Metroid Fusion provides colorful space horror More dread than in Metroid Dread
Tension may not be the first word that comes to mind when you Metroid series thinks, but it is certainly a regular feature of the adventures of bounty hunter Samus Aran. Not only in terms of gameplay, but also in terms of waiting for new parts in the series – fans are still (im)patiently waiting for the fourth Metroid Prime.
Luckily, the same fans were recently delighted, like a bolt from the blue, with an all-new installment in the series: Metroid Dread. Not Metroid Prime 4, then, but a traditional, two-dimensional Metroid, and a direct sequel to Metroid Fusion, the GBA classic from 2002. For me, that game is still known as the pinnacle of the entire series, so expectations were immediately high tension. Perhaps a little too high-strung, because as entertaining as it may be, Metroid Dread didn’t grab me in the same way. Immediately I thought back to my experience with Fusion, which I no doubt looked back on with rose-colored glasses. What made that game so good or so different from its brand new sequel?
Not lost in space
In comparison with its predecessors, Metroid Fusion doesn’t actually make such a giant leap forward at all. Classic elements that the franchise is now known for also make an appearance in Fusion. A constant sense of isolation, an emphasis on exploration, the (sometimes too) well-hidden upgrades: it’s all there. What’s most striking when you pick up Metroid Fusion again now is that the experience Metroid Dread offers actually very closely matches that of Fusion.
In a recent column about Metroid Dread colleague Marcel hit the nail on the head: Dread is a linear game with little freedom of exploration. The same actually applies to Metroid Fusion. Unlike, for example, Super Metroid, Fusion often keeps you by the hand, for example through Mission Briefings. The different areas of the abandoned space station can often only be traversed in one order. Sure, you’ll repeatedly find weapons and abilities that allow you to create new passageways in previous areas, but the plot always clearly steers you in a certain direction. As a result, Samus’ mission in the Biologic Space Laboratories is a short and tightly directed adventure. It never gets really narrative, but it clearly focuses more on the narrative than most of the other games in the series.