Back in the Dark Ages called the early-90s, there were many conveniences that were not available to the average gamer. It is easy to take for granted nowadays, but the very idea of a complete game map was reserved for those who could buy them from magazines or player’s guides. And in extreme cases, you could actually call a special number to get some help when you are stuck! Nintendo, in particular, had a hotline manned by Nintendo Game Play Counselors (as they were called). This hotline was active and operated in-house by Nintendo for a whopping 18 years (1987 to 2005).
One recent discovery related to this is the Super-Secret Super Metroid Map. This was used by these Game Play Counselors to help weary players lost without a clue… a map painstakingly hand drawn by one of the game’s Japanese developers!
The Secret Weapon of Nintendo Game Play Counselors
On the Twitter account Art of Nintendo Power, a picture was shared of this super-secret developers’ Super Metroid map! Art of Nintendo Power often shares various Nintendo artwork, photos, and conversation pieces from Nintendo’s past. In this particular tweet, it shows the original hand drawn Super Metroid map used by Nintendo game counselors.
As mentioned earlier, the absence of affordable and readily available internet back in the 1990s meant there were no Wikis, no downloadable guides, not even FAQs to look at (even for those with an AOL account and 56 Kbps modems). If you didn’t have a copy of a specific Nintendo Power for a game or one of the many official guides, you were stuck with trial and error. That is, unless you called the special 1-900 hotline number. Nintendo players were running to these game counselors, lest they be stuck for hours. Of course, then they’d have to contend with the phone bill once their parents find out!
Nintendo’s 1994 hit Super Metroid was a particularly popular focus. The game’s layout can get confusing, even with the in-game map. More than that, Super Metroid was full of nooks and crannies with hidden items and weapons. Most of these were essential in order to progress. In the absence of a proper guide, there was a lot of trial and error, with the player-controlled Samus running back and forth in the undergrounds of the planet Zebes. But with the help of a Nintendo Game Player Counselor, you could breathe a sigh of relief (or sometimes slap yourself for not figuring out the mechanics on your own).
One interesting bit about the Super Metroid map is that it was not actually an "official" resource that Nintendo Game Play counselors were supposed to be privy to. The localized release of Super Metroid for the North American market had some modifications made to it (although, interestingly enough, the NA cartridge had to option to choose Japanese text).
Nintendo of America’s upper management thumbed down on providing copies of this map for Game Player Counselors. This is because they were concerned about the possibility of giving the wrong information to players. Such things could lead to complaints and Nintendo prided itself with being on the top of quality control for both their games and the after service provided, including the game counselors’ hotline.
However, game counselors found this situation to be a serious problem. How could they answer questions about where certain bosses like Phantoon and Gold Torizo could be located, without a map? That could lead to even more complaints. So, stealthy game counselors did what they had to do. They copied the Super Metroid map and kept these copies in their personal safekeeping. Thus, when a player called about being lost, they could plop it on the desk and point them to the right path! This would be the common practice, at least until game magazines (including Nintendo Power) came up with their own maps.
The Full Super Metroid Developers’ Map
Now, thanks to TJ Rappel of Metroid Database, we can see that full Super Metroid developer’s map in all its glory!
The map features handwritten notes and icons. These detail the locations of all the major enemies, weapons, ammunition, and resources such as energy tanks and reserve tanks, as well as save points.
There is one interesting point about this version of the Super Metroid map that is different from the actual map in the game. So there may be some wisdom to Nintendo of America’s hesitation in providing this map to game counselors. There is one room in the Super Metroid developers’ map (which is the Japanese version of the game) which does not have an equivalent in the North American version (as seen below).
Fortunately, this unused room appears to have no immediate impact or long-term significance to the gameplay. No important item or enemy is located here, so Super Metroid players can rest assured they are not missing something important (although hardcore fans would certainly try to look for ways of reaching it through glitches for the "bragging rights").
Take You Back to the Past
This super-secret Super Metroid developers’ map is certainly an interesting time capsule. For players who had the experience of calling up Nintendo’s Game Play Counselors’ hotline, it would have probably seemed magical for them to have the answers they needed - like some arcane wizard guiding their apprentices to find hidden knowledge. That is no longer the case in this day and age. Because now, players have complete and outstanding guides like ours on XFire! Keep your eye out for our Super Metroid complete guides and walkthroughs!