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Metroid Fusion is the follow up of Super Metroid. It is the final game of the franchise chronologically (unless Federation Force is canon and takes place after this, but I have doubts).
The control is simplified, and I think GBA control is the best of 2D Metroid. You run automatically, the buttons are always under your fingers (although I'd prefer to "toggle" the missiles instead of "holding" them).
The level design is a ship with multiple sections, essentially creating a hub world with variable "levels." While I don't mind the linearity (upgrades are fun to find, and the map helpfully marks them for you), the railroading (doors locked by ADAM) feel forced at times.
SA-X is a threatening Implacable Woman. Unlike Dark Samus, it is less a Cosmic Horror Story and more of a slasher villain. It helps that you spend most of the time running away from it so the final confrontation feels satisfying.
PS: A minor gripe of mine is I don't like the Fusion Suit. I get that they are trying to make Samus look like a Metroid, but it just looks like plastic ice cream to me.
While this game may be like the other Metroid titles, it actually tries to creep the player out many times throughout the game. It works. The game not only lets you be "Samus Aran, Ultra Badass Space Warrior", but also lets (makes) you be "chump". To explain, you're able to kill most things throughout the game, but (most prominently with the SA-X) there are points where you'll just die if you try to fight. Few of the scares in this game are cheap, too. Jumps are every occasional
but do happen, though they just serve to push the story along or tear down your sense of security (EMERGENCY IN SECTOR THREE).
The game feels great to play. It feels mobile and agile when moving around. The wall jump also makes an appearance, which doesn't really serve much of a purpose in this game, unlike Super Metroid and (though for sequence breaking) Zero Mission. Shooting, to give it some onomatopoeia, feels "MMPH". Whenever a shot hits an enemy, the flash and sound effect (along with some little bits of stuff falling to the ground) makes it feel satisfying.
The bosses are mostly okay. Some are incredibly annoying, but many aren't very memorable. Neo Ridley, the SA-X, and the Omega Metroid are the exception.
Lastly, it works exactly like every other 2D game in the series, so that automatically makes it decent, but there are still problems with navigating the place. Sometimes, the game gets very Guide Dang It, and is just annoying the get from one place to another.
Overall, great game.
When playing this game, the first question that comes up is "is this a Metroid game?" Due to the series heavy emphasis on exploration and solitude, one would think that Fusion's focused on linear missions would be a slap in the face. However, Fusion ultimately decides to focus on different aspects of the Metroid lore. In Super Metroid, there are only three scripted scenes, and one intro monologue. Fusion decides to take this further.
Fusion does a number of things differently with this title; you are now joined by an AI known nicknamed "Adam" after Samus' former superior. From him, you are given the primary objectives which are required to progress through each level. The issues ultimately come down to presentation; previous Metroids had fairly linear goals but required the player to figure this out. Here, it's slightly reduced but there's still a fair bit of mystery involved. Adam tells you where to go, but not how to get there. And the game tries to juxtapose Adam's instructions with the other chaos that goes on. Adam's not going to tell you what you're going to encounter once you actually begin your objective. I do wish there was better pacing with the dialogue though; Adam tends to require you to hook up from navigation to navigation room which can often seem inefficient.
Metroid Fusion does something that's called "focused exploration"(see Metroid Recon's review). You can go straight to your objective, or you can probe the room for various powerups and expansions to make encounters easier. Maybe it seems like it's designed for kids but it does keep your mind relatively focused. Many players that feel lost in Super Metroid can try Metroid Fusion.
One of the things I praise Fusion most on is its game feel. Due to the sense of regaining abilities, you feel much more powerful over the course of the game. In Super Metroid, the various beams, while powerful, felt a bit too cosmetic. Some enemies were immune to charged plasma beams, others wanted you to simply shoot your beams normally. Fusion, on the other hand stacks your beams so you can feel the visible changes in how they work. Some may dislike the lack of an option to change beams, but the game is designed so that your abilities match the challenges you face. I've always liked using default weapons in games, so the heavier emphasis on beam power was welcome.
After the masterpiece that was Super Metroid, the next question is, how do you top that? Apparently, rather than try to do so, Nintendo instead chose to shake up the formula.
Metroid Fusion is entirely a story-directed experience. Basic directions (e.g. "go to this location and check out the disturbance") are given by an AI commander, and as the player tries to do so, stuff happens. Disasters occur. Security robots turn rogue. Parasites spread. Destruction spreads. The electricity goes out while you're using the elevator, forcing you to take a different route. A powerful parasite assuming the appearance of a clone stalks you. These events are all scripted and occur at specific points in the game, but they still shake things up and make it feel like you're doing much more than simply going from point A to point B.
The maze-like design of previous Metroid games is replaced with a largely linear design that still requires players to figure out how to get to different places. Power-up items such as additional missiles and energy tanks are hidden out of the way, and there's still that classic Metroid figure out factor. The automap continues to be useful, even though enormous chunks of the world are hidden from the map and only appear when you explore them.
The story-driven aspect extends to the music. Unlike Super Metroid, music isn't based on location at all, but almost entirely on what's happening in the story, turning tense, heroic, or other moods as the story dictates. It's a different approach, but one that I think works here. If the game were non-linear, this unique approach would be harder to pull off well.
The main antagonist, the SA-X, is brilliant. It has all Samus's previous abilities from Super Metroid, and it stalks the player throughout the game. Well, okay, it appears in specific places at scripted times. But still, the encounters are tense, and get increasingly moreso, as the chance of being accidentally caught and killed within seconds increases. When you finally become strong enough to fight the SA-X head-on as the final boss, it continues to be intimidatingly powerful.
Metroid Fusion may be a bit controversial with its linearity and story-driven design, but it does provide a very different experience, one that's well made for what it's trying to be.
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