Since I love Metroid II so much, I was told I would probably like Metroid Fusion as well. I’ve enjoyed every Metroid game I’ve played to a greater or lesser extent (While I wouldn’t recommend people play it for the first time today, I happen to be the masochistic sort who likes mapping their own way through games, so I even liked the original), of course, but Metroid II and Metroid Fusion are two of the more linear games in the series. Also, I enjoyed the proto Survival Horror atmosphere in II, with Metroid shells laying around, letting you know a threat is near..only you’re not totally sure of its exact location your first time through. Metroid Fusion has some of that too.
What Metroid Fusion also has is story, and a lot of it, told more directly than in any Metroid game previous. The short version is that on a mission, Samus gets infected by a parasite called X. This forces the Galactic Federation to cut away the infected pieces of her Power Suit. Since Metroids were the only predators of the X, they use a Metroid vaccine to cure her, which has two side effects–it makes her immune to further X, and it makes her vulnerable to cold. A severely weakened Samus is sent to the Biologic Space Laboratories (BSL) Research Station to investigate an explosion.
I had watched speedruns of this game (Which has unskippable cutscenes) before, but had never actually played it myself. Having now done so for a blind race (“Blind” meaning “Having never played it before”, although my watching speedruns made it more of a “semi-blind” run), I can say I’m glad I did.
One of the criticisms from a certain subset of the Metroid fanbase is that game is too linear, with not enough of the exploration or sequence breaking that makes Metroid Metroid, so to speak. It is true that the game is linear–but don’t confuse “linear” with “Not Metroid”. After the first couple of objectives, the game will tell you where it wants you to go next, but not how to get there. There is an in-game map, but you’ll find that the way on the map is somehow blocked off, forcing you to find an alternate, off-the-map path. Finding these paths can be a challenge, even if you’ve played Metroid games before. Of course, there were one or two times when I thought way harder than I needed to about where to go next, and when I finally stumbled on the solution, had to try to play it off as though I knew what I was doing the whole time.
In my write-up of Metroid: Zero Mission, I noted how awesome it felt to be able to tear through the Space Pirates once you acquire your full strength. Playing through Metroid Fusion, you’ll feel like one of those poor Space Pirates. This is because your main foe, and the saboteur of the BSL, is none other than the SA-X, an X that’s a clone…of a fully-powered Samus Aran. And keep in mind that you’re at far from full strength through most of the game. Being stalked by the SA-X is a scary feeling, and it’s doubly so when it spots you and, more than likely, tears you apart in about 4 hits even if you’ve been taking your time and finding E-Tanks along the way.
The good news is that the game is structured in such a way that you can’t miss any “major” upgrades–beams, abilities, and so on, so you’ll always be at roughly the appropriate strength for any boss battles you come across. E-Tanks, Missile Tanks, and Power Bombs are all optional, although you’ll want as many E-Tanks as you can find–damage adds up quickly in this game.
While it’s more linear than some of the most-loved games in the Metroid series, Metroid Fusion is a worthy entry in its own right. It’s more story-heavy than a lot of the Metroid games, but its story is well-done, and the gameplay is as Metroid as ever.