Nintendo handheld represent are a genre that has been typically construed as being dominated by Pokemon games. Each new installment in the series tends to be among the highest selling, with Pokemon X/Y currently selling the most for the Nintendo 3DS. This scrutiny may, though, overshadow some great titles that Nintendo has been able to produce for their handheld consoles. The Game Boy Advanced would be considered one of those systems where the Pokemon game could arguably be the most popular, since Ruby and Sapphire beat Emerald for most sold. Top 10 lists across Youtube won’t have this game to high on their list, however. Sites like Watch Mojo and Screw Attack had Ruby and Sapphire ranked below one specific game that gave Pokemon a run for its money. It may not be from the most popular series, but Metroid Fusion dominated the Game Boy Advanced.
Of the many accolades Metroid Fusion deserves, perhaps the biggest is that it brought Metroid to a generation of 90’s kids who played Super Smash Bros Melee and asked “Samus? What Nintendo game was she in?” Until that point, the most recent Metroid title Nintendo released was Super Metroid on the SNES, a monumental game in its own right. In 2002 though, Nintendo had to market to kids who never had a SNES. They were introduced to other Nintendo franchises with the success of the N64, with games like Ocarina of Time, Super Mario 64, Star Fox 64 and Pokemon Stadium. Metroid Fusion was the game that brought Metroid into the future.
Metroid Fusion was also the last game to feature the classic side-scrolling gameplay that series fans have grown accustomed to. They tried to return to that feature in Metroid Other M, but…we’re not going to talk about that game. Anyways, the player got to control Samus with the Directional Pad to traverse an amazing area and use the action buttons to shoot the enemies that would appear.
One huge advantage Metroid Fusion has over its predecessors is that it was the first game until that point to have a well-developed plot. There were hints of plot in the other games, but they were typical of other games of their era in that it was only explored at the beginning and end of the game. Take Super Metroid for example. There is a text box at the beginning that lets you know the situation, but then you’re in gameplay until you beat the game.
Metroid Fusion expands from this formula by incorporating relatively short but captivating cut scenes letting you know what you’re doing. In the game, you encounter the X Parasite, a corrosive virus that were naturally hunted by Metroids. Without relating the story of Metroid II, however, Samus has previousely eradicated the Metroids completely, so the X Parasite can now thrive. Samus ends up becoming infected, but immediately cured. She doesn’t realize, though, that once infected, the X Parasite will take the form of its host. So, while being cured, Samus’ Power Suit takes a hit, becoming covered in blue, and there is a Samus Doppelganger, named SA-X, aboard the Biologic Space Laboratories that she has to take out.
In terms of villians, Metroid has typically seen two that reappear in other games: Ridley and Mother Brain. While they deserve the popularity they enjoy, it also should be said that SA-X is a great villain. Most games feature a main villain that you don’t even see until the end of the game. You see SA-X from the beginning. She also has all the power ups of a fully equipped Samus, whereas the real Samus is powered down from the infection. There are many instances where you are close by to the SA-X and must stay hidden, and even others where she spots you and you have to run for your life because one hit takes all of your health. You can only face the SA-X head on when you are completely equipped.
Along with the plot, Metroid Fusion boasts innovative world design. Metroid takes a number from Zelda at times, where there are three main areas Samus must traverse, and they are usually a jungle area, a fire area, and an underwater area. Fusion takes this and throws it out the window. Instead of three main areas, there are six. Three of them are jungle, fire, and underwater related, but the other three (nocturnal, frozen, and regular cave areas) offer a nice break. There are also hidden passages that can allow the player to move from one area to the other without going to the main hub. What makes this even more innovative is that, though the levels are numbered one through six, you do not go in order. This game always keeps you off balance, and it’s really hard to determine the next route to take.
This game becomes even more rewarding after you travel through these areas because you then find some of the best boss battles in Metroid history. Fusion doesn’t reuse any old bosses (except for Ridley, because it’s a Metroid game), and they are all set at a great difficulty level. Some of these bosses will test you. Some of these bosses will test you a lot. None of them are glitch or gimmick, however. They just incorporate new mechanics that can take getting used to. For instance, there is no gravity for one fight. There is another where you are hanging from what basically look like Metroid monkey bars as well. You will definitely have to set time for these bosses since you will be dying a lot, but they are engaging and not annoying.
Of course, while it is a new age for gaming, we still have people who play Super Smash Bros for Wii U/3DS and ask “Samus? What Nintendo game was she in?” Metroid is being seen more and more as a retro franchise. There are still opportunities, however, to introduce this great franchise to newer gamers. So, if you’re looking to begin playing through the Metroid games, here are two things to keep in mind: Don’t start with Metroid Other M, and start with Metroid Fusion.
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