Before Metroid Fusion’s original release in 2002, it had been a long time between adventures for Samus and the Metroid series. In fact it had been eight years since the last major Metroid instalment, Super Metroid in 1994. Developed by the same team, Nintendo R&D1, Fusion had a lot to live up to after Super Metroid left us all in awe on the Super Nintendo. While not quite reaching the lofty heights of Super Metroid, Metroid Fusion is absolutely a worthy successor to the Metroid name and remains every bit as playable now as it did upon release.
Fusion is, so far, the last game in the Metroid timeline. Samus has exterminated all but one of the Metroids on SR388, and foiled a space pirate plot to steal the baby Metroid whose life she spared. In Fusion, Samus returns to the planet SR388 escorting researchers from Biologic Space Laboratories (BSL) and finds that a parasite known as X has proliferated in the absence of their natural predator, the Metroids. The X parasite begins to infest the BSL space station, and the rest of the game is spent dealing with the X parasite threat.
Samus’ suit has to be removed after it is infected by the X parasite, and thus Fusion begins much like others in the Metroid series, with Samus returning to a far less powerful state, devoid of all weapons and abilities bar a basic Power Beam and jump. Players must assume the role of Samus to recover her extra powers and eradicate the X parasite.
In a departure from previous Metroid titles, Samus interacts with another character on this mission, Instead of a lone exploration experience, Samus is guided by a computerised assistant on the BSL ship. This leads to a far more directed and linear experience on first glance, and might actually make this one of the best Metroid games for newcomers to the series. You’ll almost never get entirely stuck as you always have an objective to be working towards. The computer’s directions aren’t too overbearing however, as it only tells you the place on the map you need to get to, and leaves it entirely to you to find the path there. For more advanced players, sequence breaking opportunities are built into the games design as well. This ensures that Metroid Fusion can satisfy newcomers as well as seasoned Metroid veterans.
In addition to the change in gameplay direction, Fusion adds some new elements to gameplay which give Fusion it’s own unique feeling in the Metroid series. While it never becomes entirely a survival horror game, Fusion introduces a horror element to the series for the first time. Stalked by an unknown assailant with the ability to destroy Samus at the drop of a hat, at times you will have no choice but to run away, since you’re entirely ill-equipped to deal with this new threat. This pursuer can appear at seemingly any time, giving Fusion a tense atmosphere entirely different to the loneliness of previous titles.
Metroid Fusion was a visual feast for the GameBoy Advance, and the pleasing visuals have translated fantastically to the Wii U. While the game of course lookspixelated (There’s only so much you can do to make a 240×160 resolution look good on an HDTV!), Nintendo and M2 have done an admirable job making the game look as good as it possibly could. Compared to other Virtual Console releases on the Wii U, GameBoy Advance games look incredibly sharp. Great efforts have been made to ensure that Fusion can look near perfect on both the TV and GamePad.
It looks particularly impressive on the GamePad, looking noticeably clearer and sharper than most other games do on that screen. While not as extensive as M2’s Sega 3D Classics on the 3DS, there are options available in the game to customise the visuals to your preference. While most people will enjoy the full screen stretch video mode (which still looks shockingly good), purists will definitely appreciate the Original video mode which stretches the game screen to be as large as possible while making sure pixels are multiplied evenly and there are no scaling issues in the image. In addition, you can apply a smoothing filter, if you should want to. The game also includes a very nice high-quality scan of the manual, which is a nice touch.
Fusion’s audio is similarly impressive. While many games on the GameBoy Advance library seem to include terrible sounding tinny audio samples, Fusion manages to harness the capabilities of the console to create an utterly immersive soundscape. From the sound of footsteps in a recently empty hallway, to the high intensity action platforming moments, Fusion’s music and sound manage to perfectly complement the game, elevating the audio from being a nice afterthought, to an absolutely essential part of the overall experience.
It is unfortunate that Metroid Fusion has so far been the last 2D style Metroid game. While it will never be as highly regarded as it’s predecessor, Fusion is still a fantastic game in it’s own right and possibly even better than Super Metroid as an introduction to the series for people today. Through a fresh new look, changing up the mood and making some changes to how the game plays out, Metroid Fusion became an instant hit, and is still very much worth playing today. This port is highly recommended for both newcomers and veterans of the Metroid series.