With Ridley down, there’s just one place left to explore. Unless you’ve not explored all the other places you couldn’t get to before you acquired all your cool gear, in which case there are many places left to explore. Go on, explore them. I’ll wait.
No, really, take your time.
OK, done? Great. So now there’s just one place left to explore here on Zebes: Whatever lies beneath the mysterious statue you saw back at the beginning of the game. Every time you’ve defeated a boss, you’ve received a brief reminder of its existence as the eye gem has shattered in the corresponding statute component for the freshly slain foe, while the statue itself has faded in color. With the entire thing desaturated, all that’s left is to revisit it and watch it sink, revealing an underwater path.
Despite the presence of water here, the elevator at this point doesn’t take you to a subaquatic region akin to Maridia, though. Instead, you face more or less the opposite setting from the rough-hewn hell of lower Norfair where Ridley resided.
The final phase of the game takes place in a series of austere, high-tech corridors, just like the original Metroid‘s final showdown. Yes, it’s a reprise of the Tourian zone, freshly minted in a new location.
And, as in the original Metroid, this version of Tourian is short on exploration. A series of linear hallways working downward away from the surface awaits, with a handful of save points along the way.
Initially, Tourian holds no surprises for veterans of Samus’ NES adventure. I suppose the metroids themselves could technically be a surprise, since the one that was abducted in the beginning was definitely stated to be the last in existence, but since the first game’s plot revolved around the space pirates reproducing metroids with beta radiation their proliferation should hardly come as a shock. If you choose to interpret Maridia’s moctroids as failed metroid clones, this is even less astounding.
Those who remember their encounters with larval metroids in the first two games will find these encounters a breeze: Freeze a metroid, then hit it with five missiles (or a super missile) to destroy it. Even though they seem larger here, metroids still attack by swooping to seize Samus with lightning quickness, and once they’ve attached they begin draining her energy at a prodigious rate – much faster than lava or acid sap her health. They can only be dislodged by rolling into morph ball form and shaking them loose with a bomb.
Of course, those experiencing Metroid for the first time here won’t know these rules. Unlike in the older games, though, you don’t come into this battle unprepared. Several creatures around Zebes have demonstrated behavior similar to that of metroids, and your encounters with them have created a knowledge base for dealing with the real thing. Moctroids exhibit a less deadly form of metroids behavior, though they could be destroyed with Samus’ arm cannon; meanwhile, the Beetoms you’ve encounters from time to time also demonstrated an ability to cling and drain Samus’ health and could only be dislodged with bombs. By combining these two previous object lessons and making the connection between those creatures and the traits demonstrated by metroids makes the solution clear.
This version of Tourian does feature some hazards and scenarios not present in the original game, perhaps most notably large expanses of acid that can only be traversed with Samus’ space jump. While the Screw Attack will keep the parasites at bay as you jump, they quickly move in once you land. You need keen reflexes to come out ahead in these scenarios.
On the other hand, some situations are much easier to deal with this time around. Metroids below you are much less of a threat now that Samus can aim downward either at an angle or directly down. There’s no longer any need to tentatively lure them around the corner and into range. And, as in the original, you can’t advance until you defeat every metroid, as their lives are linked to the door controls.
Midway through Tourian, however, the design begins to diverge from that of the previous iteration of the zone. The high-tech look gives way to a strange, dusty, almost desert-like setting. Curiously, a pair of sidehoppers live here; they’re easily dispatched, but their presence breaks the rules of Tourian’s design: No life forms save metroids and Mother Brain’s biocomputer components. Something is definitely different this time around.
The next room is even more bizarre: One final Torizo encounter. But this one stands frozen in place, already in an attack position. It doesn’t seem like it was waiting to ambush Samus, but rather than it was frozen in the middle of some other conflict.
Even more strangely, shooting it causes it to disintegrate into dust. What should have been an epic final battle with the ultimate Torizo is instead little more than watching your prospective opponent turn into dirt. It’s all very mysterious and somewhat disconcerting. What could have caused this, you wonder? And in the next room, you learn the answer as a lone sidehopper bounces toward you…
…only to be snatched from the air by the biggest metroid in existence. It turns out the game isn’t called “Super Metroid” because it’s Metroid on Super NES; it’s called Super Metroid because… well. This hulking monstrosity. The super metroid.
Samus is frozen in horror as the beast drains the life from the sidehopper in a matter of seconds, leaving behind another of those dusty husks that collapse at a touch. This behemoth was clearly responsible for reducing this area to a desolate wasteland, and it’s capable of destroying a powerful Torizo in mid-swipe. Super Metroid is back to where it began – creating atmosphere and narrative within the confines of the game itself – although as the eponymous monster rises from its snack and trains its attention on Samus, the silent narrative conveys much less “eerie but harmless” and more “well, I’m dead” than the spooky opening sequence in the ruins of the former Tourian region.