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I have a beef with the Metroid: Zero Mission soundtrack


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I posted this originally on the AM2R forums, but because it relates to video game music, I though I'd post a topic here.

I think that MZM, although very fun mechanically, completely drops the ball when it comes to worldbuilding and atmosphere. (Which is egregious since it's a remake of what I consider to be an atmospheric game.) But that's a whole can of worms on it's own. Right now I'm specifically talking about it's soundtrack. Although I can't deny that behind the scenes they did try to stay true to the original style, I don't think they succeeded. For example:

  • The title theme doesn't have any of the harshness that was in the beginning of the original, and seems to be missing the warmth of the next section. Perhaps because the chords are too thick and the choir sample is too harsh/airy?
  • The Brinstar theme sounds even more bombastic, energetic, and heroic, in direct disproportion to it's appropriateness.
  • This item room song tries to sound like it belongs in Metroid Prime - and completely looses the eeriness the quiet original one had.
  • Norfair in MZM sounds dramatic and serious, while in the original it had more of an "oh boy we're spelunking even deeper" sound to it, if that makes any sense.
  • Kraid's Lair might actually sound okay if it just had a counter melody instead of that horrible garbled choir. Actually, the choir sound terrible pretty much whenever it appears.
  • I like how the original escape theme waits a bit before getting particularly bassy - like it's waiting for the player's reaction to sink in. The MZM remix doesn't do this of course.

I do like the Tourian, Mother Brain, and Ridley's Lair remixes though. Ridley's Lair in particular is atmospheric in a way the original wasn't capable of, and actually subtle, unlike some of the remixes I'm less fond of.

Of course, I admit that I've lost my ability to be objective about Metroid a long time ago.

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Listening to it now.  The vox synth that's used in almost every track is what makes the big difference.  I agree that it's unnecessary and changes the feel from "exploration" to "space opera."

  • Title screen: The starkness of the original was one of its most striking features, and the remake's effort to make a fuller soundscape at all times, and speed it up, definitely hurt it.
  • Brinstar seems fine to me.
  • Agreed about the item room.  Same deal as the title screen.
  • Norfair starts off generally fine, but the lengthy additional section only hurts it.  I agree with you, and I know exactly what you mean by the "exploring deeper" feel of the original.  Of course, that may be because I played Metroid as a kid and the association got formed that way.
  • Kraid's lair actually works well with that crappy choir.  It probably helps that something similar was in Super Metroid.  This section should be epic.
  • Ridley's lair always felt odd to me--you go deeper, but the music becomes more "space-y".  Creepy as hell, and the remake covers that just fine.
  • Tourian lacks that choir, which might be why it seems better than the others.  It's adequate.

I was generally disappointed with the game as well.  The worldbuilding was a big part of it; it was also annoying that you didn't get the most critical exploration tools until the endgame, so you had to not only backtrack to get 100%, but go into the main area of the game from the endgame area, which was weird and players might not even realize they could do that.  It took away a lot of what made Super Metroid special, and even Fusion was much better in this regard despite being deliberately railroaded.

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7 hours ago, MindWanderer said:

Brinstar seems fine to me.

After listening some more, you're right. It's not bad. But it seems less subtle in a way that I don't like. The bassline in the intro seems too big, the timpani isn't really needed, and the choir is once more unwelcome.

7 hours ago, MindWanderer said:

Norfair starts off generally fine, but the lengthy additional section only hurts it.  I agree with you, and I know exactly what you mean by the "exploring deeper" feel of the original.  Of course, that may be because I played Metroid as a kid and the association got formed that way.

The original Norfair theme had a bouncy bassline that is absent in the beginning of the MZM remix. It was dissonant with the melody. I think that the dissonance, and the staccato "bouncyness" made it feel less "epic lava area" and more "spelunking in a weird alien environment."

7 hours ago, MindWanderer said:

Kraid's lair actually works well with that crappy choir.  It probably helps that something similar was in Super Metroid.  This section should be epic.

Even at ~0:32-35? Gah, way to ruin a great climax. I suppose I really prefer the stark sounds of the original, and dislike the way the choir clutters the soundscape. (But was the original style objectively better, or it it just what I grew up listening to?) I don't think I would dislike the choir in the remix so much if the song gradually led into it.

Also, I find the extended section rather boring. I'm not against the concept of extending these songs for the remake, but, with the exception of the Ridley's lair remix, I don't find them interesting.

What song from Super Metroid? Are you talking about the staccato choir accents from the Red Brinstar theme? The quality of those sounds weren't the best, but they were used sparingly and appropriately.

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The Gameboy Advance had a pretty inferior sound chip for ambient-type sounds, and many types of songs in general. Not incredibly fair to compare it to Metroid Prime and even Super Metroid is a stretch as, IIRC, the GBA sound chip was inferior even to the SNES. They did the best with what they had.

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1 hour ago, Meteo Xavier said:

The Gameboy Advance had a pretty inferior sound chip for ambient-type sounds, and many types of songs in general. Not incredibly fair to compare it to Metroid Prime and even Super Metroid is a stretch as, IIRC, the GBA sound chip was inferior even to the SNES. They did the best with what they had.

I agree, and understand. The chior samples probably wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't on the Gameboy Advance, but was it a good decision to even use the choir?

My beef with the Metroid: Zero Mission soundtrack is that most of the remixes from the original Metroid, (the game MZM is supposed to be improving upon,) lack the atmosphere and mood that they originally had. It's about the arrangements, not just the sound quality. I do really like a few of the original songs in the MZM soundtrack, like "Ridley aboard the Space Pirate Mothership, VS. King Worm", and "VS. Kiru Giru Larva."

I also like "VS. Kraid," which I didn't mention before because it's a Super Metroid remix. I think the new bassline conveys really well how big Kraid is, and I like the changes and additions made to the section just before the loop. That section sounds like you're solving a very urgent puzzle, which you sort of are.

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MZM is almost a completely different gaming experience. You have to remember that "atmosphere" in a game doesn't just come from the audio, it comes from the combination of graphic style, audio, controls, level design, game mechanics, what you're playing it on, where you're playing it, what time you're playing it, the temperature of the room, etc. It's the grand total gaming immersion experience at the time you're playing it and it's a very unique, very difficult to replicate thing for a lot of people.

You won't even get the same gaming atmosphere from playing the same game unless you meet the full list of requirements for how you enjoyed the atmosphere to start with. That MZM doesn't have that same atmosphere is just nature at work.

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11 minutes ago, Meteo Xavier said:

MZM is almost a completely different gaming experience. You have to remember that "atmosphere" in a game doesn't just come from the audio, it comes from the combination of graphic style, audio, controls, level design, game mechanics

Well, I think the environments and worldbuilding in general was sub-par, but that's off topic. I can link to the topic this was derived from, if you want an explanation.

13 minutes ago, Meteo Xavier said:

You won't even get the same gaming atmosphere from playing the same game unless you meet the full list of requirements for how you enjoyed the atmosphere to start with. That MZM doesn't have that same atmosphere is just nature at work.

Did you read my other posts? I had specific complaints.

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Not necessary, the point I'm making is that atmosphere is a lot more than the audio and that the GBA was going to be inferior to even Super Metroid no matter what. Could it have been better? Of course. I myself can only really remember one original track from it, but it's a moot point, all things considered.

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50 minutes ago, Meteo Xavier said:

Not necessary, the point I'm making is that atmosphere is a lot more than the audio and that the GBA was going to be inferior to even Super Metroid no matter what. Could it have been better? Of course. I myself can only really remember one original track from it, but it's a moot point, all things considered.

Who are you trying to make this point to? Certainty not me, because my very specific complaints that you can see in this thread have mostly been about the arrangements.

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Yeah, there appears to be a communication barrier here and it's become confusing to me why it's going in circles or why I need to see another topic for this one. I see your specific complaints and again I say it's natural that it has a different feel to the soundtrack because the whole game is extremely different and it uses a very different and limited sound chip.
To the producers, the new soundtrack worked for the project they did it for and for what it was, it worked well enough for most of the players.

Short of that and being redundant on it, I'm not sure what else to tell ya.

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He's not talking about the sound chip or the sound quality. He's talking about the arrangement and instrumentation decisions made in the "upgraded" soundtrack. I feel like you're missing the point of this discussion. Also, you say "it worked well enough for most of the players," but you can't actually know that without conducting a statistically significant survey of the game's playerbase.

This forum is specifically for discussing VGM at an analytical level, and this topic specifically is trying to address arrangement choices made with the Zero Mission version of the Metroid soundtrack and how they affected and changed the tone and mood of the game, for better or for worse. I don't think it's helpful to dismiss the points Slimy is making by saying "the new soundtrack worked for the project they did." You're not really engaging in a discussion about the music either; you admit you don't really even remember the soundtrack.

I think that if you want to participate in this discussion, you need to bring more to the table than an argument that amounts to "it's a different version of the game so of course it's different." Refamiliarizing yourself with the Zero Mission soundtrack would be a good first step.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm not sure if it's because the most I've played the original was like...20 minutes, before I quit because it plays like it's underwater, but I personally really dig the MZM soundtrack...especially compared to Fusion. The arrangement in MZM is head and tails above Fusion's, and the easiest way to notice is in Samus' fanfare between the two games (Fusion's rendition of the fanfare is literally closer to the Prime demo's unfinished rendition than it is to MZM's). The mixing is better IMO than in Super, which sounds very muddied.

Actually, thematically....I think MZM's soundtrack is very similar to Prime 2's, which had more driving themes such as Temple Grounds and more usage of vox than Prime 1. And I love Prime 2's soundtrack. So more bias on my part ahahaha...

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Most of MZM's soundtrack is decent (I especially love the spoilery moment near the end when the Brinstar theme shows up again, which never fails to elicit a wide grin), given GBA limitations, but I also have an issue with Norfair's theme, and it's all got to do with the arrangement, which is terrible compared to the original. In the first phrase, the interval between the main melody and its countermelody playing a major third below contrasts sharply with the bassline, which is playing in an entirely different key, starting a minor second below the countermelody. This sounds wonderfully alien and dissonant, while still melodic (compared to, say, Ridley's Lair, which eschewed a melody entirely).

In contrast, MZM plays literal block chords with a bassline an octave or two below it. That's it. Nothing alien or bizarre about it. I suppose it fits the new atmosphere (less "bizarre alien planet" and more "descending into a lava pit") but it's absolute garbage compared to the brilliance of the original. Hip Tanaka knew what he was doing.

On a related note, AM2R suffers from a few of the same issues, particularly the tunnel theme (which is actually one of my favorite bits of Metroid music), though in this case it's the opposite problem that Norfair had. In the original the bassline was a strong tonic, giving the main tunnel a good, strong, grounding that was needed between the eerie atmospheric side sections. The bassline in AM2R is built on the dominant, which weakens it considerably. In general, the AM2R tracks are decent, but somewhat generic-sounding in terms of synth quality. I think they need a little more bite.

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