Metroid Fusion

Metroid Fusion’s SA-X is the Height of Horror in the Series

The original Metroid took me by surprise with the fear and tension it created. This is far from the only time the series really drew from horror, though. Metroid Fusion, with its deadly copy of Samus, the SA-X, would have my heart rate spiking a few years after my first foray into Zebes. And if I’m being honest, there’s few things in any game that have scared me as bad as my encounters with SA-X. With its raw power and speed, I have rarely been left so shaken as I was playing this game.

Poor Samus had some rotten luck running into that X parasite, didn’t she? This creature bonded with her and her suit, having to be surgically removed to save her life. It worked, but left her in a weakened state. Her suit was sent to be quarantined, but then it…kind of came to life. Then it started roaming around the Biological Space Laboratories research station. Blew up some important things and started causing trouble, all while the X parasite began to spread there. Shame you’re not feeling well after almost dying, Samus, but could you handle that?

Samus at full power is a terrifying thing. I mean, she turns into a buzz saw by jumping. Routinely causes screen-sized explosions. I knew that I was in a weak at the start of the game, but when I first played this, I figured I wouldn’t be dealing with SA-X until the end of the game. Wouldn’t be a big deal by then, right? Fighting your doppelganger as the last boss would be a neat idea, but nothing to be afraid of until the end of Metroid Fusion.

I would soon find out how wrong I was.

The game starts to lay the groundwork for the terrifying power of the SA-X parasite early on. After crossing to a new area through an elevator, something odd happens. Normally, you get a quick transition while taking elevators to a new area, but the camera lingers in the elevator room for some reason. A massive explosion rips through the wall, smoke filling the room. Heavy, clanking footsteps pound from your system speakers as SA-X steps from the torn hole in the steel.

Something about her slow, deliberate walk reminded me of all of the slasher movies I’d watched when I was way too young. She takes a few steps forward, her footfalls pounding in the silence. You know that your character is just down the elevator shaft. If this thing notices the elevator in use, it’ll come for you. You can feel it in that deliberate walk and that demonstration of raw power. Nothing much breaks walls in Metroid Fusion except for SA-X, which gives you an idea of how bad it’ll hurt when she shoots you.

Then, there’s that close up. She looks just like you. Except her eyes have no pupils. Very classic horror movie zoom of the grotesque monster. You get to take her in for only a few more seconds before she blasts a door to pieces, striding through that and away. You can breathe. She didn’t come after you. Still, this encounter set you up to know the sound she’ll make when she’s near, and hinted at the power you’ll deal with. It made me a bit nervous, but again, I thought it was just foreshadowing the last boss. Nothing to really fear yet.

metroid fusion

You encounter SA-X a few more times after this in Metroid Fusion, and this is when I started to wonder if I might have to fight her earlier than the end of the game. You find the aftermath of her explosive power in one hall. She marches down a hallway just below you at one point, her footsteps leading before she steps from the shadows. This time, she comes with this eerie music track that chills the blood. She’s just under your feet. What would happen if you dropped down right now? You’ll find out soon enough. Or right now, if you want to push your luck.

The next time you run into SA-X, she comes marching out a door just overhead. This time, though, she blows the floor apart with a Power Bomb, revealing your hiding spot unless you’re in one of a few safe spots. If you poke your head out, she’ll likely blast it off before you can even react. An ice blast followed by a missile or beam will just tear you to shreds, as will her lethal spin jump (Screw Attack). It is staggering how fast she can take you down, and if you felt like this was all just cinematics for show (like I did), you’ll gain a new appreciation for her power. And a realization that she can mess up your day fast.

Next, she sneaks into a room behind you, the music fading as it’s replaced by her footsteps. If she doesn’t catch you there, the next time you’ll find her is directly in front of you when you drop from a section of breakable floor. In one of these moments, you’ll get to see how quick she is. Nothing in Metroid Fusion can move like her. She’s far faster than you are, and will be spraying you with missiles, beams, and her buzz saw jumps the whole time she chases you. Again, she just demolishes you if she catches you, and the game has put plenty of things in the way to slow you down and make sure she does.

This is a few hours into playing the game, and all of the previous encounters had just seemed like narrative beats. I was nervous to encounter her, but I wasn’t afraid it would actually happen. Then, suddenly, you start blundering into her. She catches you from behind. Attacks when you absolutely aren’t expecting it. And she’d kill me before I even knew what was going on. It’s such a shock when she shows up, and if you can’t get that feeling under control, you’ll be dead. Fast. It throws you into a complete panic when it happens, and all that setup of SA-X’s terrifying power becomes real in seconds.

She’ll keep surprising you throughout Metroid Fusion. Not often, but enough that you start to worry that she could be in any room at any time. Maybe you’ll get a few moments of notice, or maybe she’ll be there when you drop into an area. It winds you up tight. You’re soon constantly expecting to have to run and hide with no notice. You become so tense at the idea of running into her because you’ll die so fast. Even if you know she’s coming, it’s very hard to survive running into her.

The game does a fantastic job of setting SA-X’s presence up, then giving you a deadly monster to truly fear. Few game monsters, horror or otherwise, have been such efficient, fast killers. Few have made my hands shake so hard I had to stop playing (the intimacy of a handheld has its downsides with horror games). Yet again, this series shows that it knows how to create fear well, crafting an unforgettable, terrifying enemy. I hope they can touch on even a fragment of the frightening presence of SA-X with Metroid Dread.