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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why Metroid Is Nintendo's Best Franchise

Nintendo has quite a stable of franchises. I mean, there's Mario, Kirby, StarFox, Fire Emblem, Zelda, Advance Wars, the list could go on for an entire article. However, there's one franchise that stands above the rest and that is head and shoulders above all others. Since this is Metroid Week at ↓C, I think you can posit which one it is: The Metroid franchise.

The Metroid franchise is special in a couple of different ways. First, the main character is totally unique. While some Nintendo characters can be considered "cute," like Kirby or Pikachu, or even made "cute," like Baby Mario and Young Link, you can't really make a woman in a battle-ready suit of armor "cute." You will never see "Baby Samus" in a Nintendo game.

(Side note: if you ever see Baby Samus in a Nintendo game, feel free to put a bullet through my head. Warn me first.)

In fact, Samus is more than just a walking tank; she's downright vicious. She destroyed almost an entire species (Metroids) because they were too dangerous, which led to another species (the X parasite) being released, so she had to destroy that one too. She's a very intense character, an anomaly in Nintendo terms, and especially for a character that's supposed to be mainstream.

Beyond that, there has never been a truly bad Metroid game. The game that is often referred to (unfairly) as the worst Metroid game is Metroid 2, and even that game has a lot of merit. I'll break that down more tomorrow. Just thinking about it makes me want to play it again.

In fact, each Metroid game is a high water mark for its respective console. You have one of the best games of the Game Boy generation in Metroid 2, you have (arguably) the best game of the Super Nintendo and one of the best games ever in Super Metroid. You have the best GBA game in Metroid Fusion AND one of the best Gamecube games in Metroid Prime. That's not even mentioning the original Metroid, Metroid: Zero Mission, Metroid Prime Hunters, Metroid Pinball, or the rest of the Prime series, all of which are stellar games.

Other franchises may try and stake claim to Nintendo's greatest franchise, but they all falter for one reason or another. Mario gets watered down an awful lot. You used to be able to trust that a game that had Mario's name in the title would be quality, but that's no longer a given. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games took care of that. Other franchises have their own quirks to them: Star Fox is uneven, Kirby isn't a really hardcore franchise, Zelda is repetitive, and Fire Emblem has too narrow of a focus. No other franchise that Nintendo runs has as consistent and clean of a track record. Even when Metroid goes off the reservation, as in games like Metroid Pinball, you can still be assured that it'll play well and you'll have a good time with it.

So, while other franchises may have their own merits, I am totally comfortable naming Metroid Nintendo's Best Franchise. Now would it kill you to release a 2-D Metroid game for the DS? Thanks.