MFOR - Metroid Fusion Open Randomizer
Review by Mike Finkelstein
by definition randomizers randomize games. They take what's already in the game and move it around, be it items or enemies or what have you. They help to create a new experience even as you trudge through familiar hallways and areas. When you've played the vanilla game enough times that you have it all down in your memory, a randomizer can reveal things you never even realized about the game in new and intriguing ways. That is the power, and beauty, of the form.
Thing is, though, that randomizers have to work with the existing code of the game, and despite how much they can change up often they're limited buy the vary construction of the world being explored. When you venture through a randomizer version of the original Metroid or Metroid II: Return of Samus you still have to follow the bounds of the game. You can't get anywhere in Samus's first ever visit to Zebes if you don't get the Morph Ball; you can't do anything in Metroid II until you kill a few metroids, and you need the requisite items to do so. You can only randomize so much when a linear game has a set path.
It's interesting, then, when what seems like a linear game is opened up wide by a randomizer. When it was released one of the great complaints about Metroid Fusion was that it was too linear, a very "on rails" experience due to the construction of the world and the story bound around it. The third game in the series, Super Metroid, was pretty open to interpretation with the programmers adding in a lot you could do with the heroine to find you own path through the game. They changed that up in Fusion, thus making the vanilla experience much more controlled. Fun, but linear. The randomizer, though, changes that completely.
Due to the way Fusion is built, with six zones available right from the hub world of the space station, it's possible for the randomizer to grant you a ton of different paths through the world. Get the right starting items and you could be able to venture into Sector 2 from the start, or maybe take a dip into Sectors 3 or 4. Each area could have hidden major items (aka, "majors"), the special key abilities Samus needs to continue exploring her world. You won't know your path through the game, or even what the logic is dictating, until you go exploring just to see what's available.
This can make for an amazing experience. I've seen a ton of seeds in this randomizer and it really does feel like each adventure is unique. It's not just that you have a few minor split paths to explore before the linear game takes back over. No, here you really could be sent on any one of a number of directions each time, with a variety of places the game may expect you to explore, never knowing where that next major could be. It takes what was a very linear game and makes it into one of the most open world Metroid experiences you could get.
Of course, that also comes with the caveat that you better know the game well if you're going to get through in in a couple of hours. It's not that the randomizer is unforgiving more that there are a lot of nooks and crannies in the game (because it is a Metroid game) and you'll have to explore them all if you want to find all the key items you need to get to the end game. Memorizing the layout of Metroid Fusion is all but required if you want to clock a fast time in the randomizer.
That being said, you can make the experience easier or harder on yourself as you like The randomizer comes with a ton of options, not the least of which is the ability to set the game to one of five different levels of difficulty logic Want to be expected to know all the hardest tricks in the game and then have the randomizer put key majors behind those locations? Crank the difficulty up to five and give yourself a punishing experience. Or you can crank it down to one and get through the game on casual, base knowledge that doesn't require any advanced techniques. Depending on your skill and knowledge the randomizer can be customized, to a certain extent, to let you play your way.
Or just turn off logic and go in for chaos. There are ways to break yourself out of bounds, perform tricks you shouldn't, and get to zones you just shouldn't be in with the load-out you have. You can set the randomizer to ignore logic and make you work for it, but you better have the skill to pull all that off. Punishing doesn't even begin to describe the experience you're in for if you turn all all the aids completely.
Still, the fact that all of this is possible from the core experience of Metroid Fusion is simply astounding. The randomizer shows the true design elegance of the game, how all the pieces can be put together and rearranged to create a new shuffled experience each time. Sure, the game only randomizes item placement and doesn't change up enemy or boss locations, but at the same time those enemies and bosses are key to their areas (and using them to get you through passages is often key). The randomizer knows what needs to be done and is built to give you the experience you're looking for the right way.
Plus, it's just nice to be able to go back into Metroid Fusion and see the true beauty of the game. This is a title that didn't get quite the love it deserved back in the day but, through the randomizer, is having something of a renaissance. It's a solid title and a worth successor to Super Metroid, especially with a randomizer to truly show off its strengths. So give the game a whir land see what MFOR truly has to offer.