My journey to play the whole Metroid series in chronological storyline order was immediately fraught with issues the moment I decided to start. Playing Zero Mission as it’s a remake of the first game with extra stuff padded in went well enough, but after having to make a decision to play Metroid 2 either with the original game, the official Nintendo 3DS remake or the fan made game it became harder to really make a well informed decision. Even harder was the decision to not play Other M even though it takes place in between Super Metroid and Fusion and instead play Metroid Fusion.
Metroid Fusion is the technical 4th game in the Metroid side scrolling 2D series, and continues Samus’ adventures dealing with the Metroid species. And it being my fourth outing as well, I became much more attuned to the weird issues that crop up with the exploration of the series. Coming off of Super Metroid into Fusion, it feels like the next game in the series, but also a step back from Zero Mission. That’s because Zero Mission was actually released in 2004 and Fusion was released in 2002, and it shows.
The speed of the game, and also the sprites feel just a little bit more mushy and slower as well. Everything moves at a slightly slower pace than what it felt like in Zero Mission. The sprite work also feel much larger and again just clunkier in a way that I wasn’t expecting.
Having Samus take damage and have to have her armor stripped and fuse with the weird alien species known as X does provide the game with a cool looking armor set that isn’t just the same old suit that continually gets upgrades. It does however use the trope of having all the powers obtained multiple times in the various other games, and having to re-learn them once again, and it’s starting to wear thin. While I will say that these games were spaced much farther apart than they were when I played them, it is following a very similar formula that Nintendo loves to beat into the ground.
The map layout might be my favorite in all the games, but also my favorite part of the game. Having each part of the map put into “Sectors” on the space station really helped me wrap my mind around the layout and where everything is. The map has each part containing a new upgrade sectioned off and keeps you contained in the sector until the new power has been obtained and allowed me to not wander off backtracking to areas where I didn’t need to be.
Just like all other Metroids, I found myself completely stuck a couple of times and had to look up where to go next, only to find out that a single block wasn’t bombed and lead me to the next area. Or it was a completely invisible block that you would never think to jump into in the morph ball state. These were the only times I got frustrated in this one, and I went several hours before I had to actually admit that I was completely stumped and needed to look it up. I really wish these games didn’t have just really impossible to figure out puzzles where you’d have to just look it up or blindly waste so much time bombing every single block. That is never fun and not great game design.
There were several in-game puzzles to get upgrades that I really had a blast figuring out, there was one in particular that really made me feel smart when I figured it out, and while it felt like a bunny trail of sorts, the upgrade and the pure joy of solving the puzzle was worth it.
A new addition to Fusion is that enemies now are brought back to life from the X alien. And it even can mutate other enemies as well. Every time you defeat a bad guy, an X symbiote leaves the body and floats around. Samus can absorb it, but if she doesn’t in time, it can fly away and create a new host body or disappear.
Fusion is a great game, and a good Metroid game, but after playing through 4 Metroid games, I’d say this is lower on the list. Zero Mission blows Fusion out of the water by being a more interesting story and the gameplay feels much tighter in a way that Fusion just doesn’t have. I would have loved to play Other M just to get a better idea of who Adam is in the Metroid series, since he is in Other M and gets brought up in Fusion, but it’s just references to him and his character that aren’t fleshed out enough to matter in the long run.