A third port of the GBA generation Metroid hits its biggest platform yet.
Metroid Fusion on Switch handles just as well, if not better than the GBA version.
Search out the X! Experience classic Metroid game play as Samus Aran explores the secret passages of a massive research station teeming with hostile life forms!
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) March 9, 2023
If you don't know how Metroid works by now, heed my words. Be very careful. There are so many ways to take damage, so many ways to miss expansion items, so many ways to get lost. You have to be very, very careful in the way you traverse the map and deal with enemies, and that holds true even on one of the handheld Metroid games. Metroid Fusion encourages speed, but requires diligence, leaving it up to you to decide how to balance that. Are there “Metroid moments” where you get completely lost on your objective? Oh absolutely, and its pretty annoying. Luckily, the sectors are small enough that you can make it back to Navigation rooms in decent time and be reminded of your objective, or hinted on the subtask that you're supposed to fulfil on your way. It isn't a perfect patch, and eats a bit of your time, but it is far more help than previous games offered.
The enemy interactions in this game are very creative, where the X make up the entirety of enemies, but in the more of different hosts they've ingrained themselves into in the past. This means that some enemies can be defeated, and then transform into other enemies for a second quick defeat needed to fully defeat them. The idea the X can be absorbed by Samus in their organic form is far more interesting than enemies just dropping little balls of light to collect. Almost every secret in this game feels collectable or discoverable with due diligence (though some not quite as much). The ability to find quite a few of these secrets by using my own understanding of Metroid made the adventure feel much more rewarding, and there were enough reasonable discoveries to help me upgrade appropriately as time went on, even if I wasn't able to quite get every upgrade.
I wasn't expecting any kind of depth to the story of Metroid Fusion, but between areas a bit of Samus' backstory begins to unfold, and by the end all of that culminating backstory really flourishes into something much more emotional than expected. The basic premise is that while leading a research expedition, Samus comes across a parasitic species called “X”. It attempts to use her body as a host, but upon being returning to a Federation ship, she was saved by having Metroid DNA fused with her own, thus the naming of the game: Metroid Fusion. She becomes deemed the only soldier equipped to handle an outbreak of X on a Federation bioresearch ship. The atmospheric storytelling is minimal, but diverse enough to show different parts of the species you are working against.
Where the story really shines is in the horror and mystery. As time goes on, Samus, and thus the player, begin to fell more alone. Its part of what makes the player want to speed through each sector instead of just taking it as slow as humanly possible. There are some familiar faces as well, most in the form of enemies. The Omega Metroid makes an appearance at one point, an X in the form of Ridley, and even some Dachora and Etecoons in a section of the ship. Metroid Fusion felt like one of the more plot building, story connecting games of the 2D series, and personally I enjoyed that touch of added incentive to continue forward in exploration and completion.
Playing on the Switch, I found that the D-Pad on the Pro Controller was the best way to play, unsurprisingly. Controlling 2D games with a joystick just isn't quite as precise as we'd like it to be, and the Joy-Con D-Pad makes it just a pit harder to use diagonal controls. Pro controller D-Pad is definitely the optimal playstyle when playing on the Switch.
In terms of early GBA graphics, Metroid Fusion was really ahead of the game. Nintendo R&D1 had a great grasp of the resources they were working with, and pushed them quite far in only the first year of the GBA's lifetime. The theming of the Biologic Space Laboratories research station is well displayed in the way floors, ceilings, and walls are made up of metal panels. The backgrounds all fall along the lines of electronics, metal panels, or windows looking out into the void of space. Its very appropriate to the theme of the game, and its very, very well formatted for being a 32-Bit 2D game from a handheld console. In order to create a sense of atmospheric horror, visual and graphical quality must be high enough to invoke the kind of feelings that Metroid Fusion does.
There are also ways in which the visuals of the game hint towards gameplay elements. Ridges in the floor, dents in the walls, or glimmers of background design past the wall boundaries that show accessible areas. All of theses things are ways that artistic design will actually excite the play and help them on their quest to discover and collect more as they get deeper into the game.
A lot of the Metroid Fusion soundtrack is atmospheric elements with hints of music littered throughout. So why then, are every single one of the actual musical tracks still stuck in my head? Between the sounds of computers beeping in the navigation room, to the swelling notes that play in the first sector, all the way to the music that plays during a crisis situation. Every track really sticks with the player, stamping it as a well suited soundtrack for a series with such stressed importance on atmosphere and world building. While it could do with a few more actual songs to give variation to certain similar situations, overall it ends up being memorable in its own right.
Metroid Fusion – 8.5/10
Metroid Fusion is a great stake in the railroad that is the Metroid series. It sometimes feels impossible to beat a boss on account of small boss rooms, or makes you need a break when you get lost traversing a sector, but those moments, compared to the entire span of the game with so much time for discovers, adventure, and upgrades mean little to nothing. Its an evolution on both gameplay and story for the series that wasn't really expanded on until Metroid Dread, and for holding us all over for almost two whole decades, Metroid Fusion deserves respect for what it did for the 2D series.