Following the remakes of the first two Metroid titles, 2004’s Zero Mission and 2017’s Samus Returns, Super Metroid seems like it would be a perfect choice for the third remake, should Nintendo have an interest in pursuing another one after Metroid Dread. After all, it’s the next 2D entry in line for a makeover, and it’s arguably the most iconic and beloved installment in the entire franchise. However, 2002’s Metroid Fusion has some strikingly unusual structure and ideas that Dread subsequently altered and expanded upon, and applying that evolution of design back to Fusion could make for a perfect remake opportunity.
Depending on whether or not you count Metroid: Other M, Metroid Fusion is still the most linear mainline entry in the franchise. The tone of the game almost feels condescending at times, constantly highlighting where Samus needs to go next in order for the player to progress. However, Dread hits a perfect balance of indicating the path of progression without being too overt.
Granted, Dread is also a relatively linear affair throughout its first half; Samus is herded through a variety of different biomes via elevators, trams, and teleporters, constantly amassing new abilities, with a fairly linear intended path to follow (sneaky sequence-breaking tricks aside). But in the second half, the structure becomes more akin to that of Super Metroid, with the player being given ample opportunity to explore and backtrack in a considerably less restricted manner.
Restructuring Metroid Fusion for a remake
The fault with the structure of Metroid Fusion is that it never truly gives the player that luxury of exploration. Even in the late game, old areas become blocked off to ensure the player never gets lost. But by taking Dread’s approach of starting linear and progressively becoming much more open-ended through the natural progression of Samus acquiring upgrades, a Metroid Fusion remake could be transformed into a more classic Metroid experience — without losing its sense of direction.
Metroid Fusion’s linearity seems tied to its implementation of Samus’ AI partner, Adam. He reappears in Metroid Dread and is a bit of a chatterbox in each game, regularly informing Samus of the best course of action, yet in Fusion he feels more like a nagging tour guide than the advisory role he fills in Dread. In Dread, he simply suggests the recommended course of action for Samus, as opposed to in Fusion where he’s a sort of aggravating overseer who arbitrarily locks and unlocks doors without any player input, stripping players of the agency to explore at their own pace. A simple rework to Adam, making him a more subdued companion, would also aid greatly in improving Fusion’s problematic structure.
Of course, a less aggressively restrictive design would mean that the SA-X stalker enemy would need to be overhauled. In Fusion, the X parasite that inhabits Samus’ old suit would occasionally chase the player, but it only happened in a few predetermined sequences. The E.M.M.I robots in Metroid Dread provide more versatile scenarios. They too are nearly indestructible stalker enemies, but they aren’t as predictable. Instead of being confined to a few brief, straightforward chase sequences, each E.M.M.I. has its own sizable part of a biome to freely navigate. The SA-X in Metroid Fusion could be tinkered with to present a similarly more free-roaming danger in a remake. It would still serve the same function of player apprehension in the face of a much more powerful and capable enemy, but with additional splashes of exciting emergent gameplay opportunities.
Current Metroid series developer MercurySteam already has an apparent admiration for the title, as prior to being assigned the task of remaking Metroid II, the Spanish studio initially pitched a Metroid Fusion remake to Nintendo. So, concepts for the project are likely in abundance internally, and traces of Fusion’s DNA are already palpable in Dread. Now that MercurySteam has proven itself more than capable of handling the Metroid IP, allowing the developer to finally take on the project it had initially envisioned seems like it could lead to exciting results.
Metroid Fusion has clearly stood the test of time, garnering a healthy amount of fan appreciation over the years, but to me it’s always felt just a few steps away from reaching its full potential. Playing Metroid Dread, I couldn’t help but think about how it seemed like an evolution of the groundwork that Fusion laid almost two decades prior — and how much greater a remake of Fusion could be with some of its successor’s design iterations.