Metroid: Zero Mission (Game Boy Advance) Review

By Adam Riley 20.04.2004

Review for Metroid: Zero Mission on Game Boy Advance

Samus Aran. Does that name sound familiar to any of you? It should do by now, thanks mainly to the immense popularity of 2002’s GameCube masterpiece, Metroid Prime. However, in the years before that, matters were very different indeed. After 1994’s Super Metroid on the SNES achieved below average sales in Nintendo’s homeland of Japan, the series was dropped in favour of other, more successful franchises and the foxy female bounty hunter was all but forgotten. Now that is all about to change in 2004 as Ms Aran is brought back to the media forefront for the third time in only two years. But can Zero Mission retain the high levels of quality expected from the series? Find out by reading on…

There is trouble on Planet Zebes - Space Pirates have taken over and are causing trouble for anyone that dares to encounter them, namely the Chozo race. Therefore Ms Aran, who was adopted by the Chozo, is given the task of traversing the planet and heading into the depths of the evil realm to fend off the Space Pirates, the evil Metroid creatures and ring-leader, Mother Brain. However, this being a Director's Cut of the original Metroid, the fun and frolics do not stop after the battle with Mother Brain. In fact, there is a lot more to uncover once she is despatched...

The Game Boy Advance is a wonderful platform for developers to flex their graphical muscle. Whilst it might not seem too obvious, with the handheld not being comparable to the likes of the XBOX, PS2 and GameCube. But companies are tested by the constraints and can sometimes end up producing results that are much more impressive than their next-generation counterparts...and Zero Mission is certainly no exception. Nintendo has taken the solid base of Metroid Fusion, the GBA's first Metroid, and moved it up a few notches.

Screenshot for Metroid: Zero Mission on Game Boy Advance

Slow down? Not a chance! Graphical glitches? Hah, as if! Smooth-flowing, deceptively-simple-but-gorgeous visuals? Hell yeah! Samus moves around with no trouble at all, showing off her various animation frames at any opportunity, travelling along with amazingly detailed backgrounds that are full of rich colours behind her and many hideous monsters trying their best to prevent her from making further progress. Boss meetings are equally pleasing, with many of them filling the screen and throwing several objects around at great speeds. This is Metroid looking its best and will be very difficult to beat in the future...

The NES might be renowned for its basic bips and bops in its tunes (that were still very memorable in many cases, that is for sure!), but the entire soundtrack has been redone for this GBA update. Now all of the tunes have been fully remixed to take advantage of the GBA’s (limited) sound capabilities. In fact, the sound has been improved so much that the tiny little GBA speaker cannot do the music proper justice, therefore it would definitely be advisable too buy yourself an earphone adaptor or simply play the game via the Game Boy Player on the big screen. There are not only old compositions, refreshed; there are also the newer pieces that have been included for the original areas that are now found in Zero Mission. Suffice to say everything is more than in order and deliciously pleasing…

Screenshot for Metroid: Zero Mission on Game Boy Advance

Before going into specific details, it must be made clear that Zero Mission is not quite the NES remake you may believe it to be. Instead the old 8bit title is simply used as inspiration for this newly crafted ‘Director’s Cut’ of sorts. Want proof? Finish the game and play the newly unlocked emulated version of the NES original! Now that is established, let me just quickly overview the play mechanics for Metroid newcomers.

The basis of the game lies in exploration – wandering around dark, gruesome maze-like locales trying to find the correct path that allows progression in the adventure. But this is no free-for-all, as you will come upon many an obstacle that requires you to about-turn and investigate elsewhere until you find the correct item (like certain bombs), weapon (different beam types) or piece of equipment (various suits and add-ons) that then permits advancement. This can be quite tricky if you are unused to this style of play, as you really do need to keep an eye out for things like small cracks in the floor, misshapen areas of wall that can be jumped through or one of several other secrets in the title. Observant folk should be fine; those that love to simply rush through games may find great difficulty.

But the old Metroid style of play is thrown out of the window just over half-way through the game, as there is a big twist that you certainly will not find in the original Metroid – and this is where things definitely become different as the game turns into a stealth affair, with a total lack of any fancy Samus Aran-trait moves you must make your way through using just sheer skill and intelligence to make it to the final stages. Liken the play to the original Prince of Persia or Flashback style of play if you will.

Screenshot for Metroid: Zero Mission on Game Boy Advance

Everything is beautifully tied together with mini cut-scenes that help to explain the storyline far better than ever before in the series. However, unfortunately the hand-leading that was evident in Metroid Fusion is still here, to a lesser degree though, and ensures that you will never really be too stuck, especially considering the average puzzles and weak bosses (Ridley would turn in his grave!). Well, at least there is always the Hard Mode to unlock once the game is completed…

There is a slight problem, however, and that is Metroid: Zero Mission ends far too quickly. Whilst the game manages to last much longer than the pitifully short Fusion, around five-six hours maximum on the default normal difficultly level just will not suffice for this particular series. It is almost as if Nintendo is torturing us or something. How can they throw such quality at us and then make it all end so damn fast? That is just wrong! There are extras, such as a new hard mode and various pieces of art to unlock when completing the game under a range of conditions, but they really are not worth the effort of going through everything over and over again. Bad Nintendo, bad!

Screenshot for Metroid: Zero Mission on Game Boy Advance

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Buy this, buy it now. Do not bother ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’, this is the sort of game you bought your Game Boy Advance for – fast, fun, yet deep, action that is not overly challenging. Those that have had the pleasure of playing any other Metroid games will be right at home here and yet not bored in the slightest. That is the magic of the series and that is the magic of Nintendo – it is just a shame that many will feel short-changed when it is over. When will Nintendo treat us to a super long adventure?






2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (5 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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