As irritating as the game’s insistence on giving away the surprises in store for this upcoming sequence was, there’s no faulting the trip to the next sector itself. This is Metroid Fusion at its best, doing something no other Metroid game had ever done to this point. Arguably Zero Mission would go it one better, but at the time, this spoke to Fusion‘s designers’ desire to use the Metroid sandbox in a new and different way. We see Samus at her most powerless, outnumbered and forced to avoid omnipresent creatures that can destroy her completely with just a few successful strikes.
This is a new design philosophy for Metroid. Typically Samus begins the game underpowered but steadily grows in strength along a linear curve. Here, although she’s collected quite a few new powers — bombs, two levels of missiles, and a beam upgrade — Sector 6 pulls the proverbial rug out from beneath her feet, making her largely defenseless against the hazards ahead.
This sector’s parasite spawn comes in two forms: Utterly deadly or utterly pitiful. These guys are the latter, hovering about the screen and lazily drifting toward Samus. They’re easy targets, and they appear several times throughout this leg of the mission — their only role, really, is to serve as health restoration opportunities. They’re as close to harmless as anything in the entire game, and they tend to show up after difficult gauntlets of frozen parasites. When you see these guys, it’s your signal to pause and farm them for health.
As for the frozen parasites in question, the blue X entities are larger than the others that have appeared so far. They also tend to move around less by default, hovering deliberately in Samus’ way and obstructing key passages. Of course, your first encounters with them put you up against only one or two at a time, in wide open spaces where you can fire on them first. You can’t destroy a blue parasite, but shooting it will cause it to become stunned for roughly 10 seconds, allowing you to slip past safely. A stunned parasite remains deadly to the touch, though; if Samus makes contact with a blue X, regardless of its current state, she’ll absorb it.
Soaking up an ice parasite inflicts roughly one and one-third bar of damage to Samus’ health, making them extremely dangerous.
The only viable tactic here is to run, ideally after zapping the parasite in question…
…though that’s not always possible. There are several branches from the route into this sector where blue X parasite congregate in large numbers amidst tightly wound passages. You’re not meant to go this way. You can certainly try, of course!
…but even if you do make it past the X parasites, the game trolls you with the Metroid equivalent of a Mimic chest: A creature masquerading as a Super Missile expansion that comes to life when you come close, hitting you for a small amount of damage. Coming directly after a harrowing room full of murderous X parasites, this is just the game hitting very deliberately below the belt.
It’s not as much a figurative dead end as it may seem (though it may be a literal one depending on the state of Samus’ health once she sneaks past the X); you can bomb through the wall next to the mimic and collect a legitimate expansion.
However, the trip back to the main path is even more dangerous than it was coming in, with several blue X entities hovering close to the door — close enough that they’ll immediately move in for the kill when you return to this room. And even if you can survive against these three, the ones further in are much more difficult to evade. Like all free-floating parasites, they can pass through walls… something Samus’ blaster fire can’t do.
Even an experienced fan of the series may see Fusion‘s first game over here. Strangely, Samus turns into Ayla from Chrono Trigger when she dies.
Further along the main route, there’s a second room full of even more ice parasites. I guess it’s theoretically possible to evade all six of these things, but it looks daunting enough to be discouraging even to the most stouthearted heroine.
This sector offers several save rooms along the way — no recharge stations, but there are plenty of those fat, lazy eyeball things to blow up and keep your health topped off.
Fusion borrows one of Super Metroid‘s more memorable “gotcha” moments: Destructible blocks in which a life-sucking creature hides. Only here it’s not some parasitic grasshopper but a much deadlier blue parasite.
Eventually, you’ll reach a wall that can only be broken with weapons Samus doesn’t have… and in the process of attempting to bomb through, you’ll inevitably drop down into the narrow duct below the floor, which crumbles beneath your weight.
As you roll around in the crawlspace, the SA-X appears, marching confidently in blissful unawareness of your presence. It’s a nice reminder that as nerve-wracking as those blue parasites may be, there’s something far, far worse out there on the prowl for Samus.
Being fully powered-up, the SA-X is able to clear this wall quite neatly with a Power Bomb. In a neat touch, Samus takes damage from the bomb (though not much) as it rips through the room. It permanently clears away the wall ahead (also giving a clue for future reference on how to break down these wall block icons), allowing SA-X to resume its deathmarch.
You can, if you want to see the game over screen, pop up from the crawlspace and try to ambush the SA-X. It will obliterate you no matter how deftly you play, legitimately overwhelming you with powers you’re helpless to parry, but it’s possibility. For those who place more value on their free time, however, give the SA-X a few seconds and it will march along to the next room and out of your life for the moment.
Beyond your close brush with SA-X, you’ll find one of those eye doors in front of a Data Room. Weird, right?
But it turns out a parasite is actually stealing your Varia data. You end up destroying the computer terminal when you chase away the parasite, and it flees to the next room…
…where it moves in for the kill.
All the Core-X battles you’ve taken on to date have reflected the power-up the parasite contains in some capacity, and this one’s no different. This Core-X has stolen the Varia, and “varia” is of course a mush-mouthed reinterpretation of the Japanese spelling of the English word “barrier.” Fittingly, then, this X comes equipped with its own barrier: A spinning array of smaller X parasites that render it impervious to Super Missiles.
Your only offensive option here is to use your Charge Beam, which lacks the punch of Super Missiles but can pierce the Core-X barrier. Each shot takes down one of the subordinate parasites, causing the nucleus to revert to a basic Core-X once it’s on its own.
This, of course, equips Samus with the Varia, allowing her to withstand both heat and cold — including the frozen X parasites that litter this area.
As a subtle reminder of what the Varia does and doesn’t do, you reacquire the power in a room partially flooded with water. Despite your new elemental upgrade, you still don’t have the Gravity Suit’s ability to negate the drag effect of fluids — so while you can venture into superheated areas, you won’t be making any new progress in liquid magma just yet.
Another great touch: Before acquiring the Varia, blue X parasites would make a beeline for Samus if she came within about half a screen’s distance from them. In the rooms following the Core-X battle, you bump into quite a few blue Xes… which will initially behave as before. This time, however, you absorb them like any other X, regaining health on contact instead of losing it. After you’ve snagged a few of the blue ones, their behavior actually changes. Rather than attacking Samus, they’ll make haste for the far end of the current room and try their best to avoid contact. It’s a fantastic and satisfying design choice, giving you a real sensation of empowerment. These things were intensely deadly just a few moments ago, and now they’re terrified of you.
There’s nothing much else to do in Sector 6 besides check out the corridors that were clogged with blue parasites before, but once you return to the entrance Adam of course has more mission objectives in mind.
Door to unlock, weapons to acquire. But it all comes with a message of hope that the tide of the fight against the SA-X is turning now that Samus is again immune to the cold. And that is pretty OK.