Metroid: Zero Fusion is the revamped version of the original Metroid Game from 1986. The game mechanics and use of visual space is completely upgraded, while also keeping the nostalgia of the original. I played this is 2005, a year after the release on GameBoy Advance. Since we are revisiting 2D Platformers for our Game Design assignment, I thought this particular game would be interesting, for its design but also for its history.
Our protagonist Samus Aran, is sent by the Federation to defeat the Space Pirates, who are experimenting on Metroids, which are parasitic creatures that drain the life force from other organisms in order to survive. The Space Pirates are using Beta Rays to mass multiply the Metroids and use them as a biological weapons against the Federation.
Each area has different game backgrounds and tiles. I always appreciate the different spaces in this game and I think it plays a big part in the narrative. The colour palette is earthy, browns and greens. But as we go deeper underground it changes to more metallics and bright colours; silver, red, purple, magenta and bright green. This adds to the eerie-ness of the music, which also changes as the game progresses. The music is my favourite, simple and recognisable. When I turned on the game again recently, I had an attack of nostalgia as the opening sequence played! This is my favorite thing about Metroid and what I think makes it a great old school 2D platformer.
The narrative of Metroid: Zero Mission is linear, as it is still just a fleshed out version of the original game. The goal of the game is given in the opening sequence:
EXTERMINATE ALL METROID ORGANISMS ON PLANET ZEBES_
AND DEFEAT THE MECHANICAL LIFE-FORM, MOTHER BRAIN_
– It’s really cool! Interspersed between shots of Samus Aran flying and landing on planet Zebes, the pace is fast and introduces the narrative from the beginning. Unfortunately you have to read about Metroid, to know who is sending you the order and who you are trying to defeat. Even if you don’t, the mystery of the story makes it interesting enough to play.
Even if the narrative is linear, it doesn’t you have to follow it in a linear fashion. It’s possible to finish the game without exploring every area and you can go where ever you want and in any direction. It’s almost an explorer game and the effort put into creating the rooms really shines.
Samus Aran is our main character and hero. She is introduced to us in the suit and it stays that way. She looks powerful and the suit looks really great in this game. She is also interesting because of her suit; who ever heard of a woman in a fully covered, bulky metal suit of armor? In an industry notorious for creating overly sexualized female characters and then rating who has the best one?? crazy. This is exactly why the Metroid series is iconic and important for gaming. The original Metroid game did not reveal that Samus Aran was a female until the end of the game and the team who made most of the games (R&D1) tried to avoid capitalizing on this in later games.
The space pirates: Kraid and Ridley (named after Alien director Ridley Scott, for Alien was a huge influence on Metroid) Kraid and Ridley are both scary bad guys. The detail of the Gameboy Advance highlights this as Kraid takes up five screens and you can see every scale on his body and Ridley is terrifying, his movement less constricted than in previous Metroid games. Mother Brains appearance is foreshadowed through a cutscene early on in the game and it is unnerving. Also Mother Brain is an “old Federal control system based on a possibly human brain that went insane” and controls the Space Pirates.
There are so many little details in this game that make it really exciting to play! Stumbling upon a room with two huge stone heads and nothing else (until later) creates the lore for this planet and the current story. Where exactly are you? What happened here?
Starting off you can walk/run left and right, jump and kneel. You notice, even in the first room, that this is limiting your ability. So, as you play through, you find different power ups. But, these power ups are found as you come to the challenge where you have to use them. This is a fun challenge of the players coordination and memory. There is a noticeable reliance on the suit that Samus wears.
The map data is limited and you have to find map rooms to know where to go. Some of the trickier situations that Samus gets into highlight how difficult the game controls can be. But I could argue that this still gives the game nostalgic value, having its roots in the 1986 game.
Still, guiding Samus through the game is challenging and addictive. Knowing the history of the game makes it more exciting to play as well and makes the latter half of the game even better.
I have gone back to playing the game. The combination of childhood nostalgia and new and improved gameplay; while still keeping the original aesthetic, makes this an incredibly enjoyable game for old and new players who love 2D platformers.