Eight years. Eight excruciatingly long years. That’s how long fans of the Metroid franchise, specifically fans of Super Metroid released in 1994 for the Super Nintendo, had to wait until they could finally explore the most dangerous reaches of outer space as Samus Aran again. Nintendo skipped an entire console generation when they failed to release a Metroid game for the Nintendo 64. It was now the fall of 2002 and not only was Nintendo reviving the Metroid franchise for the new century, they were going all in by simulatenously releasing two new Metroid games! Metroid Prime for their latest console, the Gamecube, and Metroid Fusion for their new handheld system, the Gameboy Advance.
While I enjoyed playing Metroid Prime back in 2002 as an early Gamecube adopter, it didn’t give me the same nostalgic feeling as I had hoped. 2D Metroid adventures were where it was at for me so when I picked up a GBA and Metroid Fusion a year or so later, it definitely provided the fix I had long forgotten I even needed.
Metroid Fusion looks and feels like Super Metroid from the 2D graphics, Samus’s weapons cache & abilities (with the added inclusion of the ledge grip), the map system and the feel of the side scrolling gameplay. In the Metroid cannon, Metroid Fusion takes place after Super Metroid (and Other M if you count it). In essence, the plot is that bounty hunter Samus Aran is once again sent to explore a distressed location by the Galactic Federation, this time a laboratory space station on SR388. While there, she is attacked & infected by parasitic organisms called X. After she is given a vaccine that saves her life, it is determined that portions of her power suit cannot be removed for fear of further doing damage, so her appearance in Metroid Fusion is a bit “half cooked”. Due to the infection and the subsequent vaccine, Samus now as vulnerability to cold so you will not see an ice beam this go-round. Samus’ inability to utilize the ice beam becomes an important plot point much later in the game. The upside is that she can now use the X-parasite’s nuclei to make her stronger instead of it harming her like it did prior.
Samus is sent to continue her investigation into an explosion at the lab and is instructed by her new computer, which she nicknames Adam. She quickly figures out that the X-parasites can mimic their hosts appearance so you’ll experience plenty of deja vu in terms of boss battles if you’ve played any of the prior Metroid games. Samus also realizes that there is even a clone of her wandering around the station, named SA-X. The appearance of SA-X is one of the most memorable moments of the game as the music changes and Samus isn’t yet strong enough to take SA-X on so it becomes a bit of a cat and mouse game in these moments. SA-X sort of gives off a Terminator vibe, will its cold, dead eyes and relentless approach to chasing after Samus & the Metroids being bred at the station.
As Samus takes on more X-parasites in the form of monsters she’s encountered in the past, she becomes stronger, regaining her abilities lost during the initial infection. Metroid games continually have to come up with excuses for Samus to lose her abilities with each successive title and they did a wonderful job creating a plot driven reason for a weakened Samus to be running around a dangerous environment, gradually re-gaining strength and abilities she once had. The game progresses in a linear fashion, requiring Samus to complete objectives in order to advance throughout the game. This is sometimes cited as a Metroid Fusion weakness as players typically prefer their Metroid games to be non-linear. However, Metroid has always forced some linearity by not allowing areas to be explored without certain weapons or abilities so I have found this aspect to be a bit overrated anyway and it doesn’t detract from the overall quality of Metroid Fusion.
Metroid Fusion looks amazing, just like playing the Super Nintendo on a handheld (which essentially is what the GBA was capable of doing) but I am always impressed with the sound and music of Metroid Fusion. The in-game sounds are spectacular and very satisfying and never make you feel like you’re playing a technologically strapped version of a Metroid game. This is handheld gaming at its best.
Metroid Zero Mission, released in 2004, is an impressive remake of the original 1986 Metroid title for the Nintendo Entertainment System while also serving as the origin story for the Metroid cannon. The updated graphics bring the story to life in a way that the 8-bit version couldn’t do. As a huge fan of the NES original, it’s admittedly fun as hell to play Metroid with graphics & sound on par to the SNES. While a straight remake of the original would have been fine in my book, Nintendo chose to incorporate new mini-bosses and even a whole new area to explore (Chozodia) in an effort to provide gamers with enough reason to lay down the extra cash for this version. To me, it compares similarly to when a musician or band re-releases a remastered version of a classic album with bonus material. The core songs are the same (lyrics, music) but the remastering process takes advantage of updated technology while the additional tracks are added to sweeten the pot for fans of the original. Metroid Zero Mission is exactly like that for fans of the original.
Metroid Zero Mission has the same feel, music and gameplay with just the extra bells and whistles that you would expect with 18 years of technological advances. I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying this game, regardless if they have nostalgia for the original or if this is the first time they’ve ever played this particular entry in the Metroid franchise.
Currently in my collection:
Metroid Fusion – game, manual, box A+
Metroid Zero Mission – game only A