on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986. It was followed by Metroid II: Return of Samus (1991) for the handheld Game Boy and Super Metroid (1994) for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. After a hiatus, Metroid Fusion (2002) and Metroid: Zero Mission (2004) were released for the Game Boy Advance.

The first 3D Metroid game, Metroid Prime (2002), was developed by Retro Studios for the GameCube, followed by Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (2004) and the Wii game Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (2007). Metroid: Other M (2010), developed by Team Ninja for the Wii, received weaker reviews. After another hiatus, developer MercurySteam helmed the return of 2D Metroid with Metroid: Samus Returns (2017) for the handheld Nintendo 3DS, followed by Metroid Dread (2021) for the Nintendo Switch.

Metroid combines the platforming of Super Mario Bros. and the exploration of The Legend of Zelda with a science fiction setting and an emphasis on nonlinear gameplay. Players battle hostile alien enemies and obtain power-ups as they progress through the game world. The series is known for its isolated atmosphere, featuring few non-player characters. Most Metroid games are side-scrolling, while the Prime games adopt a first-person perspective.

As of September 2012, the Metroid series had sold over 17.44 million copies.[2] Metroid games are often ranked among the greatest of all time. The series has been represented in other Nintendo media, including the Super Smash Bros. series. Additional media includes soundtracks, comic books, and manga. Along with the 1997 Konami game Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, the early Metroid games defined the Metroidvania subgenre, inspiring other games with continuous, explorable side-scrolling levels. Samus was one of the first prominent female video game characters.

History[edit]

Release timeline
1986Metroid
1987
1988
1989
1990
1991Metroid II: Return of Samus
1992
1993
1994Super Metroid
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002Metroid Fusion
Metroid Prime
2003
2004Metroid: Zero Mission
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
2005Metroid Prime Pinball
2006Metroid Prime Hunters
2007Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
2008
2009Metroid Prime: Trilogy
2010Metroid: Other M
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016Metroid Prime: Federation Force
2017Metroid: Samus Returns
2018
2019
2020
2021Metroid Dread
TBAMetroid Prime 4

2D origins (1986–2004)[edit]

A video game screenshot. A person in a powered exoskeleton travels through a cave, while winged monsters hang from the ceiling.
In the first Metroid game, the player controls Samus Aran who fights alien monsters on the fictional planet Zebes.

The central figures in the production and development of the Metroid series are Satoru Okada, who directed Metroid and created the series; Yoshio Sakamoto, who acted as a character designer for the first game and has directed or supervised the development of most of the subsequent games; Gunpei Yokoi, who headed the R&D1 division and produced the first two games; Makoto Kano, who wrote the scenario for Metroid, co-designed the second game, and produced the third; and Hiroji Kiyotake, who designed characters for the original game.[3]

The original Metroid, an action game for the Family Computer Disk System, was developed by Nintendo's Research and Development 1 (R&D1) and released in Japan on August 6, 1986.[4] It was published for the Nintendo Entertainment System in August 1987 in North America and on January 15, 1988, in Europe.[5][6] It was directed by Satoru Okada.[3]

Metroid was designed to be a shooting game that combined the platform jumping of Super Mario Bros. with the non-linear exploration of The Legend of Zelda and a darker aesthetic. The name of the game is a portmanteau of the words "metro" (as in rapid transit) and android, and was meant to allude to the mainly underground setting of the first game as well as its robot-like protagonist.[7] Halfway through development of the original Metroid, one of the staff said to his fellow developers "Hey, wouldn't that be kind of cool if it turned out that this person inside the suit was a woman?", and the idea was accepted.[3][8] Ridley Scott's 1979 science-fiction horror film Alien was described by Sakamoto as a "huge influence" after the world of the first Metroid had been created. In recognition of this, a main antagonist was given the name Ridley, after director Ridley Scott. The development staff were also influenced by the work of the film's creature designer H. R. Giger, finding his style to be fitting for the Metroid universe.[9]

Metroid II: Return of Samus was released for the Game Boy in 1991 in North America and in 1992 in Japan. Metroid II also further established Samus' visual design, with the bulky Varia Suit upgrade and different arm cannons.[4]

As R&D1 were committed to making another game, Nintendo brought in Intelligent Systems to develop Super Metroid for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES).[10] Super Metroid drastically expanded the Metroid formula, with numerous new power-ups[11] and a richer story.[12] It was released to critical acclaim and is considered one of the best SNES games.[3] It was directed by Yoshio Sakamoto, character designer for the first Metroid; Sakamoto has directed or produced most of the 2D Metroid games since.[3]

In 2002, Nintendo released Metroid Fusion, a 2D game for the Game Boy Advance (GBA).[3] It was developed by R&D1 and written and directed by Sakamoto.[13] Its gameplay is similar to that of Super Metroid,[14] but with a more mission-based structure that gives more guidance to the player.[15] The team's next GBA project was Zero Mission (2004), a remake of the original Metroid.[3] Both GBA games received acclaim.[16][17] A Nintendo restructure merged R&D1 with R&D2 in 2003, shortly ahead of the release of Zero Mission.[18] A 2D Metroid game for the DS, Metroid Dread was in development around 2006, but this version was never released.

Transition to 3D (2002–2007)[edit]

Nintendo considered developing a Metroid game for the Nintendo 64, but could not generate concrete ideas;[19] Sakamoto said: "When I held the N64 controller in my hands I just couldn't imagine how it could be used to move Samus around."[20] An unidentified company received an offer from Nintendo to develop an N64 Metroid, but they turned it down, saying they were not confident they could create a worthwhile successor to Super Metroid.[20] Samus first appeared in 3D in the N64 fighting game Super Smash Bros. (1999).[21]

A video game screenshot. A weapon points outwards towards a snowy landscape.
The first Metroid Prime game, released in 2002 for the Nintendo GameCube, introduced 3D and FPS elements.

In 2000, Nintendo producer Shigeru Miyamoto visited the new Nintendo subsidiary Retro Studios in Austin, Texas and tasked Retro with developing a Metroid game for their new console, the GameCube.[22][23] Metroid Prime, the first 3D Metroid game, moved the nonlinear structure of Super Metroid to a first-person perspective;[24] Nintendo stressed that it was not a first-person shooter but a "first-person adventure".[3] Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (2004) saw Samus switching between parallel light and dark worlds, and introduced more difficulty.[24] Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, released for Wii in 2007, added motion controls[3] and has Samus exploring separate planets, with more emphasis on shooting action.[24] The Prime games were rereleased for Wii in the compilation Metroid Prime Trilogy.[25]

In 2005, Nintendo released Metroid Prime Pinball, a pinball spin-off, for the handheld Nintendo DS.[26] Metroid Prime Hunters, a multiplayer game developed by Nintendo Software Technology, was released for DS in 2006.[3]

Genre divergence and critical decline (2010–2016)[edit]

A new 3D Metroid game, Metroid: Other M, developed with Japanese studio Team Ninja and directed by Sakamoto, was released for Wii on August 31, 2010.[27] It featured a third-person perspective and placed a greater focus on story and action. Other M received weaker reviews, with criticism for its characterization of Samus as timid and emotional and its reduced emphasis on exploration.[28] Polygon described Other M as "such a massive misfire and a flop with fans that it practically killed the series", with no major new Metroid games in the following decade.[24]

The franchise was represented by a minigame, "Metroid Blast," in the Wii U game Nintendo Land (2012), which had a mixed reception.[29] The player using the Wii U GamePad controls Samus' gunship, while up to four players with Wii Remotes and Nunchuks control Mii characters on foot, wearing Varia Suits. Miyamoto said this reflected his ideas for future Metroid games.[30]

In 2014, a former artist from Next Level Games said that Next Level had built a 3DS Metroid prototype before Nintendo asked them to develop Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon instead.[31] In 2016, Nintendo released Metroid Prime: Federation Force, a multiplayer game for the 3DS developed by Next Level Games. It received criticism for its multiplayer focus and frivolous tone.[32]

Return to original genre (2017–present)[edit]

In 2017, Nintendo released a remake of Metroid II for the 3DS, Metroid: Samus Returns, developed by MercurySteam and Nintendo EPD.[33] It retained the side-scrolling gameplay of the original, adding 3D graphics and new gameplay features such as melee combat.[34][35]

At E3 2017, Nintendo announced Metroid Prime 4 for the Nintendo Switch.[36] According to Eurogamer, it was initially developed by Bandai Namco Studios, but Nintendo was not satisfied with its progress.[37] In 2019, development restarted under Retro Studios, developer of the previous Metroid Prime games.[38] On October 8, 2021, Nintendo released a new 2D Metroid game, Metroid Dread, for the Nintendo Switch, developed with MercurySteam.[39] The game is a new realization of the cancelled Nintendo DS project from the late 2000s.[40]

Gameplay[edit]

The Metroid series contains gameplay elements from shooter, platformer, and adventure games.[3] The series is notable for its non-linear progression and solitary exploration format where the player only controls Samus Aran, with few or no other characters to interact with. The series has been a 2D side-scroller in all its incarnations until the Metroid Prime series changed the perspective to a first-person perspective, leading to a new first-person shooter element. The player gains items and power-ups for Samus's cybernetic suit primarily through exploration, and occasionally by defeating alien creatures through real-time combat with the suit's arm cannon. Many such upgrades enable further avenues of exploration.[3][41] A recurring upgrade is the Morph Ball, which allows Samus to curl into a ball, roll into tight places and plant bombs.[3]

The original Metroid was influenced by two other major Nintendo franchises: Mario, from which it borrowed extensive areas of platform jumping, and The Legend of Zelda, from which it borrowed non-linear exploration.[3] The game differed in its atmosphere of solitude and foreboding.[3] Metroid was also one of the first video games to feature an exploration to the left as well as the right, and backtracking to already explored areas to search for secret items and paths.[4]

Story[edit]

Metroid follows the adventures of bounty hunter Samus Aran, who battles the villainous Space Pirates. The pirates threaten the Galactic Federation with their attempts to harness biological weapons such as the parasitic Metroid creatures and the hazardous Phazon material.[42] Samus was raised by the Chozo, an avian race, after her parents were killed by Space Pirates. She serves in the military of the Galactic Federation before departing and beginning work as a bounty hunter,[43] while facing the forces of Ridley and Mother Brain.[44][45]

In the original Metroid, Samus travels to the planet Zebes to stop the Space Pirates from using the Metroids to create biological weapons.[46] She defeats the cybernetic lifeform Mother Brain, as well as its guardians, Kraid and Ridley.[42] In Metroid II, Samus travels to the Metroid homeworld, SR388, to exterminate the species, but saves a hatchling Metroid that bonds to her and delivers it to the Ceres research station for study.[42] In Super Metroid, Ridley steals the hatchling and takes it to Zebes, where the Space Pirates are attempting to clone the Metroids. Samus is nearly killed by Mother Brain, but is rescued by the Metroid, now grown. Samus escapes as Zebes explodes.[43]

In Metroid Fusion, Samus investigates a space station in orbit around SR388 swarming with organisms infected with shapeshifting creatures known as X parasites.[42] A vaccine made from the baby Metroid's cells saves her life. She discovers that the Federation has been cloning Metroids in secret, and sets the space station on a collision with SR388 to destroy it.[43] In Metroid: Other M, set before Metroid Fusion, Samus investigates a derelict space station with a Galactic Federation platoon.[42] They team up to stop a clone of Mother Brain created by a Federation group.[43] Metroid Dread continues where Fusion left off, with the Federation dispatching a squadron of advanced automatons known as E.M.M.I. to recover samples of the X parasites on the planet ZDR. Samus is sent to the planet herself after contact is lost, coming into conflict with the X and a Chozo war criminal named Raven Beak, stopping both from invading the rest of the galaxy.

The Metroid Prime series is set between Metroid and Metroid II.[43] In Metroid Prime, Samus travels to Tallon IV to stop the Space Pirates from exploiting a powerful radioactive substance, Phazon.[42] Metroid Prime: Hunters sees Samus respond to a distress call to the Alimbic Cluster, and fights alongside other bounty hunters against a creature named Gorea.[43] In Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, Samus explores the planet Aether, which has been split into "light" and "dark" dimensions, and battles Dark Samus and the Ing race. In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Samus searches for bounty hunters who have been infected with Phazon, while being slowly corrupted by Phazon herself.[42] Metroid Prime: Federation Force, the only game in which players do not control Samus, sees Samus mind-controlled by Space Pirates; the Federation Force battles to rescue her and destroy the Space Pirates.[43]

Audio[edit]

The Metroid series has been noted and praised for its unique style of video game music.[3][47][48] Hirokazu "Hip" Tanaka, composer of the original Metroid, has said he wanted to make a score that made players feel like they were encountering a "living creature" and had no distinction between music and sound effects.[47][49] The only time the main Metroid theme was heard was after Mother Brain is defeated; this is intended to give the player a catharsis. At all other times, no melodies are present in the game.[49] The composer of Super Metroid, Kenji Yamamoto, came up with some of the games' themes by humming them to himself while riding his motorcycle to work. He was asked to compose the music for Metroid Prime to reinforce the series continuity.[50] Metroid Prime's Dolby Pro Logic II surround sound was mixed by a member of Dolby.[51]

Developers from Retro Studios noted how the 6 MB memory budget for all sound effects of a level in Metroid Prime was crucial in producing a quality soundtrack, as each sound had to be of high quality to be included.[50] Composer Kenji Yamamoto used heavy drums, piano, voiced chants, clangs of pipes, and electric guitar.[51] Metroid Prime 3: Corruption took advantage of the increased RAM in the Wii, allowing for higher-quality audio samples.[50] Kenji Yamamoto, who composed the music for Super Metroid and the Prime trilogy, copied the musical design of the original Metroid in Metroid Prime 3, by keeping the music and themes dark and scary until the very end, when uplifting music is played during the credits.[50]

In other media[edit]

Super Smash Bros. franchise[edit]

Samus is a playable character in all five Super Smash Bros. games.[52][53] Games from Super Smash Bros. Brawl onward also feature Zero Suit Samus, a version of the heroine using the blue form-fitting suit seen in Zero Mission and the Prime series.[54][55] Ridley makes cameos in Super Smash Bros., where he can be seen flying through the level Zebes, and in Super Smash Bros. Melee both as an unlockable trophy and in the game's opening, where he is fighting Samus at Ceres Space Station.[56] In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Ridley appears as a boss character in both normal and Meta Ridley forms.[57] Due to demand from fans, Ridley was made a playable fighter in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate alongside fellow newcomer Dark Samus. Kraid also appeared in Super Smash Bros. Melee as a stage hazard in Brinstar Depths and unlockable trophy. Various other characters such as Metroids, Mother Brain and Dark Samus appear as either trophies or stickers in the Super Smash Bros. series as well.

A number of locations from the Metroid franchise have appeared in Smash titles as battle stages. This includes planet Zebes in the original game, Brinstar and Brinstar Depths in Melee, Frigate Orpheon and Norfair in Brawl, and the Pyrosphere in Wii U. Many of these stages were carried forward to later titles.[58]

Other games[edit]

Samus has appeared in other Nintendo games such as Super Mario RPG, Tetris (Nintendo Entertainment System version), Tetris DS, Galactic Pinball, Kirby Super Star, Kirby's Dream Land 3 and WarioWare.[4][59][60]

A Metroid-lookalike enemy, called the Komayto, appears in Kid Icarus for the NES; the characters allude to the similarities between the two in Kid Icarus: Uprising.[4][61] In Dead or Alive: Dimensions, a fighting game developed by Team Ninja for the Nintendo 3DS, one stage is a replica of the arena in which Samus fights Ridley in Metroid: Other M and features both as non-playable characters;[62] When asked why Samus is not playable in Dimensions,[63] Team Ninja's Yosuke Hayashi stated in an interview that "it would be better to let her focus on her job rather than kicking everyone's butt in [Dead or Alive: Dimensions]".[64] The Wii U launch game Nintendo Land has a minigame based on the series called "Metroid Blast".[29]

Television[edit]

A Metroid animated series was considered for the Super Mario Bros. Power Hour, a cancelled animation block that would have aired in the 1980s. Concept art was produced for the series, which notably featured a male incarnation of Samus. Power Hour never moved forward in the intended format, instead being replaced by Super Mario Bros. Super Show which aired in 1989.[65] Mother Brain was the primary villain in the Captain N: The Game Master TV show.[66]

Manga[edit]

Comics and manga have been made for various magazines based on Metroid,[67] Super Metroid,[68] Metroid Prime,[69] Metroid Prime 2: Echoes,[70] and Metroid: Zero Mission[71] in both the United States and Japan. Samus Aran and other Metroid characters also featured in the Captain N: The Game Master comic books by Valiant Comics.[72] In Japan, a Metroid manga series was published in Kodansha's Monthly Magazine Z beginning in November 2003, and ran for 16 chapters which were later collected into two Tankōbon volumes. The series chronicled Samus' life up through the events of the original game, and went on to influence the plots of subsequent games in the franchise.[4][73] Also in Japan, Comic Bom Bom published a three-volume manga starring Samus, Metroid: Samus and Joey.[b][74]

Proposed film[edit]

In 2003, two producers optioned the rights to create a live-action film based on Metroid, but the rights expired.[4] Director John Woo acquired the rights a few years later,[75] and his studio Lion Rock Productions was to produce and release the film before 2006.[76] Writers on the film included David Greenwalt, who had worked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Grimm.[76] According to producer Brad Froxhoven, the film would explore Samus' origin story; she would be "an exceptionally talented, but also flawed character who was looking for redemption ... We wanted to see her struggle, to be humbled, and to be forced to rise up against crazy odds. And of course we wanted to see the cool weapons in all of their glory."[77]

According to Foxhoven, Nintendo was protective due to the failure of the 1993 Super Mario Bros. film.[77] Nintendo had no answers to the team's questions about Samus' personal life, relationships, and other personal characteristics, and was uncomfortable with the film team "being the ones to propose those answers".[77] Foxhoven said Nintendo left the discussions appreciating that they needed to develop the franchise further if it were to become a Hollywood film.[77]

In 2013, Sakamoto said he could support a film directed by Ryuji Kitaura, director of the CG scenes in Other M, if the concept and methodologies were good enough.[78]

Reception[edit]

Sales and aggregate review scores
Game Units sold GameRankings Metacritic
Metroid (GBA re-release) 2.73 million[79] 62%[80] 58/100[81]
Metroid II: Return of Samus 79%[82] -
Super Metroid 1.42 million[79] 96%[83] -
Metroid Fusion 0.94 million[84] 91%[86] 92[85]
Metroid Prime >2 million[87] 96%[89] 97[88]
Metroid: Zero Mission 90%[91] 89[90]
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes >0.8 million[92] 92%[94] 92[93]
Metroid Prime Pinball 80%[96] 79[95]
Metroid Prime Hunters 84%[98] 85[97]
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption 1.31 million[99] 90%[101] 90[100]
Metroid Prime: Trilogy 92%[103] 91[102]
Metroid: Other M 79%[105] 79[104]
Metroid Prime: Federation Force 65%[107] 64[106]
Metroid: Samus Returns 87%[109] 85[108]
Metroid Dread - 88[110]

Metroid ranked as the 70th top game (collectively) by Next Generation in 1996[111] and the 6th in 1999,[112] and as the eighth best game franchise by IGN in 2008.[113] In 2001, Electronic Gaming Monthly named Super Metroid the best game ever.[114] All the Metroid games released by 2005 were included in a Nintendo Power top 200 Nintendo games list,[115] Prime in the IGN top 100,[116] Metroid, Super Metroid, Prime and Echoes in a list by GameFAQs users;[117] Metroid and Super Metroid in Game Informer's list;[118] and Prime and Super Metroid in Edge's list.[119] The series has influenced games including Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.[41]

Samus Aran was recognized by Guinness World Records as "enduringly popular"[2] and as the "first playable human female character in a mainstream video game", although Toby Masuyo ("Kissy") from Namco's Alien Sector predates her by one year.[120][121] Ridley was the second-most requested Nintendo character by IGN and number one by the fans to be added as a playable character to the Super Smash Bros. series[57] and Mother Brain is often named among the best video game bosses.[122]

The original Metroid has been described as boosted by its "eerie" music, adding a "sense of mystery and exploration" to the game by making the game "moody and atmospheric".[3][47] IGN praised the well-timed music that helped add suspense.[48] GameSpot described Super Metroid as better than the original "in literally every conceivable way",[123] Metroid Fusion was noted for its "understated score" which fit the mood of the adventure and its excellent stereo sound effects, making it an uncommonly good Game Boy Advance sound experience.[124] Metroid Prime was considered one of the best games ever made upon its release, winning Game of the Year from various publications and websites.[125][126][127] IGN called the aural experience with Metroid Prime 2: Echoes "mesmerizing".[128] Music from Metroid has been frequently re-released as part of "best of" video game music releases.[129][130][131] Metroid Prime's soundtrack was called the best sound design on the GameCube. The sound effects were also noted for a high degree of accuracy and blending with the soundtrack.[51] On the popular video game music site OverClocked ReMix, Super Metroid is the tenth-most remixed video game, while the first Metroid video game was twenty-fifth.[132]

Sales[edit]

‘’Metroid’’,Super Metroid, Metroid Fusion, Metroid Prime, ‘’Metroid Prime 2: Echoes’’ and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption each sold more than one million copies.[10][133][134] By September 2012, the series had sold over 17.44 million copies worldwide.[2]

Sales of Metroid games in Japan have typically been lower than in the United States.[135] In its debut week in Japan, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption sold 32,388 units, ranking it behind Ryū ga Gotoku Kenzan!, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Wii Fit, and Gundam Musou Special.[136] Metroid: Other M was the third-bestselling video game in Japan during its week of release with 45,398 copies sold, ranking it behind Wii Party and Monster Hunter Diary: Poka Poka Airu Village.[137] It sold an additional 11,239 copies the following week.[138]

Legacy[edit]

Along with the 1997 Konami game Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, the early Metroid games defined a subgenre known as Metroidvania. Tom Happ, developer of the 2015 Metroidvania game Axiom Verge, defined Metroidvania games as side-scrolling adventures with continuous maps, rather than discrete levels, that require the player to collect items and backtrack. Other notable Metroidvania games include Cave Story (2004), Shadow Complex (2009), Ori and the Blind Forest (2014), Hollow Knight (2017), and Chasm (2018).[139]

In 2016, AM2R, a fan-made remake of Metroid II, was released. Nintendo issued takedown notices to halt its distribution, citing the potential damage to its intellectual property.[140] AM2R was nominated for the Game Awards 2016, but was removed as it had not been cleared by Nintendo for inclusion.[141]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Japanese: メトロイド, Hepburn: Metoroido
  2. ^ メトロイド サムス&ジョイ, Metoroido Samusu& joi

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Media related to Metroid at Wikimedia Commons