Nope, not metroids. Just moctroids, those foul fakers of the sea. It was a moctroid that you may have spotted as a momentary blur during Samus’ descent from Maridia’s sandy regions to the watery caverns below.
Moctroids are — as the name suggests — mock metroids. They look similar and exhibit similar behavior, floating through the air (or water, actually), homing in on Samus to hover near her and drain her energy away through contact. But they’re pale shadows of real metroids; they’re smaller, move more slowly, and can be destroyed with Samus’ arm cannon alone. Physiologically, they demonstrate their weakness relative to their deadly cousins by featuring only a single red nucleus rather than a cluster of three.
Like everything else in Super Metroid, the existence of moctroids is never explained. There’s no datalog entry to talk about their origins, no running navigator commentary to muse on their behavior or appearance. You’re left to wonder about them — are they actually related to metroids? A new larval form? There are clues, or rather suggestions, about their nature in the design of the environment; moctroids exist only in a specific region of Maridia, an industrial structure that cuts through the natural caverns above and below, attached to the bizarre technological boss’ room. The suggestion seems to be, perhaps, that the moctroids were an experiment or something similar, artificially created and left behind when this region (like the rest of the planet) was abandoned.
Or, heck, maybe they’re just jellyfish that coincidentally bear a weird resemblance to metroids. You’re never told, and it doesn’t matter. It’s just an intriguing mystery you encounter along the way, made all the richer for the fact that there’s no answer to be had.
Living amidst the moctroids is a random mini-boss encounter — one of many unique creatures living in Maridia’s depths. It’s a strangely unchallenging battle — the creature pops out of the walls from a random hole and either slides to another hole or simply belches out some projectiles. A few shots to the head puts a stop to all that, though. If not for the fact that you’re locked into this room and the wall to the right doesn’t crumble away until you destroy the creature, it wouldn’t even really feel like a boss. Of all the battles set pieces in Super Metroid, this one is easily the most mundane.
The remainder of the main path through a Maridia makes heavy use of grappling points — swing points per usual, of course, but also tall parallel columns of them that Samus can cling to before leaping off in the opposite direction. This is basically just another means of platforming, effectively the same as simply leaping from one platform to the next higher one, but it requires slightly more technique and skill. It’s an interesting application of the Grapple Beam, a different and never-before-seen twist on the well-explored rules of grappling in platform games.
The stacks of grappling points ultimately lead to another of these eye-door things, which should give a good picture of what’s ahead.
Yes, yes, another boss.
Draygon — a creepy-beyond-belief fusion of seahorse, crab, shrimp, and Tetsuo Shima’s fetal mutant form — lives in a massive chamber lined with energy beam turrets. The guns on the side take pot shots at Samus, firing on her current position, while Draygon sweeps into the room along an arcing path that brings it into range of Samus’ head. Naturally, a collision hurts Samus, not Draygon.
Draygon approaches in one of two different ways, actually. In addition to the quick swoop, it also advances much more slowly from a lower angle, firing grey gobs in a random spread. The gobs are an adhesive substance that bind Samus and keep her from jumping; once she’s bound, Draygon darts forward and grasps her, rising into the air in a growing spiral movement and stopping occasionally to pound Samus with its tail. These physical strikes are absolutely devastating, inflicting tremendous damage on Samus, and it keeps right on assaulting her until you button-mash your way free.
Frankly, the fight initially seems hopeless. Draygon moves so quickly that you can’t simply spam Super Missiles, which are much too precious to waste filling the air trying to predict its movements. Its slow, relentless adhesive assault is difficult to avoid and leads to absolutely brutal direct attacks. And all the while, those stupid turrets are peppering you with energy blasts.
More than any part of the game to date, the fight against Draygon demands observation, mastery of patterns, and good timing. Draygon makes its swooping attacks until you manage to connect with a hit or two, at which point it switches to barfing goo globs. And while it’s essentially impossible to dodge these projectiles on the ground or to jump over Draygon from a dead stand, you can manage it pretty easily from the short ledges at the edge of the room. Of course, standing there is simply begging to be bombarded by the emplacements directly above. But that’s actually easily remedied — the turrets can be shattered with missiles, reducing them to passive dangers (raw electrical fields that cause terrible damage if you brush against one) rather than active ones. That allows you to stand on the ledges to leap over Draygon as it makes a slow pass, avoiding its most dangerous attacks… and as a bonus, the ledge puts you at just the right height to fire a few missiles into its exposed belly as it draws near.
Draygon is the toughest, deadliest boss to date in the entire series, but discipline and cautious play will win the day.
Or you can play dirty and commit mutual suicide.
Those gun emplacements, when shattered, reduce to high-voltage sockets absolutely sizzling with electricity. The energy is deadly to Samus, but interestingly it can also harm Draygon as well. Of course, the creature is smart enough to avoid it, but you can force the issue by performing an act of double self-harm. If you allow Draygon to grab you, its rising spiral movements will eventually bring it to a point where you can create a circuit by lashing out with the Grappling Beam. If you manage to connect, energy will pour into Samus’ armor, quickly sapping her health… but the energy ravaging her system will deep-fry Draygon, which becomes stun-locked and frozen in place. Provided you’ve collected enough Energy Tanks, all you need to do is maintain the circuit and wait it out; eventually, Draygon will run out of health before Samus does.
This is a deeply counterintuitive tactic, but at the same time it’s not at all opaque. It makes absolutely logical sense; of course Samus’ metal armor would be a conductor for this intense electricity. Of course it would harm an aquatic beast in contact with Samus. And of course the idea of snagging the energy ports has been alluded to in the design of the immediately preceding area, which saw Samus snagging onto vertical surfaces with the Grappling Beam in order to climb walls. This alternate tactic asks you to synthesize observation with common sense to perform an action that seems utterly insane but also perfectly logical.
However you manage to destroy Draygon, your reward is the Space Jump. Super Metroid‘s Space Jump works more or less like it did in Metroid II, allowing you to perform infinite consecutive midair jumps, but the timing is far more forgiving this time around. The ability to hold a Charge Beam shot when you leap as a sort of limited, ersatz Screw Attack extends to Space Jumping, which can be tremendously useful. The Space Jump makes Maridia much easier to navigate in any case — between the sand that mires Samus’ leaps and the vast, cavernous spaces all around, gaining the ability to bypass most of those areas is a huge help.
And of course, you can only exit Draygon’s chamber by Space Jumping out. On the way out, you’ll probably notice the strange cubic objects in the background — are they fixtures of the ceiling? Do they represent a vast distance within this chamber? Are they objects suspended by the antigravity that makes Space Jumping possible? Again, no answer are forthcoming, and the game is all the better for the mystery.
14 thoughts on “The Anatomy of Super Metroid | 12 | Enter the Draygon”
Are you including the game manual in the design? It lists Mochtroids as ‘the space pirates’ first attempt to clone Metroids’.
The floating boxes feel a bit like something translated from concept art – maybe the whole ‘maridia as continuation of wrecked ship’, with cargo boxes floating around? No idea.
The nice thing is that even that bit of information still leaves a lot of mysteries since it doesn’t explain why attempted to clone Metroids. Were they trying to create a strand that was resistant to the Ice Beam or easier to control? Or maybe they actually wanted to create a weaker strand to keep a pets? (Which actually would tie into to recurring gag in the Prime series that occasionally the Space Pirates will try to keep Metroids a pets, with predictably disastrous results)
“Command reminds you that unauthorized Metroid feeding is strictly prohibited.”
I came across the alternative method to defeat Draygon completely by accident the first time I played the game. I was trying to clear out my weapon selection to get back to the beam, but got stuck on the grapple beam because I panicked when Draygon grabbed me. While biding my time until he dropped me, I shut kept hitting the fire button, and to my surprise the grapple beam latched onto the electrical field. Since I was pounding the fire button I unlatched fairly quickly, but my curiosity was piqued. So, I replicated the situation and brought Draygon down quicker than I anticipated.
@zarathustra Nope, the entire premise of this series is what you can learn from the games themselves. Supplementary content like manuals, guides, and interviews make for interesting sidebars, but Anatomy is strictly about in-game information.
When common, real-life logic works in games always seems stranger to me than the more abstract rules or cause/effect in a game. So often, it seems like things that should/would logically work in a real-world sense don’t, enough that when it does actually happen, it winds up feeling like as much of a surprise as something completely made up for a game.
That said, I probably would never have discovered the circuit thing on my own; I wound up reading it in a magazine or something, after I ended up beating Draygon the hard way my first time through.
I’m surprised you didn’t comment on the room above the entrance to Draygon’s room. There you’re forced by a nondescript dead end and a permanently destroyed grapple block to jump onto spikes on the way back, only to find they’re fake. This leads you to try jumping on the other set of spikes in the room, which are also fake and lead down to Draygon. It’s one of the greatest examples of Super Metroid organically guiding the player by predicting their actions.
Besides frying Draygon and maybe yourself to death, another touch I like about the Draygon fight is that after you kill it, li’l baby Draygons show up and go to its falling corpse. Even though it’s one of the big four on the mysterious statue, it implies that Draygon was a parent just trying to protect its young from danger, like the Moctroids or obligatory segmented dragon monster or some murderous astronaut with an arm cannon.
Alternately, if the moctroids indicate the Space Pirates are using this area as a cloning lab, it’s possible Draygon is some kind of artificially created mutant version of the little mini-draygon things that live in Maridia.
I read somewhere that those floating blocks also appear in Metroid Prime 2. I haven’t played it so I don’t know if it’s true.
I’ve never beaten Draygon the “legit” way, I’ve always had to use the grapple beam, and I only found about that in one of the Attract Mode sequences.
One day, when writing analysis of video games becomes as “legit” as literary analysis, you’re going to get an honorary PhD for these. Or you should.
Looking at those boxes again, they kind of look like cargo boxes floating to the top of the room (thanks to everything being underwater).
One other observation about the room leading to Draygon’s lair: You will probably hesitate for a moment upon seeing the floor lined with spikes. However, you may notice the spikes aren’t moving, like other sets of spikes in the game. This may be your tip off that something’s up. Or, if you acquired the X-Ray Scope, you can take a moment to scope out this seemingly impassable area.
I think the only other spikes in the game that don’t move are in the deactivated Wrecked Ship. However, those spikes are still deadly.
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