Take a look in the mirror. What do you see? Itís the image yourself, projected back at you. Who are you? Can you define yourself? What do you think of yourself in relation to the grand scheme of existence? As you look into the eyes of your reflection, can you ponder over the future? You may be enjoying the bliss of young adulthood now, but youíll eventually have to merge into a fast-paced society of stress, money, and seemingly hopeless dreams. But no matter what may happen to you during life, you canít forget your individual influence on the world. The choices you make and the actions you perform will make some impact on the course of your life, and likely countless other people that youíll never even meet. Your triumphs, your defeats, all are at least in some part due to your own efforts. In that sense, you are your own champion, as well as your own enemy.
That’ll be a dead end then.
Take Samus Aran for example. After her epic quest against the Space Pirates and the Metroids on the SNES, Nintendoís femme fatale faded into annals of gaming history, never to be heard for a few years. In Metroid Fusion, we find her recuperating from yet another one of her dangerous missions into the seedy underside of the universe. During her adventure, she was attacked and infected with a deadly parasite. This being delved deep into her powerful combat suit, posing certain death for the heroine. While hanging on to her life by a thread, Samus underwent a surgical operation that stripped the useless power suit from her, leaving her alive and vulnerable. Still recovering from this major operation, Samus received a distress call from the local research station. Apparently the parasite found a way into the station, multiplying and infecting everything in its path. The worst part is that the parasite, known as the SA-X, can assume the form of whatever life forms that it has infected. Unfortunately, this creature has a thing for mimicking Samusí body and abilities. Thatís right, Metroid fans, itís the cliched showdown of the year! Who will win, the beautiful and deadly vixen that we all know and love, or the cheap and slimy copycat? May the best being survive.
“Here boy, catch this!”
However, Samus canít just go into the space station and start kicking ass and taking names. Thanks to the parasite, her Power Suit has been dismantled, leaving her with the pathetic Fusion Suit. While this green and blue piece of technological inferiority doesnít match the same level of power, it does have one unique purpose. Though lacking in attack and defense, it can absorb the parasite and its various offspring that are plaguing the research station. This nifty little feature will come in handy, considering Samusí weakened state. Thankfully, all of the tried and true Metroid powerups are also present and accounted for. Youíll get access to the Ice Beam, the missiles, the Morph Ball, and all the other weapons that make up the standard Metroid game arsenal. Although you wonít get to see much of the station early on, the well-equipped arsenal will take care of all your exploration needs. Eventually, you will roll down narrow pipes rolled up into the Morph Ball and busting through walls with the Screw Attack. These items are strewn all over the space station for you to find, making you seek out every nook and cranny of the research station in hopes of finding that ever-essential powerup needed for your survival. With a keen eye and some determination, you can discover all the secrets that are just waiting to be found.
“I tell ya it was this big, no kidding!”
Unfortunately, you wonít be given much opportunity to explore this floating death trap. While previous Metroid games have prided themselves on the insane amount of exploration involved in completing the game, Metroid Fusion comes off as an almost linear game. Youíll end up going from one place to another almost directly, save for a few well-placed rooms and hallways. This research station is tiny and cramped, giving off the feel the exact opposite found in the gameís predecessor. Sure, the research station is divided up into seven distinct sections, each with their own areas to search for and enemies to kill. Youíll come to an elevator, check out a few rooms, encounter some kind of boss, and find the powerup you need. It sounds like business as usual for the masic Metroid gameplay formula. However, youíre not given the choice to go wandering around by yourself. Instead, youíre being ordered around by a supercomputer with an attitude problem. Before entering each section of the research station, youíll have to endure a brief pep talk and a look at the onscreen map that points out the exact location of your next objective. And itís not like the computer is just giving you a polite suggestion, either. In order for you take make any headway with completing the storyline or unlocking new areas of the research station, youíll have to play along and do exactly what youíre being told.
All that ball stuff goes with a Metroid game like ham goes with eggs.
If you try to resist the demands of the story progress, there will always be some sort of barrier, ledge, or explosion conveniently stopping you in your tracks. The game designers put extra care into creating this research station gone to hell. You canít access the majority of the areas without having certain items at your disposal. Maybe itís just a door that canít be opened without missiles. Sometimes itíll be a ledge thatís just out of your jumping range. Other times itíll be a long and narrow tunnel, forcing you to track down the Morph Ball if you ever hope of exploring it. Whatever the obstacle, itís rest assured that you wonít get past it without sticking to the forced storyline. With no other option, youíll amble along obediently to the preset location. Youíll find whatever item youíre missing from your arsenal, complete whatever objective is set up for you, and then passively wait for your next instructions. Then the computer will tell you exactly where to go, what to do, and how to do it. Rinse and repeat a few more times, and youíll cleanse the research station of its infection, fully upgrade your suit, and eventually track down that little freak of nature thatís imitating you.
In the meantime, you can just sit back and admire the space station as it slowly rots into oblivion. Each of the sections has its own unique feel to it, be it dark walkways or bright and lush landscape. Samus looks better than ever in her brand new Fusion Suit, its vibrant colors pleasing and eye-catching. Both her and the enemies come complete with lively attack animations and design. Whenever a parasite rears its ugly, amoeba-like head, you can see the light shining off its pulsating filmy surface. But what makes the confrontation with the SA-X even better is the sense of fear and anxiety mixed in with the action. Unlike Samus, the parasite can use all of the Power Suitís capabilities. Since Samus starts out with a basic Power Beam, sheíll have to focus more on running and hiding during most of the confrontations. Itís scary going up against a mirror image of yourself, something with the power to kill you with a single shot. This sense of drama is conveyed through some truly inspired cutscenes and an excellent soundtrack to back them up. You can hear the remixed versions of some of the older Metroid tunes, as well as some newer tracks to help the game along. The combined force of GBA graphics, a great musical score, and some realistic sound effects makes for an excellent presentation for Samusís epic battle against herself.
Hang in there girl!
What will become of Samus and the Metroid series? With this new wave of popularity, Metroid games have attained a new pinnacle of fan following, recognition, and appreciation. Many gamers are too young to remember the Metroid series as it used to be. How many in the gaming community can actually say that theyíve played the original Metroid on the NES, and not one of Nintendoís countless rereleases? How many of you can still insert your Super Metroid cartridge into your SNES and play through one of the greatest games to ever grace the console? Thankfully, Nintendo decided to revive the Metroid series after nearly ten years of neglect. All of the folks with a Gamecube can now sit back and enjoy Samusí transition into three dimensions. However, fans of the 2D gaming style need not worry. Metroid Fusion serves as the bridge to both new and old fans of the series, with a decent effort in the end. This game had a lot to live up to, what with the quality of its predecessors. As far as gaming goes, Super Metroid was a tough act to follow. However, both the fans of Metroid and casual gamers can immerse themselves in this game with minimal effort. It may be nearly devoid of the exploration aspects that older fans appreciate, but it is still a game that all GBA owners can cherish.
Seven out of ten