A Metroid Prime(R) for Parents
By Philip Wesley
Since I have been waiting eight long years for a new game in this series; I suppose I may a bit biased. That is a fair enough warning for you. A lot of parents may be wondering what Metroid "is" and whether they should be concerned if they see it on their children's wish list this year. Metroid Prime and Fusion are in a series of games that started on the NES (Metroid 1), then appeared on the original Game Boy (Metroid 2), and on the Super Nintendo (Metroid 3 AKA Super Metroid). Metroid 2 was re-released before the Game Boy Color came out and was rated K-A and then rated E. Metroid 3 was rated E. The NES Metroid is hidden away in Metroid Prime and is also rated E. Metroid Prime is a First Person Adventure and is rated T for violence. Metroid Fusion is a side-scrolling game rated E for violence.
Metroid Prime is a side story to the series and takes place after the first game.
Metroid Fusion is officially Metroid 4 and is a direct sequel to Metroid 3.
My experience with the Metroid series has been one of awe and I take it very seriously. I am aware of the fact that many parents do not wish to expose their children to violent products and it is out of respect for those parenting ideals that I will be as fair as possible in my summary of the latest two installments in my beloved series.
First, let us meet the major characters in our little space drama.

Faces of the Galaxy
Metroid: A Metroid is an oddly cute alien creature that looks a little like a jellyfish; but with fangs instead of tendrils. According to the story, they were discovered on a planet called SR388 and are very dangerous. Essentially, they latch onto any living thing and drain away it's life energy. This is how they eat and survive. They also evolve into larger, and uglier creatures in a few of the games. One Metroid is capable of wiping out an entire space colony. The only thing that can stop them is extreme cold. Their natural penchant for destruction makes them a prime target for Space Pirates. Metroids appear in every single game in the series.
Space Pirates: A band of evil aliens led by the dragon-like alien Ridley, and a brain in a jar called "The Mother Brain". They captured a Metroid in the first game with the intent to use it for evil. Samus Aran was commissioned by the powers that be to go and retrieve the Metroid and smash the Space Pirates. They fear and despise Samus Aran with a passion. They only appear in Metroid, Metroid Prime, Metroid Fusion, and Super Metroid.
Samus Aran: Our heroine in this game. She is a bounty hunter who grew up among bird aliens called the Chozo and was in the military for a while; before going solo as a bounty hunter after her partner died at the claws of the Space Pirates. She has a power suit that shoots pellet like power beams from her right arm. It can also be upgraded with missiles, stronger beam weapons, and useful items like a grappling beam for swinging Tarzan style along the ceiling. She uses all her abilities to find her way through maze like levels in an effort to keep the galaxy safe. One of her abilities is to roll into a ball and drop little power bombs to blow up walls and and floors in her search for new items and powers. She is in every game.
X: A type of virus that the Metroid feed on. It only shows up in Metroid Fusion... so far.

What are Fusion and Prime about?

Metroid Prime takes place directly after Metroid 1 and involves Samus hunting down Space Pirates that were stationed around Planet Zebes when she was there. She follows them back to a plant named Talon IV and tries to eliminate them once and for all.

Metroid Fusion takes place after Metroid 3 and involves Samus investigating an anomoly on SR388, the home of the Metroids. She is attacked by a parasite called X and barely survives. Thus begins her new adventure which takes her to a Space Station above SR388, investigateing a mysterious explosion.

Spotlight on Potentially Offensive Content with a little bit of redemption..

What is Samus wearing?
One novelty added to the games is that your progress is timed in the game. The faster you beat the game, the better the bragging rights and the ending image of Samus will be different. You see, if it takes you a long time to beat the game, Samus will show up in her armor and give you a thumbs up after the credits roll. If you beat it a little faster, she takes off her helmet and you get to see her face. If you beat it in a record time, usually under two or three hours, her armor dissappears and you get to see what she is wearing under her armor. It's almost always a leotard, or a bathing suit and is never distasteful. In the new Fusion game, she's wearing a black sleeveless top and black shorts. This odd incentive to beat the game quickly may be a little tacky; but it's gotten to be a point among the games fan to see what fashion Samus is wearing in the game. While it was first intended to show that Samus Aran was not a robot or a male; but in fact a female in the first game; it has become a tradition of the series. Back in the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System, most of the big heroes were male. Aside from Ms. Pac-Man, there wasn't any strong female characters. Gunpei Yokoi, the deceased creator of the Metroid series, had a bit of feminist leanings and thought it was time for a strong female lead. Younger male games back then would balk at controlling a female character, and older male gamers would want her to look trashy or idealized. Yokoi didn't want that, so Samus played through the game in her power suit. Only the best gamers would discover that the hero was actually a heroine. His hope was that she would be accepted more if they discovered her identity after playing the game through many times. His idea worked and shocked gamers at the time. In the end, his idea made Samus Aran a very respected symbol of the video game world and a better example of an empowered woman. A much better example than Lara Croft of the Tomb Raider series. I consider it to be a noble idea that has become a slightly silly tradition; but I don't ever want it to change. Besides, Samus has worn black or blue clothing the last few games and I want to see if they'll ever give her something in green or red.
Bad aliens go SPLAT!
The aliens are always big, bad, ugly, and bug-like. Just like bugs, they go splat. Gore has never been a big part of the series and is actually a more recent development. None of the aliens bleed in the games and enemies blow up leaving items behind and not corpses. However, in Metroid Prime.. some of the aliens do indeed go splat and leave little green or purple globs on Samus's visor that go away in less than three seconds. It's not much; but it could be considered offensive and people need to be aware of it. Also, Samus is shooting at things in all her games, be it doors, walls, or enemies.
The Metroid under my bed is drooling...
A few staples of the Metroid series are exploration and tense battles that range from fair to drastically hard. Hard to the point where they could be frustrating or scary for younger children. The levels have a lot of hidden areas and paths, so it is easy to get lost in the game and when you are low on health, it makes the games -especially Prime- a little scary. I remember being a little afraid of the Omega Metroids in Metroid 2. Not because they were ugly; but because they were huge, hard to beat, and there were a lot of them. I remember being grounded after beating the game; because my mom walked by my bedroom door one night and I was talking about the game in my sleep. Which just goes to show how much I was involved in the game. Metroid Prime has it's chilling moments on account of it's first-person perspective and Metroid Fusion has it's own brand of terror in the X infected battle armor: SA-X which is short for Samus X. This thing chases you throughout the game and provides lots of tense battles and moments. Even Nintendo acknowledges that the games are a bit tense, as shown in this exerpt from their press release on the two games.
"Both games feature the eerie solitude and claustrophobic exploration that the original Metroid games demonstrated in the '80s. NINTENDO GAMECUBE owners will confront the varied landscapes of the planet Tallon IV through a novel, first-person visor perspective. Metroid Fusion players must 'fuse' with alien enemies in order to save Samus from a parasite destroying her from within."
Clearly, Nintendo knows the content of their games better than anyone and they are pushing Metroid Prime and Fusion as being something far different from normal action games as exampled by this exerpt.
"Developed by Retro Studios and Nintendo, Metroid Prime is an intense exercise in strategy, exploration and survival."
I guess they forgot to mention a little scary at times?

Aliens, Predators, and Samus Aran.
One potentially bad point for parents is that kids may develop an obsessive curiousity in space aliens from this game and that can lead them to seek out movies like Alien, Predator, Star Ship Troopers, and others which parents may not approve of. Although, this paragraph is stretching it. Extremely few children will read a Harry Potter book and then leap into Salmon Rushdie's The Satanic Verses the next day. Reading Mein Kampf won't make you a Neo Nazi, nor will reading The Bible make you Christian. As long as their children are grounded in reality, parents have nothing to fear.

Isn't Metroid Prime an First Person Shooter?
Metroid Prime is shown from a first person perspective; but that doesn't make it a shooter in the sense of Quake(M), Doom(M), Halo(M), Time Splitters(T), and Goldeneye(T). Some games that employ a first person perspective are entirely not based on shooting. Games such as Microsoft Flight Simulator(E), King's Field(T), Gran Turismo 3(E), and Shenmue 2(M). The perspective is meant to make the game more realistic. Like all the previous games, Samus will do more exploring and puzzle solving than shooting, which sets this game apart from many other similar games. Metroid Prime also lacks a multi-player mode; which is a staple item amongst many of the more violent first person shooters. Nintendo claims the game to be a "First Person Adventure" and is marketing it as such.

Will my kids want it?
Mostly those who have seen and played the demo at Wal-Mart or heard of the series from older kids. Nintendo is keeping Metroid ads out of smaller kids magazines and is aiming the game at the 13 and up demographic. So, chances are that the kids who are also buzzing about Grand Theft Auto: Vice City(M) will also want Metroid Prime(T). For the parent who wants their kids to not be exposed to content they deem objectional, Metroid Prime is definately the one to pick out of those two.
Metroid Fusion is aimed more at kids who want a great action game. The game is a bit hard at points; but is appropriate for children who have fair reading skills, as a lot of the games deep storyline is presented in text. For parents who want a good Game Boy Advance action game for their younger children this holiday season, it's better to pick up the upcoming Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland(E), Super Mario World(E), or Yoshi's Island(E) instead of Metroid Fusion.

And what have we learned?
Metroid Prime(T) and Metroid Fusion(E) are, if you deem them so, not as bad as some of the games out there today and I hope you may consider them as games your (older) children may enjoy as well as yourselves.

-Philip Wesley
-November  18, 2002