Not too long ago, I commented on what I felt was one of the greatest 2D games of our time – Metroid: Zero Mission. It displays the greatest strength of that particular form of the medium, prompting me to wonder why modern games are so overly involved with the third dimension despite a lack of mastery shown by most companies in terms of using just two dimensions. I think this is why people dismiss the games as art arguments. After all, art is generally less concerned about commercial success and more about mastery of craft. It’s what separates Nintendo from the crowd…on a good day, anyway.
Having somehow lost my copy of Metroid Fusion, I procured one from the devil known as GameStop for only $5. That should have been an indication of the amount of pleasure I would manage to obtain from the product. I did not have fond memories of the game, and this should have confirmed it.
I completed the game sometime last week, I think I have discovered the ultimate failure of the game – it is completely average. Other Metroid game up until that point were revered for pushing the boundaries of what was expected of video games in their time period. Who would have thought that the NES in its earliest years could produce such an exciting, non-linear, open world that simply worked? Metroid II did the same thing for the GameBoy somehow, which is considered some great sorcery. Super Metroid greatly expanded the world created in the first game and added an emotional depth without a lick of dialogue.
Fusion was the fourth entry in the series, and it was immediately embraced by gamers, then rejected because what it added were the conventions from other more standard action games: limited exploration based on a narrative structure, boss battles, and character development. These aren’t bad in other situations, but Metroid has never had a use for them. Samus’ lack of dialogue made her a better avatar for the player to project into, and the lack of narrative made players feel more like a bounty hunter with a singular goal in mind. Shrinking the world around Samus is probably the most offensive part of the game, since players are used to the fact that there’s a possibility to break from the normative path and make the gaming experience uniquely theirs.
There are some positive elements to the game, though. While I dislike the narrative, it does serve to expand on the overall Metroid mythos in a wonderful way. Now the metroids serve a purpose in some sort of food chain, being the natural predators of the X parasite. And I have to admit to liking the fact that the X absorbed Samus’ old armor and Samus took on metroid-like properties – making the player, essentially, a metroid hunting Samus to feed on her for power.
Though the worst thing about the game is that it shows poor world design, and that makes the game horribly disappointing for me. There was a point in the game in which I was no sure how to advance because I came to an area without exits. I used a power bomb to display all blastable and collapsible structures, but it provided me with no solutions. After dicking around for a few minutes, I found that there was an unmarked wall in which I could travel. This was all for the necessary path to advance, not for a secret. I could accept it in the latter case, but this is just a matter of creating unnecessary difficulty. In modern gameplay terms, this is the equivalent to making Master Chief rub up against the walls until he simply fell through. It sounds stupid because it is.
The only bonus I can see to the game is that now I can connect it to my copy of Metroid Prime, which you know I have to tackle soon, and play through the game in the horrible-looking fusion armor. There certainly is a reason why that gaudy thing hasn’t yet popped up in Smash Bros.