Liam’s Game Room #20 (Metroid Fusion, Game Boy Advance)

Introduction

Metroid Fusion is a 2D action-adventure platformer developed by Nintendo R&D1 (Research and Development 1 Division) and published by Nintendo in 2002. Metroid Fusion is the 4th game in the series and was the first Metroid game to be released since the famous Super Metroid was released for the Super Nintendo in 1994. The team who developed Super Metroid also developed this game and bears some heavy resemblance. Metroid Fusion was also the first handheld Metroid game since the release of Metroid 2: Return of Samus for the Game Boy. Metroid Fusion 1.gif

The Metroid series was one of the origins of a genre most commonly known as Metroidvania, which is a combination of the styles of Metroid and Castlevania. The concept of Metroidvania is predominantly exploration, but exploration of one large map where the player has to unlock powerups before entering specific areas. This gives the game a sense of linearity, but in some cases might require that the player backtracks to certain areas to access new areas, therefore satisfying the exploration aspect.

Story

Samus Aran is surveying the surface of the planet SR388 with a crew from Biological Space Laboratories (BSL), where she then encounters the parasites known as the X, which can replicate the hosts physical appearance and can even gain the hosts memories. After leaving SR388, Samus gets infected by the virus and then returns to the BSL station where she loses consciousness. Before impacting into a asteroid in the Asteroid Belt, she is ejected from her ship and her body is recovered by BSL. Initially, BSL don’t have a cure for the infection, when a scientist injects her with remaining cells from a Metroid that Samus previously ran into. The Metroids were wiped out by the X parasites, as the X were the main predators of the Metroids on SR388.

The cure did more than heal Samus from the X Parasites, it in fact allowed Samus to use the X parasites to heal her health as well as recover her lost weapons. During the operation, her previous weapons and armour were removed, so that the vaccine could cure her. The infected weapons were stored securely, however a Parasite used this weapons to form a clone of Samus called the SA-X, which could multiply and continue to clone itself. This was a cause for an explosion on the BSL Base and it is up to Samus to eradicate the threat and destroy all the SA-X.

Metroid Fusion 3.gif

The story of this game is extremely deep and also tangentially associated with the Gamecube Metroid Prime, as both Metroid Fusion and Prime were released on the same day. Metroid Prime has Samus trying to defeat Metroid Prime on SR388 who has wiped out the Chozo, whilst Metroid Fusion is what happens long after Prime in the chronology. What this gives players is an incentive to both play Metroid Prime and Fusion because both games act like a before and after in the timeline.

However, it is not just the fact that Metroid Fusion has a lot of depth in it’s story that is most impressive, it is how the story is conveyed and how there is a twist at the end of the game that I won’t be spoiling in this review. The game conveys it’s story through room at the beginning of each sector that Samus visits called Navigation Rooms. What this Navigation Rooms do is allow the player to be updated on their current mission, as well as being shown where the next target location is. However, there are occasions where the player will not know where to go from this Navigation Rooms and in fact have to find their own way. This adds sometimes a layer of mystery to the game and also allows the player to find their own way, almost making the story feel like the player has an impact or guides Samus to progress the story.

Gameplay

Metroid Fusion is a side scroller action adventure platformer, or for short a Metroidvania style game. One of the traits of Metroidvania games explored in Metroid Fusion is the requirement to unlock specific weapons or powerups to access new areas. In Metroid Fusion’s case, the doors to areas deeper into the game are locked by security doors that the player needs to find the switch to unlock, therefore meaning that the player is somewhat restricted in where they can explore. This will require the player to backtrack to previous sectors to either defeat enemies that can unlock Samus’s powers or to access new areas. Metroid Fusion 5.gif

There are 6 sectors in total and each sector has it’s own specific theme, whether it be Sector 6 (NOC), which is centred around darkness or Sector 4 (AQA) which is themed around water. Each sector has its own set of varying enemies and it really makes each sector feels like a different game entirely as the difficulty in this sectors vary. Initially, the player can only access sectors 1 and 2 because security lock level restricts where the player can go, which is a positive because if the player had access to Sector 5 (ARC), which is a Arctic Sector locked behind a security level 2 door, then the player wouldn’t be able to progress as the player wouldn’t have the correct equipment. What this does is make sure that the Sectors that are available to the player are not overly difficult and the Navigation Rooms will guide the player to the correct Sectors.

However, the game does not hold the player’s hand through each of these sectors and the player can optional go back to the previous Sectors if the player have unlocked security locks that meant that the player couldn’t go to certain rooms and explore. This was a major positive to me because the game indicated where the next Sector to go was in terms of story progression, but allowed me to backtrack to find more expansions for my weapons and also fully explore the map. Even better, the game doesn’t lock off previous Sectors that the player has visited until the player does a task, the only time the game does this is for Sectors that the player is not yet meant to visit. For example, later on in the game, the story means that the player needs to visit Sector 6 (NOC) and if the player instead goes to Sector 5 (ARC) early, the game will lock the door which leads to this sector until the mission in Sector 6 was completed.

The controls in Metroid Fusion are fantastic and always feel extremely responsive. The controls also allow for quite a wide skill ceiling, with players new to the game being able to understand the controls easily, but for speedrunning or more experienced players, the controls allow for some advanced and complex controls. What this means is that no matter how experienced the player is, the game controls offers a great entry level for players who perhaps haven’t played games like Metroid Fusion, but veterans of the genre will find satisfaction in completing some stylish and complex inputs. The control scheme is also allows for speedrunners to play the game really quickly because there is no input delay and when the player plays the game fast effectively, it is really gratifying and feels awesome.

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The difficulty of the game is really fair and scales very well, even though there are occasions in the early parts of the game where some enemies feel too powerful. For example, there are space pirates in Sector 1 (SRX) and these enemies feel out of place and overly difficult and in some cases the player has to defeat these enemies to progress. Although, this problem with tougher enemies is nullified later on in the game once the player has recovered some of Samus’s arsenal. This alongside some powerups in terms of Samus’s mobility really allows the game to become more difficult, but the powerups make the difficulty curve really fair.

The backgrounds in this game are amazing with each Sector looking distinctively different from the previous Sector. The amount of detail in each room of each Sector looks like it was draw and detailed by hand because each room has it own quirks and look to it. The background scrolling is perfect and there aren’t any glitches in the background that are glaring. Even the use of shadows in the game it extra levels of detail and really makes the game look amazing.

I think that the gameplay and graphics overall are fantastic and the game has aged perfectly. The game still looks as amazing today as the day it was released and the main reason why is because there was so much time and care put into every small detail about the game from the character sprites, to the scrolling of the background. Everything falls into place perfectly and I think that this game is the best looking Game Boy Advance game to be released.

Music

The music in Metroid Fusion is fantastic because each Sector has it’s own distinct themes and also adds to the feel of each Sector. The themes in the game really comment upon what Sector the player is in, so there is a softer spacious theme for the underwater section of Sector 4 (AQA), whilst the theme for Sector 3 (PYR), which is based around fire is dark and intimidating. The Sector 3 theme works incredibly well in both raising the tension around the zone and also adds a feeling that things from this Sector are not going to get any easier. The choice of instrumentation throughout the soundtrack is perfect and really accentuates the styles of the composer and highlights their specific strengths.

Most importantly about the soundtrack is that the individual themes are not so big that the sound design and the gameplay get drowned out. The depth of the themes allows the sound design to breathe and really show how much care and detail went into every single sound made for the game. Every sound effect is perfectly audible alongside the soundtrack and there are no sound effects that don’t sound fantastic. The music and sound design don’t sound heavily compressed, which means that the clarity and the breadth of each piece of music and bit of sound design is clear and crisp on the ear.

Conclusion

Metroid Fusion is a perfect example that a handheld game of a well known franchise doesn’t mean that the feel and the experience of the game needs to be different. Metroid Fusion feels a natural progression in the Metroid series and really showed off how far the Game Boy Advance could be pushed graphically and in the sound department without pushing the console so hard that problems start to emerge. The controls feel perfectly natural and the way the game is designed is around this wonderfully tight controls, as well as accommodating for players of all skill levels.

The game is also not a short game whatsoever, with my playthrough of the game taking around 6 to 8 hours, which for a handheld game is almighty impressive. The way the game also conveys the story throughout is masterful design and really used what hardware could do amazingly well because 3D cutscenes weren’t really an option and the Navigation Rooms throughout the game act as perfect replacements to show exposition in the story. The music and sound design is crisp, clean and sounds timeless, meaning that the game can still be played today without worrying about the game looking dated.

10/10

Copyright ©2016 Liam Piper. All Images Used Under Fair Use

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