Metroid Fusion journal - entry one

Man, I need to stop and take a breath a moment… phew. Alright, so I just started up Metroid Fusion today, as it’s on loan from a friend of mine. Fusion is one of the few remaining Metroid games I have never played before, but I’ve heard only great things about it since its original release around the same time as Prime in the early 2000s. Prime was my first trek into the Metroid series, and quickly rose the ranks as one of my all-time favorite games. I played through the Prime sequels as they were released in subsequent years, and even took a crack at both the original Metroid and its Zero Mission remake, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed (though the latter was host to tighter controls and thus proved far more forgiving). But Super Metroid – the purported crown jewel of the series – eluded me for nearly a decade after I first played Prime. It was just by happenstance that I was browsing the Wii Virtual Console library and opted to spend some leftover points I had gotten as a Christmas stocking stuffer on the SNES classic.

For those who don’t know, I never owned a Super Nintendo console. I also knew hardly anyone that owned one until about the time I entered middle school. Every one of the neighbor kids ran either SEGA Genesis or PC games, and all of my friends were stocking up their libraries for the recently-released N64 by the time I was first getting into the video game scene. While I have played a decent number of SNES games today, most of my lengthy expeditions have been via Virtual Console, not the physical system itself (I know - ‘shun the outcast’, and all that). My standards for games have long been compared to my own first console love, the N64, and while The Legend of Zelda is bar none my favorite gaming saga of all time, I wasn’t really won over with A Link to the Past – certainly I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t anything revolutionary in my eyes when pitted against Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, the Oracle games, Skyward Sword, or even Wind Waker. Knowing that Super Metroid was frequently cited as one of the best games on the SNES, and even as one of the greatest games of all time, I was skeptical going into it, to say the least.

Fast forward past the playthrough of Super Metroid, my written review of it, and the couple of months that have passed between then and today. As it currently stands, Prime is still my favorite Metroid game, but Super is a close second. However, Fusion is proving to be a hell of a contender, and I’m not even an hour into the game yet. It runs on the same engine as Super, though Fusion looks (understandably) better due to the graphical advancements in the decade between the release of their respective native systems. It’s essentially a sleeker, streamlined take on the Super Metroid formula – which is not to say that Super Metroid had much in the way of fat that needed to be cut. But somehow, it works without Fusion feeling like a shell of Super’s glory.

Farming has long been the means of replenishing Samus’ health and missile count, but here it operates differently. Instead of shooting small Geemers and Shriekbats in hopes that they will drop the health/ammo you’re after, every enemy you dispatch ejects a single X Parasite sample, which Samus can walk into to help replenish her stock. Orange X Parasites are for health, green are for missiles, and the odd red ones cover both fronts. While this could present the possibility for the game being too lenient, Fusion in fact retains the difficulty factor of Super Metroid (and then some), offering up boss fights that all consist of two phases – the boss itself, and then a larger Parasite carrying Samus’ next upgrade. As for the standard orange and green X Parasites, should Samus not collect them after they manifest, they have the potential to latch onto nearby enemies and boost their abilities, pitting Samus against tougher foes in a matter of seconds. With any other Metroid title, I might think the chance to obtain three energy tanks and eighty missiles this early in would be overkill. But with Fusion, it feels like just the right amount.

The space station’s layout is much more intelligent from the perspective of this being a handheld game as well. Whereas Super Metroid, Zero Mission, and the Prime games required you to travel through one area to reach another (i.e. – go though Norfair to get to Ridley), each sector in Metroid Fusion is its own distinct region, and only connects to the main hub. None of these areas are exactly huge, either. Sure, there’s plenty to explore and they are all very aesthetically pleasing. But I can already tell that backtracking for further expansions is going to be significantly less of a hassle than in some of the other Metroid titles.

It’s incredibly rare that a game will win me over with so much so early, but Metroid Fusion seems to be pulling all the right punches a just the right times. The bosses are interesting and fun, though certainly challenging. The atmosphere is a perfect blend of creepy suspense and sci-fi adventure. The soundtrack and art style hold a great balance of ‘something old, something new’. This game is off to an awesome start, and while I can’t believe I waited this long to properly experience it, I’m not going to worry about pacing myself with the experience. If I blow through this game in just a few days, at least I expect to have a hell of a time doing so.

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