As I was growing up, there were often games I’d watch my able-bodied twin play and consider inaccessible for myself. 1994’s Super Metroid was one such game. The game seemed to require quick reflexes for shooting and jumping I just didn’t have. It was a shame because Metroid seemed like it involved a lot of exploring (rare for side-scrollers, back then.) and looked like an amazing world. The map is huge!
Because of these 3 things, (rapid button pushing, huge map, dexterity issues.) I sort of avoided playing this game back in its prime. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised at how accessible and fun it is! Full disclosure: I use a walk-thru for some parts, but because I want a semi-1994 experience, I only use it when I’m stuck. I’m frequently grateful that walk-thrus exist; at the same time, it’s fun to explore the planet.
Most of the advantage of Super Metroid’s accessibility comes from the fact that it is a 2D side-scroller, as were previous Metroid titles. What I mean is you can only move left and right, but by the same token, your enemies have the same limits, and from what I’ve seen, they don’t always move too fast or fill up the screen (like in Castlevania.)
There are a few relics from the 90s, such as in-game save points. Also, buttons are readily re-mappable in the game’s start-up screen, but not in-game. Despite the ease and pace of the game, it is a massive labyrinth. I would say that’s it’s major setback for accessibility, but that’s easily overcome with modern technology. Also, I just can’t resist the game’s foreboding futuristic atmosphere, which seems inspired by Alien. Only replace Sigourney Weaver with the bounty hunter Samus Aran. Not that it effects accessibility but for a 16-bit game, the soundtrack and graphics are, well, super.
In the modern gaming world, it’s hard to imagine a game as well balanced for a side-scroller. Since a major emphasis of the game is on exploring, I think, you don’t get mobbed. Or perhaps this is a processor limitation or something about the 16-bit era in general. The flipside to that of course, is probably the only reason it’s inaccessible. If it were ’94 still, I’d undoubtedly be lost and have no idea what to do; but since it’s not much of the frustration is removed.
Modern side-scrollers tend to fill up the screen with enemies or move at breakneck speeds. So far as I can tell, there’s only one timed part of the game; the lab escape in the beginning of the game, but as the game lets you retry as many times as you like, (and that’s the beginning, so yes, you start at the beginning. Save points come a little later after you learn to use missiles.) it’s easy. Overall, I feel the game gives you time to figure out it’s platform-jumping and other logic puzzles. This is something sorely lacking in modern gaming, and also adds to the feel of isolation in the game.
I’m glad I picked up this gem from the past again, and was happy to discover it wasn’t as inaccessible as I thought back then! But, it is a game of its time. Without modern walk-thrus, I might have never played it again. But, I do like that it moves the game along at a predictable speed, rather than blasting the player through the story with tons enemies and quick draw reflexes. These are the sins of the modern side-scroller (You can actually trace it back to Metal Slug…even Contra.) So, it’s nice to have a game that lets you take time. However, it’s probably because you’d get lost in pre-walkthru times! Double-edged sword.
In conclusion, while exploration in Super Metroid can be tiresome, it’s still a good game and is well-paced enough to make it plenty accessible for me. There’s a good balance of logic and action, and it actually avoids most the things I thought would make it inaccessible. My 9-year-old self probably wouldn’t have liked it, but now I’m able to appreciate the game’s maze, especially because I have walk-thrus. More importantly, it’s me playing this time. Some games are worth a second look, especially when it’s through your own “alien” eyes.
FINAL GRADE: B-
ACCESSIBILITY GRADE: B (Well-paced action and logic puzzles. Re-mappable buttons. Screen is almost never cluttered. Enemies have predictable patterns.)
FORGIVENESS FACTOR: C (Fairly old-school; you get save points. That‘s it. A game of its time.)
CONTROL: B (There‘s pretty much a 1:1 action/response ratio; the rest depends on what you’ve configured. )