Review by kristina kim
"Come one, come all, Samus has returned in a more "super" Metroid game"
Samus returns in another installment of the much-beloved Metroid series. Metroid redefined platform gaming with the original Metroid on the NES, and again with Super Metroid on the SNES nearly a decade later. Super Metroid inspired many great games to follow it - namely, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The open-ended gameplay as well as the massive exploration aspects of the series make it one of the most enduring franchise games published by Nintendo.
The Game Boy Advance has some of the best 2D capabilities of any system, rivaling even the Playstation in terms of sprite detail quality and animation. Metroid Fusion is an incredible looking game, and considering the limitations of the GBA screen, performs extremely well. The bright and colorful graphics (somewhat of a departure for the Metroid series), do well on the non-backlight GBA screen. Even some of the ''dark'' levels are easy to play on the GBA. The sprite detail succeedes that of Super Metroid, with Samus and all her nemeses all well-animated and extremely detailed. Samus herself was rendered twice from both sides - such that her firing arm is always on her right. There's also the bevy of various SNES-esque sprite effects, such as scaling (those bosses just love to leap right out of the screen), transparencies, and shadows. The developers obviously took into consideration the size of the GBA screen, and there are no times when your limitation of view will hinder gameplay; there are no blind jumps or hidden platforms. Metroid Fusion is a nice, tidy package, easy to play on the GBA as well as being impressive from a technical standpoint.
Fear not, yon weary gamer; it's all here. From the classic Metroid title music, to the introduction music, to the sound of the morph ball bombs detonating. The music is your typical Metroid fare: extremely fitting, contributing to each separate game area, enhancing the immersiveness and mood of the game. If there is one critical point about the sound, it would have to be that it is best heard through a pair of headphones. The quality of sound is exponentially improved through even the shoddiest pair of headphones.
There's been quite some talk about the Metroid franchise - first there was the announcement that Metroid Prime would be a first-person shooter, prompting the cries of many a hardcore Metroid devotee. Then there was the announcement that Metroid would indeed be continued in the 2nd Dimension, on the GBA. Metroid Fusion, however, departs from many of the conventions that longtime Metroid fans cling to. For instance, there is considerably more focus on plot and dialogue - either Samus's internal monologue or her conversations with her computerized commanding officer. While the game retains it's open-ended exploration aspects, there are actual mission goals to be had this time around, and your CO will constantly be giving you new orders. Fans of the series seem to be divided over these new gameplay aspects, either crying that they ruin the pacing of the game by forcing you down a set path, while others claim that they help newcomers to the series cope with the intimidating free-roaming exploration aspect of the game, something many games are without and something that many gamers themselves never experience. In either case, there is still plenty of exploration to be had, and there are plenty of secrets to find. The game takes place in one continuous world, akin to previous installments of the Metroid series, with a clever plot device to give each section of the ship the games takes place upon diversity. The mission goals outlined by your CO don't have a particular time limit, even though it may constantly stress the urgency of the mission. However, each mission is divided into a separate section of the ship the game takes place upon - and most of the time, access to other parts of the ship is restricted. So while the game does retain it's exploratory gameplay, it sets you down the right path during the game; there won’t be a time when you can’t access another part of the ship that you’ll have a reason to be there – whether to access a door previously unopenable or use a new ability to gain access to a secret area.
Metroid Fusion’s level design, which has always been a part of the Metroid series’s amazing gameplay, is well intact. There is plenty of tricky platform gaming enjoyment, and many Metroid staples return. Whenever a new ability is granted, say, the ability to jump higher or to run faster, access to new areas previously unreachable is granted. Not only that, but traversing through areas previously explored is fast and painless. Backtracking is a constant in this game, but due to the fantastic level design, as well as an intelligently designed auto-map function, it’s never tedious or time consuming.
Replay Value: 8
Metroid Fusion is not without it's critics, and one of the most biting criticisms is it's shocking brevity. Metroid games were never long games to begin with; each game in the series could easily have been completed well within 3 hours the 2nd or 3rd time through. Fusion is shocking because of the hand-holding CO constantly pointing you in the right direction makes progressing through the game quite smooth and there is less lag time laying bombs everywhere trying to find the next open passageway. Fusion carries about 12 solid hours of gameplay, if the player is rather determined to find everything the game has to offer. Without such painstaking detail to the game's secrets, it can be easily completed well within 6 hours. Remember that the most rewarding aspects ever of the Metroid series was finding hidden upgrades and items. Metroid fans won't be disappointed with the amount of secret passageways and bombable walls this game has to offer, while novices won't be intimidated by having to wander aimlessly throughout the levels.
Metroid Fusion is the perfect continuation of the Metroid series. It expands where the game needed it - namely in livening up the plot and giving the player a better sense of direction. It also retained many of the conventions of previous games in the series that's made it one of the hallmarks of the videogame industry. Metroid fans should not hesitate to pick this game up, and GBA owners looking for an overall excellent platform gaming experience should definitely give it serious consideration.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/21/02, Updated 11/21/02
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