It has been 8 long years, but we finally have a true sequel to one of the finest games ever made, Super Metroid for the Super Nintendo. Just a scant couple months ago I thought that Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance was the best 2D game on the Gameboy Advance, now I think Metroid Fusion has trumped it. Both games are excellent, but for some reason the Metroid universe is so exciting to me. Then again, maybe it is because of the 8 years of waiting I have done.
Metroid Fusion happens right after the events of Super Metroid. Samus is on her way back to SR388, but is attacked by something called the X Parasite. It infects Samus and she comes close to death. The doctors end up surgically taking off a lot of her spacesuit because the X Parasite has taken over the suit. In fact the X have fused to Samus’ own body. The doctors try Metroid DNA on Samus and the parasite is defeated. Most of Samus’ powers are gone and she is now able to absorb the X as she fights through the game. Samus’ own suit has changed drastically. It is much sleeker and has some a lot of green in it now.
Samus is sent with a computer called Adam (which Samus named for her former commanding officer) to a research station that has been taken over by the X orbiting SR388. It seems they are able to absorb both creature and human DNA and take over their bodies. With the Metroids destroyed (the baby one died at the end of Super Metroid), the X can run wild as the Metroids were their predators. It is up to Samus to get her powers back, stabilize the problems in the research station and destroy the X parasite once and for all. Problem is one of the X has made a duplicate copy of Samus at her most powerful (with the bigger suit) and the computer calls this organism SA-X. There are a lot of tense moments in the game where SA-X is slowly walking around an area Samus is in. You are so powerless against SA-X because it has all the powers that you do not. One false move and you are toast.
Ranks right up there with Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance in the graphics department. The Gameboy Advance works this game flawlessly except for the one hint of slowdown that I saw. This game looks like Super Metroid with a larger variety of colors and ideas for levels. This is a very colorful game, which is in stark contrast to the dark setting in Castlevania.This is where Metroid Fusion surpasses Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance. The music and sound are great in this game. There are even voices (although very few) in the game. This is what other developers should strive for in Gameboy Advance games: great graphics and great sound without hindering one or the other. Maybe other developers can learn from Nintendo on this.
Metroid Fusion plays very similar to the 2D Metroid games of the past. B is for shooting your gun (hold B to do a charge attack once you get the ability), A is to jump, double tap control stick down to roll into a ball (once received) and hold down the R button and hit B to fire a missile. The L button is used to shoot at 45 degree angles. The default is to shoot upwards, but one tap of the control pad downward will let you fire in the down direction. This is very easy and straightforward. It should take little to no time to get used to the controls. There are a few differences in this game though. Samus can now climb walls and climb across ceilings (where equipped) and now whenever she defeats an opponent an X parasite comes out and you have to grab it before it goes elsewhere in the room and possibly makes another enemy bigger and more powerful. There are 3 colors of X: yellow is gives you energy, green gives you missiles and red rejuvenates you quite a bit. It is important to get the X parasites, as leaving them may make your trip a bit harder than it truly could be.
The control is flawless. B button to shoot (hold to charge), A to jump, tap down twice to roll into the morph ball, R button + B to fire missiles and the L button to shoot diagonally. You will get used to it quickly and it will be second nature to you in no time. The controls are slightly easier to use than Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance because the latter was a bit more robust in things you could do (such as magic).
The story of Metroid Fusion is told through both the computer at Navigation Rooms and by text while Samus is in an elevator or doing some other sort of long traveling. The story keeps you interested and the computer certainly helps you out on where you need to go in the Navigation Rooms. This is actually not a very short game. It took me about 6 hours to defeat and I bet it could take many people longer than that. There are a total of 5 endings depending on the amount of time you take and the amount of items you picked up. At the end of the game you can continue your old game and the map will show you how many items you missed and where they were. Game time runs far slower than real time, so 2 hours to you may be only 30 minutes to the game. The replay ability is there and it is an overall enjoyable experience. Heck, I still play Super Metroid to this day. I even did it before I got this and Metroid Prime.
The game is quite smooth and very beautiful. The only slowdown I saw was at one point where there were about 8 enemies in a small room. It is easily forgivable. The music and sound in this game are excellent as well. You may want to put on some headphones for this one to hear it better than you can just on the GBA.
The boss battles are very exciting as well. They all have weak spots and it is certainly a change of pace with fighting a different group of bosses than you are used to on the other Metroids (although some old ones return). Each time you beat a boss you acquire a power or powers that you have lost. Towards the end of the game the difficulty with bosses ramps up a bit, although some are easier than others. Eventually you become as powerful as you once were and can take on the thing that has been hunting you down the whole game. Of course there is more than meets the eye going on in this game.
Metroid Fusion also has connectivity with Metroid Prime via the GC/GBA link capabilities. If you defeat Metroid Prime you are able to play that game with the Fusion suit. If you defeat Metroid Fusion you are able to play the original Metroid on your GameCube and save it to the memory card (no writing down codes like you used to). It does not sound like much of a plus for Fusion as it has nothing to gain from this, such as being able to play Metroid on the go though. They are great extras though and everyone that has the ability should go out and get both games. One reaches for the past while the other reaches for the future. I hope there are more Metroid games in the pipe. This is a gold mine for Nintendo if they use it correctly.Your mileage will vary on this one. I still play Super Metroid to this day because it is so great. Many of you may not do so. The key replay value in this game is getting the 5 different endings via getting more items and beating the game in less time. It is somewhat akin to getting the under 2 hours ending in the original Metroid. This game is longer than Super Metroid, but far shorter than Metroid Prime. Then again I was not expecting it to be longer than Metroid Prime. If it was it would be a disservice to Metroid Prime itself. I actually enjoyed the length and would be more likely to pick up the game again to play it because it is relatively short. Once again, your mileage may vary on this point. The value is there, but not necessarily will everyone use it. I would love to give this game a perfect score, but it is somewhat lacking in this department to your normal gamer.