When I was a kid, I remember being very aware of The Legend Of Zelda thanks to those commercials. Remember? "Zelda!? Zelda!?" I bet it's on Youtube. But I didn't have a NES yet. I had an Atari 2600. And while the commercial showed me absolutely nothing, I feel like I created this insane vision of what Zelda was. And I had to have it.
I got a NES a year or so later, and by that time Zelda II was out. I remember getting a copy of Zelda II and the Official Nintendo Player's Guide for my birthday. It was a huge deal. And I've written about how much nostalgia and fondness I have for Zelda II. But soon enough I knew I needed the original game. I brokered a trade with my cousin, Matt. I don't remember what game(s) he got in the exchange, but I can promise that I came out ahead.
The first Zelda quickly became an obsession. And it was and remains one of my absolute favorite NES games of all time. Shocking? No.
But I've replayed it many times over the years. It's straight comfort food. Nintendo has done an interesting job in presenting new experiences for old games in the Switch era. I think most people probably overlook these SP versions of games on Switch Online. But some of them are pretty interesting.
The Legend Of Zelda SP is basically easy mode. You start off with better armor, better sword, a few items, some extra hearts and lots of rupees. Oh, and all the bushes with hidden entrances are already revealed. You might say this takes away from the experience. And it does - for a first playthrough. But for me, someone who's been through this game multiple times over the decades it's like a nice relaxing visit home.
Now I can march right from one dungeon to the next and play a sort of mellow version of this game. It's not about the exploration, it's about reminding myself of the experience. Scoff at these SP versions as being cheap ROM-hacks if you like. But some of them are not without their merit.
I ran through the first four dungeons the other night in about an hour. A nice way to do it for a dude who's got a four month old in the house that's still figuring out how to sleep through the night. To be honest, with such inconsistent downtime for gaming, having this sort of easy mode to revisit is actually quite the blessing. I don't need to spend time grinding for rupees or exploring the overworld map. It's all just the dungeons. Nice.
I don't know what happened. I actually played this a bunch over the weekend. I did some of the dungeons out of order because I forgot where they were. Anyway, I got up to Gannon's dungeon and died a couple of times and then just kind of quit. I don't know. I feel less compelled to finish this up now. I've beaten the game in the past, so I'm not super motivated to see it through. And I feel like I've played the bulk of the game - or at least had fun revisiting it for now.
But the point of replay isn't really to beat it. It was to revisit this awesome game one more time. It's a game I've spent so many hours on over the years since I was just a kid. There are games that we feel are incredible because of nostalgia. And in fairness, there are games that the gamer collective unconscious feels this way about. We rave about them now, because we loved them 30 years ago. But should we dare go back and look at them under a modern eye, ugh. We'd be let down for sure.
Not so for Zelda. The original adventure is still brilliant, even in a post Breath Of The Wild world. This isn't one those cases where you see where a series started, and you appreciate the foundation that was laid down to get us to where we are. Instead, it's clear that Zelda started out phenomenal - stumbled at times throughout the decades - but almost always achieved very good to great results.
I have a weird relationship with Metroid. I certainly like to consider myself a fan of the series, but sometimes I think I'm a bigger fan of the IDEA of the series than the games themselves. I love the Samus character. I love the influence that Alien had on the games. I love the settings and the music and all that. But I mean, the games themselves, I can be a little tough on I guess.
In the past year I played Samus Returns, which was a 3DS remake of Metroid II. And I pretty much hated it. In fairness, I seemed to mostly hate changes that were made from the original game. But still. I also played Super Metroid - often considered THEE defining Metroid experience, and I managed to lose interest fairly quickly. In my defense, I personally feel like the two GBA games - Zero Mission and Fusion - are the best 2D Metroid games ever made. Period. It's probably even weirder to say that Other M kept my attention longer than Super Metroid - though, in reality part of that had to do with how weird and sometimes bad Other M was. It kept me coming back anyway. I had been thinking about replaying the original Metroid and then I realized it was available via the Switch Online service.
I've never spent that much time with the original game in all honesty. I remember a friend's dad playing it when I was a kid but it seemed pretty complicated and hard back then. I jumped on board with the series with Metroid II as I was a total Game Boy kid. And eventually I played Zero Mission and loved it. So going back to the actual NES game seemed like a step backwards.
So I figured why not. There's no map, and I'm a baby who doesn't want to spend TOO MUCH time backtracking and getting lost right now so I found a nice walkthrough online. The game certainly feels more manageable this way. I've already picked up some upgrades and am heading to the elevator to get to the second area now.
I will say I never found the controls in Metroid all that tight. Jumping feels so floaty and weird. But we'll see how it goes. Like I said, I WANT to love all these games, but it tends to be a mixed bag for me in reality. People generally point to Super Metroid and Symphony Of The Night as the start of the Metroidvania genre. But really, wasn't Metroid and Castlevania II already pretty much there? Much like Castlevania II, I don't think I could even play Metroid without a walkthrough. There's so much unexplained crap. Like all these random floors or walls to bomb to find certain areas. Who has the time to bomb EVERYTHING just in case? Not me!
Anyway, I got some power-ups. I got the high jump and the screw attack and that's great. I also figured out wall-jumping and got stuck inside some lava and couldn't exit the screen so had to go back to an earlier save state.
After that I made it to the boss fight against Kraid, and... I might be done with this game. I just don't have enough HP right now, and I don't feel like going to farm for more because frankly, the game is starting to feel like a real slog. Like I said earlier, I loved the Zero Mission remake. But its existence has made going back to the original game all the harder.
And really, the truth is that maybe the proliferation of the whole Metroidvania indie boom has made going back to OG Metroid more difficult. There's absolutely no doubt how influential this original game is. But decades of iterative improvements - both by Nintendo themselves as well as other developers has made this old NES game feel antiquated to me in such a way that I just don't think I have the patience for.
Again, I love Metroid in theory. I love Samus. I love the setting and the alien creatures. But in a lot of ways it feels like I love Metroid in concept, more than in execution.