20 October, 2018

Super Metroid - The Kraid Challenge (A Walkthrough)

So, to preface, I finally got my hands on one of those Super Nintendo Classic systems, and while the game selection is far from exhaustive, I now have the opportunity to revisit some of my favorite games from the heyday of retro video gaming - Final Fantasy III, Super Metroid, Zelda: A Link To The Past, Super Mario World (as if I haven't already played through that game enough for one lifetime), Donkey Kong Country, Super Castlevania IV, Contra III: The Alien Wars, et cetera (the only reason I don't mention Mega Man X is because I already have the Collection for the PlayStation, and never really stopped playing them). Having recently finished Final Fantasy on the NES Classic (and in the process, introduced someone new to the wonderful world of classic 2D VG RPGs), I fired up Super Metroid and decided that I was going to take on the Kraid Challenge again, for old time's sake. Completing this was one of my proudest accomplishments as a gamer when I was a kid.

Explanation: although the world of Super Metroid is very non-linear (representing a form of gameplay/architecture referred to as "Metroidvania" - which the Metroid series pioneered, and Castlevania later piggy-backed on), there is a relatively straightforward progression of enhancements and power-ups that lead you further and deeper into new regions of Planet Zebes. Nevertheless, it is possible to bypass the first region boss (Kraid), and still complete most of the rest of the game. This, however, requires mastery of the self-propelled wall jump technique to ascend a chamber that normally would require a weapon that freezes enemies to be used as stepping stones, as well as a mad dash through the life-draining heat of a lava cave - without protection. Just for fun, I'm going to walk you through the steps required to complete this challenge.

Stage 1 - Reaching the Hi-Jump Boots

From the start, you may proceed through the game normally, until you reach the Hi-Jump Boots. Be sure to pick up these two Energy Tanks along your way (although, to be honest, you'd have to go out of your way to miss them):

Location: Crateria, just before the elevator to Brinstar proper

Location: Norfair, just before you find the Hi-Jump Boots

Stage 2 - Preparing for the Heat

With the Hi-Jump Boots now in your possession, you are expected to fight Kraid (but we're not going to). Defeating Kraid earns you the Varia Suit, which will protect you from the intense heat present in certain sections of Norfair. In order to bypass this heat without the Varia Suit, you will need as much life as you can get. Luckily, there are two more Energy Tanks now available to you, but to get them, you will need to use the wall jump technique to climb a vertical chamber in Brinstar that would normally require usage of the Ice Beam. Observe:

I edited out a lot of failed jumps - especially at the top. It's all about timing and placement on the wall. You don't have to get it on your first try. You just have to get it.

Ascending said chamber in this fashion gives you access to the Power Bomb out of sequence, which you'll need to get one of the two Energy Tanks you're after. It's located in Brinstar, in the first vertical chamber you encountered, below a false floor, on the way to the room where the critters teach you the wall jump (that you should already have mastered).

Watch out for the false floor! And be sure to grab the Super Missiles in the next room. The other Energy Tank you need is near where you first picked up the Morphing Ball. It's hidden in the ceiling. Use the Hi-Jump Boots to reach it.

Stage 3 - Into the Inferno

With four Energy Tanks in tow, you are now ready to face the searing heat of Norfair. Use the Save Station at the bottom of the first passage you encounter in Norfair, and practice your run over and over until you manage to reach the end before your life drains out completely. Watch how it's done:

This was one of my better run-throughs (I tried it in vain with just three Energy Tanks at first, so my instincts were pretty honed) - but as you can see, I stepped in the lava twice. So, there is room for some error. Just not a whole lot.

When you get to the other side (the large room looks like it should drain your health, but it doesn't), use the Save Station above you to record your progress (but watch out for flying baddies!) before you get yourself killed and have to do it again. You'll have to replenish your health by repeatedly killing the critters in this room. It's monotonous, but necessary.

Two of the three doors within reach above you lead to a Reserve Tank and the Wave Beam. I don't know if you can make it through the heat with just four Energy Tanks, but even if you can, it's not worth the trouble. You'll come back for them soon. Right now, what you want is the Speed Booster. Use the wall jump technique to reach the upper right corner of the large room (via the upper left corner - this is a tricky jump to make, but it's doable), then make another mad dash through the heat. Like so:

With the Speed Booster, you can now return to the vertical chamber where you first entered Norfair (via one of the lower passages), and complete another short heat run to get the Ice Beam. You should be getting the hang of this by now, but here's what that will look like:

Congratulations, you no longer have to rely on the wall jump technique! After replenishing your health (again), you can clear away those Power Bomb blocks you saw in the last scene of that video, which will lead you to yet another heat run. But don't worry, this one is pretty low risk. A long, Speed Booster passage will deposit you in another vertical chamber, where the heat will continue to drain your life away. You now have three choices. Through the door to your right is a long tunnel leading to an Energy Recharge station which will keep you alive if you're floundering. Above you is a door to a Save Station (and above that, a one-way route that returns you to where you started - after you pick up the Grappling Beam). But most importantly, through the green door directly beneath your feet you'll encounter Crocomire. Rest assured, the heat will not drain your life in Crocomire's tunnel. Defeat the mid-boss, and the Grappling Beam will be within your reach.

Ah, now we're getting somewhere!

Stage 4 - The Road to Phantoon

With the Grappling Beam, you can now access the Wrecked Ship. But before you go charging off, I consider Phantoon (the guardian of the Wrecked Ship) to be one of the more difficult bosses in this game. Without the increased damage mitigation of the Varia Suit, you're going to need all the life you can get. So you'd better take some time to collect all the Energy and Reserve Tanks available to you now, with your new weapons and abilities...

...starting with the Energy Tank at the far end of Crocomire's tunnel, accessible with the Grappling Beam. Between this extra Energy Tank, and the Ice Beam, you should be ready to pick up the Reserve Tank you skipped earlier, across from where you got the Speed Booster.

The Grappling Beam will also help you to snag the Wave Beam (which you'll need shortly) - though not without demonstrating a little bit of agility. (Don't forget to heal up before you go charging through the heat again).

Now you can return to Brinstar/Crateria, and make a loop, collecting the remaining items in the order of your preference. There's a Super Missile upgrade just off the evacuation chamber below your ship in Crateria, accessible only after collecting the Power Bomb, Ice Beam, and Speed Booster. Every bit of firepower helps!

Location of a Super Missile upgrade

Below where you got the Charge Beam in Brinstar, there's an Energy Tank that seemingly requires you to have the Gravity Suit, in order to use the Speed Booster underwater. But if you use the wall jump technique, you can find a just-long-enough patch of dry ground. Here's how to pull it off:

Located not far away is another room sealed with a yellow door (which requires a Power Bomb to open), and an Energy Tank accessible only if you have the Wave Beam. Here's it's location:

A Power Bomb and the Wave Beam will yield another Energy Tank

Our last stop in Brinstar will net you your second Reserve Tank - and another Super Missile upgrade!

Use the Speed Booster to get this Reserve Tank

Last, but not least, you will find one more Energy Tank in Crateria, above your ship. You'll need to use the Speed Booster (and a liberal sprinkling of Power Bombs) to reach it. This should bring your total up to eight (with two in reserve).

Use the Shinespark technique to reach new heights!

Now you're as ready as you're ever going to be to fight Phantoon!

Stage 5 - Business as Usual

Once Phantoon is defeated, locating the Gravity Suit should be a trivial matter.

In addition to being a further upgrade, and allowing ease of movement underwater, this suit also duplicates the heat-resistant effects of the Varia Suit. Once you have it, you can continue to play the rest of the game normally...

Stage 6 - The Taste of Victory

...until you've defeated Ridley, that is. Progress will then be halted until you go back and finish off Kraid (enjoy taming the great beast with as few as two shots!). But first, you can take a screenshot of the statue blocking access to Tourian to prove that you've defeated Ridley (and the other two bosses) while Kraid still lives:

Congratulations, you've completed the Kraid Challenge!