Nothing gets the pulse racing like a harmless spot of online stalking

Metroid Fusion (2002)

I’d better declare something to you right now, so you know just what type of creepy sleazebag you’re dealing with here: I’m an absolutely world-class stalker. I particularly excel in the digital sphere, where I can find people’s entire life stories based off the smallest detail, like a plug socket, or the type of knitting used on their socks, all from the grainiest photo.

And I don’t have any of your fancy image recognition computers either, you know, where some smug, well-hung Fox Mulder PI can say “Enhance by 20”, and the computer somehow not only understands the verbal instruction but gets the photo resolution high enough to get the killer’s full gimp suit reflected in the whites of the victim’s eyes. No, I’m talking about the good old-fashioned method of having a hundred tabs open on your browser and combing through your mark’s entire online history.

I’m sure a huge proportion of people do this, actually. But a lot of them will be afraid to go in too deep in case they end up making the schoolboy error of pressing the wrong button, and making their presence known. Well, it’ll make you a lousy stalker, but what are they gonna do in return, really? You’ve already gotten whatever sordid, tawdry details you were after, you pervert, so just reverse your mistake and log off. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the internet will eventually hang you, one way or another.

My crimes against privacy don’t end there, though – I’ve been known to “coincidentally” find myself in certain locations and at certain times where I know someone’s gonna be. You’ll consider that creepy, and you may be about to call the internet thought police on me, but before doing so let me get my defence in first by saying that I’m simply old-fashioned, and that this is how courting was done in the old days, before any kinds of phones existed.

No, I’m serious – that I could have only gleaned the girl’s weekly schedule by piecing together a myriad of online clues is purely a coincidence. Information overload is a real risk though; for example, when I do run into that girl by chance, it serves one well to try and subtly steer the conversation towards bands she likes (and I’m talking about Facebook likes here), but make sure you’re not talking like a rabid fan of a TV show and giving your opinion on her mad aunty, or her recent story on why all fellas are bastards, or you’ll give yourself away sooner than Bono at a wanker’s auction.

It’s a deadly weapon, information, and it’s especially vital in dating, or any kind of interaction really. This is why blind dates could never work, because it really is like two moles trying to see each other underground and getting to know each other. I wonder how moles actually mate? See, I could be educating myself in that, but I’d rather look up yet more nonsense on flirtatious body language for my next “chance” encounter.

God, I’d give you the creeps, wouldn’t I. But keep in mind that I’m harmless really, although isn’t that the exact same excuse that’s used for all sex offenders? What I’m saying is, I’m pretty small fry compared to the actual freaks. And there’s a lot of scary people out there. But my own penchant for desperate stalkerhood is the reason why I’m not even a teeny bit scared of the infamous SA-X stalking sequences in Metroid Fusion for Game Boy Advance – I was using ominous music and foreboding footsteps as my stalking techniques way before the SA-X ever came along; although I never incorporated an arm cannon into my own exploits.

It’s always been a bit of a topsy-turvy rollercoaster for Metroid fans and game releases – a good game comes out, and you’re waiting desperately for the next release while everyone in Japan does a collective shrug of the shoulders and keeps a watchful eye out on the women-only carriages. Well here, we had Metroid Prime and Fusion release in close to proximity to each other, and there’s even a bit of connectivity between the two using the obscure GC – GBA cable. By itself though, Metroid Fusion is a game unlike most others in the series.

Firstly, if you’re interested in the canon, and why wouldn’t you be, since Samus strips to her skimpies in almost every chapter, then this game advertises itself as Metroid 4, and we had to wait a long time for Metroid 5. Heaven knows if we’ll get to Metroid 6, either, not from series lethargy but because old Samus nearly bites the dust at the beginning of this game, even losing her classic Power Suit.

You won’t get her in a two-piece for the remainder of this game unfortunately, though she does adorn a new, more latex oriented blue jumpsuit. You’re probably better off seeing this one in Metroid Prime though, to get that full 3D effect. Aren’t girls better in 3D? Actually, not everyone would agree – again, frequent infiltrators to the women-only carriages, I’m looking at you.

Fusion takes place entirely on a space ship with several different ecosystems like water and forest, which I suppose is realistic – after all, don’t standard cruise ships have cinemas and bars, as well as tennis courts and libraries? I’d call that diversity. There’s bio-diversity in Metroid Fusion as well, as the mysterious X-virus infects or comprises a lot of the things you’ll be shooting.

They can take plenty of punishment, the enemies, and you’ll never quite get over just how hard they can hit you back. Make no mistake, this is one pretty tough game, at least for newcomers, it’s not child’s play anyway. Even the whopping 20 Energy Tanks you’ll track down will only go so far.

Other than that though, Metroid found a great home on GBA along with Zero Mission. The graphics, sounds and gameplay on the handheld were just right for 2D Metroid. Super Metroid takes some beating of course, but this game offered several quality of life improvements before we even knew what quality of life was. Shortened item acquisition sequences, a map that also shows hidden areas and uncollected items, seeing your time and item haul per Sector of the game after you’ve beaten it, that type of thing.

But now, the kicker. If you knew nothing else about Metroid Fusion, you might still know that you get a regular chasing off the frightful SA-X, a virus parasite alien bio thingy that looks just like Samus and is about 50 times as powerful. What you may not know is that this isn’t the only thing stalking you throughout the game – you’re also being contradicted by an irritating computer with a forbidding personality, which I like to imagine sounds like Screech from Saved by the Bell (God rest him) or even his own robot, Kevin.

This robocomputer essentially watches you on all your exploits through the ship, keeping you entirely railroaded throughout the game, and even stopping you from doing certain things or going to certain locations, a bit like that pesky HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s the exact same deal as in that risible Metroid: Other M, though Fusion’s general gameplay is good enough to save it, and in this game it does add a bit of conspiracy and intrigue. You really do start to wonder just whose side this wretched computer is on, even if this kind of linearity is precisely everything the Metroid series is not about.

I think this game would have been an even better winner if the first playthrough was Screech-directed, but then subsequent New Game Plus playthroughs let you Bomb Jump your way to whatever pokey little cranny you liked. As it is though, Metroid Fusion is still great and well worth playing. It just would have benefited from changing its routine and timing a little more, to escape those ever stalkerish eyes of mine.

22 July 2022

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