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Power Grip allows samus to grab ledges and pull herself up onto them, and samus will automatically morph if the ledge pulls up into a one tile high gap.
While this item not essentially required to complete the game, there is an unbreakable vine blocking the entrance to Norfair that cannot be removed except by collecting the power grip item. This vine just disappears on its own once power grip is collected. It is speculated that this requirement is not specifically just to force Power Grip on the player, but this also forces you to collect the Plasma Beam Unknown Item in order to get to Power Grip, and since Plasma Beam is required to kill the last two metal pirates at the very end of the game, this was the game's way of ensuring you collected the Plasma Beam.