Released in both America and Japan on the same date, Metroid Prime and Metriod Fusion saw the return of bounty hunter Samus Aran to the world of video gaming, eight years after its previous title, Super Metroid. Prime was created by an America team, Retro Studios, took place inbetween the series' two earliest games chronologically, and took a first-person shooter approach. Fusion, released for the Game Boy Advance, was to be the more traditional title, bringing back the 2D, exploration-based platforming and continuing the story some time after the events of Super Metroid. It became a somewhat controversial game for the places it failed in its emulation of said game's gameplay, but is generally well-liked, and deservedly so.
A research team is exploring planet SR388, and Samus is also present to protect them from hostile creatures. During the search Samus kills a Hornoad, and upon its destruction an organism leaves its host and goes inside Samus. She notices nothing different, and they continue on. On the flight back to the lab she goes unconscious, her ship flying into an asteroid belt and her escape pod automatically ejecting. The scientists soon realize that Samus has been infected by a parasite, which they name "X". Large portions of Samus's Power Suit are surgically removed, though X is too integrated with her system to be taken out. Things don't look good for the bounty hunter, until a serum created from a "Baby" (the Metroid that Samus had spared) cell is created, Metroids apparently being a predator of the X - their absense allowing the X to grow so large in population. Once taken, Samus is healed with an immunity to lower X parasites - in fact, she can draw strength from them. Also, she is weak to cold attacks and environments, as per her new Metroid makeup. After an explosion goes off at the Biologic Space Laboratories research station, the heroine arrives to find the scientists missing and the specimens that were being used for experiments loose and infected with the X. She is guided by the gunship's computer, which reminds her of her old Commanding Officer, Adam, in recovering her abilities and fighting a more than worthy foe.
Rather than having Samus learn new abilities from Chozo statues as she did in the previous game, here she regains - in the form of data - latent abilities lost with her Power Suit. Returning are the Morph Ball, missiles and Power Bombs, the Space Jump and Screw Attack. Not returning are the Grapple Beam and X-Ray Scope.
Samus will do almost everything she did in the preceding title, but in an effort to improve upon Super Metroid, the controls have been made much simpler. To operate missiles - which eventually become Super Missiles rather than a separate weapon - all that need be done is hold down the 'R' button and fire. To lay Power Bombs - which are collected later on as always - doing the same in Morph Ball mode gets the job done. There are no Grapple Beam (which would eventually be made less useful upon collecting the Space Jump anyway) and the X-Ray Scope has been noticeably omitted (leaving it entirely up to the player to collect hidden items, with challenging puzzles throughout the game - another definite high point for the game, and an area where it beats Super Metroid). All in all, Fusion's weapons are much easier to make use of - there will be no trying hurriedly to switch between five items in the heat of an important boss fight and losing health as a result.
Despite there being little new in how Samus interacts with the environment, there are a bunch of small differences as well: Samus will catch on to ledges upon just failing to land on a platform; she will also climb ladders in this game; energy replenish rooms and weapon recharge rooms have been merged into the simply-titled "Recharge Room"s; colored doors are marked as such on the map; also, items in rooms that the player has already visited but which haven't been collected yet appear as a circle on the map, and once collected they will be marked as a dot.
Metoid Fusion actually does take more after Super Metroid in a number of ways than any game in the series had previously, although not in spirit. There is frequent instruction from the base computer which guides the player along. Also, as Samus reaches new areas, previously-visited ones will be locked from her - placing more restriction on Samus's ability to roam than was present in Super Metroid, despite that game doing this more moderately. Helping the player along with dialogue might have worked for Fusion's story, but limiting the exploration of previous areas on various important instances (if one isn't careful, he or she will be stuck on the final bosses without opportunity to go back, get any missing energy tanks, and prepare) seems contrary to what Metroid's about. In earlier games, the locking off was there - but not like this. It almost makes the game linear. To add to this, there are six sectors in addition to the Main Deck, simply titled "Sector 1," "Sector 2," and so on, and the player tackles one sector after another, acting very much as levels rather than interconnected locales.
Metroid Fusion smarts of Super Metroid in all the obvious places. There isn't a whole lot new here, through for those looking for something along the lines of Super Metroid on the go - fun exploration, a compelling story, and memorable boss fights - this game has it all.
The graphics are more similar to the previous series title than any game has been before. This may not be such a bad thing, as the detail in the space station and in boss sprites is certainly appreciated. Still, it could have been improved upon - but then again, the Game Boy Advance isn't really a far superior system to the Super Nintendo, and the visuals reflect this. The music is a mix of ambient station tracks, quintessentially sci-fi gems (the Main Deck), tension-creating music, and electronic, energetic songs - all of which draw the player in where the graphics might have failed.
As with every game previously, there will be some sort of reward for making especially good time (such as seeing Samus in progressively suggestive attire and poses), but beyond that and backtracking in order to get energy tanks and the like, there's not too much to do after beating Metroid Fusion. Considering that the game is probably as high quality as the developers desired, a full experience that has the player invest some time and makes it enjoyable all the while, an extra or two wouldn't be needed to take one's mind off the main campaign itself. It would simply be nice to see something else, since Super did all the main things that this game did.
Metroid Fusion is not without its flaws, but despite these, it's definitely worth a play so long as one doesn't mind the linearity in spite of the interconnected maps. And, truth be told, it is far from being the most controversial Metroid game out there.