It is almost time to celebrate the 10th anniversary of what I have affectionately dubbed "Metroid Day." On November 18th, 2002 Nintendo satisfied the appetites (which had long given way to pangs of hunger) of Metroid fans by releasing Metroid Prime and Metroid Fusion on their relatively new consoles; The Gamecube and Gameboy Advance.
In order to understand the excitement leading up to "Metroid Day" we need to take a look back to Super Metroid. Many gamers (including yours truly) consider Super Metroid to be one of the best, if not the best, video game ever created. I fondly recall playing Super Metroid until I fell asleep in my recliner, waking up several hours later (controller still in hand), and going right back to playing again. It was the type of game I like to call a "show off" game. Whenever friends would come over I would turn it on, crank up the stereo sound and watch my friends turn green with envy because it was so cool and they did not have it. Not only do Samus' adventures shine technically, Metroid games also have a certain "feeling" to them. This "feeling" is probably only understood by avid fans of the series because they have experienced it firsthand. The best way I can describe the "feeling" is that it is a combination of isolation, wonder, excitement, motivation, endurance, and accomplishment. Super Metroid produced this "feeling" in spades.
Absolutely everything about this game ruled!
Don't get me wrong - Metroid and Metroid II were both great games, but Super Metroid was responsible for the ascension of Samus to the third person of the "Nintendo Trinity" alongside Mario and Link. In addition, Super Metroid created a new genre of side-scrolling adventure games. Duplicated most notably by Castlevania Symphony of the Night; AKA "Metroidvania." Matter of fact, the only bad thing about Super Metroid was that it had an ending. Well, actually three endings...
This video shows the "best" ending. Achieved by beating the game in under 3 hours
Unfortunately, after beating Super Metroid fans were left waiting...and waiting... and waiting for another deep space adventure with Samus. Sure, there were abundant rumors of a Metroid 64 game on internet message boards but the only Metroid appearance on the N64 was in Super Smash Bros. In fact, Super Metroid was so highly regarded by Nintendo that the big N wanted to make sure Samus' next adventure equaled that great game.
While on a routine visit to Electronics Boutique in the summer of 2002, I saw the advertisements for Metroid Prime and Metroid Fusion and the nearly decade long wait came to an end. I immediately went to the cash wrap and pre-ordered both games. I remember it being a much simpler time back then. To pre-order a game, you simply walked into the store (or called them), told them which game you wanted, and gave them your name. Yes, there was a time when you were not hassled by employees to pre-order games, you actually brought forth the subject to them. Matter of fact, you didn't even have to put money down - your name was good enough.
Electronics Boutique is long gone but I still have the preorder bonus T-shirt (with this logo)
As release day drew near, gamers were comforted by the screenshots and information we received regarding Metroid Fusion but I will admit we were a bit confused by what we saw from Prime. We knew that Fusion was going to be a side-scrolling adventure game much like Super Metroid. The artwork from the game looked a lot like Super Metroid as well. Rightly so, because the game was being developed by the fine folks who brought us Super Metroid and was slated to take place after the events of Super Metriod. In other words, we were finally going to get to see what happens to Samus after she flew away from an exploding planet Zebes (remember this was several years before Metroid: Other M was sandwiched between Super Metroid and Fusion in the Metroid timeline).
Admit it... every time SA-X appears it scared the daylights outta' you
So when "Metroid Day" finally arrived, everyone firing up Metroid Fusion on their GBA was pleasantly surprised with the game. It had all the bells and whistles of our favorite series and even added some new drama to the story of Samus. The controls were familiar enough to be comfortable and the storyline fit right into the Metroid universe. We all breathed a collective sigh of relief as Metroid Fusion lived up to the hype and was a fitting followup to our beloved Super Metroid. Matter of fact, the only thing that would have made this game better is if it was on a big screen. Fortunately, Nintendo made this possible by releasing the Game Boy Player the following year.
The Fusion Suit is unlocked by beating Fusion and linking to Prime but the similarities end there
Prior to "Metroid Day" we all knew that Metroid Prime was going to be a different beast. Not only was it the first disc-based game in the series it was going to be a first person shooter and it was being developed by an unknown team from the USA. Fans wondered if Nintendo was making a mistake by deciding to hitch our favorite franchise to the FPS bandwagon. Sure, every interview and preview we saw had the assurance that Mr. Miyamoto himself was giving the "thumbs up" to the project and Retro Studios but we still were a bit worried about such drastic changes to the Metroid world we knew so well.
We would finally be able to experience the view from inside Samus' visor
As soon as we loaded up the game all worries ceased and our jaws dropped in awe because of the magnificent game Retro Studios created. The art, the music, the enemies, the gameplay, and the story were all Metroid to the core. In fact, it really is a 3D Super Metroid (perhaps the greatest compliment a true fan can give). Over the years I have become more enamored with Metroid Prime and it now sits just behind Super Metroid at the top of my personal "best games" list. You will still find Metroid Prime on in the top 10 of just about anyone's "best games" lists out there today. Both Prime and Fusion were "show off" games in their own right and they had the Metroid "feeling" to boot.
Metroid Prime Trilogy. An excellent way to experience these games and "show off" the Wii
I maintain to this day that Metroid Prime is the finest debut from any game studio. It certainly paved the way for a great relationship between Nintendo and Retro Studios; Retro went on to become a first-party developer for Nintendo and is working on a new game for the Wii U. Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope that it will be a Metroid Game! In the meantime, happy Metroid Day! Celebrate 11/18 with me by firing up Fusion and Prime between rounds of Nintendo Land's Metroid Blast on your Wii U.
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