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The Metroid Curse


For casual players, the name means a rather difficult game. For hardcore players, the name means a cheap rip-off of Halo, but for fans, its one of the best games around. Metroid is one of the most acclaimed adventure games in the gaming community, as the games emphasize non-linear exploration, adding a rather realistic feel to the game.
The History of Metroid
Metroid was released the same year as Zelda, albeit much later. It was supposed to be a game for older kids, containing elements absent in most games. Drawing from the plat forming experience of Mario, and the exploring qualities of Zelda, Metroid was born. The sci-fi setting was to create a sense of isolation. The player is given no familiar situation, and is forced to act on instinct and explore. When the player reaches a dead-end, they have to backtrack and search for any unexplored area to look for upgrades that will help the player advance. This was revolutionary for its time. Of course Video-Games were still a new thing, even then.
However, though the series made Nintendo the most money at once (2001-4), it is under something known as the ‘Metroid curse’. No matter how well it is received, most Metroid Games did not perform well in the market. In Japan, Metroid was released on a system that made little money, making western profits its only terms of success. The third game was released too late into the Super Nintendo system’s lifetime, and suffered poor sales. It was almost ten years until another game was released, spawning no games for the first 3D system and to make things worse, the original creator, Gunpei Yokoi, died in a car accident, leaving one of his friends from the team in charge.
When Metroid Fusion was released for the Game boy Advance, it was more linear than the others, and had offered a poor experience in relation to its predecessors. Nintendo was desperate to give Metroid the 3d experience, but had their hands full with Zelda and the other games. Therefore, the new producer sought out a studio to make the game, this came in the form of Retro Studios; a small programming company in Texas. With their first two games cancelled, and the idea that a good game was going to be made in America, it didn’t seem that Retro would be able to do their job. They didn’t, if it wasn’t for Shigeru Miyamoto (Zelda, Mario, StarFox) joining the project. After the mixed reception to the third person-view shown at the gaming conference, it was proposed to make the game First-person, and Nintendo was skeptical. Japan wasn’t up with first-person shooters, while Americans were. It was being made in America anyway, so they agreed.
            Things seemed to take a turn for the better with Metroid Prime’s release on the new Gamecube. With state-of the art Graphics and solid gameplay, this game was the best selling on the system. The only traces of the curse were found in their response from their rival gaming companies. They claimed that Metroid Prime was a rip-off of the best selling Halo shooter game. However, the fact that a series twenty years old could rip-off such a new game; is a matter of historical debate. Prime was followed by a sequel, Prime 2: Echoes. This game, though perhaps not as great as the original, was a success.
            Upon the release of the double-screened DS, Metroid Prime Hunters was released, utilizing the touch screen for first-person controls. This was a moderate success, just in time for the new Wii to come out. And with the Wii’s release, a year later, Retro released a final piece for Metroid Prime; Prime 3: Corruption. Using the Wii’s motion controls, the game was the ultimate first-person experience. High-quality graphics and outstanding controls made the game an instant win, and one of the few games to receive a 9/10 score from the critics.
            But it would be three years until another game was released. Nintendo wanted to give Metroid the ultimate experience, and returning to its third-person roots, teamed up with Team Ninja (Dead or Alive) to make this game. Metroid other M was revealed in the E3 2009 conference, featuring artwork reminiscent of the first four games and voice acting, even for Samus herself! The game was released in 2010, and though it was a success, the critical reception was mixed. The Metroid Curse struck again. The theatrical style of the game made it very linear, and Samus’ personality shown in the game was ‘weaker’ than others expected. Many were disappointed that Samus didn’t behave hardcore in the game, and rather acted very ‘wimpy’. I know I was disappointed that I couldn’t see the stronger side of Samus, but I wouldn’t complain too much, judging from Samus’ situation in the game.
 It has been almost two years since that fateful game, and there are no signs of a successor so far. However… upon the unveiling of the WiiU, a certain member of Nintendo has said that there will be a Metroid game for the new system, but it’s all a matter of when… and how.

A quick look at Samus Aran
Samus Aran was introduced to Nintendo in the same year as The Legend of Zelda; 1996. Though the game was paired with the rather until-now unknown Kid Icarus, which was very light hearted and cheery, Metroid was very dark for its time. With dimly lit backgrounds, bizarre enemies, and unpredictable fearful situations, especially when encountering Metroids themselves, Metroid proved to be a very dark game.

Originally called a ‘Space Hunter’ in the English Manual, the character was revealed to be a bounty hunter in later games, and all the heroic deeds the player carries out are all per pay.
To add interest, if one completed the first game fast enough, it would be revealed that Samus was a girl! To people nowadays, that seems normal, but for back then, it was a shocker. Videogames were considered a Shōnen, or ‘Boy thing’ back then. When confident Male players beat the game and were shown Samus’ identity, it left them bewildered. Some people considered this a great thing, however. Women were considered nothing more than damsels in distress in old video game times. Samus changed that. Players were shown a strong and adventurous female as the main character. This changed things, but not often in the good way. Women in Video games became popular around the ‘90s, but not in the good way. Medieval she-knights wearing scantily clad armor and other such was the result. Not only is this plain impossible, it is demeaning and unfair. Moving on however, I didn’t start this article to complain.
Samus is supposed to be the Galaxy’s hope, but her past is very tragic. She was orphaned at the age of three thanks to the Space Pirate Commander, Ridley, and was taken in by the Chozo race of philosophers.
They trained her in combat and gave her the power suit in hopes of someone carrying on their legacy, as they were old and near depletion. Samus herself, respects native civilizations, as shown with the Luminoth (Echoes), and the Chozo, but has no tolerance for barbarians like the space pirates. She is also very brooding, as though she might save a planet, if she was given the chance to kill the Space Pirate’s commander, Ridley, she’d take it. She is shown to be strong and fearless, but the game Other M challenged that.
Samus Aran; Galactic hardcore or depressed wimp?
Following a tragedy, Samus is on another mission in Metroid Other M, and acts very depressed and weak. She even meets Ridley again in this game, and goes into a traumatic panic, and the fans didn’t like this.
 At first it didn’t make sense, but one man looked into the matter, and consulted two people who had experience with Traumatic Stress disorders.
Here is an excerpt from the interview by Stephen Kelly with Darian Koehne – Former Army man and John M. Grohol, PsyD.,  founder and CEO of Psych Central.com.
Q: I’d like you to watch the following video from a recent Videogame called “Metroid: Other M”.
(Clip was shown)
The context of the video is that Samus, the woman in the red and orange armor, has fought and seemingly defeated the creature (Ridley) in the video on two past occasions and assumed he was dead.  Her confrontations with Ridley all stem from it killing her family when she was a small child.  As we see in the video, Samus appears to be horrified to see Ridley after years of assuming he was dead, and simply freezes.  What are your thoughts on the video?
Koehne: That is very much so how PTSD works.... you daze out of it for long stretches and your brain seems to freeze and do its own thing or render you basically useless...
Dr.  Grohol: Mental disorders like PTSD are recognized disorders of brain and behavior that have decades worth of research and are based upon thousands of peer-reviewed studies. It is no different than having a disease like diabetes or Parkinson's.
Q: This scene has caused a row amongst the gaming community.  Some feel she has PTSD, and others say that she should be able to “get over it” as she has fought him before and won. Can one simply “get over” something if it causes PTSD?
Koehne: A story answers this for my point of view.  I watched a man burn to death and pulled guard on his body so we could retrieve the remains and not let the insurgents disgrace the fallen soldier by dragging his body around the streets.  To this day I have a problem with barbecues which used to be one of my favorite things to do.... I still do BBQ every now and then.... but things have changed!!
Dr.  Grohol: If someone experiences a trauma at an early age, such as having someone kill their family, then something like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is indeed a possible reaction. One does not simply "get over" a mental disorder because these are not choices we make in the first place. Who would consciously choose to be depressed, or to have PTSD? It's an absurd argument.
 Showing her still having the Traumatic disorder was only realistic. But the fans replied saying that she should’ve ‘gotten over it for ***’s sake’ and other vulgar expressions. As the interview continued, we came down to this final word from the author;
While it’s apparent that Samus as a character most likely has PTSD, one can overlook the plight of many of our REAL servicemen and women no matter what country you reside in.  Having the opinion that someone should “get over it” is not only ignorant, but pretty disrespectful to those that have fought for our countries.  I hope these interviews have at least shed some light on something that a large amount of soldiers, …, and more have to deal with on a day to day basis.
One of my hypothesis’ is that Samus was already depressed at the time, so she was even more weak to such an attack. I don’t see why hardcore people have to pan a game without at least looking into it first.

The many faces of Samus Aran
The suits
Samus had two impressions during the time of the NES. One was cartoony, the other was serious.       
File:Fun-Club-Art-2.jpgSamus sported yellow/orange armor with a red chest guard and helmet. One arm was equipped with a cannon, the other was left unchanged for somewhat obvious reasons. Her V-shaped visor has become a trademark.
Her design was more stylized in Metroid II, the second of the series of games. Upon obtaining the Varia suit, Samus gains the trademark bulk to her shoulder armor. Her suit is given darker shades around the side of the upper legs and completely covering the lower. This has been applied to her arms as well. Any wires or open mechanism was removed in the favor of a more stream-lined design. This is also the first appearance to show the arm cannon open to show that missiles are being used. This has become the staple design for Samus throughout the series.
File:Smart sam01.jpgIn Super Metroid for the Super Nintendo, Samus’ design remains mostly unaltered, but the purple gravity suit is introduced, changing all orange accents purple. This design also gives her a more stylized appearance, looking more like something out of a cartoon, a cartoon with really good artwork.

File:Fusion Suit art.jpg Mfusionguide r 20.jpg In the game Metroid Fusion, Samus barely survives being possessed by a space parasite, and her appearance is altered per all the infected parts of her suit that had to be removed. This design is perhaps my least and most favorite, having an interesting design, but the color scheme is rather sickening. Samus’ visor changes to a psi/Ψ and three lights that resemble Metroids adorn her back, and a strange skin-like coating covers her suit. Her blaster also looks more alien-like, and three talons grow from her left forearm. The ankle guards disappear as well. Her alternate suit upgrades in this form are very unpleasant. Her Varia suit changes the blue outer coating to a bright green, and everything underneath changes crimson. Her gravity upgrade changes the coat purple and the under accents green, easier on the eyes, but still. Her final suit upgrade, which surprisingly has yet to be named, resembles her original suit. As Fusion is the last in the story, we have yet to see if Samus’ suit is returned to normal.
Power Suit concept art.jpg File:Mprime 09 big.jpg In the jump to 3D, Samus’ suit in Metroid Prime was slightly redesigned. Wing-like ridges curve over her shoulder armor, and the layout of her suit is slightly altered. Her normal power suit is very similar to how it was in its first appearance, with simple shoulder pads and a v-like emblem adorning the side of her chest-guard, and all accents along the side disappearing. The suit upgrades featured in the game simply change the color scheme of the varia suit, like in previous installments.
In the GBA remake of the first game, the power suit resembles its depiction from prime, but with a Colorful yet darker art-style. This change is mostly aesthetic in terms of artwork.
Darksuit Artwork.jpg  Lightsuit.jpg The second installment in the prime series offered little enhancement to her design other than her visor changing into a Ψ once again. The only true changes in design were her other suits. The dark suit features a primitive structure, featuring ridges instead of spheres for her shoulders. The light suit features very impressive spherical armor with small holes that emit light when in dark areas. This suit always reminded me of a hockey player.
              In the DS game Prime Hunters, Samus’ suit receives absolutely no upgrades for her suit whatsoever. Little changes are shown.
File:Mpt4.PNGIn the third of the Prime series, Samus is exposed to a large amount of the radioactive phazon and begins to grow corrupted. The federation equips her with the Phazon Enhancement Device, or PED suit so she can safely harness the Phazon. She also obtains the Hazard Shield; which acts as the Varia suit. It is the only actual suit upgrade in the game. As the game progresses, her appearance twists more and more as the phazon in her body increases, but after the defeat of planet Phaaze, all Phazon is rendered useless and Samus is saved.
Mom samus.jpgIn Metroid other M, the final game so far, Samus received a slight overhaul. Her design resembles the Super Metroid power suit, and her arm-cannon resembles the one from fusion. Her suit becomes much more sleek and athletic, and her height is even different. However, this change is yet again aesthetic (only a change in art-style).
Under the Suit
Manga image
File:Sammie.PNG File:Metzero0.png Samus is shown in some games to wear casual wear under the suit, but in Zero Mission, the form-fitting Zero-Suit is introduced, and used in all subsequent games. I am not a fan of it, however. Samus removing her suit at the end of the game is achieved through completion or game time, for example, if one were to collect 100% of the items, or finish the game in under two hours, he/she would be presented with an image of Samus with her suit removed. This is rather unappreciated in my terms, however, and I do so for proof of my completion.

The Story
Though not very obvious in the first few games, Metroid has a very diverse story-line. In the Metroid universe, the Galaxy is under the control of a system known as the Galactic Federation. The Federation rules peacefully and equally among the systems they control, and the Galaxy is at Peace. But there is one problem; Space Pirates. Primitive, beast-like plunderers unite and take down the federation’s systems. Often there is no benefit to their raids, only the sheer pleasure of watching the almighty federation fail.
In the year 2003 (Cosmic Calendar), the Space Pirates are at their Zenith, and are housing their base on the remote Planet, Zebes. There, they are raising creatures that can suck the life right of a being; the Metroid. If these are to be unleashed, the federation is doomed. With too many failures already, the Federation turns to hiring a Bounty Hunter to try and infiltrate the Base. They choose Samus Aran, who has already had experience with the Space Pirates, and is the perfect choice when it comes to the beasts.
Samus is able to infiltrate the base and destroy the Space Pirates’ lead commander; a super computer known as Mother Brain. With Mother Brain’s defeat, Samus returns to the Federation a hero. But her encounters with the Space Pirates, and their Metroids, have only just begun.

The Metroid Timeline
Metroid doesn’t have a paradoxical timeline like the Zelda franchise had up til the release of the 'Hyrule Historia'; rather, it’s all a matter of when the games take place. Here is the timeline of the Metroid franchise.

The infiltration of the Space Pirate base.
North American Metroid: Zero Mission box art
Metroid Zero Mission
The infiltration retold. Additional story included at the end where Samus destroys a mother ship.
Metroid Prime
Following the defeat of the Space Pirates, Samus follows a crashed frigate to the abandoned planet Tallon IV. There, Samus must defeat the Pirates and fulfill a prophecy left by the Chozo who lived there, and destroy the Phazon poison that is corrupting the planet.
Metroid Prime Pinball box art
Metroid Prime Pinball
There’s not much to be said. It’s simply a retelling of the Prime Game in Pinball style. No comment.
North American box art
Metroid Prime: Hunters
“The ultimate power lies in the Alimbic cluster…” This message is telepathically sent throughout the galaxy, and Samus Aran is sent by the Federation to investigate. But she isn’t the only Bounty Hunter on the scene. From the evil Trace, the Noble Noxus, and the Pirate Weavel, and more, all want the ultimate power from their own reasons. But when Samus discovers the truth, she must make sure that nobody finds the ultimate power.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes box art.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
Samus lands on the Planet Aether in search of a Federation squad, but instead finds herself caught in the struggle between light and darkness, literally. The planet’s torn dimension opens the path for the evil Ing to break out and infect the light world. At the request of the sole surviving native of the planet, Samus must restore the balance by destroying the evil Ing Empire. But Samus also finds something else… a Phazon crazed being, who is a mirror image of her.

North American box art for Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Samus and a small group of trusted Bounty Hunters are sent to find the source of a virus that is infecting the super computers of the federation. But Samus meets her doppelganger again, and is infected with Phazon. Now it’s a race against time as Samus tries to find her fellow Hunters who have been poisoned also, tries to find the source of the Phazon, and destroy Dark Samus, all before she becomes one herself.
Box art for Metroid II
Metroid II The Return of Samus
The federation has deemed Metroids too dangerous to be allowed to live, so they send Samus to SR388 to exterminate them. Samus must patrol endless caverns, dangerous monsters, and after exterminating the Parasites, she must face the Queen herself.
Super Metroid box art
Super Metroid
Samus recovers a baby Metroid from SR388, but can’t bring herself to kill it. Instead, she contributes it to a lab so it can be studied for the better of the world, only for it to be attacked by the Space Pirates and brought back to Zebes. Samus explores Zebes once more, all in hopes of recovering the baby.
MOM boxart.png 
Metroid Other M
Samus barely survived the battle on Zebes. In a final battle against Mother Brain, she was saved by the Metroid Baby, who shielded her from one final attack, allowing her to win the battle, at the cost of its life. Now Samus has fallen into depression. Having picked up an SOS, she arrives at an abandoned Zoology facility, and finds a Federation platoon was attracted there as well, some of them being friends she knew from her time in the federation. She eventually agrees to join them in combing the ship for survivors, answers as to why the creatures have gone berserk, and why there are bio-weapons on the ship.                             
Metroid Fusion box art 
Metroid Fusion
Samus is hired to help a research team explore SR388, and is attacked by the deadly X Parasite. The parasite penetrates her nervous system and infects her suit, forcing surgical action. However, it seems hopeless to save Samus without harming her, until she is saved by a vaccine made of Metroid DNA, salvaged from the baby. Samus is then sent to the BSL research station to inspect the sudden outbreak of creatures, and finds that the station is under control of the X, and as she survived, she is the only one who can remove them.

 Nintendo has considered a new game for the Wii U, but it hasn’t been announced yet. Metroid is perhaps the darkest 1st party game Nintendo has, but the Metroid Curse has severely hampered its success. The future of Metroid is pale, but not dark. Perhaps we’ll be given another game like Prime, but with voice-acting like other M, and better acted out. Maybe we’ll be given a voice-acted game with real alternate endings to help the open-ended element that was missing. Metroid fans can only sit and wait until Samus returns again in her own game. In the meantime, the upcoming Smash Bros game will keep her legacy for a bit longer.
Images credit goes to the Metroid Database, and the Metroid Wiki. Interview credit goes to Stephen Kelly of gamrFeed. Disclaimer: I do not believe in Curses


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