To know me is to know that I adore Super Metroid. When I first played the game, it was simply love at first sight. Everything about the experience was perfect and joyous…and maybe a little frustrating here and there, but who’s counting? After that first time, I became hooked; and over the course of about a year and a half, I replayed the game several more times, each time becoming more meticulous about my advancement than the last. It eventually became one of those games for which I kept notes. Like, handwritten, on paper. And once I started, I couldn’t stop logging my progress. I just had to keep track of ALL the missile expansions, energy tanks, secret passages, and boss battles, so that I was better prepared for the next time. And no matter how many times I played, each time I always wrote down at least one new thing that I hadn’t discovered before.
My notebook was pretty full before I finally figured out the secrets of the mysterious the etecoons and dachora. Now, these guys weren’t secrets, per se, but understanding their placement in the world of Super Metroid was. Mind you, this was before the Internet, when secrets were discovered on one’s own, through word of mouth, or in magazines. In this case, I had to interpret their raison d’être on my own.
The benign etecoons and dachora were anomalies in a world that was otherwise meant to trap and harm Samus. They were leftover inhabitants of the planet Zebes. The bird-like dachora and monkey-like etecoons were harmless, yet they each held a secret — secret moves that would help Samus.
When I first happened upon the dachora, after “waking up,” it started running at top speed and shot forward in the blaze of a 16-bit rainbow. What the…? I had no idea what it was doing. At first, I thought it was readying for an attack, and I steeled myself for a fight. But as it was immune to all of my shots, it became clear that it wasn’t an enemy. But there was something about it, particularly the sound it made as it was running, that sounded just like Samus’s speed booster (sprint). What was it about that daschora’s actions that I was supposed to figure out??
While it took me a few playthroughs to really get it, I eventually learned the “shinespark,” which allowed Samus accelerate horizontally or vertically like a bullet after speed boosting. It wasn’t the easiest move to master on the old SNES controller, but when it worked, it led to lots of items that I couldn’t previously figure out how to get. (And how did I remember where those items were? My trusty notebook! Never doubt the power of pen and paper! Ahem…)
The etecoons were a slightly different story. While the silent dachora first appeared to me as an enemy, the chirpy trio of etecoons made their friendly presence known off the bat. Their “secret” move wasn’t an option like the shinespark, but was rather a means for Samus to progress (without having to turn back around). Upon meeting the etecoons, after a quick, bleepy introduction, they proceeded to demonstrate the wall jump — a way for Samus to traverse tall, smooth, and narrow passages. Over and over and over the etecoons performed, wall jumping to the top then tumbling back down again. So cute! I remember watching them for the first time, being surprised at their collective energy. They were unlike any of the living creatures in that game, and it was nice spending a little time with them.
Neither the etecoons nor dachoras came with any instructions, and it was perfectly possible to complete Super Metroid without the shinespark or the wall jump (though the latter was a very useful move). And none of these guys were hidden behind locked doors, coded entrances, or special passages. They were just there, giving away their secrets without hesitation. Sometimes the best secrets in games are right there in front of you — you just have to take the time to decipher their means and ways.