Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Metroid Fusion (GBA) Retro Review

Metroid Fusion is another 3DS Ambassador game given to early buyers of the Nintendo 3DS. I have been enjoying my time playing through one of my favorite eras of gaming. See how well Metroid Fusion fares with this in-depth review.

Metroid and Handhelds Fuse Together
Once More for an Incredible Ride.

Famous bounty hunter Samus Aran skipped the Nintendo 64 generation, but she came back in style with two new Metroid games within the same day in North America: one of my favorite games of all time, Metroid Prime, and the subject of this review, Metroid Fusion on the Game Boy Advance. With Nintendo's lackluster sales of the 3DS, the price of the system went down, and people who had purchased the platform prior to the price cut received a total of twenty free games-- Ambassador titles, ten NES and ten GBA. Metroid Fusion was but one of those games to play. It's well worth one's time, too, so curl up in your morph ball and get ready to engross yourself in the world of Metroid Fusion.

New suit, same attitude.
During a routine support mission on the not-so-eloquent-to-pronounce planet SR388, Samus Aran gets more than she bargained for when she is assaulted by the mysterious but highly hazardous X parasite. This parasite has the ability to copy the genetic makeup of its host, gaining its powers and appearance. Samus nears death, but at the last possible moment a vaccine from the DNA of the baby Metroid that saved the beautiful bounty hunter back in the finale of Super Metroid allows Samus to survive. The X parasite has now spread to a nearby station that circles around SR388, and Samus, without most of her powers, must take them all out. Assisting her in this perilous mission is a computer which tells Samus mission objectives in every navigation room. Metroid Fusion is much more story-focused than previous entries in the franchise. There are tons of moments where Samus has inner monologues where she questions taking orders from a cold and calculating computer and references her past commanding officer, Adam Malkovich, a name that would appear once more in the controversial Metroid: Other M on the Wii.

There are more story elements than your average Metroid.
If you are new to the Metroid series, here's how it normally unfolds. You basically have parts of areas which you cannot explore until you acquire new powers. As you get new powers, previously unreachable areas become accessible, so new portions of the world become available for exploration. Starting off, Ms. Aran has a pithy amount of powers. She slowly gains new ones usually through beating bosses. Such powers include the ability to roll up into a ball and go through tiny spaces via the Morph Ball power, the ability to shoot off Missiles, the ability to charge her beam cannon, the ability to jump higher to reach once impossible-to-get-to platforms, the ability to freeze foes with the Ice Beam, the infamous Screw Attack which allows our heroine to spin in the air infinitely while damaging enemies that come close to her, and new suits like the Varia and Gravity Suits, giving Samus access to areas that would damage her like severely hot or cold places and the ability to move normally underwater respectively.

Like I said, generally to acquire a new power, a boss must be slain. They usually guard a power, or they even use the power themselves in battle to give you a taste of what you can look forward to. The baddies range from big to small. You'll be facing giant plants of peril, horrible scientific monstrosities gone wrong, and creatures like bats and water snakes that dish out plenty of damage. Some encounters are easier than others, and occasionally you'll have to redo a fight in order to ascertain the proper plan to defeat the foe. After a boss has been defeated, you still aren't finished. A core flies around the battlefield in hopes of hurting Samus as she tries to break it open with missiles or shots from her beam cannon. When it breaks open, the power is hers for the taking.

Beat the boss to acquire a new ability.
There are a total of six sectors on the research station not including the main area where Samus docks her ship. They are connected via a horizontal pathway and a series of six rooms with one elevator apiece, each leading to a different sector. The sectors have various themes to them such as a water and oceanic area, a lava-filled, heat-based area, a nocturnal cavern area, a tropical forested area, an icy area, and a normal area. You go from one sector to another by request of the computer, solving problems aboard the research station such as turning on the power, investigating facilities where creatures have broken free from, and flipping on switches which open up specifically colored hatches, allowing Samus to explore new areas of the vessel.

Even bounty hunters sometimes need to chill out.
Because of the mission-based structure, Fusion is more linear than your usual Metroid game, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot of exploration to be had. There really is a lot of discovery and wonder to behold. Hidden inside walls, inside secret rooms, and usually in out of the way areas are Missile upgrades, Energy Tanks, and Power Bomb upgrades. Each Missile upgrade gives Samus five extra missiles to work with. Each Energy Tank bestows Samus with 100 extra health while Power Bomb upgrades allow Samus to hold two more super-useful Power Bombs (used in Morph Ball form to explode and destroy walls that would otherwise be impenetrable).

By far the most intense moments in Metroid Fusion are when the SA-X (Samus Aran X parasite) appears and the real Samus must flee as she is no match for her copy. The SA-X can take away Samus's life in an instant, so speed is key. Don't be surprised if you have many deaths as you figure out the best plan of escape. It just makes the experience near the end of the game of being at full power and taking out the SA-X much more fulfilling after being stalked and almost preyed upon for 90% of the game.

Sh! Don't make a sound!
Metroid Fusion isn't a long game. It can honestly be beaten in less than two hours. However, that is an impossible feat for a first-time player. (Most players will probably finish the game in 3-5 hours.) Moreover, the game counts how many upgrades you've collected, and it totals your earning percentage after the credits have rolled. Perfectionists and/or completionists will want to strive for 100%. However, there's a special end game bonus for earning 100% in less than two hours. This means being perfect throughout the game, knowing where to go, when to go, and doing it in a swift fashion. This makes the replay value relatively high as you continue to shoot for a fast time and high completion percentage. For those like me who only care about getting 100%, you probably won't return to this game after beating it once until many moons later.

Metroid Fusion is a good looking GBA game. The character and enemy designs are impressive, the still-frame cutscenes look very nice, and the backgrounds are greatly detailed. The music fills players with a sense of dread at one time, then sends them with a sense of havoc at other times. The atmospheric soundtrack is perfect for this type of title. Sound effects come across well, too, but some like the screeching and shrieking of certain bosses don't come across as nice on the small speakers of the system. Regardless, Metroid Fusion has an outstanding presentation.

Ridley just doesn't know when to quit, does he?
Metroid Fusion permeates with that typical Metroid formula. It might be more linear than most Metroid fans are used to, but there is still a fair amount of freedom to be had. Yes, the story elements bog down the pace of the game significantly, but at least the story is interesting from beginning to end. The level design constantly engages the player to try out their newest abilities to discover upgrades and other secrets, the boss battles are entertaining, and the SA-X chase segments will make a sane player sweat. My biggest gripe with the game is that it is over too soon, though some players will find satisfaction in playing the game over and over as they aim for a fast time and high completion percentage. Despite my problem with the length of the game, Metroid Fusion is still a must-have for Game Boy Advance owners. Don your Varia Suit, equip your beam cannon, and commence your mission.

[SuperPhillip Says: 9.25/10]

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