Not your daddy’s bounty hunter

[[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
. 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.

16 thoughts on “Not your daddy’s bounty hunter

  1. Boba Fett is one incredibly overrated character. A true bad ass does not die accidentally.

  2. Actually… most badasses die accidentally. Stonewall Jackson was shot by his own men accidentally. Patton died in a car accident after Germany’s surrender. Atilla the Hun died of a drunken wedding that resulted in a drowning death by way of a passed out nosebleed.

    Accident is the only thing that can kill Boba Fett… as if a puny rink-a-dink smuggler or whiny Jedi could actually do the job.

  3. I won’t even start hoping for Samus to do bounty hunting in that game. At least, not anywhere after the first 10 minutes (which could serve as a prologue when Samus is interrupted in the middle of hunting).

    I mean, the guys said plain and clear, the game’s gonna be about Samus between Super and Fusion, and something big happened during that time period, which will be the focus on the game. How can anyone stick bounty hunting in the middle of the “epic” storyline it’s going to have?

  4. Repeated Bactracking? Frustrated?

    Are you sure we both played the same Metroid Prime 3? The game rarely forced players to “backtrack”, and even then it was an enjoyable experience and one reason why I like the franchise.

    I like getting lost. It’s fun. That’s why I love the Metroid series.

  5. There can only be so many epic adventures in one character’s lifespan before things start getting stupid and overly coincidental. I’m afraid Samus has passed that threshold. I mean, seriously, [i]two[/i] evil clones? And after all the world destroying she had to do in the Prime series, why would she still care about that sort of thing by the time Fusion rolled around? Let’s not even get into how many times Ridley has been killed and then turned into a robot and then not been a robot again. Retro pretty much made a dog’s breakfast of the storyline because they were always trying to one up existing scenarios instead of striking out in newer, more creative directions.

  6. The Crocodile Hunter died accidentally, Harry Houdini died accidentally, Bruce Shaq-Fu’ing Lee died accidentally… They are all pretty bad ass I think. That being said… I wasn’t a huge Boba Fett fan growing up… He’s groovy, don’t get me wrong, but there were cooler cats out in the universe for sure.

  7. I’m also kind of a little confused by the backtracking comment. It seems like returning to places you’ve been with new abilities is part and parcel for a Metroid(vania) game. If that’s not your cup of tea, that’s OK, I just don’t think that aspect is going to go away without a total change in design philosophy.

  8. I watched all the Star Wars movies when I was 6 or so, and thanks to George Lucas refusing to release them, didn’t watch them again until I was 15. To my surprise, I remembered most of the details and characters… except Bobba Fett. How cool can he be if he doesn’t leave a lasting impression in the mind of a 6 year old? =P

  9. Good point, this is why it kinda confuses me when people try and eke out a linear storyline in the Zelda series… It’s a tad strange that this one character or one of his ancestors or decedents or alter-egos happens to wind up collecting boomerangs and grappling hooks and bows over and over again. It sorta helps to consider the notion that when it comes to games (by which I mean “things that you play”, not “things that you play between cutscenes”) there are no sequels, only remakes. ;D

  10. About the backtracking: I know Metroid is a series built around exploration, and yeah, that means revisiting the same territory more than once. I think there’s a pretty big difference between Corruption and Super Metroid, though — in Super Metroid, everything was one big interconnected world, and once you had most of the upgrades it didn’t take long at all to travel from one part of the map to another.

    In Corruption, on the other hand, there are several planets that have to be visited multiple times, loading times for each transit period, and only a few places to land your ship. Once you factor in returning to the planets a few times with new abilities or in search of energy cells, you’re retreading a lot of the same ground to reach one or two specific locations, and then turning right back around again to get back to your ship. It’s not that it was awful, but I would’ve killed for the option to warp back to the gunship or have it make a fly-by pickup in any outdoor location.

  11. I don’t want to see Metroid’s universe completely fleshed out the way Star Wars has been. One thing I really like about all the non-Prime games is how simple their premises are (Fusion’s extraneous dialogue aside) and how much of the larger world in space is left to the imagination.

  12. I will concede that Corruption’s use of the ship did add an extra feeling of lag that the classic elevators don’t have. Personally, I enjoyed the trade-off to get to go to other planets, but I can see your beef with that.

  13. Okay, Boba Fett haters, listen up, ‘cuz I’m only going to say this once:

    Boba Fett ain’t dead. He’s got a rocket jetpack and more armament built into his armor than some small nations have in their entire arsenal. Do you think he’s going to be helplessly trapped in the belly of some dumb desert worm? OH HELL NO.

    Not only do the comics and novels portray him as escaping death by Sarlacc, the notorious GL himself said that he considered including a scene of Fett escaping the Sarlacc in the ROTJ:SE, but ended up deciding against it because ultimately ROTJ is not the story of Fett and the shot would have been extraneous.

    Would have been a nice bit of fan service, but I have to agree with his decision.

    Wait, we were talking about Metroid? Uh, she’s pretty cool. Still prefer Boushh or Fett for my masked bounty hunter needs.

  14. I’ve had Metroid on my mind lately too. I’ve been playing the bulk of the series, and am just working on another run of Prime 3. There has always been this weird divide between the 2D and 3D games. Among other things, the narrative is a huge difference. We can thank Retro for fleshing out so much of the Metroid universe. The way the explain the lives of the Chozo in Prime through the lore was incredible. They did the same with the federation in 3 (the only weird thing was the Mother and Father Brains making up the federation’s network. . .).

    By Prime 3 Retro had moved away from tradition and made Metroid their own. Prime was basically a 3D remake of any previous game. Two was a similar game, but Retro really went to town with their own designs, and by 3 they’d changed just about everything (and left just enough of what fans knew of Metroid to make it feel like Metroid). They really knew what they were doing. But I do see what you mean Wes, the cinematics in 3 aren’t really that special. It just kind of interrupts the gameplay. The lore is always more worthwhile. But it was a good start. And I’d like to see what happens with Other M.

    Already the story looks to be of great significance here. And with the 2D development team manning half of the “ship”, veterans will still get the series staples their looking for in a new title. My guess is that the game plays out something like a mix between Fusion and Prime 3. Both were driven by story and cinematic and both were a far more linear than previous games. Chunks of the game will be open, then there will be a cinematic, and then another portion will open.

    As far as the bounty aspect, Hunters took a look at that. Though it did end up that Samus saved the Galaxy again. I don’t know what to make of that aspect of her career. Prior to Fusion it seems like she’s just a Federation agent. More like a CIA member or something. My guess is that Other M will keep Samus as she is and that other aspects of the universe will be explored.

    I just hope it isn’t cloning.

  15. I always thought the Metroid games treated Samus much more as a mercenary than a bounty hunter. It’s almost enough to make me wonder if there’s a long-standing mistranslation (or too specific a translation) from the Japanese, but I realize that’s probably not the case.

  16. Things I hate about Metroid Prime 2 and 3:

    1) Samus (Zero Suit) redesign is in incredibly poor taste. What a horrible design. Works for the GBA, not for the Wii.
    2) Horrible characters ruin the immersion. Reading logs works brilliantly and adds to the mystique of the Chozo, Luminoth, and Space Pirates, but meeting the Luminoth and his blocks of text? Total letdown that had no emotional impact. Don’t even get me started on the absolutely atrocious bounty hunters in Prime 3 and the nasty designs of the soldiers.

    Prime 1, 2, and 3 were amazing games (I am the farthest thing from a Prime hater, believe me), but 2 and 3 had several annoying flaws that were not at all gameplay related. I am so worried about the direction my favorite franchise is taking that I can’t even be cautiously optimistic about Other M after seeing the cutscenes. If they make it work, good for them (and us). But I’ve always imagined something classy like in Super Metroid or the 1st Prime. It leaves some room for the imagination.

    Let the design and atmosphere do the talking. It worked so beautifully in Super Metroid and worked wonders in Prime. Taking a spin through Maridia or Phendrana Drifts and chancing upon some ancient ruin is far more exciting than having a sexy translucent purple woman tell me something witty and then running off.

    It isn;t a rant, it’s the damn truth.

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