In Retrospect – Metroid Fusion
I thought I would try something new, in this period of post-E3 blues and with a definite gaming drought in terms of games, replay some retro titles and review them, So welcome to the first In RETROspect review, and this time I’ll be tackling the last game in the Metroid canon: Metroid Fusion. Originally released in 2002 for the Gameboy Advance, and developed by the (I think we can agree) legendary internal EAD1, Metroid Fusion was released to great fanfare and critical acclaim. Taking the blueprint set by Super Metroid, close to ten years prior, and bringing it up to date with tighter controls and updated visuals.
The story of Metroid Fusion (which, as this game has been in circulation for fourteen years, I have no qualms talking about) is essentially one of rebirth. Returning to SR388, the previous Metroid homeworld that Samus pretty much cleansed in Metroid II, Samus is attacked by the parasitic lifeform named simply “X”. The resulting infection results in Samus’ Power Suit being contaminated and removed, permanently altering her appearance and abilities, via (shock) a Metroid vaccine. As usually occurs in the video game world, the infected suit is taken away to experiment at a space station and all hell breaks loose, which then Samus has to sort out. Enter the player.
The gameplay of Fusion, as mentioned earlier, is very similar to that of Super Metroid. With the exception of a newly acquired ability to grab onto ledges and pull herself up, and the fact that the jumping feels less floaty, it is business as usual. As much as this might sound it, that is no bad thing. The game contains all of the exploring, shooting and fighting bosses for power-ups that Metroid is known for, albeit with a little more story than these games usually give out. Returning briefly to the story element, the game sees guidance from Adam, Samus’ personal computer, which gives the game a significantly more linear progression than its predecessors. Whether or not this is a positive or negative point is down to the individual player, but I would say it’s neither. The linearity of plot does not detract at all from the game nor does it add much either, it simply is.
The result of the rebirth of Samus means that some of her abilities are impossible to continue to use, but the game factors in multiple alternative options and some of the most inventive puzzle rooms and power-ups seen in most of the series as a whole (including some devilish Spinesparking puzzles in the latter parts of the game) to make the loss of these abilities seem paltry. However, the game does throw at the player occasional run-ins with the super-powered SA-X, a being with Samus’ full original powers, leading to both tense stand-offs and moments in which the player has to use the abilities they have to escape and survive. All in all the gameplay itself is tight, fluid, intuitive and at no point feels unfair or unbalanced. Simply put, EAD1 nailed Fusion from a gameplay perspective.
Aesthetically, this game is delightful. Continuing the simple colour palettes that were used in Super Metroid but shifting the primary colours used, the game looks utterly stunning. Samus’ redesign is not only fitting, but it’s blue and yellow default markedly stands out against the entire backdrop of the station meaning the player can locate Samus easily and readily. The new enemy designs are incredible, the returning enemies look far better, and the bosses all look fantastic and interesting. The sound design, also, is wonderful. The different music used in each themed area is incredible and brooding and the reviving of older music from Super Metroid at key moments works to both exhilarate and give a feeling of nostalgia. Every single thing in Metroid Fusion from a design standpoint all feeds into the overall atmosphere; a dark, cold and isolated feeling that you are being stalked and one which you need to escape.
So, should you buy Metroid Fusion? Yes. In fact, I would be surprised if you haven’t already. Given the fact that Nintendo seem hesitant, at best, to do anything worthwhile with the Metroid franchise, if you haven’t played this I would suggest that you do. It can be downloaded on the Wii U eShop now as a Virtual Console download and is frankly in the upper echelons of gaming excellence. Buy now, seriously.