What an odd little game this is.
After roughly ten years of silence in the Metroid series, Nintendo came back with not one but two new titles in the series (funny how history sort of repeated itself, isn’t it?). Those titles being the first 3D game in the series: the first-person Metroid Prime (we’ll get to that the next time, whenever that may be) on the Gamecube, and the traditional 2D Metroid Fusion, which released on the Game Boy Advanced.
This is also where the Metroid timeline completely split apart.
See, up to this point, the Metroid series had a simple and easy to follow chain of events. Metroid 1 led to 2, and 2 led to Super. However, this is where it gets complicated. Metroid Prime slides into place between Metroid 1 and 2, and Metroid Fusion is placed many years after Super Metroid.
And it will only get more complicated from there. But I’ll save that for another day.
Today, we’re talking about Metroid Fusion, one of my favorite entries in the entire series. It’s also one of the oddest entries in the series. It changes many of the story and gameplay traditions of the series, making it a sort of black sheep among it’s peers.
Until Other M shoved it aside and took the black wool for itself. But again: that’s for another time.
The story of Metroid Fusion is easily the most unique aspect about it. Whereas Super Metroid gave you the context of the plot within an opening text dump (which is my least favorite part of the game), Metroid Fusion does this in a much more visually appealing cutscene and a traditional narrative, including dialogue with Samus’ new ship, whom she calls Adam in honor of her previous commanding officer.
Oh yeah, she gets a new ship that talks to her by the way.
I’ll briefly summarize the plot. After the events of Super Metroid, Samus is hired by the Galactic Federation to escort a research time on the planet SR388 from Metroid 2. While on the expedition, however, she’s attacked by a strange creature called an X parasite, the primary enemy of the game. It infects her and later attacks her central nervous system while she’s flying away, nearly killing her. The Federation scientists try to help her, ultimately discovering that Metroid DNA is capable of slaughtering the X. They use it so save her, making her a Human-Chozo-Metroid hybrid (suck it Ichigo Kurosaki). However, the surgery required the removal of several chunks of her suit, completely changing Samus’ physical appearance with the new Fusion Suit.
Quick side note, I love this suit. It looks new, shows off the fact that Samus is fucking ripped (look at those fucking shoulders) and it stands out completely from everything else in the series. It’s a cool design that works well into the plot. Speaking of which…
Samus is given a new ship with a hyper-intelligent AI (whom she calls Adam) and they’re given a new mission: investigate a research lab in orbit of SR388, which has gone completely quiet. Upon investigating, Samus discovers that all the creatures they gathered on the expedition were infected with the X, which broke free and slaughtered everyone on the ship. And most dangerous of all is the X parasite that corrupted Samus’ old suit, which has sprung to life and started wreaking havoc, called the SA-X.
Yep. We’ve got an evil Samus folks. And she’s fucking terrifying.
The presence of the SA-X gives the story many layers of terror. It’s made abundantly clear from step one that she is stronger than you, as she possesses all the power ups you gathered during Super Metroid while you have nothing (and a new weakness to Ice, which she blasts around quite a bit). You never know when she’s going to show up, and she walks around with such chilling confidence that it makes it even more clear that she is the deadliest creature you’ve ever faced not just in this game, but in the entire franchise.
The story is full of twists and turns, making this the most narratively driven game in the entire Metroid franchise (until Other M did it worse). It’s a solid plot that keeps you engaged from start to end.
It’s also one of the best looking games in the series. The backgrounds look fantastic, each sprite looks great, and you can always tell what you can and cannot interact with. Combine that with the excellent music, and you’ve got a fantastic game in terms of presentation.
And then there’s the gameplay which… is a Metroid game. You explore, get power ups, and grow stronger bit by bit. But this one has many quality of life changes that help it stand out. For instance, Missles and Super Missles now take up one slot, with the former being replaced by the ladder completely once you get them. You also don’t need to mash the Select button to get to them; you just need to hold down one button to switch to them, and then you’ll go back to your Beam once you let go.
Plus, you can now grab onto ledges and pull yourself up. Gameplay innovations, everyone!
However, I do have one big issue with this game: linearity. Since the game is heavily plot focused, it requires you go from one sector of the ship to the next one at a time. Sure, you can explore those a bit when you get there, but the number of locked doors and power-blocked areas make your path pretty clear. It’s only at the end of the game does everything open up, allowing you to finally explore completely like the prior games. Except at that point, it only matters to people who want every single collectible, since you are at the end of the game.
Still, this issue is minor when compared to everything else. The quality of the rest of the game completely overshadows any complaints I may have (with the closest being that god damn black-out section where you can’t save your game FUCKING FUCK THAT SHIT). The game is fun, challenging, and scary.
Like, really scary.
Despite the narrative, you never lose that feeling of isolation that Metroid is known for. The music is great, the boss fights are excellent as always, getting power ups and collectibles are still satisfying as hell, and speed running the game is still as challenging and fun as always.
This is easily my second favorite Metroid game (none shall replace Super Metroid). It’s one of the best games on the GBA, and one of the best Nintendo has ever produced. If you’re in the mood for something fun, difficult and frightening, I can think of few games that are better.
Now, if you’ll excuse me. I need to go marathon my way through Metroid Prime.