When last we left Samus, she was dying horribly at her own hands.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Of course, there’s still plenty of figuring things out — areas that you can only reach with new powers.
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.
Not 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That’s right, Adam. Suck it.