thoughts on METROID FUSION

I just pulled my old game boy advance out of cold storage and played metroid fusion, a game I have not seen or played in 15 years or so oh God time is a flat circle

anyway, here are some random assorted thoughts on this little gem:

-it’s so short! my play-through included many, many stupid deaths because I’ve grown bad and lazy at video games, and I still beat it in under 4 hours.

-what’s interesting about the GBA 2D metroid games, in contrast to their three SNES/NES/GB counterparts, is that they have all the mechanics and visual flair of the series but almost none of its soul.

this isn’t really a bad thing — they have a different soul, really, which is that of narratively-driven linear video gaming with gated progress and clear interstitial objectives. exploration is limited to finding extra trinkets and not a fundamental aspect of game play or storytelling.

it’s more notable with Zero Mission, which took a game that was explicitly “you have no idea where you are or what you are doing. begin!” and turned it into a much more straightforward follow-the-objective platformer.

this is sort of the progression zelda was on, too, before BOTW pushed back hard on that trend.

-lord do I not care for the Navigation Room exposition; I’m not even talking about the spell-out-your-objective stuff, it’s the Adam storyline that grates on me. it doesn’t take up too much space, ultimately, but it’s still far more than I needed for something that never meant anything emotionally or narratively

this guy still sucks and I hate him and he’s gross

-switching to clear positives: the visual detail in this game is so awesome; it’s one of the real shining stars of the game boy advance hardware. full of visual storytelling and 16-bit sci-fi atmosphere

-cool little world-building detail: the ice X blobs attack you aggressively when you’re weak to them, and continue doing so for the first few rooms after you get the varia suit, but after a little while they start to realize they’re not hurting you anymore and then they try to run away after that.

-the whole “samus has been infected by X” thing is silly from a narrative standpoint but brilliant for the gameplay. it’s totally unnecessary to explain why/how power ups exist in a game like this, but having those power-ups simultaneously be living things that are your enemy but which you can absorb to heal yourself is a really cool dynamic

it adds a little dynamism to every room how they can re-form into enemies if you don’t absorb them quickly enough. the game even toys with this mechanic later on, though not as much as it probably could have

-so much of this game is just tweaking super metroid, which is both clever and a little disappointing. so many of the enemies are retreads, which is both sensible from the narrative premise and also means most of the climactic battles are hollow echoes of a much more intriguing game

like, the SA-X doing the metroid hatchling self-sacrifice thing is completely inexplicable except as a callback; ridley’s appearance is fun but gratuitous; for a game that starts by blowing up samus’s suit they really do not stray at all from the formula in terms of weaponry.

all that said, it’s a very polished take on the formula, and I still love it. it’s honestly hard to play the SNES game after all the refinement that’s come in its wake.

-the X themselves are a moderately interesting, if fairly tried-and-true, sci-fi villain. sort of a borg-flubber merger.

-it is so bizarre and Japanese-family-friendly that the game’s progressive reward system for beating it quickly, with all the stuff, etc. is to give you pictures of Samus that range from “person wearing a full-body spacesuit” to “mildest cheesecake”, but I guess this is pre-Zero Suit we’re talking about