Super Metroid. For those of you who know the game, the title itself is enough to bring back memories of how amazing it is. But for myself, it is something more… a turning point in my life, if you will; especially looking back on it. You see, if you’ve been following any of the Generation Pong stories, you will find not only the imprint of the game itself in my memory bank, but the residue its experience left in my life. It’s not only the game itself, but the moment of my life during that game.
And when Nintendo released the 3rd installment of its Metroid series on the Super Nintendo, Super Metroid, it not only left an impression as one of the greatest games I have ever played, but sparked something in my character… my personality… that made me the person I am today. So, lets step back into the past together so I can show you what I mean.
It’s 1994, I am 15 years old and living in Greece. I don’t remember if there was a special occasion, or if my mom just gave me money to go buy a new game, but I have a copy of the new Metroid game. A couple of my past Generation Pong articles tell of the importance of the first Metroid, and its sequel on the Game Boy; needless to say, I am excited as hell. I remember there were no video game stores in my neighborhood (it was a little on the lower-middle class side), but every other weekend, I would go stay with my grandparents (who were actually in a much better part of town, full of restaurants, shops and obviously toy stores with video game). Going there for the weekend kinda felt like mini-vacations. I had a separate set of friends on that part of the neighborhood, and my grandparents let me play as much as I wanted on the TV.
Now, a note about this part… Greece is one of those countries that has a midday siesta. Especially back then; now it has progressed a little in its business oriented lifestyle and feels a little more like the States. But back then, for Greece, it was quiet time. I’m talking a mandatory one… city quiet hours. Shops close between 2pm-5pm. Everyone goes home, eats lunch and takes a nap. Kids, who are usually too energetic to take naps, would continue playing indoors, or “quietly” outside. And I mean quiet, or you would hear some neighbor yelling out the window for you to shut up or they would call the cops… that’s right, the cops. Like I said… manditory.
So its around 2pm, and the whole town is silent. My grandparents go to take a nap, and I have the living room, and tv, to myself. Btw, I would bring my Super Nintendo with me when I went there, in case you didn’t realize that yet. Clearly remembering how the second Metroid (Return of Samus on the Game Boy) ended, me escaping the planet with a baby metroid in tow, I turn on the TV, I hook up the Super Nintendo, I close the curtains (its summer and bright) and I sit down to play.
How it started, was like no game before it.
Black screen. Suddenly, an erie musical score begins, eerie and atmospheric, and with it we also hear the creepy and fearful sound of the metroids themselves (kreee… kreee). The year 1994 appears on the screen, then fades to a a panning camera, showing you a close up of a dead body, in some room; the shot fades to black, and the word Nintendo fades in and out as the music continues, … we return back to the panning shot, showing us more of the room… its some sort of science lab; fade to black and the word Presents comes and goes , again to be replaced by the continuing panning – more of the lab and another dead body. Fade to black to show us another title (in the same font as the other letters), Metroid 3 fades in and out, and the camera comes to focus on the source of the metroid sound… A metroid itself, in what seems to be some kind of glass containment tank. The camera slowly pans out and you see the metroid in its tank is in the center of the lab, the lab technicians bodies laying dead all in the room. And as the pan comes to a stop, showing the entire room, the title Super Metroid appears, and the ongoing score turns into classic Metroid music; its familiarity grabbing you and throwing you into the world your about to be lost in.
This opening, outside of being perfectly representative of the atmosphere and style this game is, also represented something else. Something that, in a way, turned games to what they are today. You see, the best way to represent that opening was “Cinematic”. The titles, the music, the panning shot… it was like you were watching the beginning of a movie. And a game had never done that till that point; at least not as well as this one worked.
The opening of the game itself continued in that pattern, an in depth demo scene (something not yet a regular in games yet) reminding you of how the previous game ended, what happened with the baby metroid, and suddenly you’re set to play out the opening; exploring an attacked space station (where the metroid was being kept) going through a destroyed lab (from the opening), and when you finally reach the metroid in its containment tank in a separate room, you see who was behind the attack and the theft… the “arch nemesis” of the game, Ridley. So you escape the exploding station, and chase Ridley and the captured metroid to a planet where the game officially begins.
So here we come to the memory of the moment I mentioned earlier. The game continued, and I’m lost in it. I’m literally sitting at the edge of my seat. And suddenly, I slip and fall off, landing on the floor. I press pause and look around. How the hell did I just fall? I know I was sitting on the edge, but that just felt weird… to slip off like that. Suddenly I realize the chandelier was swinging back and forth. I heard my grandma get up and come into the living room, asking me if I felt that, and I realized what happened… we had just experienced an earthquake. One big enough to wake my grandma, have all the chandeliers start swinging, and enough to even make me slip off the couch. But I was so engulfed in the game, I didn’t realize anything. Yes, the game is that awesome.
I could spend hours explaining the awesomeness of the game, and I could go into detail on how amazing the end is, but I hate spoilers, and despite being a 21 year old game, I still think its worth playing, so I won’t ruin it. Let me tell you though, that this game was also the first game to feel “emotional” to me, concluding in a dramatic finale. Yet another thing adding to its cinematic values.
These values are something that have turned games into the phenomena they are today. Almost all games are given a “feel” of a story now (what most gamers know as the “campaign” mode). They have directors and actors and have a story to tell (some better than others). In fact, some games these days are literally made to feel like they are a movie; from comic story ones like The Walking Dead to war ones like Call of Duty: Advanced Warefar (starring Kevin Spacey btw), to one of my favorites The Last of Us, which is so well made, that the sentimental and dramatic scenes of it are unlike any other.
Games are reaching a new level now, one that more people can relate to, play and enjoy, no matter what their age. And its because they’re more than just jump, shoot, run… they’re a story. They have what we love in books, in shows and in movies. They are accompanied by amazing music. And when produced well, your playing them is seamless, making you feel more than any book or movie could, that you are actually part of the story.
As I come to the end of this, I come to the importance of this game in my life. My mentioning of the games cinematic values is the key thing here… somehow, these must have resinated inside me. Because as I grew older, my love for film grew. I went to film school. I worked in film and television production for 5 years. I’ve written short stories and scripts. I’ve shot a couple personal shorts. My daydreams always have a cinematic feel to them. It’s who I am. And whenever I think of where it all began, I come back to this memory.
Between that, and my love for video games themselves; to see how they started from the game Pong, to Super Metroid, up to what they have become now… well, it makes me feel lucky to be able to play these games. It makes me feel fortunate to have experienced the games I have, and excited for what’s to come. More importantly, I’m lucky to be part of this generation… Generation Pong.
(for more Generation Pong stories/memories, check out my other articles here at Don’t Forget A Towel)