Samus Aran

“Metroid Fusion” video game review

Game Boy Advance’s Metroid Fusion is also known as Metroid 4, but you may not have noticed, as it was released the same day as Gamecube’s Metroid Prime, which went on to be hailed as one of the greatest games of all time. While Prime began a legacy of 3D first-person adventures, Fusion is a 2D action-adventure in the same vein as Super Metroid, also hailed as one of the greatest games of all time. By the way, this is the only 2D Metroid game I’ve played. I’ve completed the Metroid Prime Trilogy and got quite far in Metroid Prime Hunters but never clocked it.

You play as Samus Aran, the greatest bounty hunter in the galaxy, who wears an upgradable space suit granting her special abilities. Her arm cannon is used to gun down enemies, while her Morph Ball ability allows her to literally morph into a ball to roll through tight spaces. At the beginning of the game, much of the area is inaccessible, so Samus must traverse what is accessible to pick up power-ups to make her stronger, acquire new abilities and unlock doors. Oftentimes bosses are standing in the way of achieving these goals. Eventually, more of the area is accessible and Samus’s abilities reach badarsery.

Every other Metroid game prior to Fusion basically said “here you are, this is the area, you’re on all own, go find stuff and use it to kill stuff”. Super Metroid was nice enough to have a map, whereas the original Metroid on the NES has players scribbling out their own map on paper, as well as passwords instead of save stations. In Fusion, you have Navigation Rooms where a computer guides you on what to do next, usually pointing to a Data Room on the map, or telling you to investigate some suspicious activity.

Some may believe this takes away from the Metroidvania style of players being lost and having to find their own way in a non-linear fashion. It is more linear yes, but the guide is simply a step in the right direction. You still have to figure out how to get to the destination yourself, and no-one tells you where secret upgrades are. Samus’s interactions with the computer also help with storytelling. Plus for a handheld game, that pick-up and play nature works well with this new format. I’m not a fan of being lost and wondering around aimlessly (which still can happen despite the game’s linearity), so I liked the way Fusion played.

The story sees Samus bring sent by the Galactic Federation to the Biologic Space Laboratories (BSL) space station after an explosion to see what’s up. The station is swarming with X parasites, which can replicate their hosts physical appearance and memories before killing them. Samus’s new mission is overseen by a computer who she nicknames ‘Adam’, after a late friend.  The Fusion subtitle refers to Samus’s fusion suit; after she is infected by the virus and saved by surgery, parts of her suit have become physically attached to her body and too dangerous to remove. Her infection means a fully capable Samus Aran X parasite is wondering around the BSL.  It’s a good story, well told, and gives a new light to some familiar Metroid characters, mainly the Galactic Federation.metroid4_12

The worst part of a Metroid game is usually the beginning. You’re not only powerless physically, but mentally, as you have no grasp of the world around you. Once you get a groove on everything – the story, the controls, the map – and you start to collect some cool power-ups, Fusion starts to feel and play beautifully.

For a handheld game with 2D sprites, the sound design and graphics work surprisingly well to create atmosphere and tension. The music certainly sounds like it would fit in any science-fiction movie score.

The game is short, but is extended slightly by being very hard. Thankfully there are plenty of save stations around, because no-one likes to repeat things. Unlike Nintendo friends Mario and Zelda, the bosses Samus faces are not easy and go beyond attacking the same spot three times when the boss puts their guard down. No, to defeat the bosses in Fusion, you need speed, endurance and agility, because they hit Samus hard.

I don’t mind short games, you’re likely to actually finish them and Fusion is the sort of game you would want to replay. And of course, good short games don’t overstay their welcome.

For Metroid fans, Fusion is a must-have. In fact, anyone a fan of action games should give this one a spin. It’s a fun, challenging, well-polished and involving sci-fi adventure..

Rating: 4/5.

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‘Metroid Prime 3: Corruption’ video game review

So the Metroid Prime Trilogy is finally coming to the Wii U? Took them long enough, I had just finished Metroid Prime 3: Corruption on the Wii version of the trilogy that I borrowed from my friend. It’s been so long since I played Metroid Prime 2: Echoes that I can’t even remember how long ago it was. Maybe about seven years? I was surprised how familiar the game felt once things got going, even though it had been so long and the series had moved to a new platform with revised controls.

The Metroid Prime games are first-person-action-adventures. Some may call them a first-person shooter, and yes shooting is the combat, but the focus is on exploration. The gameplay involves exploring planets, scanning stuff for clues, acquiring power-ups to unlock new abilities and defeating enemies. Most of the action takes place in the first-person, especially against enemies with gunfire, but some puzzles require the Morph Ball, where Samus literally turns into a metallic ball and is controlled from a third-person perspective. Many areas you encounter may not be reachable until certain upgrades are found or bosses defeated.

The story Corruption closes the Prime trilogy. Samus has spent the last two games assisting the Galactic Federation in their ongoing fight with the Space Pirates, who have been using Phazon to gain power. Phazon is a newly discovered powerful mutagen substance. In the first game, Phazon corrupts a Metroid (life-sucking organism) and it mutates into a large being called Metroid Prime. After Samus defeats it, it absorbs the Phazon from Samus plus her DNA, and revives itself as a Dark Samus. After Samus defeated that evil doppelganger in Prime 2, it somehow revived itself in space. We get to Prime 3, after Dark Samus invaded the Space Pirates homeworld with Phazon and brainwashed them to be her followers. Dark Samus for some reason wants to spread Phazon across the universe so it spreads the mutagens to various planets. Samus teams up with the Galatic Federation to stop the spread of Phazon, as well as the Space Pirates and Dark Samus.

The storytelling has improved; it’s still convoluted, but much less so. The other Prime games also felt like a one-woman show, but in this game, Samus has other characters to interact with, full voice acting and all, something uncommon in Nintendo games.

There isn’t much new in Samus’s jump from the Gamecube to the Wii, but I’ll say what has changed.

Corruption is more user-friendly. In the first two games, Samus explored one large planet (Tallon IV and Aether respectively), this led to a lot of exhausting backtracking. Metroid Prime 3 instead takes place on multiple planets with many landing sites for Samus’s gunship to travel to. There are several planets, but the game primarily takes place on three, all of which are very different. Bryyo was heavily combat based while Elysia had fewer enemies, meaning a larger focus on exploration. There are also more save points, a lower difficulty and checkpoints, meaning you don’t have to go to the boss area again from the save point after you lose to the vile things, you just start the battle again.

The game of course takes advantage of the Wii’s controls. The GameCube controller almost felt like it was designed to work with the Prime games because each button and control stick had a meaningful purpose. Of course with the Wii Remote pointer, the game now plays a bit more like an FPS. Beams powerups (shots from Samus’s arm gun) are no longer switchable, and are just simply upgraded. The new controls took me a few hours to get used to, but once they clicked I was really happy with them. However, they could be quite frustrating at times. The little things like pushing the Nunchuck forward and back to rip something off with the grapple lasso and pulling the Wii Remote away and towards the screen to take out/put in an energy core could be quite fiddly.

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Another new feature is Hypermode. As part of the story, Samus is corrupted with Phazon and can switch to this powerful but dangerous state. It makes her attacks very powerful but requires life energy. Later on, her corruption becomes so severe that she falls into a corrupted Hypermode and she must use Phazon energy to get out of it, or die. I didn’t quite understand this concept so when the game surprised me a few times by switching on deadly Hypermode I died a couple of times.

When Metroid Prime came out it was acclaimed as one of the best games ever, and looking back, it’s not hard to see why. Scepticism and scorn over Metroid’s 3D transition being in first-person led to a crazy surprise when it came out and we saw it up there with Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as perfect examples of a 2D series making a fantastic 3D debut. All the Metroid elements were there like the Morph Ball, exploration, a sense of isolation, boss fights, sci-fi settings, Space Pirates and power-ups. Retro Studio’s fantastic innovations such as scanning and different visors made players feel like Samus, and all the aforementioned elements were elevated to immersive highs (although for the sake of full disclosure I haven’t played the 2D Metroids for any meaningful amount of time).

I always liked the Metroid Prime games but never quite loved them. I find it generally hard to get into first-person games in general for some reason, and felt at times that the Metroid Prime games were testing my patience with all the backtracking. I bought the Wii around 2008 or something and Corruption came out a year earlier, but I never felt that it was a must have compared to Smash Bros or Mario Galaxy.

When I first started playing Corruption, I already started feeling frustrated at all the scanning, the fact that you have to be very precise with the aiming instead of just locking on and shoot, and whatever the hell I thought Hypermode was. Once I gave this game a few hours, scanning every room became an exciting habit, the feel of the controls became natural, and I realised how well designed this game actually is.

Metroid Prime 3 is a great game, although I never revelled in the perceived excellence of this series that others had for it. It’s definitely a game for the hardcore crowd, because casual gamers may not find the focus on exploration and scanning too tasteful. For the rest of us, Corruption is a compelling sci-fi adventure.

Rating: 4/5.

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