Metroids are the first of many returning friends in this segment of the adventure. Well, the game’s name is Metroid, after all. It just wouldn’t do if the actual last metroid had been in captivity last time around.
Two things really stand out here: One, whoops, the Federation is just as rotten as the Space Pirates!
Two, wow, mature metroids look a lot better here than they did in Metroid II.
A massive explosion rocks the station once you reach this chamber, which happens to be a dead-end…
…at least, it’s briefly a dead end, anyway. The SA-X has followed Samus to the restricted lab and, being an adaptation of a creature whose natural enemy is the metroid, basically freaks out upon seeing a tiny army of the things being cultivated. The SA-X opens fire, unleashing its destructive power against the growth chambers packed with larvae, which shatters the walls and ceiling alike — the dead end room from a moment ago now becomes interconnected with the lower level, the floor shattering away.
The SA-X appears less intelligent than advertised. Rather than open fire against the larvae with its ice beam, it blasts them indiscriminately. They quickly descend upon the fake Samus and presumably suction its life force away. Do baby metroids have suction powers? They can make mystery blocks disappear, sure, but in all this time we’ve never encountered one in a hostile situation.
We’ll just assume they’re making a TV dinner of SA-X. You don’t really have a chance to enjoy the sight, however, since this turn of events initiates an escape sequence. In a nice touch, the one-minute countdown display uses the same typeface as the one-minute escape indicator in Super Metroid‘s Ceres Station.
Interestingly, and fittingly, the metroid larvae don’t attack Samus. Why would they? The SA-X identifies Samus as metroid thanks to her genetic modifications; presumably the metroids do, too. That said, they don’t make this sequence easy; they hover in mid-air and will interrupt Samus’ space jump if she collides with them, and they demonstrate a decidedly annoying inclination to drift into your path as you try to make your way out of the restricted zone.
Cut to an external shot of the restricted laboratory being jettisoned from the station. No explosions? Seems like an unacceptable breach of tradition…
With that, it would seem the last of the metroid, and the SA-X, are done for. Game over?
When you link up with Adam again for a debriefing on your mission, he thanks you for your hard work by goose-stepping for the Man. Adam really is the worst. People complain about Adam’s equivalent persona in Other M being too priggish to be in-character for his Fusion counterpart, but frankly it seems pretty faithful to me.
A nice touch here — another big plot revelation is given extra impact by the designers breaking the rules of the Adam chat sequences. Until this point, you’ve always received instructions passively from Adam at computer terminals, with only his HAL-like eye present on-screen alongside his dialogue box. Here, as he reveals the fact that SA-X is one of 10 that have appeared in the station — parthenogenesis is a helluva thing — a dialogue and portrait box appears for Samus, too. Until now, she’s taken everything in stride. But this, this news is far too much to bear, and she plays proxy for the player’s sense of dismay at discovering the SA-X is not, in fact, dead.
At this point you end up in a weird little corner of the station, whose design feels cold and mechanical — there’s no simulation element at play here. The result looks uncannily like the Tourian zone of planet Zebes…
This area pits you against your second returning friend and the greatest non-boss challenge in the entirety of Fusion: Gold Space Pirates. Or rather, X parasites masquerading as Gold Space Pirates.
These warriors can be downright harrowing; unlike their equivalents in Super Metroid, they never flash to reveal their vulnerability. Instead, you have to sort out the trick to defeating them on your own: They can only be hurt by striking them from behind. That’s more easily said than done, since they always try and face Samus. Ultimately, the trick is to get up close to them, which will cause them to leap over you and briefly expose their vulnerable backs. Once you get the trick, they’re pretty harmless due to their simple AI patterns, but getting to that point can be taxing.
In truth, though, you never actually have to fight Gold Space Pirates. They never appear by default, strictly coalescing from X parasites loosed from other creatures. If you avoid allowing the freed lesser parasites from congregating, they’ll never merge into Gold Space Pirates. Their presence truly tests your skills, your problem-solving capacity, and your patience.
The further you descend into not-Tourian, the nastier it gets. Eventually, you’re dealing with pools of acid and weird X blobs that break the rules and attach to you like metroids. This area should remind you very much of the lead-up to Mother Brain’s chamber in Super Metroid, with parasites replacing the metroids. Does this mean an X-corrupted Aurora Unit is just around the corner…?
No, it means that Ridley is up, having somehow relocated from deep freeze to this sterile zone. Hello, returning friend number three.
The mystery of the dead, frozen fiend’s relocation quickly becomes evident: His corpse — or frozen, Big-Boss-coma, near-death self, I suppose — has been subsumed by the X parasite and turned into a gross self-parody of himself. You almost kind of feel bad for Ridley, but I guess this is what he gets for being such a chump during that first encounter.
After the past few battles, which have been largely pattern-based and required tremendous patience and careful execution, Ridley-X is a straightforward slugfest. This fight, even more so than Nightmare, plays out as a battle of attrition: Ridley is a huge target and doesn’t really move around all that much, sort of bouncing and hovering in place. But at the same time, it’s very difficult to evade his attacks, as he occupies so much of the screen.
His fiery breath — a trademark since the beginning — now consists of a handful of large flame blobs that spread out in a sort of parabolic pattern. They tend to fire away from Ridley and are by far his easiest attacks to dodge.
Much less difficult to evade is his grab attack, which he’ll execute if he manages to corner you — something he does with ease and regularity. As in Super Metroid, breaking free is simply a matter of peppering him with missiles… something made slightly more complicated by the way Ridley flips orientation between right and left. When Ridley changes the direction he’s facing, Samus doesn’t turn with him — you continue attacking in the whichever direction you were aiming at. It’s a weird design choice, but it definitely can break your rhythm.
Otherwise, though, it basically comes down to a question of who dies first: You or Ridley-X.
Assuming you didn’t screw up too much against the Gold Space Pirates, it’s not too difficult to survive this straightforward battle of attrition.
Which results in Samus acquiring her final key upgrade, and an essential part of surviving the difficult battle ahead: The Screw Attack. As always, this ability turns Samus’ Space Jump into a deadly weapon, destroying anything she comes into contact with, or at least rendering her safe from harm, so long as she’s spinning in air.
In a nice little touch, the room immediately before Ridley-X was filled with drifting Rippers who were completely invulnerable to all of Samus’ attacks. Now it is you who are the ripper, tearing through these dudes with the power of the Screw Attack. One final little diegetic gameplay tip to show off your new powers before the end game.