"Samus Aran has really big guns. In all senses of the word. That could perhaps explain her immense popularity among both sexes. A female role model due to her strong yet beautiful personality, and a knockout sex demon that shoots stuff keeps all gamers happy. Both the original Metroid for the NES and Super Metroid for the Super Nintendo capitalize on this fact. Even on the Game Boy, Samus remains a major Nintendo mascot. Lurking underneath layers of cybernetic armor is a softl..."
Samus Aran has really big guns. In all senses of the word. That could perhaps explain her immense popularity among both sexes. A female role model due to her strong yet beautiful personality, and a knockout sex demon that shoots stuff keeps all gamers happy. Both the original Metroid for the NES and Super Metroid for the Super Nintendo capitalize on this fact. Even on the Game Boy, Samus remains a major Nintendo mascot. Lurking underneath layers of cybernetic armor is a softly beating heart inside of a supple body. Drool.
With precedents set by the former games, Metroid Fusion has major shoes to fill. Can it still preserve the femininity of Samus, the depth of the action and items, while still translating well to a portable format? The answer is a yes, although some elements are not incorporated as nearly well as they could and should be.
Metroid Fusion picks up after Super Metroid. Once again, you play the role of Samus Aran, primer bounty hunter in the galaxy. However, your mortality has been proven, after youíre nearly killed by the rampant X virus that lives on Zebes. It seems the metroids that you just wiped out were the only thing preventing the X virus from taking over the entire planet. Due to the metroid DNA flowing through your body, you manage to barely survive the exposure. Disaster strikes when a nearby space station is consumed by the X, and with your newfound resistance to the strain, the Galactic Federation sends you in to investigate.
Sound deep and complicated? Well, it is. Metroid Fusion takes the story aspect of the Metroid series to a whole new level. Frequent cut scenes occur, and twists and turns wait around every corner. Of course, any amount of background in popular storytelling will eliminate some of the mystery, but even the attempt to tell an involved story is a step up from the earlier half-attempts in the series.
Overall gameplay is excellent, although it is limited purely by the hardware. The perspective of the series has not changed. In Metroid Fusion, you still journey left to right, up to down, and back again, navigating your way through the many tunnels of the space station. Itís a traditional adventure game in this aspect; find the location you need to get to, get the item, kill things, etc. The control and button layout of the Game Boy Advance makes these tasks a bit hard to accomplish sometimes; as with a lot of other action games, your fingers take a real pounding. This is especially true when you have to hold and charge R then press several other buttons in order to eliminate a barrier.
There is one radical departure from past Metroid games. Energy pellets (those circular purple pellets that restore life) have been entirely eliminated. Instead of collecting these, you instead assimilate the X-virus into your system. Yellow and green restore energy and missiles respectively, while bigger strains received after defeating bosses restore crucial elements of Samusí destroyed capabilities. The days of finding things like the charge beam and space jump lying around are gone, as the only items that are out in the open are energy tanks, missiles, and power bombs.
However, what has always separated the Metroid series from other adventure genre video games has been weaponry and creatures. There has always been heavy emphasis placed on missiles, beams, bombs, and great gobs of googily monsters that require all the ammo you got just to be stunned.
Sadly, Metroid Fusion feels a bit lacking in this category, especially if youíve played past games. Old standbys such as the screw attack, spring ball, and super missiles are always welcome, but totally new items are few and far between. And the few that you get, like the diffusion and ice missiles, are neither impressive nor awe-inspiring.
The same goes with the monsters. All too often, theyíre just rehashes of old monsters from previous Metroid games. Samusí blaster does little to effect them though, and missiles are now needed just to defeat normal enemies. And once you acquire ice missiles, itís actually a hindrance to progress; some enemies now require two missiles to beat instead of one.
Other flaws are also too apparent in Metroid Fusion. The map design is not nearly up to par with the other games. Often times, passages and ramps that are essential for advancing the game are hidden too well, such as one block in a wall of ten. Energy tanks are too abundant. Boss attack patterns are relatively simple. Itís sometimes unclear if youíve completed an objective, or if you have more to accomplish.
There is also another gameplay problem Ė restoring energy and missiles. Unlike past Metroid games, much more emphasis is placed upon recharge rooms, where your energy and missiles are fully restored. Why is this? Well, conquered enemies no longer drop plenty of energy pellets. There are also no constantly respawning pits of enemies where energy could be recharged. Meaning, if you get stranded from a recharge room without a whole lot of energy, you better be prepared to die.
All in all, the gameplay of Metroid Fusion lacks the tightness of the past games. Is this a bad thing? Well, a sub-par Metroid game is still a match for any other game released for the Game Boy Advance. But I canít just escape the feeling that Fusion could have been a whole lot better then the final product would suggest. A little bit more refinement and play testing would have eliminated many of the minor gameplay flaws I highlighted earlier.
The fun little side quest from earlier Metroid games remains in Fusion though. Beating the game in less than three hours allows you to see Samus sans armor. Any other time shows Samus in vary forms of dress. Also, for item and completion freaks, the percentage of items you collected is displayed. Getting a perfect one hundred percent is near impossible without the help of a guide, due to the vast nature of the space station.
Itís a Game Boy Advance. That should tell you enough about the graphics. However, if you need further elaboration, think vast, space age technological surroundings and monsters with hideously bad breathe, who have been through the washer far too many times, and now look like faded monsters with muted colors. Or, as Nintendo likes to call it, the ďWe Donít Have To Give You Decent Handheld Graphics Because We Monopolize The Market, So Take That And Shove It You Dirty Filthy Sony Lovers Why Donít You Love The Game Cube It Has Smash Brothers How Come You Only Let Us Have A Monopoly In The Handheld Market Punks Thatís Like Have A Monopoly On Womanís Basketball It Doesnít Really CountĒ philosophy. And after this paragraph, you donít really want my opinion on the sound do you?
Donít get my criticism of this game wrong - Metroid Fusion is still an outstanding game, and probably the best of the few Game Boy Advance games I have played. However, itís not a game that you want to buy this system specifically for (as Metroid Prime for the Gamecube appears to be), and the rushed feeling really canít ever be escaped. More refinement could have made this game into a juggernaut.
Community review by sgreenwell (December 15, 2002)
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