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by Nintendo

I picked up Metroid Prime with great anticipation. Metroid is one of my all time favorite videogame franchises (with only Zelda and Final Fantasy giving it a run for its money). I played Metroid through and through and remember most of it even today (How many of you remember the Justin Bailey password from the first Metroid?). I know I am far from alone here. I instantly fell in love with this newest addition to the Metroid family. Metroid Prime is very different from its predecessors though. While certainly not a bad thing, it did leave me craving a more traditional Metroid experience. Not only does Metroid Fusion offer an amped up version of the traditional Metroid Platform, but also when linked with Prime you can even play the original Metroid.

While protecting a research team Samus finds herself once again on the surface of SR388, the place where it all began. It is there that our heroine is attacked by a parasitic organism know as X (apparently the names parasitic organism A through W were already taken). The situation becomes bleak as the parasite becomes a part of the biological components of Samus’s power suit. With her chances of survival at a minimum, scientists decided to try something drastic. Using cells from a Metroid they developed a serum. The serum works. Samus is then sent to a research lab where a mysterious explosion has taken place. Now, in her weakened state and with only the help of her computer, she must infiltrate the station and investigate the explosion.

From here on the story falls into a thinly veiled Aliens rip-off, with moments of laughable internal dialogue. Frankly, no one will care. The game is a lot of fun and the story is merely a tool to further the gameplay. There are a few neat little twists along the way. At one point Samus must defeat SAX the evil Samus twin and a fan can’t help but be a little excited at the first glimpse of the old familiar Metroids. The story isn’t bad, nor is it great. It is just good enough.

I have had limited experience with the Game Boy Advance thus far and I found myself constantly amazed at what the little guy could do. This is a credit to the machine and the developers. The developers did a good job of using the GBA in the right ways to make the graphics seem quite impressive. The game itself actually looks a little better than Super Metroid did on the SNES. That, teamed with good use of some beautiful cut scenes, constantly surprised me. It definitely helped lend weight to a light story.

The game offers the perfect amount of challenge. It isn’t too hard, yet certain spots will take all the finesse that you can muster. A number of bosses really threw me for a loop. They always seemed fair though. I could always see that there was a method to beating them and all I had to do was figure it out and properly execute it. The levels are done well enough that even the easier parts of the game remain interesting. I rarely got lost, which I have little patience for anymore. Each navigation room gives you a good idea of what to do and the maps are done in a way that perfectly guides you without tell you exactly what to do. One of the things that I was most pleased about was the placing of save chambers. In fact there are so many that it can feel almost redundant. In my opinion it is better to have too many than too few, by far.

With the defeat of each boss you are given a new weapon. I love upgrading, especially as a reward after a particularly tough boss. Most of the old bag of tricks are back with a few variations and exceptions but nothing major. I just couldn’t wait to curl up into a ball and blow things up. Another credit to the developers is how expertly they allowed access to wide array of weapons with the limited buttons on the GBA. Utilizing button combinations allowed for quick access to all of Samus’s arsenal. I may get arthritis but I’ll love every minute of it.

The soundtrack is a bit of a let down. The best moments are the times when the classic Metroid theme pierces through the otherwise uninspiring soundtrack. This again is a minor quibble. You get so wrapped up in the game you don’t think about the sound much. It is just that every now and then when you hear the old favorite that you are reminded of what you are missing.

Which brings me to my only real problem with the game. It is really short. I was able to finish it in close to five hours. I noticed online that there were people passing it in under four hours. This is their first time too. After going through it, it is possible, and in fact a challenge, to go through it all in under two hours. For my money I have come to expect more than two to five hours of gameplay.

When you finish the game, not only are you rewarded with the end to your story, there is also a bonus for Metroid Prime owners. As I mentioned earlier, upon completion of Metroid Fusion you may link to your GameCube and play the original NES version of Metroid. I think this is a great idea and I would like to see the folks behind February’s Legend of Zelda game take a cue.

If you really want to know what this game is like just think back to Super Metroid. It is in fact a direct sequel. The story is different but much else is the same. This would be unacceptable on the GameCube but it works on the GBA. If you go into this game expecting anything more you will be disappointed. But if you are like me and want a little of that old 2D magic that you were so fond of before than this is your ticket.

When I first decided I wanted to play Metroid Fusion I had a big problem: I didn’t have a Gameboy Advance. So I went out and bought one. It pays to be frivolous sometimes. I haven’t regretted it for a moment; this game alone is worth it. And now that I have finished Metroid Fusion I can sit down and go through the original Metroid that started the decades long love affair.

Matt James   (01/12/2003)


Ups: More of the classic Metroid we all love.

Downs: Not enough of the classic Metroid we all love.

Platform: Game Boy Advance