I like Metroid. I mean, if you read my Top 5 Games blog, you know that Metroid Prime holds an honorable mention there, if not a spot on the Top 5 (the why of this is a different matter entirely). The thing is, Metroid has fallen from grace in the eyes of Nintendo it seems. Following the lackluster Other M on Wii, Nintendo hasn’t really done anything with the series, outside slapping the name onto a crappy 3DS title that had little to do with Metroid at all.
But this isn’t a rant post about the mishandling of Metroid and how I’d do it better.
This is a post about a dream Metroid game I’ve been cooking up for the past month since I finished playing the spectacular Breath of the Wild. Bear with me readers; we’re about to dive headfirst into a fan’s pure fantasy.
Metroid on Switch would begin eerily similar to Metroid Prime, so much so that you’d almost be forgiven if you thought this was a remake of the GameCube classic. Our heroine Samus Aran responds to a distress signal and arrives at a seemingly derelict space station orbiting a planet we’d later learn to be Zebes. However, rather than this game being a first person adventure, it would be a wholly 3D action adventure, more in line with the recent Breath of the Wild.
This space station would be our Great Plateau: an expansive tutorial region where the player can get used to the feel of the game. Your ultimate goal on the station is to find the cause of the distress signal; just like in BOTW, you could finish this area in about an hour if you know where you’re headed. Otherwise, the labyrinthine station would allow players to dump several hours here just to toy around with the many tools in Samus’ arsenal.
This is probably where Metroid and BOTW would be a bit more different. From the start, Samus would have access to most of her arsenal, gear from previous Metroid games adapted to this new adventure. The path leading up to your goal on the station would introduce all of these tools in turn, but exploring beyond this path would reward players with just plain fun and lore. Unlike Zelda, there’s no need for stuff like money or food.
From the outset, Samus would have access to these items:
- Scan Visor: With the tap of a button the view of the world changes to a blurry one, and a cursor in the middle of the screen that is moved with either analog sticks or gyro can lock onto aspects of the world to immediately bring up a wealth of info on them. This function is virtually identical to the one found in Metroid Prime, without the need to hold the scan for a couple seconds. A logbook feature would be present, but ultimately immaterial to the greater game, similar to the picture sidequest in Zelda.
- Power Suit: Samus’ default armor. The option is available for show at first, but completing the adventure in full would grant the option to disable the suit entirely, leaving Samus in her famous Zero Suit. An option for expert players to provide themselves with additional post-game challenge?
- Varia Functionality: An upgrade to the Power Suit, granting immunity to extreme temperatures and a boost to overall defense. While in past games this armor would change Samus’ appearance slightly, giving her larger shoulders for example, in this game turning the armor function on would simply change her suit’s color scheme from a yellow-orange mix to a red-orange mix. Mainly to show the player that the Varia Suit is functional.
- Gravity Functionality: An upgrade to the Power Suit, granting you free range of movement while submerged in water or other liquid environments, as well as a boost to overall defense. In previous games this suit would color Samus purple, but this game would instead follow the Other M route by making Samus glow slightly in a purple hue while it is active. Easily visible in the dark.
- Power Beam: The default weapon option, the Power Beam is the weakest of Samus’ offensive arsenal. Its energy based projectiles would be effective against nearly all kinds of foes, however.
- Wave Beam: An electrically based beam weapon. Similar to Metroid Prime, it has a lower rate of fire than the Power Beam but can stun foes if charged. Limited by a regenerating energy pool.
- Ice Beam: A freezing beam weapon. Similar to Metroid Prime, it has a lower rate of fire than the Power Beam but can freeze foes solid. Effective against Metroids. Limited by a regenerating energy pool.
- Plasma Beam: A fire based beam weapon. Similar to Metroid Prime, it has a lower rate of fire than the Power Beam but is capable of instantly killing weaker foes if charged. Limited by a regenerating energy pool.
- Missile Launcher: Samus’ stronger sub weapon, capable of concussive damage against foes. Missiles would be limited to an available supply similar to the other beam weapons, but these regenerate much slower over time.
- Morph Ball: Samus’ iconic transformation ability. In Morph Ball mode, her speed is a bit higher and her size radically smaller, allowing for exploration of tiny nooks and crannies.
- Spider Ball: A returning feature now faster than ever. Spider Ball would be the primary way of climbing around the many walls, cliffs and mountains found in the game world. Where Link would climb rather slowly, Samus would speed up and down using the Spider Ball function. Like Link’s ability to scale anything, it would be limited by a “Stamina meter”.
- Morph Ball Bomb: Your primary means of offensive in Morph Ball mode, bombs inflict concussive damage to small areas. Not ideal as an offensive measure, it is great for exploring narrow passages.
- Power Bomb: The strongest weapon in Samus’ initial arsenal, Power Bombs require a five second charge before use, exploding in a wide radius and heavily damaging anything caught in the blast with potent “nuclear” energy. Unfortunately, abuse of the Power Bomb isn’t possible, as it requires an extensive cooldown before another can be used.
These would be the tools available to the player right from the start of the game, introduced one by one as you explore the tutorial space station, but available as soon as the game begins without the need for introduction for more adventurous players.
During this tutorial phase, two other important things occur. The player will discover an Energy Tank, which increases Samus’ overall health reserves by 50 points, and acquire a new item for their arsenal: the Charge Beam. The discovery of these two will teach the player that expansions to their health can be found through exploration, as well as the potential to further expand your arsenal. Further exploration of the station can yield more Energy Tanks, and those not found prior to exiting the tutorial phase will be available to find elsewhere in the main game world.
The end of the tutorial space station comes when you face off against Ridley, the series antagonist. The fight would be similar to the true fight against Ridley later on, but missing a number of his attacks to make the fight slightly easier this time around. The end of the fight results in Ridley severely damaging Samus’ suit, followed by the traditional timed escape sequence.
While many players would expect to lose their arsenal, in fact what happens is that from this point on they will need to manage what aspects of the suit are active at any given time. Some of the gear will be always on, while others would require certain amounts of energy to remain active. Activating these tools would subtract the required energy from Samus’ overall total, lowering her effective health in the process. A risk-reward system, it would encourage players to seek out the elusive Energy Tanks to not only expand her available health reserves, but also equip more of her arsenal at once, returning her to her full strength.
Following the destruction of the space station, Ridley will flee to the surface of the nearby planet Zebes. Samus will follow, and touch down on the surface of the first major zone of the game world. This is where the game begins proper.
Zebes will be as expansive as Hyrule in BOTW, only divided into various zones connected by elevators similar to previous Metroid games. While it would be possible to find entrances to these zones outside the elevators, the elevators would serve as the primary means to ascend to higher levels. The transition down or up to different regions would serve to load the game if necessary, but also give a few seconds to scope out the land from a birds-eye view.
Taking cues from Super Metroid, the planet Zebes would contain the following regions:
- Crateria, divided into two major zones. The first would be the opening segments of the game world, the second would be the crash site of the space station from the tutorial segment. The boss of the region would be Phantoon.
- Brinstar, divided into a vegetative green zone and a partially subterranean red zone. The boss of the region would be Kraid.
- Maridia, divided into the submerged ocean zone and the Space Pirate research facility zone. The boss of the region would be Draygon.
- Norfair, divided into the superheated cavern zone and the Lower Norfair zone, modeled after the forgotten Chozo civilization. The boss of the region is Ridley.
- Tourian, the final region of the main game accessed from Brinstar. Once located, players would be able to descend into the region freely to combat Mother Brain and her Metroid sentries.
But that’s not all. The defeat of any of the four major bosses (Phantoon, Kraid, Draygon or Ridley) would give the player access to second world altogether: Planet SR388. After learning of the Space Pirates’ intention to use Metroids as weapons, Samus would be able to return to her spaceship in Crateria and fly to the nearby Planet SR388, where the player can explore yet another world for the game’s primary subquest: hunting Metroids.
For SR388, inspiration would come from both the original Metroid 2, as well as the fan remake AM2R. The planet would include regions, though smaller in scale than those found in Zebes:
- Golden Temple, remnants of the ancient Chozo civilization populated by Alpha Metroids.
- Hydro Station, an abandoned facility for irrigation connected to a series of dark, moist tunnels populated by Alpha and Gamma Metroids.
- Industrial Complex, a newly fashioned work zone created by Space Pirates to power their machinations throughout the planet. Populated by Gamma Metroids.
- Distribution Center, an underground series of tunnels partially submerged where captured Metroid specimens are transferred back to the surface. Populated by Gamma and Zeta Metroids.
- Experimentation Tower, a closed zone for testing various Metroid mutations. First instance of Phazon radiation is seen here. Populated by Zeta Metroids.
- Acidic Depths, a series of labyrinthine tunnels flooded with vile acid and traces of Phazon. Populated by Zeta and Omega Metroids.
- Genetics Laboratory, the center of Metroid research by the Space Pirates, fashioned from an ancient Chozo laboratory. The only thing here are dangerous Omega Metroids and classic sentry Metroids. Successful exploration will lead the player to the Queen’s Nest, where they face the Queen Metroid, the optional superboss of the game.
SR388 is entirely optional, and therefore the only unique item found while exploring the almost linear, stage-by-stage approach is the Phazon Suit. Energy Tanks can be found in these regions as well.
Other optional suit enhancements include:
- X-Ray Visor: Easily discover hidden passages and secrets while in Scan Mode.
- Phazon Suit: Grant resistance to Phazon radiation found in SR388, as well as a boost to defense.
- Charge Beam: Found in the tutorial space station, it allows all beam weapons to be charged for greater damage.
- Grapple Beam: Latch onto distant points to traverse large gaps. Also usable as a melee weapon.
- Spazer Beam: Expands beam weapons, increasing their damage output.
- Diffusion Beam: Grants an explosive radius to charged beam attacks, inflicting minor damage to surrounding targets.
- Hyper Beam: A powerful beam weapon capable of the same damage type as Power Bombs.
- Super Missiles: Enhanced missiles capable of triple the damage of regular missiles.
- Speed Booster: Run at supersonic speeds, damaging foes as you run along.
- Space Jump: Perform a second jump in mid-air.
- Screw Attack: Capable of the same damage as Power Bombs, charges Samus’ jumps to become deadly to the touch.
Some of these enhancements would be guarded by the bosses of the regions, others would simply be hidden away somewhere in the expansive world map.
And that’s it, really. That’s the kind of Metroid game I imagine when I think of what’s possible on the Switch. A return to form for the Metroid series, a chance to become a series worthy of commercial success.
But sadly, this may never come to pass. And I guess that’s why I’ll always have my own imagination. I can dream, after all.