Review by Psycho Penguin
"If Super Metroid was a dream.. then this is a nightmare."
When Metroid came out for the NES way back in the ancient days when 8 bit graphics were considered cool, I was enamored with the unique type of gameplay it featured. Sure, the game was mighty challenging due to the lack of a map feature and the fact that 90 percent of the rooms looked exactly like one another minus the different color schemes, but most of the fun and intrigue came from mapping out the areas by yourself and then collecting items that would help you get from Point A to Point B. Super Metroid expanded on all of these ideas and added a killer soundtrack, hyped up graphics, and intense gameplay, and it soon became one of my favorite games of all time. I still consider it to be the best action/adventure game ever made.
Then Metroid Fusion came out. I expected great things from this game. It had all the makings of a classic, and I longed for a fun and exciting Metroid portable game, as Metroid 2 is one of the most hideous games ever made. Too bad Nintendo messed up with Metroid Fusion to a certain extent. Sure, they got all the characteristics of a Metroid game down pat: good graphics that seem a lot like Super Metroid, decent music, and explorative gameplay. Only the explorative part doesn't come into play as much any more, due to Nintendo's willingness to lead the player by the hand through most of the game. It really did become annoying later on in the game, and I will explain to you what I mean later, so STAY TUNED.
One thing I liked about Metroid Fusion was the increasingly complex story it brought to the table. As we all know, Samus made the Metroids go bye bye in the last game. However, this leads to a new problem, as all the species on her home planet have gone awry. One even morphed, somewhat unbelievably, into an identical image of Samus. She thinks very little of this, until it turns out that she falls into a coma, and has become infected with the X Parasites. You see, Metroids liked to eat these parasites. Therefore, when Samus killed off the Metroids, these parasites were given free will to roam around and affect everything in sight. So, Samus is brought back to life by being injected with Metroid larva, which makes her half Metroid and gives her ability to affect the X parasites, and the adventure begins. Like I said, I really loved how the series became more story-focused here.
The game sure does look nicer, too. Everything seems to fit in with the Metroid graphical style perfectly, from the backgrounds to the enemy designs. Nintendo really tried to squeeze every last ounce of energy from the Game Boy Advance graphical units, and you could tell. Those familiar at all with the style of the Metroid series should feel right at home with this game. The enemy designs appear to be right out of Super Metroid, with a little more detailer and they are also now smaller. Samus looks much cooler now, due to her new look as a half-Metroid, half-human. Plus, the game has a bunch of varied locales that I definitely enjoyed: you get your typical space stations, but you also get into fiery places, as well as blizzard-like conditions, and every background design is just marvelous. I really enjoyed the attention paid to the graphics in Metroid Fusion.
Sadly, the music in Metroid Fusion took a bit of a hit from Super Metroid. This is almost to be expected due to the limited power of the GBA, but I was still a little disappointed regardless. However, the music here is still pretty decent, just not typical of a Metroid title. The problem here is that the same songs are repeated over and over again. I really hated getting into a new area and hearing a song I heard an hour ago replaying again. The music isn't exactly inspired either: it sounds like it could have gone into any action/adventure song. The areas don't have their own unique songs, and the songs they do feature are pretty disappointing, so I'm going to say the music is average, which pains me due to the fact the Metroid series usually provides great music. Sound effects are decent, as well, and are up to par with the usual sounds of the genre: shots fired, enemies killed, explosions, etc. It's all here, and everything sounds good.
The game controls nicely, though. Everything here seems to be perfectly suited for a Metroid game. The buttons are placed logically and respond quite well. You get the menu screen where you can find out different things, and it's very easy to navigate. Navigating between rooms is relatively harmless, as you can aim sideways, up, and diagonally. Switching between weapons (like missiles) is simple, all you have to do is press one of the buttons on top of the Game Boy Advance. I really had no problems with the controls, thankfully.
Sadly, Metroid Fusion starts to take a turn for the worse when it comes to gameplay. The game, for some unknown reason, decides that you really don't need to discover anything out on your own, so it basically leads you by your hand. Every time you get to a new area, you get an objective to complete, and the game shows you on the map where you have to go. This gives the game a mission-based feeling, which the Metroid series should not have had. I felt disappointed with the change in style of gameplay the series took. I like to be able to discover where to go next. Having a map is fine, as it lets me navigate the room I am in flawlessly. But don't tell me where I have to go. I want to find out for myself. I don't want to go into a new area and have a computer tell me ''You have to go here and do this!'' It's really no fun, and I see no reason to want to play this game if it's going to spoil everything for me.
This makes the game EXTREMELY linear. I don't think I've ever played an ''exploration'' game that felt so linear before in my life. Remember in the other games where you get these wide open spaces with several doors, and you could go in any of them? Not in Metroid Fusion. Now, you just go from one space station to the next. You complete one, you have to backtrack and head to the next one, which mysteriously unlocked. Now, all the sense of adventure and exploration when it comes to exploring different areas is gone. You already know where to go next, so finding out where to go is no problem, and the game loses even MORE value here. I don't want to be led by the hand through an adventure game, and I don't want to go from stage to stage completing missions in a METROID game and then still see them pass it off as an ''exploration'' game.
Fortunately, besides that, the game still has all of the classic elements that made the Metroid series so great: it maintains all its past as a great exploration game. Finding weapons, missles, bombs, and energy tanks is still an important part of this game. You need to collect items to get to new areas, and knowing how to use each weapon is key to success in this game. I really enjoyed still being able to explore for hidden items that helped me on my quest. Despite the fact the Metroid series decided to go into mission-based gameplay in this game, it still manages to be a fun exploration adventure, so that's why the game is still average and not a total disaster. Now, if Nintendo would have messed with this and made all the weapons and items easy to find, then I would have given this a 2/10 and called it a day. Now, please don't say I didn't justify my score. Thank you.
The game is so short, too. You can complete it in about 4 to 6 hours, and there are very little secrets. Besides Metroid 2, this game has the least amount of replay value of any game in the series. This is a true shame, as the portable games are supposed to be the ones with the most replay value. The game is short, it has no secrets, and is very linear. You can find everything in it and complete it in 6 hours your first time through. I think that is kind of short, but it would have been fine if the game gave you any incentive to want to play it again. Super Metroid was replayable because despite the fact the game still required you to go in a certain order, you could explore rooms differently and the game had a much more non-linear feel. This game feels way too linear and the gameplay isn't fun enough to justify playing it more than one playthrough, if you survive that long.
Sadly, the enemies and bosses somehow managed to get dumber. Most of them will just stand around and not even come near me. The bosses are extremely stupid and a waste of time and energy. I don't get why Nintendo could not have thought of better boss patterns ofr them. It's like the boss patterns in Mega Man 2, only not quite as stupid. One will just stand there and shoot at you for a while, but his shots are so easily avoided, it's scary. Energy pellets are too frequent, and the enemies don't even take away that much energy. Well, they take away a decent amount of energy, but due to the fact that almost EVERY enemy leaves behind energy pellets you can collect, it kind of makes everything seem pointless.
That was the problem with the Metroid Fusion storyline: it kind of made this game easy. You see, Samus was made of the Metroid larva. And as the storyline indicated, Metroids eat X parasites. Enemies leave behind X Parasites. Therefore, Samus can take these X Parasites and recover energy and missiles. Plus, the stages are too small and compact, for the most part. You still get the occasional obstacle like lava or spikes, but they don't seem to be as challenging or thought provoking this time. The lack of interaction with the stage designs is also a problem. There's not enough variety in the stages, and that is a problem. There's so many problems with this game.
However, despite the numerous problems, I still liked Metroid Fusion to a certain extent, hence the 5. I felt it was an average Metroid game that sadly should have been so much more. I understand Nintendo wanted to ''shake up'' the series a little by adding mission-based, linear gameplay to it. But Metroid was never meant to be a linear series, and combining the non-linear aspects of it with linear gameplay design was a disaster waiting to happen. Fortunately, they avoided a total disaster by providing a somewhat decent game, so they haven't totally shot themselves in their foot here. However, the linear elements of the game, the lack of challenge, no replay value, and average music makes this a simply average game. The Metroid series took a real hit with Fusion, and I'm surprised to call this game a major disappointment. I never saw it coming. Damn Nintendo.
I sure hope Zero Mission turns out better.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 06/25/03, Updated 06/25/03
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