While I began my lifelong friendship with video games on the old Atari 400, it wasn’t until the late 80s when Santa brought my first Nintendo that it really took off. One of the first games I was ever addicted to was the original Metroid. It began by watching my sister’s boyfriend at the time play it;  the music creeped me out (especially Kraid’s hideout,) but I was also intrigued by the strange world and freedom to go wherever you wanted. It wasn’t like in most games at the time where you either had to go left to right, or bottom to top. It even broke that convention right away by placing the first required item directly to the left of the start.

I remember saving up my money from yard sales to finally get the 40 bucks to buy my own copy. I was the happiest kid in the word, even though I had rented the game for months and knew where everything was. It did take me a while to really learn the game, but soon I could find the ice beam and everything else with my eyes closed. This was back before the internet. Many locations in the game look similar. There is no in game map, and you had to make your own or you were screwed. Well, make your own or have the right issue of Nintendo Power.

The game could be brutal at times. Not Ninja Gaiden hard, but still a heck of a challenge. Enemies can hit you leaving a room or entering one before you can even move, and they hit hard. Everytime you die, you start with hardly any health. Your beams hardly do any damage, and you don’t even start with a full shot. It vanishes a few body lengths away. You can’t duck and shoot or aim down or at angles like in future Metroid games. There was even a room in Norfair where if you fell into a certain spot, your only option was to stand there and wait for Samus to get burned to death. No way out.

The music’s one aspect that stuck with me over the years, from the adventurous Brinstar theme, to the creepy parts, such as in Kraid’s lair where it sounds like a demented circus. Then there was the item room music, eerily atonal with what almost sounds like some creature shuddering its breath beneath.

The environments were varied in their strangeness. While it’s dated by today’s standards, as a kid all of the  platforms and blocks that looked like faces stuck with me. Why does this elevator have a rock that looks like a monster coming down at me? Why does this room have what appear to be floating gum drops? Are those walls even organic?

And then there were the metroids the game was named after. Nothing was scarier than those things coming at you and trying to shoot them before they got on your head. Did I mention the game gives you no help?  You’d have no way of knowing to freeze them and then fire missiles without some guide or trial and error, and if you error, you’re not getting another chance to try right away. The best beam in the game doesn’t even work on them.

Metroid was one of the first games that made me want to create my own game. I’d make huge maps of worlds I created on graph paper, based off of the areas in the game. I designed my own creatures, weapons, all kinds of stuff. Kind of wish I still had them. And while the original Metroid hasn’t aged well, it’s still a fun game, especially for the nostalgia trip.

Now, have a picture of Samus and Ridley, one of my all time favorite characters.

When it was revealed that Samus was a girl, all fears of that hot pink suit were relieved.