Some things should not be made into video games. Other things would work okay as video games but only if done well. Where’s Waldo on NES is definitely an example of one of these two, probably the latter. I knew this would be a quick game and a stupidly short game, but I didn’t expect it to take me literally less than fifteen minutes.
As the name suggests, you have a handful of levels filled to the brim with people, and you have to find Waldo. The less-than-stellar graphics, however, make this difficult as there are several non-Waldo sprites who look a lot like Waldo at first. There are four difficulties - Practice which has no time limit, and then Easy, Medium, and Hard which are increasingly strict with time penalties for wrong guesses and change the size of the game screen to make it more difficult. The harder difficulties will sometimes have Waldo in different colors which honestly feels more like BS than honest difficulty; the red stripe shirt is kind of his thing.
There are some special levels that break up the monotony somewhat. There’s a cave level where you can’t see anything and have to wait until Waldo darts across the screen briefly. That one’s so easy that it’s honestly frustrating. Then there’s a subway level that’s like a maze that you have to navigate to get to Waldo and then get to the exit. Lastly, there’s final level is a slot machine that requires you land all three spinners on Waldo’s face. Do that before the end of your time limit, and you win.
That’s it. That’s the entirety of Where’s Waldo. It’s a terrible game with terrible design. Bad graphics aren’t always a deal breaker for NES games, but when the entire point is to find a specific character, that kind of depends on being able to see what character on screen, and that’s sometimes easier said than done here. Don’t bother with this game; it honestly isn’t even worth emulating.
My Rating - 1 Nep
Also available on Wii U via Virtual Console
Metroid Fusion, also known as Metroid 4, is the furthest point in the Metroid timeline up until the release of Metroid Dread later in 2021 (allegedly). It was also the first Metroid game to appear on the Game Boy Advance. The game's story is told through dialogue cut scenes and sheds some light onto Samus's military background and her former CO, Adam.
The basic premise of Metroid Fusion is that Samus is acting as bodyguard for a research team researching SR388, the Metroid homeworld. While on the planet, she's attacked by an entity she'd never encountered previously. She later finds out that this entity, the parasite known as X, had infected her, integrating with her nervous systems, corrupting her Power Suit, and infesting her body. Parts of her suit had to be surgically removed, hence the change to her appearance. Unfortunately, an explosion occurred at the research station that had her infested suit, and her new computer CO has ordered her to investigate the incident.
Visually, Fusion and Zero Mission are about on par. They look fantastic, and the sprites are gorgeous. The lighting effects seen in parts of the game look extremely good, and I didn't notice any slowdown whatsoever during my playthrough. While the whole series has excellent music, I found Fusion's music to be especially good as it perfectly complements the foreboding and perilous tone of the game. The controls are about on par with Zero Missions, as well; space jump and wall jumping still feel a bit awkward, but they're perfectly serviceable a big step up from the older games.
The difficulty in Fusion is interesting. There is an Easy and a Normal mode (and a Hard mode in Japan that can be unlocked), but as far as just general difficulty, it's kind of mixed. On the one hand, I found navigation to be hands down the easiest of the series to this point. Your computer CO tells you pretty much exactly where you need to go most of the time, and the few times it doesn't, it's not too hard to find on your own. On the other hand, Samus takes more damage per hit than in previous Metroid games. This is balanced, however, with the fact that there are more total energy tanks thank in previous Metroid games, as well. All things considered, I found it much easier than Metroid, Metroid II or Super Metroid, but most difficult than Zero Mission.
Metroid Fusion is an excellent of example of why this series has such a strong following. With beautiful visuals, tight controls, addicting exploration, and varied and interesting bosses, this is peak Game Boy Advance action. It definitely feels a little like it holds your hand with the exploration by telling you where you need to go on the map, but with how frustratingly hidden some of the paths can be, I think that's a minor gripe at best, and I personally loved that feature. It's a shame that Game Boy Advance games never saw a 3DS release outside of the Ambassador program (of which Metroid Fusion was a part), but if you've got a Wii U, definitely check this game out before Metroid Dread comes out. It's apparently the cool thing to do as this game almost instantly shot to the top of the eShop sales charts after Dread was announced.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on Wii via Virtual Console, Wii U via Virtual Console, Switch via NSO, and 3DS via Virtual Console
Super Metroid is the third game in the Metroid series both chronologically and in release order following Metroid on NES and Metroid II: Return of Samus on Game Boy. It’s widely considered to be one of if not the best games in the series, and I’ve got to agree with that assessment. It excels in pretty much everything, and you’ve got to look pretty hard to find any real flaws with the game.
After the events of Metroid II, Samus takes the baby Metroid - the last survivor of its species as far as we know - to a Federation research station. No sooner does Samus leave than Space Pirates attack the research station and steal the baby Metroid. Now Samus must return to Zebes to deal with the Space Pirates and either recapture or eliminate the Metroid. The narrative set-up, told through cut scenes at the beginning of the game, starts the game with some solid tension. Being back on Zebes, a lot of the game feels rather similar to the first game, but this is by no means a recreation of the original map. There are some major differences this time around in addition to some much needed quality of life improvements like an inventory screen, eight directional firing, and most importantly, an automap that you can reference at any time.
Literally everything about Super Metroid is an improvement over Metroid. The visuals are just beautiful. They’re colorful, they’re detailed, and some of the visual effects used are mind blowing when you consider that this didn’t use the Super FX chip. The soundtrack is downright masterful and perfectly sets the ambiance for the lonely, isolated, and perilous situation in which Samus once again finds herself. The controls as well have been tuned to near perfection. The space jump can still be a little finicky, but it’s SIGNIFICANTLY better than it was in Metroid II. Platforming feels a lot more responsive and natural, and the ability to shoot diagonally makes a world of difference especially in boss battles.
The game isn’t completely without flaws, but they’re extremely minor and few and far between. In fact, the only noteworthy flaw that I noticed during my playthrough was a bit of slow down when the screen gets busy, mainly when using a Super Bomb with a lot of enemies and/or destructible blocks on-screen. That’s the only situation where I noticed any slowdown, though, and in the handful of instances of it, the slowdown only lasted for a second or two. Beyond that, I saw no performance issues whatsoever with the game.
It’s clear why a lot of Best Video Game of All Time lists put Super Metroid near the top; it really is nearly perfect. The visuals are stunning, the soundtrack is stellar, the controls are tight and responsive, and the world, while sometimes frustrating, is a blast to explore. Fortunately, Nintendo knows how great and beloved this game is, so it’s pretty widely available to play. The Wii Virtual Console isn’t really an option anymore with the shutdown of the Shop Channel (RIP), but you can still download it on your Wii U or New 3DS, and it’s also available on the Super Nintendo Classic and the Nintendo Switch Online SNES app, so there are plenty of legitimate ways to play even without hunting down a SNES cartridge.
My Rating - 5 Neps
Also available on 3DS via Virtual Console
Metroid II: Return of Samus is the Game Boy sequel to the original Metroid on NES, and I have to admit that this one surprised me. Normally a game will feel like a definite downgrade when it starts on NES and gets a sequel on Game Boy - Super Mario Bros to Super Mario Land, for example. To my surprise, Metroid II didn't feel like much of a downgrade at all. On the contrary, for the most part, it just felt like more Metroid but in black and white.
Metroid II takes place immediately following the events of Metroid. Knowing that the Metroids pose an existential risk to other life in the galaxy, the Galactic Federation determines that the species must be exterminated. After her success in the previous game, Samus is sent to see to the extinction of the Metroids. That's the whole game here - you have to kill every single Metroid on their homeworld. In the bottom rights of the screen, there's a running tally of how many Metroids remain. You'll come into contact with a variety of different Metroids. There are, obviously, the regular Metroids that you encountered in the first game. There are also Alpha Metroids, the second stage in the Metroid development. They then turn to Gamma Metroids that gain the ability to shoot projectiles. Those turn into Zeta Metroids which can only be damaged from head on. Then finally you've got the Omega Metroids which are like Zeta Metroids on steroids. Finally, you have the final boss, the Metroid queen.
A handful of folks have said that they think that they think Metroid II is easier to navigate than the original, but I personally found this one to be at least as complicated to navigate as the first game. It definitely ended up feeling easier to navigate once I got a feel for the mazes, but at first, I was SO lost. The fact that you don't have a map is a major hinderance, but that's a pretty common thing with games this age especially for handhelds. Keep a map pulled up on your phone, and you're probably okay. Or maybe you just generally suck less than I do.
Metroid II is definitely rough around the edges, but it's a great follow-up from the first Metroid. I didn't notice any of the sprite flicker from the NES original, and there wasn't much noticeable slowdown, either. Still, though, the game is definitely as primitive as you would expect. That doesn't mean that it's not fun, though. On the contrary, while it's an imperfect experience, it's definitely a fun experience. I definitely recommend sticking to the 3DS remake, Samus Returns, if you want the Metroid story, but this is definitely a fun one to fire up and play a little of every now and then.
My Rating - 3 Neps
Also available on Wii U via Virtual Console
Having recently played through the original Metroid on NES, I decided I might as well play through its enhanced remake on GBA, Metroid: Zero Mission. Along with the other GBA Metroid, Metroid Fusion, this is one of the two 2D Metroid games that I’d never finished. With the release of Metroid Dread on the Switch looming on the horizon, I figured now was a pretty good time to go back through the 2D Metroid games.
Metroid: Zero Mission is, at its heart, a remake of the NES original, but “retelling” or “reimagining” would probably be more accurate as it’s not the NES game in GBA graphics. It tells the story of the original game - Samus’s battle with Kraid, Ridley, and Mother Brain on planet Zebes to prevent the Metroids from spreading across the galaxy - but it’s more than that. The map has been reworked, quality of life improvements have been made, and a whole section of game has been added following the defeat of Mother Brain. Instead of escaping after beating Mother Brain and the game ending, you end up going through a Space Pirate mothership and fighting more enemies and an additional boss. It not only makes this the definitive way to get the first story in the Metroid series, but it does so in a way that doesn’t invalidate the NES original; the 8-bit progenitor game is absolutely still worth playing even if you’ve played Zero Mission.
That said, the technical enhancements over the original on NES can’t be overstated. Obviously it looks leagues better, but it runs significantly better, too. The original had slow down and sprite flicker; you’re not going to encounter any of that here. The smoother and somewhat faster gameplay make it a delight to play and really show how fantastic an old school 2D Metroid game can be even in 2021 when we’ve become used to 3D games with 4K visuals. If I have any complaint about Zero Mission, it’s that there just isn’t enough of it. Even with the added content after you beat Mother Brain, the game leaves you wanting more. That’s not entirely a strike against it, though; a lot of that is because of the huge quality of life improvements that force you to spend less time wandering aimlessly, the save points that will have you wasting less time when you die, and the fact that it’s not as brutally difficult as the original.
On the topic of difficulty, some may argue that it’s a bit too easy as it’s definitely one of the less difficult entries in the series, but I would say that it’s perfect as it is. When you start the game, you can choose between an Easy and a Hard difficulty, and beyond that, I think that having this game be less difficult while retelling the story that started the Metroid series makes it a perfect entry point for prospective new fans who might otherwise be turned off by the difficulty and technical limitations of the NES original.
I really cannot overstate how much I enjoyed my time playing through Metroid: Zero Mission. While I’m openly not particularly good as most video games, I found it to have enough challenge where it needed to - the bosses - while not being frustrating in the bulk of the game. Most importantly, it’s just a blast to play. This is definitely a game I can see myself going back to just to spend a half hour playing when I get the itch regardless of whether or not I beat it again. The game itself is just a perfect 2D Metroid experience. It’s on the Wii U Virtual Console which is how I would recommend playing it if you don’t already have a GBA copy or a GBA Everdrive as prices have shot up in the lead-up to Metroid Dread’s release. However you play it, though, you’re in for a hell of a good time.
My Rating - 5 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.