Manga, Metroid, Review, Video Games

The Metroid Manga: Before Mission Zero

Come to think of it, the only manga I’ve ever reviewed was the Akame Ga Kill, which I had rolled in with the anime. Why not expand my horizons a little bit? No, it’s not because I haven’t watched any shows to review lately, why do you say that?!

Name an even mildly successful Japanese video game franchise and chances are that there’s a manga for it. Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, Devil May Cry, the list of examples is too long to name them all! Name a game, chances are there’s a manga for it! The only question is whether or not it’s actually any good!

In my admittedly limited experience, they usually are. Although they can be a bit… strange. Such is the case of today’s subject: the Metroid manga.

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The first of many amazing drawings, taken from Chapter 15’s intro page

I’ve made my affinity for this series pretty well-known. I’ve reviewed every single game in the franchise up to this point (even you, FF; kinda). I’ve played every single game multiple times, particularly Super Metroid. With every Nintendo Direct, I await with bated breath for literally any news on Metroid Prime 4. And I’ve always been disappointed.

Seriously, I’d take a 3D model of Samus giving me the bird and telling me to wait until 2025 at this fucking point! At least that would be something!

So, when I first heard of the manga, my curiosity was immediately peaked! A Metroid story set before the events of the first game?! How had I not read this already?! I took to the internet and sought it out like a pirate sailing for treasure! That’s when I discovered why I hadn’t read this already: it was never officially, completely released in the States. We only got the first volume out of two.

Or maybe I didn’t look hard enough, I don’t fucking know.

But that didn’t stop me! I found a way (*desperately stuffs pirate hat back into a drawer*) to read the whole thing, translated into English! So today, I’m going to ask the question: was it worth it? Is the Metroid manga good? Or will I walk away disappointed yet again?

Story: Bounty Hunter’s Origin

Hey, look! A Nintendo character with an actual backstory! That makes sense and is interesting! What the fuck is this?!

This manga covers the origin story of Samus Aran, Galactic Federation soldier turned bounty hunter! From her childhood to her first mission as a hunter, this manga covers it all! With a few extra scenes that play into the lore of the other games!

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The first meeting of Samus and Ridley; this scene was genuinely terrifying and I loved it

Did you want to know how and why the Metroids came to be? How about how the Space Pirates and Mother Brain took over Zebes? Or maybe you want to see what the Chozo (those bird dudes who’s ruined civilizations are all over different planets across the series) are all about! You’ll get all of that and more in this manga! And it’s all pretty cool!

Unfortunately, not everything in here is all that great. There are some truly weird choices made in this story. The main one being my man Ridley.

When you play the games, Ridley just seems like a giant space dragon. He’s powerful and clearly cunning, given how he fights in his boss battles. I’ve always interpreted him as Mother Brain’s faithful hound: not intelligent enough to think for itself, but loyal and powerful enough to be dangerous.

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I love how this panel portrays Ridley like he’s this massive, unstoppable force; it goes a long way in making him an intimidating monster

So imagine my surprise when this motherfucker opened his mouth and spoke! Like, actual words! How did he even do that?! Fucker doesn’t have lips! How’s he supposed to enunciate?! He’s never spoken in any of the games beyond a roar! Why do this?!

The story itself is also fairly forgettable. It’s not bad by any means, but there isn’t anything to help it stand out. No ground-breaking twists, no complex characters, none of that. It’s a simple sci-fi story set in the universe of Metroid with some fun additions to the lore.

Which is good, because I fucking love this universe and I want to see it explored more. Just not like… you know… that one game we don’t talk about.

It doesn’t help that the story doesn’t have a proper ending. It leads straight into the story of the first game and tells the audience “Go play the game if you want the rest!” It makes the manga feel more like an advertisement than an actual story.

Which… I mean… it is. But it’s enjoyable enough!

Presentation: Huh. That’s actually pretty cool.

As I alluded to earlier with that Chapter 15 panel, the art here is surprisingly good! It has that classic anime feel and I love it! It’s not as mind-boggling as something like Berserk, but it’s still really impressive! Especially for a video game manga!

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Why do you need a cloak in the Power Suit? Who cares, it looks awesome!

Art-wise, I have no complaints here. All the characters, especially Samus, look amazing! Her design is faithful to the games while still having enough creative flair to be its own thing! Granted, it isn’t hard to capture a character design like hers. But still, it did an incredible job of it!

I’m also pretty fond of the manga-only character designs! The massive scale of Metroid’s universe allows an artist to go absolutely wild with alien designs and this series does not disappoint! There are some truly creative and interesting designs! Some of them are so good that I wish they were in the games!

I also wish we got an actual game. But I’ve suffered long enough to get used to it.

The panel structure is… just okay. It’s easy to follow, but there really isn’t much creativity going on with how they’re used. It isn’t confusing or painful to look at. But it isn’t especially memorable. It looks and flows just fine.

It’s not the most visually distinct manga I’ve ever read. But given the source material, it’s surprisingly impressive!

 

Conclusion

This might seem like an odd choice for my first proper manga review. Why not start with something bigger and more recognizable, like One Piece or Naruto? Why not strike something hot, like My Hero Academia or Demon Slayer? Well, the answer to that is quite simple: I love Metroid. And I love this manga.

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Have a badass drawing to go

It’s not flawless. The story is forgettable, the new characters are meh, and making Ridley talk is still really fucking weird!! It certainly doesn’t help that you can’t legally read it (*locks the drawer containing the pirate hat) in certain countries. In many ways, it leaves much to be desired.

But damn is that artwork cool! It brings Metroid to life really well! It’s a fun read, especially for fans of the series! And if you are, you should absolutely seek it out, even if it takes a little piracy!

Just be sure to keep it on the down-low. Remember: you didn’t hear that from me. Please support the official release.

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