" You run around, shooting hostiles, collecting powerups such as energy and rocket containers. You fight bosses and gain items which permit you access to new areas, and every now and then you get a nice little story sequence/cutscene. All of this is revamped from the other Metroids, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Except, a new element has been introduced, which changes the gameplay flow notably. "
Finally, after 8 years, Nintendo releases a true sequel to the classic Super Metroid. Third in the series, Super Metroid followed the trend of the first two games, while adding in an extra something special which changed how gamers saw the genre. Sidescrollers weren't just about boring left-to-right shooting anymore--oh no. Unique powerups, an interesting storyline, and a gameplay style centralized around exploration became the new standard. Since Super Metroid, we've seen three games which really borrow from Nintendo's milestone, those being the last three 2D Castlevania games. However, Nintendo themselves has blown ''Metroid 4'' off for quite some time now, and because it's finally here, there's a lot of interest surrounding it. And how!
Metroid Fusion actually surprised me a little, right off the bat, in terms of gameplay. I basically expected the game to play almost exactly like Super Metroid, but in a different environment, and with a few added features here and there. Instead, there are highly noticeable changes from the instant you take control of Samus. For one, things move faster. Samus can run faster, she jumps faster, she falls faster. It's like if you took Super Metroid and sped it up about 50%. Because of this, the game is more action-oriented. It feels like more of a shooter, than an adventure game. Samus' gun even sounds louder and shoots more powerful looking beams. This is also due largely to the fact that the controls are so tight. There were times in Super Metroid when I felt like it was a real chore to maneuver around the enemies, and just send a few shots home. In Metroid Fusion, I feel like I can run circles around the enemies, even though most of the time I probably can't. This time around, Samus can also grab onto ledges. You have no idea how convenient this is until you 've actually experienced it. Just narrowly missing a ledge in Super Metroid was very frustrating. This time around, so long as you're close to landing on the ledge, you can just grab on and pull yourself up.
These things aside, Metroid Fusion is really very similar, at the core. You run around, shooting hostiles, collecting powerups such as energy and rocket containers. You fight bosses and gain items which permit you access to new areas, and every now and then you get a nice little story sequence/cutscene. All of this is revamped from the other Metroids, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Except, a new element has been introduced, which changes the gameplay flow notably. There are save rooms, recovery rooms, and navigation rooms. Navigation rooms are new, and when you enter one, Samus will receive a message from her computer. The computer basically tells you what to do, in a nutshell. It'll even highlight an area on the map labeled ''target'', making it very obvious where you're supposed to go. Now, this may sound a little lame to you, but it doesn't hinder the exploration-based flow so ever-present in Super Metroid as much as you'd think. All the presence of the computer really does is makes you feel less lonely, so to speak. You actually converse with someone, and through these dialogues, many of the game's plot elements are introduced. Sure, the computer tells you where to go, but that's it. It doesn't tell you how to get there, or what you'll encounter along the way. I welcome this new addition, and think that it adds a sort of Metal-Gear-Solid-esque touch to the game. Then again, some might see it as blasphemy to the series, and enjoy the game less because of it. I highly doubt that, though.
From a technicstandpoint, Metroid Fusion's graphics are a step up from Super Metroid's. Everything is 2D, but it's on GBA, so Nintendo was bound to throw in a few tricks just because they can. There are many cool sprite-scaling effects, flaunting detail and fluidity which would have never been possible on SNES. However, there really aren't that many effects, so you won't notice them nearly as blatantly as say...The 3D backgrounds in Harmony of Dissonance. Nevertheless, everything flows smoothly enough, with pretty little animations, an impressive color palette, and no slowdown. On the other hand, artistically, the graphics don't match Super Metroid's. The latter was an atmospheric delight, with a true sense of claustophobia and loneliness as you delved deeper and deeper into the unknown. Metroid Fusion attempts to emulate this, and succeeds in most ways, but doesn't quite have that desolate, gritty sci-fi feel of its prequel.
Here is an area where Fusion matches the quality of its predecessor. Both the sound effects and music are stellar, comparable to the best on the system. The music is riveting sci-fi/suspense with scale jumps and high-pitched wailings which really do induce a sense of stress and panic in the gamer, especially when they're combined with a moment in the plot to match. The sound effects are crisp, clean and get the job done. I don't know if this is just me, but I was fairly surprised by the clarity of Samus' blaster's sound--an appropriate ''zap'' noise which is richer than I expected.
Super Metroid had storyline, but that wasn't the main focus of the game. Nor is it in Metroid Fusion, though a compelling, structured plot is much more prevalent. Samus was infected by a virus known as ''X'', and managed to barely survive. However, the virus left her weakened, and with a strangely modified suit. Without ruining anything, it's her job to neutralize the enemy forces in a research facility, while keeping wary of a scary clone of herself, bent on wreaking utter havoc to the area. The story is told, quite simply through short dialogues or monologues every ten minutes or so. Then, when an area is complete, you'll get to see a semi-cutscene where Samus thinks to herself, and ponders the meaning of this, and the reason for that. Ultimately, the plot does lead somewhere, and the game doesn't abandon it, which is the important thing. It isn't terribly unpredictable or original, but it's solid and will keep your interested for the duration of the game. Speaking of the duration of the game, expect this to last only 4-5 hours. Yes, that is short, but it doesn't feel too short. When all is said and done, the game feels like a complete package, and most gamers will be satisfied. Trust me--time passes very slowly in such a fast-paced game as this one.
Metroid Fusion should definitely added to the top ten list of games on GBA. Maybe not to the front of the list, but a spot at 8, 9 or 10 wouldn't be generous. All the features from the first 3 games are tied together with new elements, giving a fresh-but-familiar feel to this very appealing sidescroller. The graphics and sound are top-notch, providing adequate atmosphere for a game which absolutely requires it. The only drawback is the length, which simply isn't enough. If the game length had been doubled, Metroid Fusion would be in the same class as Harmony of Dissonance and Circle of the Moon, if not slightly above. However, instead it has to be recognized that because of its length, it can't quite reach the overall experience which manifested itself in the latter two games. Nevertheless, an excellent game--just not enough of it.
Staff review by James Gordon (December 08, 2002)
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