Metroid Fusion (Game Boy Advance) review
"After a long while of anticipation, the fourth game in the now-legendary Metroid series hits the Gameboy Advance, allowing gamers to take their favorite, heavily armored female cyborg with them on long journeys. And they will not be disappointed by the sheer quality of the title: solid action, quick gameplay, good variety in areas and enemies, a handful of quite challenging bosses, and plenty of exploration. On the other hand, particularly to a Metroid veteran, there are two areas in which the g..."
After a long while of anticipation, the fourth game in the now-legendary Metroid series hits the Gameboy Advance, allowing gamers to take their favorite, heavily armored female cyborg with them on long journeys. And they will not be disappointed by the sheer quality of the title: solid action, quick gameplay, good variety in areas and enemies, a handful of quite challenging bosses, and plenty of exploration. On the other hand, particularly to a Metroid veteran, there are two areas in which the game might disappoint: first, a relatively low level of challenge (this is probably the easiest Metroid yet), and second, the game feels a bit short. Neither of these problems brings this title down to the vast realm of ''slightly above average'' action titles, but they do keep it from achieving its full potential.
Although Metroid Fusion is the first Metroid title to hit the Gameboy Advance, it is not the first game of its kind to do so - the two Castlevania titles on the GBA, Circle of the Moon and Harmony of Dissonance, having similar gameplay in the sense of exploring a map, fighting your way through enemies, defeating bosses to pick up items (or in Metroid Fusion, to regain lost abilities) which will allow you to reach new places and kill new enemies. Samus Aran returns, slightly changed after an incident with a parasite infection and near-death prior to the game, but still possessing all of her familiar moves. Or in fact, she only has the most basic of them at the beginning, and as in the previous games, regains all the advanced ones one by one. Firing missiles, morphing into a ball, placing bombs, gaining more powerful beam weapons, it will all be familiar to the Metroid veteran, and easy enough to get used to for a newcomer. By introducing the abilities one by one, the game allows the player a good learning curve. Each newly gained ability will have to be put to use immediately to reach new areas and to stand a chance against its denizens.
In addition to all of her classic abilities, Samus can now hang on to the edge of platforms to climb up or to jump off them, and can cling to certain special walls or ceilings to attack the enemy from there. If she wasn't quite the acrobat yet, she sure is now, and she's pretty easy to control. The buttons are responsive, and well used. Firing missiles or using power bombs now requires pressing two buttons at once, a little confusing particularly if you're used to Super Metroid. But the GBA controller just doesn't have as many buttons as the SNES one does, and the control scheme is easy enough to get used to.
While going through the area covered in this game, an abandoned space station infested by parasites capable of mimicking any creature they have infested, those familiar with earlier Metroid games will immediately notice two significant changes with the earlier titles, which may or may not be welcomed. First, your ship's computer stays in contact with you throughout navigation rooms scattered through the station, and tells you what to do next. It will advise you on which sectors to go to and what to do there (be it downloading new weapon data, taking out a certain enemy, or performing similar tasks). This is a significant change from the earlier Metroid games, of which one of their most loved and hated features was that you were pretty much on your own in a large unexplored world, with no clue where to go or what to do first. Many people loved the challenge this posed, while others hated Metroid for leaving the player so in the dark. Whichever side you're on, this Metroid title doesn't do it - with only a few exceptions, the computer will tell you exactly what to do.
The other significant difference is that you have access to most of the station's map right from the beginning. Super Metroid was the only of the other three titles to have a map at all, and to get parts of it, you'd first have to find the map rooms where you could download these. Now, the computer provides you with the map of whatever sector your next objective is in, once again making things significantly easier than in previous Metroid titles, and easier than the GBA's Castlevania titles as well; Circle of the Moon never gave any part of the map away, and in Harmony of Dissonance map pieces had to be found much like in Super Metroid. Fortunately, the exploration aspect has not been entirely eliminated: the maps you are given only show the main part of every sector, not the many secret passageways around and between them, and you almost always need to use those to get to your objective because the primary route is blocked in one way or another. You will still have to probe floors, walls and ceilings with your various weapons to open up passageways, and discover parts of the station that do not show up on any map. Between the objectives and the map pieces you are given, the computer makes sure you never get hopelessly lost, but the details are something you will have to flesh out yourself. Whether or not this is an improvement over the previous titles is up to the gamer to decide - I welcomed it, but I'm also sure there are plenty of Metroid fans who do not like the idea of the computer holding their hand throughout what they feel should be part of the challenge.
The game's relatively low difficulty level doesn't end here. With only a few exceptions, the enemies in Metroid Fusion aren't so hard to defeat. You will certainly take some damage fighting them, but as in the previous games, they leave behind recharges for your energy (i.e. hit points) and your missiles. Only this time, these recharges are in the form of parasites fleeing the host body when you destroy it, and you'll want to collect them whether or not you're in need of recharging - if you don't, they'll soon find a new body and become a new monster. While monsters get more powerful throughout the game, so does Samus: with every boss she defeats, one of her familiar powers, everything from firing missiles to the fearsome Screw Attack, is unlocked. In addition, missiles packs and energy tanks are scattered throughout the station allowing you to carry more missiles and increase the number of hits you can survive. Most are hidden, but even if you find only half of them, you'll still have plenty of firepower and durability to see the game through. A more persistent explorer will probably find enough to never have to worry about dying.
The bosses are a mixed bag, with a couple of them surprisingly easy, a handful quite beatable once you figure them out, and two of them very challenging. One of them, the feared SA-X, stalks you throughout the entire game and is far more powerful than you until the final showdown, forcing you to run when you encounter it earlier. A bit like Nemesis in Resident Evil 3, and just as spooky - it keeps you on your toes, though I would have liked it if it appeared a little more often. Nevertheless, the final showdown with it is quite pleasing.
Despite being a little easier than what we're used to with Metroid games, and also compared to the two Castlevania titles. Metroid Fusion is about as difficult as Harmony of Dissonance, which was also somewhat disappointing in that regard. This is welcome to people like me who get frustrated easily by the more challenging action titles, but a die hard Metroid fan who finished the other titles with his eyes closed will probably breeze through Fusion, wonder when the hard part starts, then realize he's staring at the credits already. And they start just a little too quickly for comfort, too: on my first playthrough, I needed four hours from start to finish, and on my second I was done within three hours. That's pretty short compared to Circle of the Moon, which can easily take over ten hours for the main game, and offers four slightly different replay modes after that. Even Harmony of Dissonance, also a four hour deal, had a few replay modes and a boss rush game that was unlocked upon completing it. Metroid Fusion has nothing of the kind: you finish, you can play again, but it'll be the same game. That won't stop the true Metroid player, obviously, who will work hard to improve his time and the % of items uncovered, not in the last place because this will cause Samus to wear less armor and show more body in the final scene. It's my understanding that finishing Metroid Fusion can unlock extra options in the GameCube title Metroid Prime, but that's obviously of no use unless you have that title too. So, although Metroid Fusion is certainly worth replaying, it will lose its replay value after a while, and considering that it's completed relatively quickly and without much difficulty, it's a little disappointing when it comes to lasting value.
Metroid Fusion is a good action title to have, that's for sure. Plays great, looks colourful, sounds awesome, doesn't get boring. If only it had been a little longer and a little tougher, or it had offered some special options like a hard mode or a boss rush mode (not that hard to add really, and quite good for the replay value), it would have been an awesome title. As it is, it's a little weak compared to the rest of the series, but I am positive that any Metroid lover will still want to add it to his collection, and if the prospect of a fairly short game doesn't turn them off, it is recommendable to any GBA owner.
Community review by sashanan (December 16, 2004)
Sashanan doesn't drink coffee; he takes tea, my dear. And sometimes writes reviews. His roots lie with the Commodore 64 he grew up with, and his gaming remains fragmented among the very old, the somewhat old, and rarely the new.
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