The Anatomy of Metroid Fusion | 16 | Old friends

Metroids are the first of many returning friends in this segment of the adventure. Well, the game’s name is Metroid, after all. It just wouldn’t do if the actual last metroid had been in captivity last time around.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.39 PM

Two things really stand out here: One, whoops, the Federation is just as rotten as the Space Pirates!

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.39 PM 1

Two, wow, mature metroids look a lot better here than they did in Metroid II.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.39 PM 2

A massive explosion rocks the station once you reach this chamber, which happens to be a dead-end…

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.39 PM 3

…at least, it’s briefly a dead end, anyway. The SA-X has followed Samus to the restricted lab and, being an adaptation of a creature whose natural enemy is the metroid, basically freaks out upon seeing a tiny army of the things being cultivated. The SA-X opens fire, unleashing its destructive power against the growth chambers packed with larvae, which shatters the walls and ceiling alike — the dead end room from a moment ago now becomes interconnected with the lower level, the floor shattering away.

The SA-X appears less intelligent than advertised. Rather than open fire against the larvae with its ice beam, it blasts them indiscriminately. They quickly descend upon the fake Samus and presumably suction its life force away. Do baby metroids have suction powers? They can make mystery blocks disappear, sure, but in all this time we’ve never encountered one in a hostile situation.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.40 PM 1

We’ll just assume they’re making a TV dinner of SA-X. You don’t really have a chance to enjoy the sight, however, since this turn of events initiates an escape sequence.  In a nice touch, the one-minute countdown display uses the same typeface as the one-minute escape indicator in Super Metroid‘s Ceres Station.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.40 PM 2

Interestingly, and fittingly, the metroid larvae don’t attack Samus. Why would they? The SA-X identifies Samus as metroid thanks to her genetic modifications; presumably the metroids do, too. That said, they don’t make this sequence easy; they hover in mid-air and will interrupt Samus’ space jump if she collides with them, and they demonstrate a decidedly annoying inclination to drift into your path as you try to make your way out of the restricted zone.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.40 PM 3

Cut to an external shot of the restricted laboratory being jettisoned from the station. No explosions? Seems like an unacceptable breach of tradition…

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.40 PM 4

Oh.

With that, it would seem the last of the metroid, and the SA-X, are done for. Game over?

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.40 PM 5

When you link up with Adam again for a debriefing on your mission, he thanks you for your hard work by goose-stepping for the Man. Adam really is the worst. People complain about Adam’s equivalent persona in Other M being too priggish to be in-character for his Fusion counterpart, but frankly it seems pretty faithful to me.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.41 PM 1

A nice touch here — another big plot revelation is given extra impact by the designers breaking the rules of the Adam chat sequences. Until this point, you’ve always received instructions passively from Adam at computer terminals, with only his HAL-like eye present on-screen alongside his dialogue box. Here, as he reveals the fact that SA-X is one of 10 that have appeared in the station — parthenogenesis is a helluva thing — a dialogue and portrait box appears for Samus, too. Until now, she’s taken everything in stride. But this, this news is far too much to bear, and she plays proxy for the player’s sense of dismay at discovering the SA-X is not, in fact, dead.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.41 PM 2

At this point you end up in a weird little corner of the station, whose design feels cold and mechanical — there’s no simulation element at play here. The result looks uncannily like the Tourian zone of planet Zebes…

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.42 PM

This area pits you against your second returning friend and the greatest non-boss challenge in the entirety of Fusion: Gold Space Pirates. Or rather, X parasites masquerading as Gold Space Pirates.

These warriors can be downright harrowing; unlike their equivalents in Super Metroid, they never flash to reveal their vulnerability. Instead, you have to sort out the trick to defeating them on your own: They can only be hurt by striking them from behind. That’s more easily said than done, since they always try and face Samus. Ultimately, the trick is to get up close to them, which will cause them to leap over you and briefly expose their vulnerable backs. Once you get the trick, they’re pretty harmless due to their simple AI patterns, but getting to that point can be taxing.

In truth, though, you never actually have to fight Gold Space Pirates. They never appear by default, strictly coalescing from X parasites loosed from other creatures. If you avoid allowing the freed lesser parasites from congregating, they’ll never merge into Gold Space Pirates. Their presence truly tests your skills, your problem-solving capacity, and your patience.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.41 PM 3

The further you descend into not-Tourian, the nastier it gets. Eventually, you’re dealing with pools of acid and weird X blobs that break the rules and attach to you like metroids. This area should remind you very much of the lead-up to Mother Brain’s chamber in Super Metroid, with parasites replacing the metroids. Does this mean an X-corrupted Aurora Unit is just around the corner…?

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.42 PM 1

No, it means that Ridley is up, having somehow relocated from deep freeze to this sterile zone. Hello, returning friend number three.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.42 PM 2

The mystery of the dead, frozen fiend’s relocation quickly becomes evident: His corpse — or frozen, Big-Boss-coma, near-death self, I suppose — has been subsumed by the X parasite and turned into a gross self-parody of himself. You almost kind of feel bad for Ridley, but I guess this is what he gets for being such a chump during that first encounter.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.42 PM 3

After the past few battles, which have been largely pattern-based and required tremendous patience and careful execution, Ridley-X is a straightforward slugfest. This fight, even more so than Nightmare, plays out as a battle of attrition: Ridley is a huge target and doesn’t really move around all that much, sort of bouncing and hovering in place. But at the same time, it’s very difficult to evade his attacks, as he occupies so much of the screen.

His fiery breath — a trademark since the beginning — now consists of a handful of large flame blobs that spread out in a sort of parabolic pattern. They tend to fire away from Ridley and are by far his easiest attacks to dodge.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.42 PM 5

Much less difficult to evade is his grab attack, which he’ll execute if he manages to corner you — something he does with ease and regularity. As in Super Metroid, breaking free is simply a matter of peppering him with missiles… something made slightly more complicated by the way Ridley flips orientation between right and left. When Ridley changes the direction he’s facing, Samus doesn’t turn with him — you continue attacking in the whichever direction you were aiming at. It’s a weird design choice, but it definitely can break your rhythm.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.42 PM 4

Otherwise, though, it basically comes down to a question of who dies first: You or Ridley-X.

 

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.42 PM 6

Assuming you didn’t screw up too much against the Gold Space Pirates, it’s not too difficult to survive this straightforward battle of attrition.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.43 PM 1

Which results in Samus acquiring her final key upgrade, and an essential part of surviving the difficult battle ahead: The Screw Attack. As always, this ability turns Samus’ Space Jump into a deadly weapon, destroying anything she comes into contact with, or at least rendering her safe from harm, so long as she’s spinning in air.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.43 PM 2

In a nice little touch, the room immediately before Ridley-X was filled with drifting Rippers who were completely invulnerable to all of Samus’ attacks. Now it is you who are the ripper, tearing through these dudes with the power of the Screw Attack. One final little diegetic gameplay tip to show off your new powers before the end game.

The Anatomy of Metroid Fusion | 15 | Round two

Even after linking up again with Adam, and despite the continued linearity of this section of the game, Fusion continues to allow you to feel like you’re basically free-wheeling. It manages to hit the same sweet spot that certain parts of Super Metroid did, giving you a nudge toward your objectives but leaving you to sort out exactly how you’re supposed to meet those objectives on your own. Zero Mission, as we’ll see, does this from start to finish, which is why Zero Mission is probably the best Metroid.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.34 PM

The game also takes this opportunity to allow you to recalibrate yourself. You’ve been facing a host of ever-more-dangerous creatures, from the SA-X to Space Pirates that somehow transform into mermen, and for all your seeming progress Samus never really gets a leg up on the opposition. But as you return to the night sector, you work your way through areas you cleared much earlier in the game, fighting enemies who once demanded strategy and caution. Now, equipped with a nearly full-powered beam, diffusion missiles, and the Gravity Suit, Samus slices through her enemies like a scythe through summer corn. You are mighty — it’s just that the enemies have scaled up with you.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.35 PM

That said, you’re still not awesome enough to break through all those pinwheel wall barriers that seem to make up a significant chunk of the station’s core areas.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.36 PM 1

Eventually, your path through puny weakling monsters leads Samus to a shuttered gate being watched by a video camera. The camera is non-interactive and, unlike the mystery eyeballs at the beginning of Super Metroid, doesn’t follow Samus. Nevertheless, it definitely stands out here — and the fact that approaching the gate initiates a computerized voice warning you to stay out of the restricted zone definitely doesn’t sit right. However, you can’t get past this gate no matter how much you’d like to… so, naturally, the only solution is to go find a Core X with a Wave Beam power-up. That’s the routine in Biologic’s station: Hit a wall, kill a mutant alien virus, steal back a skill.

(In a nice touch, the computerized voice sounds almost exactly like MU-TH-UR’s detonation countdown in Alien.)

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.36 PM 2

Your goal now is a slightly flooded room, which you very likely passed through on your way to the locked gate — it’s much easier to find, more obviously in your path, and it sits suspiciously empty. Chances are pretty good you would have stumbled upon it before triggering the warning voice and, in an attempt to make sense of what this pointless room was about, detonated a Power Bomb that revealed ladder rungs running across the ceiling.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.37 PM 1

Those rungs turn out to be of vital importance once you’ve triggered the alert, since the computer warning draws the security robot out of hiding. Alas, some idiot at Biologic decided to make B.O.X. with organic components, and it’s now corrupted by the X as well as everything else on the station.

The robot has a fairly simple pattern here, but it’s devastating. It scuttles along the floor, leaping frequently with the intent of body-checking Samus, which jars her loose from the rungs. It also fires off strings of missiles, several at a time, which rise up before homing in on Samus. These, too, dislodge Samus on contact.

That’s bad, because the robot has electrified the pool of water — touching it saps Samus’ energy quickly, and with the boss constantly slamming into you, it can be tough to get back out again.

You’d think this would be a great place to make use of your Diffusion Missiles; since it’s tough to draw a bead on the robot and it’s constantly firing off projectiles, the diffusion effect should allow you to “fire and forget,” right? The wave taking out the enemy missiles and delivering damage to its vulnerable core. Sadly, that’s not how this fight works. The missiles are unaffected by diffusion, and you have to hit the biological core directly in order to effect damage.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.37 PM 2

This means hanging around up top, waiting for the robot to scurry into your line of sight, gunning down missiles with your energy cannon as they approach. Unfortunately, unlike the first encounter with the security cyborg, you can’t just sit in one spot and wait for it to pass by. If you hang around for long, it will take a mid-air swipe at you. So you need to remain on the move…

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.37 PM

…and make the most of rare and precious openings. The B.O.X. doesn’t take a huge number of hits to defeat, but actually landing those blows can be ridiculously difficult.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.38 PM

There is one saving grace to this battle, though: B.O.X. is not very smart, and there’s a safe spot in this room. Despite its ability to jump, the boss’ pattern doesn’t allow it to hop up on the raised perimeter of the room. So, if you hang above the lip of the floor at the right or left edge of the space, you’ll be completely safe from B.O.X.’s dangerous leap attacks. You’ll also have plenty of lead time to shoot down its missiles as it paces back and forth. And, every once in a while, it’ll come into your line of sight. It’s not a courageous approach, but this sort of exploit is fairly uncommon in Fusion. Might as well take advantage of it, yeah?

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.38 PM 2

Well. A thing like that.

The Wave Beam acquisition was basically a given at this point, but it does feel a little unsatisfying from a design sense: Pretty much every boss until now has made use of the ability its Core-X stole from Samus, but nothing about B.O.X. resembled the Wave Beam (which allows your arm cannon fire to pass through all barriers in addition to the Plasma effect that pieces foes). While you had to gain the Wave Beam in order to advance, and you were bound to face off against B.O.X. again, it feels a bit obligatory rather than inspired.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.38 PM 3

Anyway, the Wave Beam allows Samus to bypass the security gate and ender the restricted zone.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:22:15, 9.38 PM 4

And the plot thickens.

The Anatomy of Metroid Fusion | 14 | Ahh, memories

With the Gravity Suit in hand (not literally), unsurprisingly the next phase of the game takes you back to all the underwater areas you couldn’t proper explore last time. This comes much later in the game than Maridia did in Super Metroid, where you acquired the Gravity Suit at the midpoint. Here, you have only a handful of power-ups remaining.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.49 AM 1

Although! The game certainly isn’t shy about gating your progress with those last few skills. You may be near the end at this point, but there’s still plenty of potential power locked behind walls of icons you don’t have the power to destroy yet.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.49 AM

You continue to make connections between different areas of the space station by alternate routes — service passages and other corridors. In addition to making the game more interesting to navigate, it also helps lend a sense of empowerment even though you’re really just going by the game designers’ prescribed route. Adam’s directives always plot you back through the main elevator space, punctuated by a patronizing reminder of how to repeat paths you’ve traveled a dozen times, and making these connections behind the scenes feels like an act of rebellion. You’re breaking the rules by way of carefully curated and meticulously controlled world design.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.50 AM 1

The flooded areas of the station contain numerous callbacks to Maridia, and survivors of Samus’ previous adventures will almost certainly intuit certain hidden secrets here. Such as what happens when you detonate a Power Bomb inside a glass conduit underwater…

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.52 AM 2

Yeah that’s right.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.49 AM 2

A number of creatures make a return from Super Metroid as well, such as the little baby versions of Draygon. In keeping with the theme of the game, though, these familiar creatures always require new techniques to defeat and can behave in surprising ways.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.50 AM 2

The glass tube-busting tactics aren’t just a fun shortcut in Fusion the way they were on Zebes; in fairly short order, you’ll cover all the “official” areas on the map and find yourself stymied by red Level 4 security doors. The only way to advance is to go off the grid, as it were, and map out new areas on your own. You’ve ventured into green portions of the map a number of times by this point, but this is the advanced version of the technique, the 301 course. You have to sniff out the secret areas all on your own, and even then simply “going green” isn’t enough to advance — you have to puzzle through a couple of tricky rooms, too.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.50 AM 3

Every portion of the uncharted map here seems like a dead end at first glance. There are clues for to advance, but you have to look for them. In this case, a set of vents sits over a suspicious pit… and while that alone isn’t a dead giveaway, considering how the framework of this region presents plenty of “open” areas outside the playable space, the fact that the two vents over the opening don’t discharge air bubbles the way the other vents do should definitely tip you off to their artifice.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.51 AM 1

Likewise, drop down and you can take the obvious path to the right… but it dead ends again. The true path is to continue descending through the fake vents. Here the false vents lack the tip-off of empty space below, but since you’ve already learned how to spot the difference between real and fake vents, you can sort it out.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.51 AM

This little nook makes a puzzle out of two separate properties of the game: Rooms that only unlock once enemies are defeated, and X parasites that merge into new enemies if left to fly free. You can’t open the exit to this room unless you allow some of the X parasites from enemies in the main passage to drift over and possess the little (non-parasitic) crab dudes hanging out in this walled-off space. Only when they’re destroyed along with the immediately hostile foes can you advance… something that might not immediately seem intuitive. You’ve been trained to snag free parasites as quickly as possible, but if you do that here you can’t destroy the innocent creatures and the door won’t unlock. It’s a pretty ingenious puzzle, and it’s not completely opaque either, since the basic crabs are sort of conspicuous in the way they putter around in the background of this otherwise useless walled-off section.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.52 AM

The final bit of this environmental puzzle is a room full of hard-to-reach, invisible passages. It gives you one somewhat obvious route that terminates in a dead end, forcing you to pore over every inch of the room to find the correct route — with a hint coming in the fact that the dead end (the bottom-right cavity obstructed by a Bomb block) sits right next to a huge, conspicuous space that you can’t reach directly (with a Bomb block directly above a pipe leading into a room below). Fusion does a great job of being tricky, but not so devious it feels like you’re playing a guessing game. If Metroid was too opaque with its hidden passages and Super Metroid too obvious, Fusion hits a perfect balance. Or near perfect, I suppose, because how do you improve on perfection? And Zero Mission definitely improves on Fusion.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.52 AM 1

Your ultimate goal here has been to unlock the final set of security doors. As with some of the previous security computers, you had to reach this room through an indirect route. This trip, however, was far more convoluted than your previous escapades… and also, you weren’t given tips (or authorization) by Adam.

metroid fusion 14-02

With the red doors unlocked, the game gives you no further guidance, leaving you to figure out your next objective for yourself. The continuing lack of didactic direction gives this phase of the game an almost alien feel; you’ve been led by the hand for so long at this point that the notion of working it out for yourself take a bit of adjustment.

metroid fusion 14-01

Of course, the answer is to find all the greyed out map spaces behind red door icons, which leads you to this data room where you acquire one of the game’s unique power-ups: Diffusion missiles. This power allows you to charge a missile before firing it off; when a fully charged missile hits a target, it emits a freezing wave that freezes up pretty much everything in the room.

metroid fusion 14-04

This is helpful for rooms full of creatures that need to be shut down or turned into footholds. It’s also useful for areas like this, where tiny creatures inflate to block passages when you come near. They’re too small to hit with a normal missile, but the diffusion effect can hit them regardless.

metroid fusion 14-03

Of course, your cool new missile power has no effect on these blocks, which at this point appear to comprise, like, half the station.

metroid fusion 14-05

In any case, Adam acts intensely constipated about Samus’ actions and acquisitions, which makes this sequence all the sweeter.

The Anatomy of Metroid Fusion | 13 | Bad dreams

A few housekeeping notes following up on the previous entry.

First, I forgot (or maybe never realized) that you can temporarily freeze the SA-X to give yourself a moment’s respite during the big chase scene. This doesn’t do that much to help, but some help is better than none whatsoever in such a deadly sequence. As reader “Dark Holy Elf” (presumably an alias) notes in the comments, the SA-X once again demonstrates its fearsomeness if you do try to freeze it; while you can stop it in its tracks, it immediately enters the flashing state that indicates an enemy is about to defrost. The freeze state lasts about two seconds for SA-X. Even hitting the thing’s weakness doesn’t do you much good.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.43 AM 2

Also, the platforming and weapon puzzles you have to deal with in order to acquire new power-ups are growing increasingly arcane and tricky. The only way to get this Power Bomb is to freeze these Rippers side by side beneath the low overhang, creating an ersatz platform that you can roll across and then leap from.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.44 AM 2

Anyway, per usual, Adam sends you after your next objective; this time it involves destroying a beast instead of seeking an item. He goes into great detail about the damage this thing has wrought…

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.44 AM 3

…although, once again, his commentary proves superfluous. The revamped graphic set for Sector 5 makes Nightmare’s power quite clear. The glass panes separating the foreground from the back of the sector are now cracked or shattered, portions of flooring have rippled and disintegrated, and certain structural elements have collapsed.

I find a frustrating irony in the fact that the Metroid game that offers the most elaborate and intentional narrative through level design — changing, evolving level design at that — is also the Metroid game that demonstrates the greatest compulsion to overexplain itself through text. We’ve seen fascinating hints of story in subtle details of previous Metroid adventures, such as the shattered Chozo statues near the Metroid Queen’s lair in Return of Samus and the entire prologue of Super Metroid. Fusion takes that principle to its most elaborate extreme… then smothers you with explanatory dialogues. Well, monologues, really. It’s like going to an art gallery opening and having the featured artist hover over your shoulder to explain every painting to you, in case you missed the symbolism he sweated over. It’s OK, creators! Have confidence in your work.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.45 AM 1

Much of this area has become flooded, and the X parasite shows off more of its adaptability: The X that mimic Space Pirates have gained the ability to transform into mer-forms, something decidedly lacking in the Space Pirates you encountered throughout Maridia.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.45 AM

Not unlike what Portal would do five years later, as you gain more “freedom” and increasingly are forced to find back routes to reach objectives that have become trapped behind ruined doorways and melted rooms, Samus spends more and more time “backstage” in the game. This isn’t breaking the fourth wall or anything, but you need to navigate service corridors and other passages clearly intended for the B.S.L station staff. Compared to the straightforward paths you traverse in the game’s first half, this really adds to the sensation that the game’s setting is rapidly spiraling into chaos.

This makes for a nice touch, too: Normally Metroid games have Samus show up after the fact. Here in Fusion, though, you watch the collapse unfold as you complete your mission. Samus is, essentially, patient zero for the X outbreak, caught up in the crisis she unwittingly prompted. Which isn’t to say she’s the bad guy here. She’s not the one who was cultivating bioweapons of mass destruction, after all.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.46 AM

As always, an infested eyeball door serves as your warning of the battle about to transpire.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.46 AM 1

But what’s this? Instead of a boss, it’s an Energy Tank?

Season Metroid vets should be wise to such unexpected generosity. You can’t trust the level designer.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.46 AM 2

Indeed, detonate a Power Bomb and you’ll reveal trick flooring that drops you permanently into the next chamber if you take the direct route, along with a passage in the ceiling that actually takes you to the Energy Tank. But you know, even if you’re not familiar with the fake floors next to too-convenient Energy Tanks of the older Metroids, Fusion has still given you ample warning for this ruse. Most of the game’s boss battles and the recent SA-X encounter saw Samus entering a seemingly innocuous room that dropped her into the thick of battle. And certainly there have been item-related fakeouts aplenty, such as the devious and hateful Mimics.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.46 AM 3

None of those encounters come close to matching the ruthless difficulty of Nightmare, though. This could well be the most difficult boss battle in the entirety of the series. The spider and infested Torizo were rough, and that SA-X escape sequence intense, but Nightmare involves multiple phases, disables your weapons, soaks up a ridiculous amount of damage, and flies around the room with a ponderous bulk that makes it seemingly impossible to evade. Nightmare comes by its name honestly.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.47 AM 2

Initially, the creature hovers around, altering its altitude and firing off a triple spread of energy beams from both its “arms.” While you need to pay attention to the timing of its firing sequence in order to predict whether you’ll need to jump or duck to evade the plasma beams, this isn’t too tough.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.47 AM

After its initial pass, however, Nightmare alters the playing field by activating a gravity generator that severely impairs Samus’ ability to jump. The gravity is also sufficient to make her Freeze Missiles essentially useless; they barely emerge from Samus’ arm cannon before plummeting to the ground harmlessly. It’s not impossible to hit Nightmare with a missile in this phase, but it’s dangerous and difficult — you have to be standing directly beneath its weak point (the circular gravity generator pod between its arms), which means you’re probably going to take a hit as it drifts through its pattern.

So, the fight begins by removing two key tools from Samus’ arsenal: Her mobility and her most powerful attack.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.47 AM 3

No, you’re much better off relying on the Charge Beam. It does less damage to Nightmare, and it obviously involves charging time, but you can hit Nightmare from a distance. The wide spread of the Charge Beam at this point (thanks to the acquisition of effects like Plasma Beam and Spazer) also means your shots are more likely to slip past the barrier created by Nightmare’s appendages. Given the power of the upgraded Freeze Missiles, it’s entirely possible you’ve forgotten all about the Charge Beam by this point in the game. Nightmare deliberate forces you to avoid relying entirely on the chain of power progression.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.47 AM 1

As Nightmare takes damage, its mask begins to ooze; once you destroy the gravity generator, the mask shatters, revealing a hideous decomposing creature inside. Now its only vulnerable point is its exposed face, which is not as easy to hit as it might look. You basically need to shoot it from directly across on a horizontal line. But at this point, the monster’s pattern changes and it begins to swoop around the room, aiming toward Samus, before settling in an homing in on her in a slow, direct line. Samus regains her mobility with the gravity generator gone, but Nightmare’s size, speed, and extended pattern make the thing incredibly difficult to dodge.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.48 AM

A handy ladder on the upper left wall serves as a handy perch for drawing a bead on the creature, though Nightmare does tend to drift somewhat off of a straight horizontal line, so you need to scramble to remain aligned with its weak point. You also can’t afford to stick around too long at this spot, because Nightmare will keep right on drifting until it plows right into you. It’s essential to know when to exercise the better part of valor and begin evasive maneuvers — especially since your movements determine Nightmare’s follow-up attack pattern, and if it settles in for its slow phase too high or too low you won’t be able to hit it easily and will essentially waste an entire precious iteration of the pattern. Given Nightmare’s size, mobility, and power, the longer you take to destroy it, the more likely you are to fumble the parts where you can only evade the beast. So this isn’t just a test of firepower; it’s about pattern recognition, alternate tactics, rate of fire, and balancing your attack actions with evasion.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.48 AM 1

Eventually, though, Nightmare will go down (you can tell, because its face turns red and melty) and reveal a relatively harmless Core-X. This one doesn’t have a protected core or firing capabilities like the last one did, because the game designers have some sense of mercy.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.48 AM 2

And, naturally, your reward for defeating this durable, gravity altering monstrosity is the Gravity Suit, which increases Samus’ durablity. Natch.

The end game is in sight.

The Anatomy of Metroid Fusion | 12 | Twisted mettle

When last we left Samus, she was dying horribly at her own hands.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.39 AM

This latest encounter with SA-X is a particularly difficult one for a few reasons. For starters, it happens in the midst of the sector’s power outage; while you need to restore basic power to reach this point, that’s amounts to a save point and door hatches. There’s no way to restore your energy here besides grinding for health on Kihunters, which is a bit tricky. They soak up a lot of damage before going down, and they inflict a lot more hurt on Samus than they restore upon defeat. Plus, if you use missiles on them (which is much easier than relying on the charge shot), half their X parasite drops will be green missile-restoring blobs. So chances are you’ll meet SA-X with only enough energy to withstand a handful of shots, which the mimic is more or less guaranteed to land due to the structure of this faceoff.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.40 AM

Even if you know SA-X is lurking below, you have to navigate just right in order to avoid falling on it (her?) or, perhaps even worse, landing to the right of her and allowing her to block off the escape door on the left side of the room.

There’s a small grace period when you escape to a new room; even if SA-X is literally on your heels as you duck through the door, you get a couple of seconds to run ahead before the SA-X enters the room. However, this is more or less mooted by the presence of obstacles such as this wall, which can only be cleared by ducking into a morph ball and dropping a Power Bomb, which leaves you completely vulnerable to SA-X.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.40 AM 1

These gates are also likely to trip you up, as they take a couple of seconds to retract; even if you know they’re coming, it’s hard to avoid taking a couple of chump shots while they open. You really have to have the chase down to a science in order to survive.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.40 AM 2

Eventually, the pursuit terminates in what appears to be a dead-end room, and that transitional grace period offers you a chance to haul yourself over the ledge above before SA-X storms in.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.40 AM 3

SA-X has all the powers of Samus at her peak, but it also has the memory retention and deductive reasoning skills of a brain-damaged goldfish. As long as you wait it out back here and can refrain from making any noise, the SA-X will assume you teleported back to your home planet or something and slowly saunter back out.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.40 AM 4

Your reward for surviving this harrowing, difficult encounter with SA-X is… nothing. You get no new weapons. No opportunity to restore Samus’ health. No save point. Instead, you’re pitted against yet another array of Kihunters, some of which hover freely, while others have become entangled in the creeper vines that choke these sectors.

It’s interesting how Fusion allows the advanced, more freeform game progression to unfold versus the way it played out in Super Metroid. In the older game, the portions where you experienced greater liberty was the vast and sprawling Maridia, which featured no single correct route to the end. The real challenge there was figuring out where to go, how to get there, and making certain you didn’t leave behind key items.

In Fusion, however, these portions where the game cuts the apron strings and lets you roam “free” from Adam’s suffocating oversight tend not to be large and sprawling. Instead, they’re highly focused and more or less linear, but they also prove to be much less guided than the rest of the game. The challenge here is survival; between the SA-X encounters, the hard-hitting enemies with tricky movements patterns, and the nastiest bosses in the series, the latter half of Fusion is less about discovery and more about survival. This marks a significant change in focus from Super Metroid, but at the same time it’s internally consistent with the overall theme of the game: Samus is overmatched, out of her depth, forced to get by through stealth and evasion rather than through brute force.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.41 AM

Of course, there’s still plenty of figuring things out — areas that you can only reach with new powers.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.41 AM 1

The boss that follows in the wake of the SA-X encounter neatly underscores Fusion‘s overall shift in philosophy: You plunge into a pit as soon as you cross through a door and drop into an inescapable boss battle.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.42 AMNot only that, but it’s a “gotcha” scenario; you’re almost definitely going to take damage from the projectiles being fired from the plants on the ceiling. If you aren’t careful, the recoil from this damage (or your attempts to recover from the recoil) will cause you to drop into the dangerous flowers that line the floor of this arena.

This battle reprises multiple elements of Metroid and Super Metroid in a far deadlier and more challenging manner. The core of the plant infestation appears to be a Torizo, which stands motionless in place but seemingly directs the growth as it assaults you. The flowers along the bottom of the room are reminiscent of certain aggressive flora in Super Metroid‘s Brinstar, and it’s very easy to slide into them and become caught inside. Once captured, they whittle down your health quickly and angrily, and it can be slightly counterintuitive to escape (you need to hold the jump button rather than press it rapidly as might be your instinct). Meanwhile, the flowers along the ceiling emit spores that fly in broad, evasive sine waves as they work their way toward Samus.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.42 AM 1

It’s essentially a reprise of the Spore Spawn battle, but with the pendulous plant replaced by a Torizo and a much more dangerous environment to contend with. This fight demands patience; you need to leap and blast the Torizo in the face, but all the wall the spores are darting around the room.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.42 AM 2

If you take your time and shoot the projectiles out of the air and content yourself with only getting off one shot at the Torizo between openings in the spore pattern, you’ll do fine. But it’s tempting to give in to urgency and try to squeeze in a few extra attacks at the statute, which inevitably leads to tears. This is not a battle of raw reflex and finger speed but rather of attrition and determination.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.42 AM 3

Once the Torizo takes enough damage, its head falls off and its chest is exposed, causing it to attack directly. While you’re spared the spore attack during this phase, there’s also no longer a safe spot. The Torizo fires a triple piercing beam at varying heights, and the blast can pass right through the low platform directly opposite the statue. While standing on the platform gives you less time to react to the Torizo’s projectiles, it’s a much faster perch from which to attack… and you’re a little less likely to fall directly into a plant maw if you screw up.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.42 AM 4

The Torizo explodes into an aggressive Core-X that fires the same type of beam every few seconds, and naturally the only opening for your attacks comes with it exposes its interior to fire off a beam.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.43 AM

But the plus side: Once you survive the battle, you claim the Plasma Beam as your own. As ever, each component of the X parasite uses a different element of Samus’ arsenal against her, and once it fails its weapons fall back into her hands.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.43 AM 1

And the effects of the new weapon are presented much more plainly than they were in Super Metroid. Immediately outside the Torizo’s room, you find some enclosed chambers containing Kihunters. You can fire through the destructible walls and take out the winged nuisances in just a few shots — sweet, sweet comeuppance for the frustration they wrought in the wake of the SA-X escape.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 7:4:15, 9.44 AM 1

That’s right, Adam. Suck it.

The Anatomy of Metroid Fusion | 11 | Fresh hell

At long last, Adam has restored the lifts back to the initial zone of the station. Now that Samus is pretty heavily kitted out with skills and equipment, this means you’ll finally be able to poke around in all those areas of the administration zone that previously were unavailable to base-level Samus, right?

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.12 PM

A promising start: Right away you can veer left from the top floor of the elevator to see what was behind the wall the SA-X smashed when she made her cinematic debut. It turns out it’s just a single room with a missile expansion in it. This leaves the question of how exactly SA-X made it into that room to begin with, but I suppose you’re not meant to think about it. Still, I kind of feel like Super Metroid would have added some meager detail for the sharp-eyed. But that’s just me comparing this game to hypotheticals about its predecessor, which is terribly unfair.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.13 PM

Still, my cynicism isn’t entirely unwarranted — once you reach the central zone of the station, you quickly find that most of the possible side paths here have been freshly blocked by those membranous growths. Now they’re yellow, and nothing in your arsenal can break through them. So even though you ostensibly have your freedom to explore restored here, in truth you’re still being railroaded in a decidedly unsubtle fashion.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.14 PM

More and more complex navigational tests continue to appear. In this case, you have to reach the upper chambers of the station’s control center by freezing these wall dudes when they’re partially or fully extended, transforming them into makeshift platforms. You can enter from the lower levels, but all you’ll find are one-way passages (or rather, gates with gun sensors on the far side, which remain effectively one-sided until you acquire some substitute for the Wave Beam power).

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.14 PM 1

Once you reach your destination, you learn you’ve been sent in search of your old pals the Etecoons and the Dachora, who were hidden away in Super Metroid to provide a tutorial demonstration for Samus’ hidden innate powers of wall-jumping and shinesparking. They’re just kind of hanging out behind a glass wall here, evidently in captivity by the Federation or Biologic.

There’s really no better metaphor for the difference between Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion than these guys. In the previous game, you might stumble onto them by accident in the course of exploration, and their actions would cause you to realize: “Oh! I can do that!” Here, they don’t really do anything, but the game forces you to go find them. Then Adam muses pointlessly about their presence, saying a lot of words about them without actually saying anything.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.14 PM 2

Ah well. You set them free and they traipse along to Samus’ ship. I suppose if you really want to look for subtle meaning here, you could ask yourself how these creatures came to be on the station. Were they captured for study? Was Biologic preserving them now that their planet had been detonated and they presumably were the last members of their respective races? And why do they appear to be immune to infection by the X? I suspect that would be putting more thought into their role here than the game’s creators gave it, though, so maybe it’s for the best that you don’t waste too much time on such questions.

 Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.14 PM 4

With that fairly pointless detour out of the way, Adam tells you your next objective.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.15 PM

And he really doubles down on the “patronizing Samus” thing. “You’ve already been to this room, but I’ll show you how to get there in exacting detail in case you’ve somehow become incredibly stupid within the past hour of game time.”

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.15 PM 1

More familiar creatures make their Fusion debut — or rather, their enhanced X mimic counterparts do. The X version of Geruta (formerly seen in planet Zebes’ warmer zones) have become far more difficult to destroy than in earlier games. Their outer claws now have a metallic trait, resisting all of Samus’ projectiles and forcing you to destroy them from below as they swoop down toward you. They tend to appear in narrow spaces such as this room. So while Fusion may have changed the flow and freedom of the series arguably for the worse, it continues to create new and challenging iterations on known hazards.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.15 PM 2

As seems to be happening more and more frequently in Fusion, acquiring a new key weapon rarely affords you the opportunity to backtrack and use it on relevant obstacles you’ve just encountered.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.16 PM

Instead, you’re railroaded off the known map and forced to find your way back to the main bulk of the station without guidance. This is not as liberating as the design of Super Metroid — Fusion is nowhere near as good at hiding its linearity — but nevertheless these journeys into the uncharted green portions of the minimap tend to be Fusion‘s most exciting sequences.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.16 PM 1

Especially when you’re forced to detonate a Super Bomb in order to advance and unavoidably reveal yourself to the SA-X in the process.

This sequence is the first time you’ve been forced into a direct confrontation with SA-X. Normally, she appears and stalks off on her route, unaware of your presence unless you’ve very, very careless. Here, though, SA-X paces back and forth in the right half of the room eternally. It’s a little bit of a cheat in terms of game design, breaking the conceit that the foe is unaware of your presence by coincidentally having them set up camp, forever, in such a way that you’re forced into a confrontation. (Fittingly, given Metroid‘s inspiration, Alien: Isolation is practically built around this cheat.)

But, OK, whatever. Maybe the SA-X has, like, spidey-sense or something and knows you’re nearby but can’t pinpoint you precisely and is happy to hang around forever until you give yourself away. Sure.

In any case, once you’re exposed, the SA-X opens fire on you. However, it doesn’t really give much chase; the passage forward is a narrow aperture that you have to roll into, and the SA-X doesn’t seem to like ducking into Morph Ball form except to blast the world with Power Bombs. Maybe the logic is that the Morph Ball is too vulnerable a form to adopt during combat — certainly you can’t help but take a hit or two while rolling through the passage to escape. SA-X has the Wave Beam power Samus doesn’t, so it can fry you through the walls. You need to be assume you’ll have to soak up two or three hits here, each of which blasts you for hundreds of health points, so both topped-off energy tanks and speed are of the essence in this scene.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.16 PM 2

Having survived your first (mercifully finite) encounter with the SA-X, you can work your way back up to the main portions of the station. Passages previously obstructed by the yellow X membranes (Gelon) no longer pose an obstacle, as the Power Bomb can clear them away.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.17 PM

As Samus grows more powerful, the game throws occasional optional tests of skill your way. This sequence is one of Fusion‘s most devious, a series of narrow passageways that tests your reflexes, your understanding of the Ice Beam, and your mastery of the Spring Ball. Your reward is a trifling missile expansion, because work is its own reward, apparently.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.17 PM 1

At this point, the game inelegantly sends you back to the beginning in order to advance the plot. It’s the start of a satisfying, interesting sequence, but it’s presented quite poorly.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.17 PM 2

Mid way up the elevator back to the administration zone, the power goes out and Samus becomes stuck halfway up the shaft as the elevator platform wheezes to a halt. Luckily for you, it happens to do its wheezing right next to a fragile portion of wall that leads to a service passage or something.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.18 PM 1

Never has the Alien influence on Metroid been clearer than as you roll through a passage where faceless quadrupedal creatures shuffle around in the overheat ductwork, dripping acid through the grates at you. Thankfully you can ignore your motion tracker and detonate Power Bombs here to make fairly short work of them.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.18 PM

Your payoff: The passage leads you to the freezer chamber where Ridley’s corpse had been stored. Happily, you no longer suffer sapping damage from frigid air, so you can hang out here as long as you like. Even more happily, this does not initiate a sudden boss battle. The downside? Ridley’s mortal remains collapse into a pile and a flock of X parasites emerge and fly to parts unknown. There should be little doubt that particular twist is going to come into play sooner or later…

 Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.18 PM 2

For now, however, you’re railroaded into another side mission. In this case, you need to restore power to the station’s reactor so you can move around freely again. Or at least as freely as Fusion allows you to move at any given point.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.18 PM 3

The trouble at hand: Turns out Chekhov’s pupae have hatched. All the throbbing insectile grubs that have blocked key pathways since you defeated that boss in Sector 2 have molted, leaving behind hollow shells that you can now pass through.

The former grubs have reached adult form and now are Kihunters, or X versions thereof: Sometimes-flying, always-goop-belching insects that take a huge amount of punishment and do a remarkable amount of damage. It’s interesting how much more dangerous common foes are here than they were in Super Metroid.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.19 PM

The moltings coincide with the arrival of a tangled overgrowth of vines that have shut down the generator. Apparently the space station runs on turbines.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.19 PM 1

Along with the Kihunters, you’ll also find Zebesian Space Pirates (or, yes, their X clones). They’re even more devastating than Kihunters in terms of power, though fortunately vulnerable to charge shots. The power station area essentially consists of a zig-zagging descent down a huge gantry of platforms populated by these guys, forcing you to dodge their triple blasts of energy beams in close quarters and beneath low ceilings.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.19 PM 2

These crazy-tough enemies serve as your hors d’oeuvre for the boss of the reactor area, a massive biomechanical spider inexplicably known as Yakuza. It sidles up to you and demands protection money — no, wait. Actually, it simply sets about destroying you in very little time.

Yakuza (less weirdly named Gedoh in Japanese) is perhaps the hardest boss in Fusion until you figure out the secret to beating it, which basically involves unlearning your standard boss-fighting tactics. The spider sidles around the room by moving along the background wall at a roughly 45-degree angle, reflecting at a 90-degree course change whenever it hits a wall, floor, or the upper edge of the battle area. It covers the full span of the screen with its movements, forcing players to react and avoid collisions.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.19 PM 3

What makes this boss so difficult is that it can capture you with its forward appendages if you come anywhere close to them. Your instinct in a fight like this is (almost certainly) to stay low to the ground and let the spider pass overhead, but this makes you extremely susceptible to capture. When it grasps you, Yakuza behaves similarly to Draygon from Super Metroid: It pulls you into the air, slowly draining your health before slamming you against the floor for insane damage.

Even though Yakuza’s general tactics should seem familiar, it’s a vastly more dangerous battle this time around. Draygon could only capture you when it drifted slowly into the arena, whereas Yakuza can snag you anytime, and it always moves quickly. Unlike Draygon, it only needs to get hold of you a few times to bring the fight to an end; the first time you face this enemy, it could be over in a matter of seconds.

As with Draygon, the safest tactic is to take enormous leaps over top of the monster in order to avoid its grip — more easily said than done. Occasionally it will pause to belch fire, which is when it’s vulnerable… only in its maw, unfortunately, and only for a brief moment. You have to be mindful of where Yakuza pauses to drop its flames, since it’s easy to get so carried away pumping it full of missiles that you fail to notice it’s close to a wall… which means that when it begins moving again, it’s reflect directly into you.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.20 PM

The saving grace of this encounter is that your missiles are legitimately powerful now, so you don’t have to hit Yakuza too many times. On the other hand, the creature has a second phase, as if it weren’t difficult enough already. The second phase is much less dangerous than the first, since it loses its deadly legs here, but chances are good that the initial boss form has whittled down your health. It’s a grueling, challenging, fast-paced battle — the biggest variance from the traditional slow-paced Metroid style Fusion has presented to date.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.20 PM 1

And yeah, there’s an X-core on top of that. But hey, now you have infinite jump.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.20 PM 2

THANKS ADAM.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.20 PM 3

Defeating Yakuza restores partial power — evidently the creature was feeding on the generator? — so you can save. But you still need to clear out the vines, and there’s only one route through which to do this.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.21 PM

Again, you start to find secret connections between the various divisions of the space station as you explore off the beaten path. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the source of the vines appears to be something growing in the tropical sector 2.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.21 PM 2

More surprisingly, on the other hand, is the way the one-way block in the ceiling drops you directly into the SA-X’s line-of-sight.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.21 PM 3

Samus has grown pretty tough by this point, but SA-X is only too happy to remind you that while you may have reacquired the Space Jump, you still don’t have to Screw Attack. Or the Wave Beam. Or…

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:16:15, 6.21 PM 4

…much of a fighting chance at all, really.

The Anatomy of Metroid Fusion | 10 | Porno for PYR

I always like to see developers making conscious, and conscientious, use of their selected platform.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 4.38 PM

For example, here we have the real path to Sector 5’s objective tucked behind a hidden block that offers a small, discreet visual cue at the very right edge of the screen. This is something that wouldn’t really have worked in console Metroid games due to the uncertainty of television pictures and overscan — some tubes would have shown too much of the hidden passage and given it away while others would have made it truly hidden and left players casting about for the way ahead. But with the fixed resolution of the GBA screen, Fusion’s map designers could give a subtle hint to observant players without making it too obvious.

 Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 4.38 PM 2

This sector introduces a number of new creatures whose real value isn’t immediately apparent — though they might jog the memories of series veterans. These manta ray things leap straight up and slowly descend, dropping corrosive fluid as they flutter to the ground. But they have a greater value that becomes evident only later, once you acquire this area’s main weapon upgrade.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 4.39 PM 2

And there there are these lattice shrubbery things, which initially appear both completely inert and completely indestructible. They are completely baffling at first, since they literally do nothing but sit there.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 4.39 PM 1

Returning from the original Metroid in this area are Wavers, which now behave somewhat differently than before. Rather than drift aimlessly in sine wave patterns at all times, they now alter their flight pattern when they pass directly in front of Samus, accelerating to collide with her. You can actually exploit this behavior in this room — when they plow into the wall, they become momentarily stuck, and they protrude far enough that you can actually hit them through the barrier. If you don’t realize that, however, this room is a bit stressful, as blasting through the wall with a bomb causes the entire barrier to break away, opening the room to half a dozen erratic enemies.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 4.39 PM 3

Once again, you unlock doors with a terminal rather than a tool. That’s not very Metroid-like at all.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 4.40 PM

Two yellow doors become immediately accessible once you lower the security lock, but the one to the right leads to this: A shaft with a ledge too high and far away from the ladder you climbed to reach this point to be accessible. However, armored Rippers drift back and forth within the shaft, which is comfortingly familiar; despite all the changes Fusion brings to the series, these guys still exist entirely to serve as temporary platforms once you acquire ice powers.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 4.41 PM

Speaking of which, said powers are just beyond the other yellow hatch. Ice missiles reproduce the function of the classic Ice beam, but in a way they make for a faster, smoother play experience. The Ice beam had the side effect of reducing your firepower by adding the freeze effect to basic attacks; in Metroid, this meant you had to shoot everything twice as many times in order to destroy it. Super Metroid switched things up by causing the freeze effect to wear off with time rather than using the Ice beam as a toggle, but it still meant enemies would freeze when fired upon… whether you wanted them to freeze or not.

Here, though, you have more control over the freeze effect. Rather than every single basic shot freezing a monster, now you only freeze them when you use your secondary weapon. Combined with the instant single-button toggle Fusion adds for missile attacks, it works really well — a small but well-considered interface improvement.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 4.42 PM

Yes, that’s better.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 4.42 PM 1

Not cool” Another one of those mimics, this time imitating an Energy Tank.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 4.42 PM 3

As has happened several times already, acquiring a new item causes a change to affect the enemies in the current area. This is similar to Metroid II‘s arbitrary gating, but it’s much more graceful than that game’s earthquakes causing subsidence and lowering the water level to reveal new areas. The changes here take place within the X parasites infesting the station, who react to the growing threat that Samus represents to them. It’s still arbitrary and conspicuously designed, but it demonstrates a much better integration of narrative and mechanics.

In this case, those inert nests of vines or whatever now come to life. They remain indestructible, but now they grow upward and cause impact damage to Samus. They’re both a passive threat and, in some cases, a deliberate obstacle. You can freeze them with the Ice missiles now, but it doesn’t do you any good if you freeze one after it’s risen to block a passage.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 4.42 PM 4

Which isn’t to say frozen vines aren’t useful; this one bridges a gap that allows you to build up a speed boost and reach a new area.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 5.01 PM

Another new dynamic element here: A massive shadow appears in the background of the main chambers of the sector, swooping quickly back and forth. It’s ominous, but you can’t do anything about it…

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 5.01 PM 1

…though that bizarre presence makes the sudden alarm considerably more alarming once the screen begins strobing with a red light. A computerized voice begins warning you about an emergency. Is it related to the ominous shadow?

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 5.01 PM 2

No, it’s just a machine error. You’re given six minutes to make your way to Sector Three and shut down the boiler before it detonates the station.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 5.01 PM 3

And you burn about 30 seconds on the elevators alone, which doesn’t help soothe the nerves.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 5.01 PM 4

This works as an excuse to revisit previously explored areas under a new frame of reference — a bit of backtracking, but one that doesn’t feel aimless or repetitive. Instead, you need to recall the paths and passages through this area, such as the hidden, crumbling block under this expand-o-alien. While six minutes is actually quite generous if you know where you’re going, the padded time allowance lets you bumble around momentarily if needed to remind yourself of the proper route.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 5.02 PM

A new path opens in the molten regions of the area; the magma remains deadly to the touch, but you can pass beyond it now.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 5.02 PM 1

A number of active threats appear in this area, such as more of those retracting monsters and Novas — three-eyed wall-crawlers who, unlike in previous games, now drip fireballs as they scuttle along. On their own, these hazards wouldn’t be a particular bother, but the stress inspired by the countdown timer can result in sloppy play.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 5.02 PM 2

It’s good not to take too much damage, though, since the main boiler room…

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 5.02 PM 3

…culminates in an eye door. Which means you’re gonna have to fight something.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 5.03 PM

Which turns out to be just a nerd in a lab coat. But! If you walk up to the scientist, Samus takes damage. Counterintuitive as it may be, you have to shoot his guy — the first instance of violence against a human in the Metroid series.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 5.03 PM 1

The “scientist” actually turns out to be a Core-X imitating his form. It drifts around, pivoting its vulnerable eye rapidly to return fire at Samus, but ultimately the only challenge here comes from the narrow space in which you’re forced to complete this battle.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 5.03 PM 2

Which is ironic, see, because surviving the battle in this narrow space results in the acquisition of the wide beam.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 5.03 PM 3

The wide beam strengthens Samus’ blaster yet again while also creating a broad spread — not only do her beams separate from one another more dramatically, they also take on a ring-like form, similar to the ripple laser from Gradius games.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 5:3:15, 5.04 PM 1

With this task complete, the game allows you at last to return to an area that’s long been cut off: The very first area, the Habitation Deck, closed away when the SA-X blasted its way through the elevators. Adam has restored power, allowing you to put all your new powers to use in a sector you previously experienced at your bare minimum strength. While this clearly stated directive to return to the beginning is, once again, a much less elegant way to nudge players backward than in older Metroid games (which would have locked off the main elevator with some sort of barrier that could be circumvented with the acquisition of an advanced skill), the satisfaction of returning to old haunts with far more capabilities at your command is satisfying enough to make up for it.

Book report

Hello, everyone. Sorry for the lack of activity here lately — I’ve been dealing with a nasty hand injury that’s made writing and video editing (not to mention playing for research) painful and difficult. In my downtime, though, I’ve been keeping myself productive by converting all the Anatomy of Games books to a format that can be sold on Amazon.com. I’m happy to say the process is finally complete. Hoorah!

It’s been an interesting learning experience, which unfortunately means a slightly inconsistent final product. I initially began by working with 6×9″ books to keep the price economical, but the last two books I’ve changed over are at the 8×10″ size. When it came time to convert The Anatomy of Metroid Vol. I, I had to completely overhaul the book for technical reasons and decided to experiment with the larger format. I also combined both Metroid books into a single volume.

The results turned out to be pretty fantastic, I have to say. The 8×10″ format looks better, and because it allows more content in a smaller page count, and ends up being about the same price as a 6×9″ book. More importantly, the price of 8×10″ Anatomy paperbacks through Amazon ends up being about half that of 10×8″ paperbacks via Blurb! Volumes that were $40 on Blurb turn out to be $20 on Amazon, making them far more reasonable — and that’s before Amazon does its random temporary price reductions. Needless to say, this is the format and medium I’ll be using for all future books, Anatomy and otherwise.

My only complaints with the CreateSpace/Amazon route are that (1) I can’t sell through Amazon.ca (even though I can sell in Europe and the UK) and (2) they don’t offer a hardcover option. So my Blurb store will continue to offer hardcover versions of books as well as most old GameSpite Quarterly volumes. I intend to convert the platform retrospective books (NES, Super NES, and PlayStation) to Amazon with expanded content for those systems’ 30th/25th/20th anniversaries, but that process will take a while, I suspect… and I can’t find the Super NES book’s original files in my archives for some bizarre reason, so that one may simply be lost to the ages. We shall see.

Anyway, for anyone who had been interested in the Anatomy books but understandably balked at Blurb’s exhorbitant costs, they’re now available at Amazon for much more sane prices. Or, more specifically:

And of course Game Boy World 1989. Needless to say, I’m pretty happy about this development — the books take a fair amount of time to put together, and maybe now people will actually be able to afford them. (Certainly they’re a lot more affordable for me now, and lining my bookshelves with my own words is really the whole point of this.)

Also, p.s., if anyone does pick up any of these volumes, I hope you’ll be kind enough to review it on the bookstore and increase its visibility! Ideally a positive review, but the important thing is to be honest, of course. Thanks!

The Anatomy of Metroid Fusion | 9 | Bad mister frosty

As irritating as the game’s insistence on giving away the surprises in store for this upcoming sequence was, there’s no faulting the trip to the next sector itself. This is Metroid Fusion at its best, doing something no other Metroid game had ever done to this point. Arguably Zero Mission would go it one better, but at the time, this spoke to Fusion‘s designers’ desire to use the Metroid sandbox in a new and different way. We see Samus at her most powerless, outnumbered and forced to avoid omnipresent creatures that can destroy her completely with just a few successful strikes.

This is a new design philosophy for Metroid. Typically Samus begins the game underpowered but steadily grows in strength along a linear curve. Here, although she’s collected quite a few new powers — bombs, two levels of missiles, and a beam upgrade — Sector 6 pulls the proverbial rug out from beneath her feet, making her largely defenseless against the hazards ahead.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:10:15, 4.33 PM

This sector’s parasite spawn comes in two forms: Utterly deadly or utterly pitiful. These guys are the latter, hovering about the screen and lazily drifting toward Samus. They’re easy targets, and they appear several times throughout this leg of the mission — their only role, really, is to serve as health restoration opportunities. They’re as close to harmless as anything in the entire game, and they tend to show up after difficult gauntlets of frozen parasites. When you see these guys, it’s your signal to pause and farm them for health.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:10:15, 4.34 PM

As for the frozen parasites in question, the blue X entities are larger than the others that have appeared so far. They also tend to move around less by default, hovering deliberately in Samus’ way and obstructing key passages. Of course, your first encounters with them put you up against only one or two at a time, in wide open spaces where you can fire on them first. You can’t destroy a blue parasite, but shooting it will cause it to become stunned for roughly 10 seconds, allowing you to slip past safely. A stunned parasite remains deadly to the touch, though; if Samus makes contact with a blue X, regardless of its current state, she’ll absorb it.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:10:15, 4.36 PM 1

Soaking up an ice parasite inflicts roughly one and one-third bar of damage to Samus’ health, making them extremely dangerous.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:10:15, 4.34 PM 1

The only viable tactic here is to run, ideally after zapping the parasite in question…

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:10:15, 4.34 PM 2

…though that’s not always possible. There are several branches from the route into this sector where blue X parasite congregate in large numbers amidst tightly wound passages. You’re not meant to go this way. You can certainly try, of course!

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:10:15, 4.34 PM 3

…but even if you do make it past the X parasites, the game trolls you with the Metroid equivalent of a Mimic chest: A creature masquerading as a Super Missile expansion that comes to life when you come close, hitting you for a small amount of damage. Coming directly after a harrowing room full of murderous X parasites, this is just the game hitting very deliberately below the belt.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:10:15, 4.35 PM

It’s not as much a figurative dead end as it may seem (though it may be a literal one depending on the state of Samus’ health once she sneaks past the X); you can bomb through the wall next to the mimic and collect a legitimate expansion.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:10:15, 4.35 PM 1

However, the trip back to the main path is even more dangerous than it was coming in, with several blue X entities hovering close to the door — close enough that they’ll immediately move in for the kill when you return to this room. And even if you can survive against these three, the ones further in are much more difficult to evade. Like all free-floating parasites, they can pass through walls… something Samus’ blaster fire can’t do.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:10:15, 4.35 PM 2

Even an experienced fan of the series may see Fusion‘s first game over here. Strangely, Samus turns into Ayla from Chrono Trigger when she dies.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:10:15, 4.35 PM 4

Further along the main route, there’s a second room full of even more ice parasites. I guess it’s theoretically possible to evade all six of these things, but it looks daunting enough to be discouraging even to the most stouthearted heroine.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:10:15, 4.36 PM 2

This sector offers several save rooms along the way — no recharge stations, but there are plenty of those fat, lazy eyeball things to blow up and keep your health topped off.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:10:15, 4.36 PM

Fusion borrows one of Super Metroid‘s more memorable “gotcha” moments: Destructible blocks in which a life-sucking creature hides. Only here it’s not some parasitic grasshopper but a much deadlier blue parasite.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:10:15, 4.37 PM

Eventually, you’ll reach a wall that can only be broken with weapons Samus doesn’t have… and in the process of attempting to bomb through, you’ll inevitably drop down into the narrow duct below the floor, which crumbles beneath your weight.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:10:15, 4.37 PM 1

As you roll around in the crawlspace, the SA-X appears, marching confidently in blissful unawareness of your presence. It’s a nice reminder that as nerve-wracking as those blue parasites may be, there’s something far, far worse out there on the prowl for Samus.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:10:15, 4.37 PM 2

Being fully powered-up, the SA-X is able to clear this wall quite neatly with a Power Bomb. In a neat touch, Samus takes damage from the bomb (though not much) as it rips through the room. It permanently clears away the wall ahead (also giving a clue for future reference on how to break down these wall block icons), allowing SA-X to resume its deathmarch.

You can, if you want to see the game over screen, pop up from the crawlspace and try to ambush the SA-X. It will obliterate you no matter how deftly you play, legitimately overwhelming you with powers you’re helpless to parry, but it’s possibility. For those who place more value on their free time, however, give the SA-X a few seconds and it will march along to the next room and out of your life for the moment.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:10:15, 4.37 PM 3

Beyond your close brush with SA-X, you’ll find one of those eye doors in front of a Data Room. Weird, right?

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:10:15, 4.38 PM

But it turns out a parasite is actually stealing your Varia data. You end up destroying the computer terminal when you chase away the parasite, and it flees to the next room…

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:10:15, 4.38 PM 1

…where it moves in for the kill.

All the Core-X battles you’ve taken on to date have reflected the power-up the parasite contains in some capacity, and this one’s no different. This Core-X has stolen the Varia, and “varia” is of course a mush-mouthed reinterpretation of the Japanese spelling of the English word “barrier.” Fittingly, then, this X comes equipped with its own barrier: A spinning array of smaller X parasites that render it impervious to Super Missiles.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:10:15, 4.38 PM 2

Your only offensive option here is to use your Charge Beam, which lacks the punch of Super Missiles but can pierce the Core-X barrier. Each shot takes down one of the subordinate parasites, causing the nucleus to revert to a basic Core-X once it’s on its own.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:10:15, 4.38 PM 3

This, of course, equips Samus with the Varia, allowing her to withstand both heat and cold — including the frozen X parasites that litter this area.

As a subtle reminder of what the Varia does and doesn’t do, you reacquire the power in a room partially flooded with water. Despite your new elemental upgrade, you still don’t have the Gravity Suit’s ability to negate the drag effect of fluids — so while you can venture into superheated areas, you won’t be making any new progress in liquid magma just yet.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:10:15, 4.39 PM

Another great touch: Before acquiring the Varia, blue X parasites would make a beeline for Samus if she came within about half a screen’s distance from them. In the rooms following the Core-X battle, you bump into quite a few blue Xes… which will initially behave as before. This time, however, you absorb them like any other X, regaining health on contact instead of losing it. After you’ve snagged a few of the blue ones, their behavior actually changes. Rather than attacking Samus, they’ll make haste for the far end of the current room and try their best to avoid contact. It’s a fantastic and satisfying design choice, giving you a real sensation of empowerment. These things were intensely deadly just a few moments ago, and now they’re terrified of you.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:10:15, 4.40 PM

There’s nothing much else to do in Sector 6 besides check out the corridors that were clogged with blue parasites before, but once you return to the entrance Adam of course has more mission objectives in mind.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:10:15, 4.41 PM

Door to unlock, weapons to acquire. But it all comes with a message of hope that the tide of the fight against the SA-X is turning now that Samus is again immune to the cold. And that is pretty OK.

The Anatomy of Metroid Fusion | 8 | Heat of the moment

The journey to Sector 3 plays out differently from previous segments of the game so far. Each sector excursion until this point has sent Samus into an area to achieve a goal, then perform an unstated secondary task to unlock a new power. You don’t end up with a new ability after the surprise encounter here, however, as Secret 3 essentially works as a middle point between two other tasks.

As in your previous task, large areas of this sector remain inaccessible…

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:3:15, 11.41 AM 2

…thanks either to excessive heat or areas flooded with magma (which combines fluid friction with excessive heat). You still won’t be picking up the heat-proof Varia in this sector; much as in Super Metroid, the overheated portions of the game function as a sort of dangling carrot to entice you for a while. All these spaces you can’t yet enter are meant to stick in your memory for later reference, taunting you with their unavailable nature.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:3:15, 11.34 AM 1

Instead, you need to figure out how you can advance. The passage to the right of the sector’s first large room has been locked down with another of those emergency one-way gates, making it impassable. Well, seemingly impassable, anyway.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:3:15, 11.34 AM

Opposite the security door you’ll find another seeming dead end, though a quick application of your bombs to the left wall will reveal speed booster icons. The tasks in Fusion are growing more convoluted now, as you’re forced to combine your two most recent skill upgrades in order to clear the path forward: Bombs to reveal, speed booster to clear.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:3:15, 11.35 AM

Even trickier: Speed boost through the wall and the area you reveal terminates at a green security door, which is precisely what you’ve come to this sector to unlock. The switch to unlock the green doors is hidden behind a green door, making for a gordian knot of safety. Like downloading a decompression app only to find it’s in .zip format.

The solution, then, is to sneak into the security room through the conduit in the ceiling. You can see the opening in the ceiling overhead leading to the door, though you can’t shoot or bomb your way into it. Instead, you have to break through with another speed boost, this time through blocks suspended above the floor — meaning you need to jump while boosting. Conveniently, the floor is sloped in just such a way that it draws your eye to the vulnerable point and creates a sort of ramp to leap from. Thank goodness for this space station’s completely insane architects.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:3:15, 11.35 AM 1

Once again, it’s fortunate that the security doors were designed to be unlocked only by Samus Aran.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:3:15, 11.35 AM 2

Opening the green doors causes X parasites to invade this portion of the station (Sector 3 has been monster-free until now). This does more than simply add a combat rhythm to the action, though. The arrival of parasites also gives you a valuable hint for moving forward.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:3:15, 11.36 AM

See, even with the green doors unlocked, there’s still not much of anywhere new to go in Sector 3. But back to to the right, above the security gate, those weird barfing alien faces that grew out of the wall in Super Metroid take up residence here once the X are allowed in. The bottom-most face sits immediately above the gate, and when you destroy it the loose parasites that emerge don’t do their usual flying-around-the-room thing. Instead, they simply sit in place, enticing you to run forward to collect them and top off your health… which you’ll probably want to do, as the wall-bound face creatures now have the ability to dart forward to hit Samus at a distance, a fact that will almost certainly catch players by surprise the first time.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:3:15, 11.36 AM 1

When you grab the free parasites, the floor suddenly collapses beneath you, revealing the fact that you could have gotten to the other side of the security gate at any time. It’s a clever little touch — you could have bypassed the gate as soon as you arrived in Sector 3, though there was really no purpose to it as the green doors beyond here would have halted your progress. But now that you need to advance, the map designers lure you in with a subtle twist on standard play mechanics. X parasites demonstrate a variety of behaviors when loosed from their hosts, so the fact that these particular parasites hover motionless instead of flying around doesn’t stand out as odd until you’ve fallen through the floor. Like a damn fiddle!

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:3:15, 11.37 AM 1

The data room beyond Sector 3’s security doors grants you a missile upgrade. These work somewhat differently than the Super Missiles in Super Metroid. Rather than being a more limited alternate fire mode to standard missiles, these Super Missiles actually replace the previous projectile altogether. In other words, it’s a linear and permanent power upgrade.

This appears to be a concession to Game Boy Advance’s more limited interface; with only two face buttons to work with instead of four, Metroid Fusion streamlines its controls so that holding down the R trigger activates your alternate fire mode for all weapon types. You no longer need to cycle through your weapons this way, so everything feels more immediate and responsive. On the other hand, you do lose out on the tactical aspects of Super Metroid‘s Super Missiles: They were more scarce, but far more powerful, and had interesting secondary effects in certain places (e.g. triggering Phantoon’s alternate attacks, knocking hidden enemies loose). So, a tradeoff.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:3:15, 11.37 AM 2

Basically, Super Missiles hit somewhat harder than the old model, and you can take out these blue barrier membranes… of which you’ve encounter maybe two. So it’s not really that big a deal.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:3:15, 11.37 AM

I’m not sure if the room leading to the data chamber was a deliberate reference to Super Metroid, but this arid region patrolled by Sidehoppers seems like a callback to the super metroid’s feeding pen at the end of the previous game.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:3:15, 11.37 AM 3

And here, as there, something dangerous is afoot: Once you pass this room and download Super Missiles, the screen is rocked by a loud explosion, and you return to find the floor torn open and one of the doors destroyed.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:3:15, 11.38 AM

It’s not SA-X, though — just a fake out. Instead, a berserk security droid goes on the attack, shattering another door as it crashes out of the data room you’ve just activated. Samus is penned in this area, so there’s no flight. Just fight.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:3:15, 11.38 AM 2

The droid is only vulnerable from above and scuttles back and forth rapidly, meaning you need to attack by hanging from the overhead rails and firing downward in the brief windows that its exposed central area comes within range.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:3:15, 11.38 AM 1

Its spider-like legs frequently compress inward, lowering the vulnerable central core unit to safety, but the droid needs to widen its stance in order to attack or move. Its attacks consists of columns of fire that travel away from its body on either side, rising high enough to hit Samus even when she’s at the ceiling (and moving quickly enough that you can’t simply move away from it with the overhand crawl).

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:3:15, 11.39 AM

It’s not a particularly difficult fight, though, and the droid escapes by launching itself upward through the ceiling once it’s taken enough damage. Handily, this dislodges huge chunks of structure, which create a convenient new platform for Samus to use to chase after it.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:3:15, 11.40 AM 1

You can’t catch it at this point, though. Although it seems there should be more to do here in this sector, the path the droid creates leads you back to the entrance of the Sector where you learn two new areas have become available thanks to the diminished security restrictions.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:3:15, 11.41 AM

But of course you’re only allowed in one of those zones for the moment, since Sector 5 is effectively inaccessible due to its cold temperatures — plot and mechanics dictating game flow.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:3:15, 11.42 AM 1

Adam warns of a new hazard that’s entered the scene: Frozen X parasites that have evolved to hit Samus in her newfound weak point.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:3:15, 11.42 AM

But thankfully, the Varia will finally become available, protecting you from heat and cold. This all sounds interesting in terms of game mechanics, but it’s disappointing that Fusion once again robs you of the discovery process, spoiling the surprises in store for you with a mission briefing. There’s no reason players couldn’t figure out the hazards of Sector 5’s climate through experience, just like we quickly realized that wading in magma was a bad idea. And the danger of blue X parasites would have been wholly self-evident as well, with the unannounced acquisition of the protective Varia suit resulting in a welcome sense of relief.

The didactic computer tutorials made sense at the game’s outset, but at this point they feel somewhat grating… and degrading. Players have gotten a taste of liberty as they venture beyond Adam’s watchful eye, so the game’s continued insistence on laying out every detail feels like a step backward.

Metroid Fusion Screen Shot 4:3:15, 11.41 AM 1

Though even that’s no big deal next to the shadowy plot exposition that follow’s Samus’ departure from Sector 3. Come on, guys.

The Anatomy of Metroid Fusion | 7 | Save Serris

After Sector 2’s design, which left players much to their own devices to discover most of the area map, Sector 4 reels them back in a little bit. You’re given more explicit instructions and a detailed breakdown of the obstacles ahead of you; the challenge here is to circumnavigate those obstacles in order to reach your blocked-off goal.

Metroid Fusion 079

Adam reveals about 80-90% of the area map and goes on about the challenge here: The underwater area has suffered extensive damage, resulting in electrified pools of water that will injure Samus. Basically, the entire gimmick of Sector 4 is based around the alternate tactic for fighting Draygon in Super Metroid — except that instead of the electrified water serving as a secret alternate solution for beating a boss, it’s an unavoidable hazard that forces you to take an indirect route through the stage.

Metroid Fusion 080

But here’s why Adam’s explanation is needless: The first room of Sector 4 to the right of the main entry chamber features an electrified current in a situation where you can’t reasonably die from falling into the water. What appears to be an open passage becomes blocked by that inflating pufferfish things when you roll into the gap, preventing you from advancing and forcing you to double back. It’s tough to hop out of the gap while in morph ball form, though, meaning you’re probably going to fall into the water and land on the platform just below the surface. The charged water will sap Samus’ health, but slowly, leaving you plenty of time to escape with your well-being intact, a lesson learned. The hazard posed by the water would be just as clear without the didactic text — an instance where less would be, if not more, then at least just as much.

In a nice little visual touch that doesn’t necessarily reflect reality but communicates the difference between safe and dangerous water, the surface of electrified pools consists of a jagged, shimmering line rather than the flat line of normal water.

Metroid Fusion 081

An easily overlooked detail in many rooms: You’ll frequently see creatures that haven’t yet been infested by X parasites hanging out in the background, safely out of Samus’s line of fire. Generally, though, you can expect to have to fight them in some form or another once you backtrack after completing a task; in this case, the creature on the ceiling transforms into a large, golden version of the Sciser crabs that occupy this region in such large numbers. As in Super Metroid, gold color denotes a giant pain in the butt: It can only be destroyed by missiles.

Metroid Fusion 082

New to this area is a different kind of destructible block. One of the abilities the Bomb adds to Samus’ repertoire is the ability to reveal the nature of “hidden” blocks that can only be destroyed by specific powers or weapons. Destructible blocks are obvious through their coloration or other irregularities more often than not in Sector 4, begging you to poke and prod them. But this mysterious configuration resists all of your current abilities. Alas!

Metroid Fusion 083

Large expanses of electrified water span Sector 4, with suspended platforms providing your only purchase in several rooms. Even when you’re forced to drop from above onto these platforms, sight unseen, you can judge the placement of secure footing by the chains suspending the blocks. Since Metroid Fusion takes place entirely inside of confined, manmade spaces rather without any open sky (being set in a space station and all), it does demonstrate more of an effort to reconcile the placement of platforms with the logic of architecture. It’s no Castlevania, but it does the trick.

Metroid Fusion 084

While exploring, you can stumble across an alcove that offers the most convoluted platforming puzzle yet, rewarding you with two missile expansions for your troubles but also requiring a combination of tools in order to claim both prizes.

Metroid Fusion 085

It also requires a touch of intuition to detect this not-at-all-obvious missile block in the middle of the wall. Your hint: A completely useless and vestigial piece of ladder on the wall opposite. Also, if you wait long enough you can spot a creature patrolling inside the wall on the other side to clue you in to the fact that there’s a navigable space over there.

Metroid Fusion 087

This area really forces you to pay attention to the configuration of wall panels. There are a number of seeming dead ends that have to be bypassed by alternate means. In this case, the 2×2 panel in the ceiling to the right can be blasted away with Samus’s arm cannon, and the long block spanning most of the length of the top of the room will disintegrate when bombed, revealing an overhead ladder that Samus can use to cross the water below.

Metroid Fusion 089

If you take the direct and obvious route to the target room, you’ll encounter a broken floor that blocks your path. But you’ll also be rewarded with an Energy Tank. If you go the proper way, you’ll have to backtrack later to collect the tank.

Metroid Fusion 090

Peering around walls is all the rage in this sector, in fact. But this one gives you an unstated clue for the solution to your electrical issues: A pump control device, which can presumably lower the water level. At no point does Adam tell you about this; the only clue you’re given is the slow auto-scroll forward to reveal the device if you run to the wall, and the fact that the room is captioned “Pump Control Room” when you step inside. That’s all it takes, Metroid Fusion! We can do the math ourselves.

Metroid Fusion 091

A devious little puzzle here: This looks like a normal Save Room except for the dent in the wall to the right. Save Rooms have, until now, been a “neutral” space without threats or puzzles, so the presence of a destructible panel here might evade your notice unless you’re paying careful attention, either to the walls or to the minimap (which indicates an opening in the grid space for the room adjacent to the right).

Metroid Fusion 092

Whatever showdown was slated for this breeding tank with the aquatic dragon Serris clearly won’t be taking place.

Metroid Fusion 093

Though there will evidently be some sort of showdown.

Metroid Fusion 094

Behind the eye-door is a spacious room that appears to be the area’s primary pump system. Nothing seems to happen at first, but then the floor crumbles, leaving only a handful of segments.

Metroid Fusion 095

Serris, or at least the X parasite masquerading as such, bursts out of the water and travels in an unpredictable handful of patterns through the openings in the platforming: Performing large arcs overhead, dashing along the ceiling, performing tight sine-wave motions around the chunks of flooring.

Metroid Fusion 096

Serris-X is invulnerable along the length of its body, its head the only weak point. It moves at high speeds, which — combined with its unpredictable patterns — makes hitting the mark a difficult matter. Serris’s head need only be struck a handful of time to defeat the creature, but landing those blows can be tough…

Metroid Fusion 098

…and it’s made tougher by the fact that once it’s struck, Serris-X enters an invulnerable state in which it moves even more quickly than normal. All Samus can do during these phases is lay low and avoid being struck.

Metroid Fusion 099

As usual, there’s a Core-X here to be destroyed, with a power to be claimed.

If this area’s presentation was overly didactic, you have to admire the fake-out here. With this being a flooded region where Samus’s movement is heavily restricted by the density of water, you might expect this Core-X to yield the Gravity Suit power, or something similar. But no.

Metroid Fusion 100

That’s still a ways out, and Samus reclaims her Speed Booster ability.

Metroid Fusion 101

As usual, you need to put your new power to use in order to return to the main portion of the sector. This time, though, it’s not as simple a matter as just running and smashing a wall. This segment of floor can only be shattered with the Speed Booster, but it’s stuck in an alcove that prevents you from building up the momentum to reach a boost state. Instead, it forces you to break the wall immediately to your left, wipe out the creatures patrolling the interior space, and use the broken-open space for your run-up.

Metroid Fusion 102

The speed booster allows you to reach the pump control room, which is what you do to access the remainder of this sector. Who needs a gravity suit? The water level descends, leaving the exposed electrical conduits an active hazard but removing them from the water. Not only can you get about the region more easily now, no longer stifled by the weight of the water, it’s no longer dangerous (unless you incompetently blunder into the wires).

Metroid Fusion 103

Which isn’t to say you can just go wherever you like all willy-nilly; the dry environment simply reveals two new kinds of obstructions: A parasite membrane that can’t be destroyed with your current weapons loadout, and a switch on the wrong side of the security door it opens.

Metroid Fusion 104

Speaking of security doors, once you regroup and talk to Adam again, he explains your new mission objective and sets up a convoluted route in order to avoid opening any more of the station’s colored doors.

Metroid Fusion 105

And in case you’re too stupid to figure out how to use the elevator to reach the next area at this point, it’s helpfully explained again. Thanks, Adam.

The Anatomy of Metroid Fusion | 6 | A little more rope

With Sector 1 conquered, there’s not much doubt about where to go next. Adam tells you to head to Sector 2; all the other sectors are closed off; and the hub area flashes the “2” marking in the background to eliminate any ambiguity that might remain.

Metroid Fusion 053

You’re going to Sector 2 now, and that’s final.

All of this seems very suffocating, doesn’t it? Metroid Fusion refuses to leave you to your own devices, huh? How horrible!

In truth, Fusion is being no more linear at this point than Super Metroid. It’s just being a lot chattier about it — a lot more obvious. Instead of letting players figure out the fact that they can’t make any more progress in a given area on their own, Fusion simply tells you and says, “You’re done here, head on out.” I can understand why the designers would take this approach; the Miiverse shenanigans that resulted from Super Metroid‘s release on Virtual Console were surely just a tiny glimpse of the awful “Help, I’m stuck” messages that came in to Nintendo’s counselor phone lines and trickled back to the developers.

Is it the right approach? I’m not crazy about it, personally. There’s something to be said for figuring things on your own. But again, Fusion debuted in a different time than Super Metroid, with different expectations attached. Fusion strikes me less as a degradation of game design by its creators and more of a reaction to a changing medium and consumer base. The past is a country we can never go back to again.

Metroid Fusion 054

And anyway, Fusion doesn’t hold your hand forever. Sector 1 and the main deck had several doors that demand your eventual return once you’re more properly equipped. And beginning with Sector 2, you’re given less explicit instructions and left to discover more of the area map on your own.

Metroid Fusion 055

This is all of Sector 2 you’re shown initially, but the area actually spans about three times this much space. To complete this chapter, you’ll need to explore on your own, far removed from Adam’s supervision and guidance.

The game doesn’t tip you off to this fact, though. Instead, you’re introduced to a different factor: That other version of Samus is an X parasite that Adam has decided to designate as “SA-X,” and it can completely destroy you in an instant. This becomes Adam’s new refrain: You will die, you are helpless, fly you fool.

Metroid Fusion 056

And a small story justification to the fact that every step of your journey will no longer be predefined for you: Internal security measures obscure certain data from being available to Adam and Samus, so you need to explore in order to reach your target: The security room that allows you to unlock blue doors.

Metroid Fusion 057

This proves to be no real trouble at first; Sector 2’s initial area is pretty small and low in challenge, and there’s only one area that the “hidden” security room could really be.

Metroid Fusion 059

The security room gives you access to the data room, where you gain access to Samus’ bomb power. As always, this works by rolling into a ball and “firing,” whereupon you plant a bomb that can damage enemies, break through walls, and give Samus a small boost with its explosive force. Unlike in previous games, the propulsion doesn’t stack — you can’t “bomb jump” as in previous games. This actually comes off as a more aggressive attempt to restrict player actions and force linear play than the communication rooms, as it prevents sequence breaking.

Once you acquire Bombs, you’ll hear a loud explosion and find that the door to the rest of the sector has been destroyed; another near-miss with the SA-X that forces you to find another route.

Metroid Fusion 060

Not surprisingly, this route can be cleared with the use of bombs to blast through certain vulnerable blocks.

Metroid Fusion 061

The creatures (or parasitic mockeries thereof) inhabiting the tropical zone appear to be big honkin’ insects from previous games: Sidehoppers, Reos, and these grub-things that resemble Ohmu. Though the grubs are easy enough to destroy, they’ll surprise you from time to time; occasionally, grub parasites left to float free will coalesce into much more powerful blue versions of the grubs that move quickly and soak up a ton of damage.

This particular nook serves as both a trap to reveal that feature and a reinforcement of the fact that you need to bomb certain passages in order to advance. The ceiling above crumbles beneath your feet as you pass overhead (then immediately reseals), pinning you in a small room with parasites, and the only exit is to bomb the conduit to the right clear of blockage.

Metroid Fusion 062

Another new element here are the hidden columns that rise out of seemingly random sections of floor when bombed. These allow you to pass over otherwise impossible obstacles, though they seem haphazardly placed and generally fairly useless.

Metroid Fusion 063

The flood region is patrolled by fish that demonstrate the same clustering behavior as the grub parasites: If you don’t snatch the free parasites from the little fish, they become a big fish that’s invulnerable to standard cannon fire and hits Samus for nearly an entire energy tank’s worth of damage. Because you move more slowly underwater, the parasites have more time to group up and cause trouble, so this can be a nasty surprise.

Metroid Fusion 064

The closer you come to the region’s boss, the more the scenery changes. The tropical forest becomes a mold-ridden mess (seemingly another allusion to Nausicäa).

Metroid Fusion 065

Unsurprisingly, at the heart of this sea of corruption you’ll find another eye-door… though you can’t reach if from the most obvious entry point. Your bombs do nothing here, and you’re forced to find another way around. At this point, you haven’t communicated with Adam since entering the tropical zone, and you’ve explored far more of Sector 2 than originally mapped out — and, for the moment, you’re trapped down here, as the exits located upward are too high up for you to reach with Samus’ current power set.

Metroid Fusion 066

Near the boss you’ll also find this uncharacteristically useless room. There are no secrets hidden here, even though you can shoot loose the ceiling and jump up into the alcove above. How odd!

Metroid Fusion 067

Eventually, you have to work your way around to the eye door by taking a circuitous route upward and approaching through the ceiling. This takes a bit of detective work and exploration, as the path isn’t really intuitive. You need to keep track of your objective on the map and sort out where other rooms are relative to the door. The level design of Fusion, while not precisely intricate at this point, is definitely growing more complex and expecting more of players.

Metroid Fusion 068

The boss itself is a weird one — a column of gelatinous tubes topped by a big blue eye and a set of stalks that look like nothing so much as a shock of clown hair. It inches along the ground, leaping vigorously back and forth in a huge arc that’s easily ducked beneath.

Metroid Fusion 069

The creature’s main form of attack is to stop in midair and open its maw-end wide to attempt to consume Samus. Metroid veterans might experience a moment of trouble here, since this most resembles the fight with the metroid queen at the end of the second game. But the goal here, despite how neatly a morphed Samus fits into the monster’s business end, is not to roll up into the thing at bomb its nucleus.

Metroid Fusion 070

Instead, you need to stand your ground and pepper its guts with missiles while it’s descending. You have time to fire off two or three missiles as it drops before it comes too close and engulfs Samus. With each round you plaster its innards with explosives, it loses a segment of its body and begins moving slightly faster, because in video games mortally wounding a wild creature causes it to become more powerful rather than less.

Still, Samus’ new bomb power does come into play here. If you’re sucked up by the boss, you can escape in the classic Metroid fashion by ducking into a ball and laying down bombs until it releases you. As in Super Metroid, the game teaches you the importance of escaping a creature’s clutches with bomb by showing rather than telling quite early on. Of course, all the metroids in the galaxy are dead at this point, so obviously there’s no point in all of this, right?

Metroid Fusion 071

The creature’s core is a lower-grade version than the last boss you fought; simply hitting it with missiles or charged beams will destroy it, and its only form of attack consists of floating back and forth and trying to bump into you.

Metroid Fusion 072

Absorbing its essence restores two of Samus’ powers: The high-jump (allowing you more hangtime when you leap) and the jumpball (allowing you to hop while in morph ball form). Naturally, these are the keys to escaping Sector 2, so it’s a good thing this dude was hanging out here instead of the X that restores your Screw Attack or something.

Metroid Fusion 074

These new powers work everywhere, including underwater, allowing you to pick up a power you couldn’t collect before.

Metroid Fusion 075

This same room includes an overhead rail that you can also reach now that you’re able to jump higher, so there are two missile containers newly within your grasp in close proximity to one another, acquired through slightly different applications of your skills.

Metroid Fusion 073

Fusion‘s world is much more dynamic than in previous games, constantly changing as you advance. Besides the havoc SA-X wreaks as she stomps through the station, you also have other shifting factors within the world. Once you defeat the eyeball tube guy, the grubs that had been skulking along the floors and walls enter a pupal phase of their lifecycle. They become harmless to the touch in this form, but also immovable.

This creates makeshift platforms to help Samus reach new areas in some cases and creates semi-permanent obstructions in others. It’s another way the designers arbitrarily control what players can and can’t access as Samus acquires new powers — certain areas that you’ll have to explore later are conveniently blocked off by these shifting larvae — but it’s far more elegant than Adam saying, “No, sorry, I’m closing the doors now.” Which he does from time to time. But this at least feels like something natural within the world as opposed to an outside force imposing limitations.

Metroid Fusion 076

Speaking of outside forces, once you destroy the boss you’ll find the nearby exit has been demolished by more of the SA-X’s obscene powers, forcing you to find an alternate route…

Metroid Fusion 077

…which leads you back to that “useless” room, where the upper alcove allows you your first direct glimpse of the SA-X in action. The music stops so that you hear nothing but the parasite’s heavy footsteps and the sound of its cannon fire. You can, if you’re very stupid, dash over to the right and shoot through the floor to take on the SA-X directly, but Adam wasn’t kidding. It will destroy you in an instant. On the plus side, it follows after a very easy boss fight, so if you want to see how efficiently SA-X can wipe you out you won’t have to recover too much hard-fought progress. On the other hand, you can simply wait and watch until it goes away on its own, then return to the entrance to Sector 2.

Metroid Fusion 078

Whereupon you’ll find Adam defending his title as master of the obvious.