Metroid Fusion

Rekindling America?s love affair with the girl in a robot space suit.

If that whole ?Samus all rollin? around in 3D? thing doesn?t put peanut butter on your chocolate bar, then either (A) seek help, for there is clearly something wrong with you, or (B) fret not, for there is another, more familiar, and equally excellent way to get your Metroid on.

Space-Time Out of Joint
Metroid Fusion (a.k.a. Metroid 4) is an all-new, mildly hallucinatory spiritual successor to the SNES incarnation of the series, cast in the same 2D mold as that sacred original. It?s a little bit smaller in some ways, a little more inventive in others, and just as indispensable as it ever was.

Anyone hoping this first GBA title would be a new Super Metroid will be getting exactly what they wished for?if areas have a familiar look, that?s because the environment is a sort of ?experimental copy? of SR388. If you recognize some enemies, it?s because the game takes place in an interstellar terrarium where a strange virus has ?mimicked? the captive SR388 wildlife. In grand Metroid fashion, secrets are scattered everywhere?missile tanks and bomb upgrades hide in unassuming rocks, entire sub-cultures dwell beyond hidden breakable bricks. In fact, most of the game takes place in ?hidden areas? not shown on your main map. The old warm, fuzzy feeling of Metroid Mystery Satisfaction is concealed in every corner.

A Canticle for Samus
While a new SNES-style Metroid would have been more than enough for most, Nintendo went and did it up one better: In a game design stroke of genius, you?re forced to chase after your health and missile power-ups once you blow them out of an enemy?s shell; otherwise, they have a tendency to recombine themselves into bigger, tougher, more evil enemies if you?re not fast enough. It?s a small tweak, but one that boosts the frantic pace and challenge exponentially.

Metroid Fusion even boasts a great story?a twisting, frightening 2001 meets The Thing meets Alien Resurrection sort of deal involving our intrepid heroine, a life-sucking life form, and a nigh-indestructible Samus ?clone? that has the ability to make you wet your pants upon her very appearance (a very impressive feat for such a tiny handheld system).

The game isn?t without a few minor disappointments: Most of the old upgrades are intact, but you?ll miss the Ice Beam (it?s been replaced by the less-fun-but-more-reasonable Ice Missiles) and the Grappling Beam. You?ll also miss Super Metroid?s sense of utter inescapable hugeness. While the maps here are fairly big, there?s less backtracking, and rooms are a lot smaller since they?re designed to fit the constraints of the GBA screen?and, even though Fusion grew from the upper branches of Challenge Tree, the whole game shouldn?t take more than five hours to beat the first time through.

The graphics in Metroid Fusion may actually be superior to the SNES version's, finely detailed and attended to with extreme artistry, though they?re a little more colorful than you?re used to?a fine compromise to the dark nature of the GBA screen. The sound effects are superior (and should be very familiar to Metroid vets), though while the music is good it isn?t quite up to previous stupid-high standards?and ?classic? Metroid melodies come few and far between. Interestingly enough, there?s an option at the game select screen that lets you choose ?headphones? or ?speakers,? though the difference isn?t as clear as it should be?you?d expect the headphones option to filter out some of the traditional GBA hiss?but it doesn?t.

The Reality Dysfunction
Metroid Fusion is a magical throwback to gaming?s mystic past, a mighty reminder that good gameplay has nothing to do with bump-mapped textures or 87 hours of real-time cinematics. Even if 2D adventures like this (and similar-styled Castlevania games such as Harmony of Dissonance) no longer have a place on our televisions, they still have a place in our palms. Rediscover your love for the girl in the robot space suit?she works wonders in any dimension.

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