How Metroid Fusion Creates Fear

How Metroid Fusion Creates Fear


Welcome to this series of videos where
we look not an animation but instead aesthetics in Metroid games, specifically
how they build their atmosphere. So far we’ve seen how Metroid games can portray
an atmosphere of dread, isolation, horror and fear by establishing certain series
staples, such as constant black backgrounds, unsettling and creepy music
and soundscapes, and vast distances between safe spots and power-ups
combined with backtracking. Series staples now remain present in
future Metroid games such as an unsettling score, creepy sound design,
grotesque creatures, isolated exploration in a dark and dank environment, and
placing you in tense situations. We’ll now be taking a look at specific examples in
a Metroid game which manufacture fear particularly well, rather than the game
as a whole. This time we’re looking at Metroid Fusion for the Gameboy Advance.
There’s a couple of things that are different in this game compared to
Metroid or Super Metroid. Progression is linear and not open-ended. This might
seem to go against what you might like to consider a required aspect of a
Metroid game, but in a positive way this allows the game to manufacture certain
situations and events that perhaps aren’t possible or as satisfying when
the game is open-ended. This game lays breadcrumbs to build its tense
atmosphere. We’ll come to the other thing in a moment but before we get too ahead
of ourselves, let’s quickly discuss the themes of each game so far.
If each game so far were to have an overall theme, you could argue Metroid is
adventure, Metroid II’s isolation and Super Metroid’s is triumph, though feel
free to suggest your own down below. This brings us to argue that Metroid Fusion’s
theme could almost certainly be seen as mystery. This theme drips from almost
every element of fusion from story and stage design to the music design and
visuals. The story has Samus investigate an explosion on a space station after
she’s recovered from a near-fatal experience with new enemy The X
Parasite, their re-emergence supposedly thanks to Samus’s eradication of the
Metroid’s in Metroid 2. There’s a particular line after learning of an
explosion on the station that Samus thinks during this opening plot: “this
awakened a nameless fear in my heart” Not only are you experiencing dread and
tension while playing a Metroid game, now you explicitly know that our hardened
hero Samus is scared and she doesn’t know why. Straight away, you’re on edge.
You now have a nameless fear in your heart. Something the game excels at is
making good use of low strings in its music to create a proper tense
atmosphere. Horror and gore are increased much more in this game as well, from things like
dripping slime and skeletal remains to grotesque
transformations. Okay so bringing us back to the breadcrumbs motif, what I mean
here is that the game will drop various bits of information slowly about an
event character or mission and you’ll gradually learn more about these
situations as you experience them firsthand. You’ll find the game does it a
lot with the bosses and events in each sector and the use of slowly building
this up to an extremely tense situation does something to you: it convinces you
that this is fear. Okay so this is the other thing that game does and indeed
many other games that are horror or fear-based.
It disguises tension as fear. Tension and fear are very similar; both get your
heart rate up and have you on the edge of your seat, squirming to get away.
Except fear is subjective, and tension is objective. Something that’s scary to you
won’t be scary to someone else. But creating tension in place of fear? That’s
real for everyone. Imagine a scary figure. It might scare someone but probably not.
Imagine a tense situation like trying to defuse a bomb with a time limit;
everyone’s bound to be on edge during this. But if you combine these two things
into a new situation, say you’re trying to get a door open while the figure
slowly approaches you, the tension from the door transforms into fear towards
the figure. Okay let’s look at two or three examples of how Metroid Fusion
does this particularly well. Let’s start small and work up, shall we? Okay so first
up it’s the Arachnus boss at the beginning. So far we’ve had a pretty
uninteresting opening in the form of just going through some corridors and
investigating an explosion and speaking to your computer. You’re told that you
have to download missile data so that you can defend yourself, you already have
the knowledge that the X parasite can mimic living creatures and so far you’re
confident that the station is practically autonomous and everything
should run as normal. You’re also told that you have
actual defense percentage and it’s very low. When you get your missiles you’re
told that something has messed with the electrics and the elevator is out and
you’ll need to find a new way out of the room to reach this area, which is where
the threat is. You blast your way through this metal hatch and go into the walls
essentially. You’ll fall past some huge wires that appear to be severed. You’ll
then go through this communal looking area with resident zombies and
flickering lights and your first door monster thing. When you enter, the pre
bossfight room the music becomes tense and as you drop into the main battle
room, you see some x-parasites forming together to make this monster. The music
and sound design form this kind of reveal of what the monster is and then
you’ll fight it and you’ll complete everything. This is very basic but it
sets the format for the rest of the game. You’re told of a disturbance, you see
evidence of the disturbance, you face the disturbance. All the while being littered
with bits of information that remind you of how powerless you are, how isolated
you are and how dangerous this all is. Okay, so secondly it’s probably one of my
favourites, it’s that grotesque monster Nightmare. You see nightmare earlier in the game in Sector 5, although you’re not aware of
what it is, only hearing it’s unusual sound as it roars past in the background.
This will probably make you jump because this hasn’t happened so far going
through Sector 5. Nothing is mentioned of the beast until it breaks free later on
when all the glass is shattered and is no longer there in the background. Your
computer has told you that it’s done some pretty hefty damage to Sector 5 and you
know it’s a pretty big monster and that it’s now out there in the game world for
you to bump into. You’ve no idea when or even if this will happen but most encounters with creatures in the games so far have ended with them being consumed
by the X, something your computer constantly reminds you of is a very bad
thing. As you progress trying to find it, you’ll
see rooms with massive amounts of damage, doors that are broken and unusable and
areas flooded with water. You finally discover a way to your target zone and
descend into the junk room. As it rises out the junk, lit from underneath and
with a purple glow, immediately you know this isn’t a normal boss battle. There’s
only a few bosses in this game with their own battle music and this one is
certainly unusual. Slowly rising in a ostinato manner, creeping up.
There’s nothing exciting or powerful about this music and it’s designed to
throw you off balance and trip you up. Visually there’s that horrible mask with
dripping eyes, those undulating, dangerous arms and Nightmares overall weird
ability to warp gravity, literally throwing you off balance, sending the
fight into a psychedelic frenzy. Once you’ve hit it enough times its mask
breaks off, revealing this hideous looking mess underneath, with a gaping
mouth, dripping face and six eyes, and as the fight goes on, the face melts further
and further and further.. Nightmare moves forwards slowly, creeping
towards you, forcing you to quickly find a way to cause it damage before it
crushes you. Remember the door and figure scenario I said at the beginning?
Nightmare is the ‘subjective fear’ while the thought of being crushed by this
monstrosity is the ‘objective tension’. The fight is won, you get the gravity
suit and on you go. Tension broken by relief.
I love Nightmare, it’s built up so well. Clumsily handled in Other M but we’ll
get that in another video. Okay and finally my favourite atmosphere
arc is how your nightmarish evil doppelganger SA-X is introduced and
handled throughout the game. The breadcrumbs are laid so early and some
don’t even fully pay off until the end of the game. It starts right at the
beginning with this mysterious explosion you don’t know what caused it but you
never expect to find out. When you go down the elevator to the other sections
the camera doesn’t follow you, then there’s that huge explosion with those
cold footsteps, and it looks at the camera with cold,
dead eyes and that screeching noise. Then proceeds to destroy the door ahead and it
continues to cause damage off-screen. Your computer doesn’t know what it is
and that’s all you hear for a short while until it presents the information
it finds with a jump-scare. And it tells you to run if you ever encounter it. It tells you to run! I mean yeah that’s already pretty tense
knowing that this could happen at any point from now on and there’s nothing
you can do to damage it. Then you get the bomb data and there’s
an explosion, those footsteps and the door has been destroyed. Yeah you know
who it is, I mean man you haven’t even encountered the SA-X
yet but you already wish it never existed. A little later you’ll come back to a door you’ve been through and it’s also
been destroyed. As you work your way through, you’ll drop into this darkened
area lit up only by …the SA X. Those scary footsteps are back, now accompanied by
low strings and a heartbeat kind of sound. Remember that nameless fear in your heart? Breathe a sigh of relief, you won’t
encounter the SA-X for a bit. Okay so let’s recap so far; we’ve got an
unexplained explosion, an unknown agent who looks like you destroying doors, and
your first powerless encounter. It next makes this appearance at this little
scene where you’re forced to go into a tunnel. It uses the power bomb and then
you’re totally exposed. Played right, you can stay put and avoid it but play it
wrong and it will give chase and you’ll have to act quickly to avoid death.
You’ll encounter the SA-X like this a few more times with similar results, with you
growing in strength but still unable to cause any damage, requiring you to run
each time, and the encounter is always unexpected. This one right here after
finding the reactor core is particularly notable because you’re dropped straight
into its room and it will give chase and you will have to run and you will have
to open doors when it’s chasing you down. You’ll eventually find it attempting to
destroy a bunch of secret Metroids before being destroyed itself and then
learning that there are in fact a number of SA-Xs aboard the ship, meaning each
one you encountered might likely have been a new one each time. This whole arc
ends with you facing off with one final SA-X right before you set the station on
a fatal course with the nearby planet. In a final twist, the core from an SA-X is
what saves you in a final fight. This breadcrumb design can be found in loads
of places in the game like with Serris and the discovery of its remains, the
choked-up reactor, the mysterious bird statue,
Ridley’s remains and the Metroid husks just to name a few. There’s many things
this game does well, I mean the sound design alone does a lot of heavy lifting
and the enemy design is just great, but personally these are the things that I
believe give the game is brilliantly rich atmosphere. These sorts of things
in retrospect are present in Metroid 2 and Super Metroid in minor ways, such as
the discovery of the shattered infant Metroid case in Ridley’s lair and
finding empty Metroid shells in Metroid 2, but this breadcrumb and tension design
I feel is pretty much the identity of Metroid Fusion. I look forward to
breaking down some of the techniques Metroid Prime uses in completely
drawing you into its atmosphere in the next video, tentative release date of
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100 thoughts to “How Metroid Fusion Creates Fear”

  1. This is an awesome breakdown! I'm working on a video right now about horror in 2D sidescrollers, and I've been planning to mention Fusion; along with Axiom Verge and Overwhelm.

  2. Fusion was my introduction to the franchise, and that was one heck of a way to start! It still has some of the creepiest music and sound design I've ever heard in a game; it just really gets under your skin. I love the Prime trilogy, but I think we've yet to see a new Metroid game's atmosphere as eerie and unsettling as Fusion's.

  3. I never thought Metroid Fusion was scary in music however I did find it creepy whenever I got chased by the SAX because that creature would kill you with 1 or 2 Hits in the game

  4. Fantastic video!!
    I absolutely LOVE Metroid Fusion and your analysis is spot on! I think the game is just exceptionally well written.

  5. thanks to that philosophy about Metroid game themes I like to imagine
    Metroid 1: Adventure
    Metroid 2: Isolation
    Super Metroid: Triumph
    Metroid Fusion: Mystery

    Now for my own take?

    Metroid Zero Mission: Memories
    Metroid Prime: Far Bigger Adventure, or even suspense thanks to the build up of phazon via the Chozo Lore and its impact on the rest of the Prime series.
    Metroid Prime 2: Duality
    Metroid Prime 3: Loneliness
    Metroid Other M: Inhibition and restraint.

  6. metroid fusion vs super metroid by my gameplay of the games
    metroid fusion full of mystery
    super metroid full of rage

    metroid fusion
    me:so i just go there
    super metroid
    me:where do i freaking go

    metroid fusion
    me:i'm stuck sometime later i'm stuck again sometime later again finally it's the endgame
    super metroid
    me:i'm just 10 minutes in the game and i'm already stuck later cmon i'm stuck again much later
    what in the world!!! ahh stuck…again much much later what the why am i stuck god later let me have a 6 month break with this game geez

  7. 9:45 this is giving me Bendy and The Ink Machine vibes when Ink Bendy appears as an Undefeatable enemy in chapter three and mid-Chapter 5

  8. If theres a remake but not the same developer.
    Just call, the person

    [id] software. The creator of the DOOM franchise

  9. Yeah we definitely need a Metroid 5 game. However, it will need to excel in more ways than "Fusion" ever did. Like maybe having it in first person mode like from the Prime games. But what would you guys like in the next Metroid 5 game?

  10. At 1:58 why did the computer say “nah, mate”? I thought Adam was supposed to say “No I don’t think so” there.

  11. One of my dream games is a Metroid Fusion remake but with Metroid Prime-style 1st person shooter gameplay and an M rating

    It's a dream game for a reason but it would be excellent if it really got made

  12. the saddest thing is i played metroid fusion when i was 7 and i didnt understand the game so i didnt feel the fear and tension wich is sad cuz i didnt have that much joy when playing it i wish i could play it when i was little older now i dont feel the fear ether cuz i already played the game

  13. The only reason samus has become bounty hunter is because of revenge of his mother Virginia Aran, rodney killed himself with a explosion that is sad, after all that begin your mission to kill Ridley and everything going wrong and the story are more and more weird after all that happen

  14. I would kill for a brand new 2d or 2.5d Metroid adventure in the mold of Super Metroid/Zero Mission/Fusion. AM2R was a great title as well. Samus returns was meh.

  15. Metroid Fusion is seriously an underrated game. People wanna talk about Dark Samus but SA-X is the most frightening OP Metroid villain in the entire series. After playing Super Metroid knowing all of Samus's abilities after playing made her the most frightening.

  16. The only thing I don't like about the game is Adam's memory computer telling Samus where to go next.

  17. Metroid fusion me encanta,es como un dead space,una estacion espacial infectada de anomalias alienigena causando horripilantes desastres en todos los rincones,le da ese buen toque de survival horror al juego con muy buenas ganas.

  18. Very good video, however you glanced over how the SA-Xs' design creates greater dread and fear in people who've beaten other metriod games (particularly super metriod) because of it's familiarity to the people who beat super metriod as they'd most likely remember how unbelievably strong samus was by the end

  19. While Fusion isn't quite like the other Metroid games, it still captures the series' tone beautifully.

    I do wonder. . . .he got blown up in Super Metroid, basically posseses a clone Ridley in Other M…which has him get frozen at the end, and then gets taken over by the parasite and freezes again.

    HOW DID HE BLOODY RETURN IN SUPER SMASH BROS ULTIMATE

    RIDLEY IS EVEN MORE SCARY CONSIDERING THIS

  20. i know this video is old, im just gonna say this. i’ve played metroid fusion MULTIPLE TIMES. like up to the sax fight and i gotta say, it gets boring after a while. if i ever learn how to code, im definitely making metroid fusion even more terrifying. thanks for listenging to sone cringey 11 year old

  21. I don't care if people hate on Fusion for being linear, it's the second best game in the franchise purely because it had the most influence from Alien. Metroid was inspired by Alien, so it was about time we got some horror elements.

  22. Yeah im late and all. But damn this video flew by quickly! I was just watching and all of a sudden it had ended! I knew it was 13 minutes but it felt like 5 ! Very good vid!

  23. I thought the SA-X got a lot less scary when it turned into a big oozy monster. That’s very effective design. By the time it gets to that form, you’ve got your power back and are ready to destroy this imposter.

  24. I remember that feeling of panic the music was always just a boost . But I also remember beating the spider and not knowing how to get out lol I love gb Metroid

  25. Tension is your body getting redy for an impending challange. Fear is tension that is debilitating.

  26. Metroid Fusion is probably the saddest Metroid ever released. It literally copy-pasted everything from Super Metroid just to please the new generation, even the final boss event and pretty much everything else was just a total copy of the real thing.

  27. I never felt fear so much as I did helplessness. Nothing could harm it. So all I could do was hide. Traps laid out were breezed through like they were nothing.

  28. Can we all agree that for everything Other M got wrong, it managed to make Nightmare shit your pants off terrifying even if you know the twist of its mask? Because fuck that.

  29. Thank you for this I never thought about this being a SUSPENSE game like that, though I will admit the first time I played this i just about pissed my pants every time I had to come face to face with SA-X or as I call it "Copy Samus" I gave it that name through my years of playing Megaman Zero, Copy X on there and then I play Metroid 4 and it's Copy Samus there, I'm gonna replay the game through with reading the story again, Metroid 4 is the first Metroid game I actually ever beat (second is 2) and wow I'm one that loves these games.

  30. Ya want fear? Finding a little ball in the corner when your young that explodes into spiders when you touch it.

  31. Great video!
    I remember playing Fusion first when I was about 12. I was so "scared" of the SA-X, I couldn't finish the first direct confrontation with it. I finished it about 1 year after that.

    Now (12 years later) whenever I start a replay I obviously am not scared anymore, but I still feel my heartbeat rise when I am at the special scene.

    Btw first time nightmare appeared I actually dropped my Gameboy 😀

  32. Metroid 1: Here is a new planet Samus. Get a power suit and pen and paper to draw maps. Also, fuck you.
    Metroid 2: You are 65% of the screen size. Here is also Spider-ball, the best invention since fire. Also, fuck you, a bit.
    Super Metroid: Do what you want. This is your planet. Shinespark our shit up, we love you. Thanks for spending your precious time to play our electronic game. (You can actually fly with Shinespark)
    Metroid Fusion: Welcome to our show. Don't get TOO spooked ;).

  33. Hola! I'm a spanish comment 🙂

    Es realmente satisfactorio saber que tu canal tiene subtítulos en español. Tus videos son muy buenos! No me queda nada más que agradecerte, por pensar en tu audiencia más pequeña 😀

  34. Well said! I know I always prayed that SA-X wouldn't get me before I was ready. It and Nightmare scared the living daylights out of me.

  35. I remember playing this back in the day and there was one part where you are in a small corridor above a larger one and the other you walks through below. My heart was pounding. The only game to ever do that, something i will never forget. I love this game, it holds a very special place in my heart for that memory.

  36. I never really felt fear ever in that game, but thats not to say suddenly being chased by myself didn't make my heart beat. Why? You are facing against your own agility, fuck up once, and you're over. All it takes is one bad break. One of the things I loved (but equally hated it for. I never thought I'd have to be running from something)

  37. Well, yes, but then you remember how easy is to mess up with the SA-X and his faulty AI and all sense of dread is gone

  38. I remember coming over to my friend's place and just watching over his shoulder as he played. Every now and then we'd both realize we had forgotten to breath and then suddenly there was SA-X and we'd be freaking out trying to get away or stay hidden.

  39. Love that game.. As a 8 yo, i shat my pants everytime SA-X walked around 😀 But i loved the ending..
    Theres something special about villains helping you out in the end.
    Another creepy moment that gave me similar vibes, is the Siberian Level Intro of Timesplitters 2.

  40. Idk, maybe making me being chased by a freaking unstoppable and powerful being that if it sees me it means I'm freaking dead?

  41. That bit at 4:00, that was the idea that started this video wasn't it?
    Turning it into fusion once they combined was a real stroke of genius. Legitimately, that was one of the most clever things I've seen on YouTube.

  42. This game had the best soundtracks, good pixel art, good creativity in the learning pathway for players. Love this game so much.

  43. Man watching this again made me want a 2.5d HD switch remake with dynamic lighting and body-horror/gore cranked to 11.
    Like a 2-D DOOM 3 or Dead Space

  44. Need fusion in a 3D remake as bad as I need air to breathe, I hope they do it, I mean metroid 2 was remade and it was amazing

  45. I always loved the chase theme for SA X and the theme for the final battle. That other boss wasn't scary for me but the screaming of Ridley got some chill to it.

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