[[image:090616_metroidcorruption.jpg:It’s a shame Samus spends so much time saving planets and so little hunting down bounties.:right:0]]Growing up a diehard Star Wars fan enamored with the grave and thoroughly cool Boba Fett, the glamorous profession of the bounty hunter wasn’t to be taken lightly. It’s not a job for the likes of Duane “Dog” Chapman — it’s serious, alien-scum-catching business, where no job is too tough when there are credits to be had. Maybe that’s why I’ve always approached Metroid with a degree of skepticism. For all the similarities they share — armor, slotted visor, deadly gadgets, an air of mystery, and a propensity for conversational brevity — Boba Fett and Samus Aran don’t quite line up. Where Fett intimidates with that gravelly voice and charges astronomical fees to exact harsh justice, Samus…saves the galaxy?
The E3 announcement of Team Ninja-developed Metroid: Other M coupled with my recent completion of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption has resulted in a lot of Samus on the brain. The more I think about Samus, the harder it is to consider her a bounty hunter — but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Under Nintendo’s direction, the Metroid franchise sported a paper-thin storyline, with hardly a scrap of background information given to flesh out the wholly original galaxy Samus traverses. Retro Studios, on the other hand, has pushed Metroid in a cinematic direction, introducing more cutscenes to the series and using the scan visor to provide a wealth of knowledge on the species and history created for their games. Metroid Prime 3 employed voice acting in the series for the first time — but more importantly, it gave life to the Galactic Federation, with soldiers, battleships, fighters, and plenty of reading material about their history and technology.
Nintendo was understandably wary about introducing voice acting to the
franchise. The superb craftsmanship of Super Metroid cultivated a
thrilling and surreal experience of utter isolation, propelling players
forward into the exploration of an unmistakably alien planet. There was
no backup, no civilization to return to or rely on. Samus was wholly
alone, pulling at the threads of a mystery until it finally unraveled
and laid bare all its secrets. That eerie ambiance and thematic focus
on self-reliance and discovery is arguably the core of what makes
Metroid the legendary series it is. Could Retro be sacrificing that,
betraying the heart of Metroid, simply to make the experience more
I’m going with no. Although Corruption does its best to strike a
balance between isolated exploration and interaction with a fleshed-out
Galactic Federation, neither quite delivers the experience it aims for.
I often found myself frustrated by repeated backtracking through linear
pathways, and the cutscenes hardly compared to the likes of Mass
Effect. Truth be told, I’m not sure the first-person adventure style of
the Prime series could ever match the perfection of Super Metroid.
Until Nintendo acquiesces to developing Metroid Dread, perhaps the
franchise needs to shift course and set its sights on the potential of
an expanded universe.
What if Samus had a little bounty hunting to do, for a change? Team
Ninja may manage to take the series in a direction that fully embraces
Metroid’s potential for a seriously kickass action game. After all,
Boba Fett began life as an ominous character with only a few minutes of
screen time in Empire Strikes Back — his history and personality only
came to the surface in the Star Wars expanded universe, which has
gradually revealed more and more about the character over the past
fifteen years. Samus has the same potential, and it’s about time
Nintendo capitalized on it. I hope Metroid: Other M departs from the
formula, as long as it sheds new light on the largely mysterious galaxy
Samus Aran has saved so many times.