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Metroid Fusion (Game Boy Advance) artwork

Metroid Fusion (Game Boy Advance) review

"Ambivalent as I am about Metroid Fusion, Nintendo deserves credit for putting in something fresh. Designing the same old confusing labyrinths filled with hostile wildlife without changing a thing would have been a mistake, and even as the first new entry in the series for almost a decade, the game would have been an enjoyable letdown if it was just a retread. If all you want to do is emulate the Super Nintendo game, there are programs for that. "

Ambivalent as I am about Metroid Fusion, Nintendo deserves credit for putting in something fresh. Designing the same old confusing labyrinths filled with hostile wildlife without changing a thing would have been a mistake, and even as the first new entry in the series for almost a decade, the game would have been an enjoyable letdown if it was just a retread. If all you want to do is emulate the Super Nintendo game, there are programs for that.

Thus Metroid Fusion is infested with the clever, new, and deadly X parasites: viruses that have taken over the bodies of everything onboard an orbital research station, living or dead. One steals an experimental bioweapon that can control gravity, and it makes for quite the boss battle. Another steals series mascot Ridley's corpse, giving you an excuse to fight him one last time.

The one that makes the difference is the vicious SA-X. It steals you. It swipes the entire arsenal that Samus spent her career collecting, to the point where you feel lucky that she's still able to hop off the ground. Copycat villains aren't exactly new, but this is something special; the SA-X isn't a palette swap for you to sink shots into for five minutes as a boss fight. The SA-X is a palette swap that ruthlessly hunts you down for the entire adventure and wants almost nothing more than to fucking murder you.

You'll see the SA-X coming. You'll see it stalking a corridor beneath you as you hide in a vent shaft, rolling around with the morph ball. Then a piece of the shaft breaks, and there you are two feet in front of your worst nightmare curled up in a ball like an idiot. Panic and you're dead, but even if you keep your composure the odds aren't in your favor. That ice beam slays you in seconds, and even if it doesn't kill you, you'll be stuck frozen just like those enemies you used to use as platforms. Survive long enough and you might just make it, but only if you can find some hidden passageway to slink off through before you're a splatter on the ceiling.

Better hope it doesn't see you hide. Remember those power bombs you had back in 1994 that could kill everything in the room? Yeah. The SA-X won't hesitate for a second to flush you out. Karma's a bitch.

If only games were the sums of their parts. Tense gameplay; solid design. Challenging! The graphics are nice, if a bit too colorful. A-. If only. Metroid Fusion is highly competent, but it's a far cry from the coherent execution that Nintendo used to pull off as if it were nothing. Earlier games in the series mixed discovery with an appropriate sense of isolation; Metroid Fusion misfires here the worst, and rarely ends up feeling like anything more ambitious than a sequence of rooms.

Many of the best games tell a story just by painting a vivid picture, whatever genre they may be. Half-Life 2 shows: finding a guy hidden away near the coast with a mattress, empty bottles, a pistol in his hand and a hole in his head was worth well more than 1,000 words about just how sad everybody is.

Metroid Fusion doesn't show. It tells. Jarringly placed text cutscenes force a personality on Samus, and they force an unnecessary character to point out what you should already be thinking. They put aside the series' characteristic isolation in favor of a story that didn't even need to be told. Not every game has to be about solitude, of course, but Fusion doesn't gain a single thing from getting rid of it.

As an adventure as opposed to an experience, Metroid Fusion is even more off the mark, utterly devoid of exploration and achievement. Metroid Prime gave you tips to the tune of "seismic activity detected in the Chozo Ruins", which was a great way to keep you from getting lost. Once you'd gotten a pointer to the right world, that world was yours for the taking; it was still up to you to find out just what was going on in the Chozo Ruins. In contrast, Fusion lays down what's going to happen at every step of the way without even a hint of subtlety.

“Go to the fire level, Samus. Follow your map to get the ice missiles.”

“Go to the ice level, Samus. Follow your map to fight a boss monster.”

I don't expect the game to live in the shadows of its older siblings. I don't want Super Metroid 2, and to its credit, Nintendo didn't make Super Metroid 2. But adventure games are all about the illusion of discovery, and Metroid Fusion doesn't let you have it.

Everything comes together for Metroid Fusion during one great scene, when you recover the wave beam and use it to keep on going without anybody interrupting to tell you what to do. At the bottom of the space station in a hidden, off-limits laboratory you discover the series' namesake: Metroids! Never mind the fact that the official word says they're extinct, and that research on them has been outlawed since they're just so dangerous. There they are, each and every one of the evolutionary forms that ruined your scenic vacation in Metroid II clinically lined up in test tubes.

Your old friend the SA-X even makes an appearance, but by the time you're done panicking, you'll notice that it isn't even attacking you. It's made the interesting decision that Metroids are a bigger threat, leaving you to go about your business while it tries to repeat history and kill them to the last.

This is the storytelling and adventure that I wanted. Never mind the fact that this is the only way you could have gone after getting the wave beam; people who only complain that Metroid Fusion is too linear are missing the point. For one moment, you feel as if you're discovering something. You're exploring all on your own instead of just going along for the ride, and it's enthralling.

For one moment, you're playing Metroid.

mardraum's avatar
Community review by mardraum (July 01, 2009)

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Suskie posted July 01, 2009:

Interesting point about the game's cutscenes. I loved what Retro did with the first Prime; it was a very immersive game that used its technology to really make you feel the isolation and solitude that made Samus's character. I mean, there's no dialog in the game, but I always felt that there didn't need to be. I didn't mind Samus's narration in Fusion at the time since I liked that they were further developing the character... but you're right, the SA-X scenes were fantastic enough that you really didn't need a script to convey what Samus was feeling. Also, giving her a supporting character to converse with was absolutely the wrong move.

I'm probably never going to write a Fusion review now because you've summed up my thoughts perfectly. It's not bad, and like you said, the problem isn't that the game is too linear. It's that it's too confined, and made me feel caged in. I think Prime is still the series high point in this regard, as it actually leads you along a very linear path, but it never feels that way.
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bluberry posted July 02, 2009:

thank you sir. and I agree, as I said in the review I think that people who just bitch that the game was too linear and leave it at that are really missing the point.

Metroid Prime is less linear that you'd think, at least until the player's choice editions where they started adding bendezium blocks and event triggered locks all over the place for no good reason at all. I want to get the plasma beam early and go into the Phazon Mines through the back, damnit! it's still no Super, though, where you can kill Ridley first.
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sashanan posted July 02, 2009:

Good call giving the SA-X center stage in the review - it made the game, and my main regret was that the game could have been quite a lot better with more being stalked by it (think RE3 Nemesis style) and less plot exposition that, indeed, didn't exposit a whole lot of plot.
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Suskie posted July 02, 2009:

It's been so long since I've played the game that I'd forgotten about the moment when you fall through the ceiling and land right next to SA-X.

You know, Fusion came after an eight-year drought without a Metroid game, but it just occurred to me that we've gone nearly as long since without another 2D entry (disregarding Zero Mission, which was a remake). I wonder if they'll even bother making another one?
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bluberry posted July 02, 2009:

I hope so. troll review aside I love Super Metroid, and the others games all at least have good ideas behind them. they could strike gold again.
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sashanan posted July 02, 2009:

I'd definitely be up for another 2D Metroid. Prime, from what I've tried of it, is just not something I can do.
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EmP posted July 02, 2009:

Man, that game was way too linear.

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