I’ve been a fan of the Sonic franchise for almost my entire life. Over the years, I’ve seen Sonic’s ups, downs, and all-arounds, either first-hand or from a safe distance. The franchise’s difficulties with maintaining relevance in the modern day have produced an incredible amount of debate as to what works and what doesn’t work for Sonic games. Fans have argued over every aspect of the series: game mechanics, storytelling, character redesigns, and so on.
One particularly controversial figure in the Sonic series is Shadow the Hedgehog. Shadow is simultaneously a fan-favorite character, often ranking in the top five in popularity polls, and a symbol of everything wrong with the series post Dreamcast era, with many fans citing him as an egregiously clichéd “bad Sonic”.
So is Shadow a bad character? Is he just a cheap and cliched “anti-Sonic” or does he bring something of his own to the series? Let’s take a closer look are the Sonic franchise’s resident antihero to find out.
While I will admit there are many legitimate issues one can take with Shadow’s characterization (convoluted, self-contradicting back-story; inconsistent characterization; the entirety of Shadow the Hedgehog, etc.), when it comes to the question of whether or not Shadow is a walking cliché, I think the issue isn’t as open and shut as many like to make it out to be. Read more How Cliched is Shadow the Hedgehog? ›
WARNING:The following blog post contains spoilers for Metroid: Other Mand Metroid Fusion.
It’s tough being a Metroid fan. After a promising start, the series goes on hiatus for nearly a decade. Then after a resurgence and several great additions to the franchise, Metroid: Other M comes out and sends everyone into a tizzy. Cue another hiatus, and then after years of waiting, Nintendo finally announces a new entry into the series…and everyone loses it all over again. I don’t particularly like controversies, they have an odd propensity to throw gentlemanly discourse out the window and reduce (presumably) otherwise intelligent individuals to their embarrassingly base, vitriolic nature. That said, there is an issue regarding Metroid: Other M that seems to have slipped through the cracks, and with the aesthetically controversial Metriod Prime: Federation Force releasing this August, I think now would be a good time to get it off my chest and discuss what I think Metroid: Other M‘s real flaw is.
People have criticized Other M for a variety of things: potentially sexist undertones, awkward non-analog controls, Samus’s emotionless voice acting, etc. I, however, either didn’t notice or didn’t mind most of the commonly cited issues when I first played the game. No, there was something else. Something I couldn’t ignore. Something that kept scratching at the back of my mind in the same annoying fashion a house cat lazily paws at its sleeping owner’s face. Something that is never brought up when discussing the game’s flaws. Something that kept running through my moderately attractive head every time I played the game: I’ve seen this before.
To put it bluntly, Metroid: Other M is a rehash of Metroid Fusion.
No seriously, there are just too many similarities. Oddly enough, despite all of the discussion the game has (shine) sparked, no one ever discusses the Goyagma in the room and mentions how suspiciously similar the two games are, even when they’re listing reasons they don’t think the game is good. The only time I’ve seen it brought up was a forum post made shortly after the game was released, and that was quickly dismissed by the site’s other members. So let’s switch to our scan visors and take a closer look.
Both games are set shortly after the masterpiece that is Super Metroid. The similarities between settings are more than chronological, however.
In Fusion, the game starts with our girl Sammy escorting a team of xeno-biologists on a mission to survey the metroid home-world, SR-388. After mercilessly blasting a hornoad that could’ve made for a valuable specimen, the creature reveals itself to be an X-parasite in disguise. Samus is infected, hospitalized, and eventually saved by a vaccine made from a DNA sample from the now dead last metroid. Deciding not to question the medical team’s severe misuse of the term vaccine, Samus immediately gets back to work and heads out on her next mission: to investigate a distress signal coming from the BSL (Biological Space Laboratories) Research Station.
The BSL Research Station is a space station-based research facility designed with the study of alien lifeforms in mind. It is equipped with top-of-the-line containment facilities that recreate the environments of the creatures that live in them. Each of these areas are referred to as sectors, are numbered one through six, and recreate a different biome (SR-388, jungle, desert/volcanic, aquatic, ice, and nocturnal).
Other M opens with Samus in a Federation quarantine bay being attended to by Federation medics after her harrowing escape at the end of Super Metroid. After a dry internal monologue and debriefing, Samus is off on her own to…I don’t know, hunt bounties? Anyway, she picks up a “baby’s cry” distress signal and—being the mercenary bounty-hunter that she is—goes to assist with no promise of financial compensation what-so-ever.
Upon arriving at the source of the transmission, Samus finds herself at the Bottle Ship. The Bottle Ship is a space station-based research facility designed with the study of alien lifeforms in mind. It is equipped with top-of-the-line containment facilities that recreate the environments of the creatures that live in them. Each of these areas are referred to as sectors, are numbered one through three, and recreate a different biome (jungle, volcanic, and ice). Sound familiar?
[They are] equipped with top-of-the-line containment facilities that recreate the environments of the creatures that live in them. Each of these areas are referred to as sectors, are numbered […], and recreate a different biome.
To top it all off, even the chamber from which the sectors are accessed are the same: a large room situated below the crew quarters and command center with color coordinated elevators.
Both games also have similar antagonists. Anyone who’s played Fusion can tell you about the paranoia inducing terror that is SA-X. Heck, I still sometimes have nightmares about it. For readers who don’t know, SA-X is the X-Parasite’s mimicry of Samus: it has all of her powers, her knowledge, and—most of all—her suit. Throughout the game, it wanders the BSL, constantly attempting to sabotage Samus’s mission. It destroys machinery, doorways, it even tries to induce a meltdown in the station’s reactor. While the being makes a few onscreen appearances, it usually sticks to the shadows. Throughout the game, SA-X is a threat that seems to be around every corner, just out of sight.
Other M has a similar enemy: the Deleter. The Deleter is a mysterious entity that operates in the shadows. He/she/it constantly attempts to thwart Samus and her allies’ efforts to get to the bottom of what went down on the Bottle Ship by sabotaging equipment, jamming communications, and even systematically eliminating Adam Malkovich’s soldiers one-by-one. Trying to identify and stop the Deleter is one of the major plot elements of the game, much like stopping SA-X is in Fusion.
But Other M doesn’t just have similar antagonists to Fusion, it even goes so far as to copy one of Fusion‘s most iconic bosses: Nightmare. Nightmare is a large, gravity-warping bio-weapon that gave Samus the gravity suit in Fusion. Its battle is one of the longest and most difficult in the game, and as to be expected the fight occurs near the end of the game. The boss returns in Other M, and just like in Fusion is fought near the end of the game. The only real difference is that Fusion bothers to build it up as a major threat, while Other M just shoe horns it into the game.
And then there’s Ridley…who’s in almost every game, so he isn’t worth mentioning. Moving on!
Yet another of the similarities between Fusion and Other M is Adam and his role. In Fusion, Samus’s new ship comes with an on board A.I. that she nicknames Adam after a former commanding officer. Adam is Samus’s guide throughout the game, offering objectives and providing suit upgrades. Adam is eventually revealed to be an uploaded personality and is—in fact—the real (artificially simulated) Adam Malkovich. The real (not artificially-simulated) Adam appears in Other M. In that game he points out objectives to Samus and authorizes use of her various suit features, similar to in Fusion.
The two games also both depict him as potentially untrustworthy. Fusion shows that Adam, and the Federation at large, have a hidden agenda that they’re keeping a secret from Samus. This can also be said of Other M, though it is more ambiguously framed. Adam clearly knows more about the situation at hand than Samus, which is a major source of tension in the game’s story. Other M even goes so far as to depict Adam as a candidate for the true identity of the Deleter. All of this conspiracy mumbo-jumbo leads to my final point…
Surprise! It’s Full of Metroids!
Both game’s have a secret, hidden sector. It’s full of metroids. The Federation is cloning them. They want to use them as bio-weapons. The secret part of the space station is jettisoned into space. Samus fights an adult metroid.
Despite what my very critical overview may suggest, I rather enjoyed Metroid: Other M. It certainly had a number of problems, but the end product still had tight controls, good gameplay, and great production values; overall an enjoyable experience. Unfortunately, as a prequel to Fusion, it’s an abysmal mess that introduces many, many plot-holes. I’d go so far to say it serves as a cautionary tale of how not to do a prequel. All of the similarities make Samus’s reaction to the events of Fusion completely unbelievable. She acts like it’s her first time stumbling across a secret metroid cloning project, or dealing with an enigmatic saboteur, or fighting Nightmare! It’s almost as if Other M was an attempt to rewrite Fusion in hopes of removing the latter from the series continuity like a lab full of metroids from a space-station. But I’ll admit, that’s a bit of a stretch. It’s not like the Big N is some sort of large, secretive collective that would conspire to do something like repeatedly clone Metroids to further their own ends, right?
Glen is a lifelong Nintendo fan whose first foray into the Metroid Franchise was Metroid Fusion. His love of video games has inspired him to pursue a career in computer programming and is currently studying to get a masters in computer science. And yes, he really does sometimes have nightmares about SA-X.