Building Worlds: Samus of Metroid

[Building Worlds is a series where Dan Cox examines one facet in a videogame and shows you how, from that one angle, an entire society is reflected.]

The Weapon

Samus Aran, bounty hunter extraordinaire, is a warrior. She travels in a gunship, wears a Power Suit and is equipped with an arm cannon. She is part of a fictional universe where constant fighting is the only way forward.

Shoot the doors. In order to progress in the universe of the Metroid games, you must shoot the doors. Different entrances require a variety of types of destruction. Energy blasts, missiles and even bombs that eliminate nearly every living thing nearby are used for the simple action of opening a door. Weapons speak, and new paths are revealed.

Samus opens doors. She walks the ruins of the Chozo, an ancient race of bird-like people and her adopted race. She hunts down Space Pirates and other prey. Yet, neither her name nor accomplishments grace the game titles. It is called the Metroid series because Samus is a weapon. She is a product of her universe.

The games Metroid II: Return of Samus and Metroid Fusion tell the story of how a group of Chozo tried to start a colony on a planet, SR388, and discovered a parasite they named X. They found the parasite could replicate the DNA of its host and, through the process of infection, thus absorb their knowledge and powers. Many Chozo die as the X ravages the colony.

Seeing this as a threat the galaxy, as well as themselves, the remaining Chozo create the Metroids, a biological weapon to curtail the X and prevent it from escaping the planet. These creatures, which drain life energy from their victims, soon reduce the X to only a very scattered few. The Metroids, knowing only their appetite, then turn on their creators and begin to attack the Chozo as plans are made to deal with this new problem.

Samus’ path starts in death. Space Pirates raid her colony, kill her parents and leave her for dead. A group of Chozo find Samus and rescue her. They biologically engineer her for greater resistance to harsh environments by combining their own DNA with hers. They train her. They give her the iconic Power Suit and arm cannon. They give her the ability to unlock and use any of their technology. She becomes a weapon.

The fiction behind the Metroid series is much darker than many players realize. The Space Pirates, the ubiquitous enemy of many Metroid games, seek domination through technology and are willing to mutate life to that end. Yet, it is the Chozo, the ancient and enlightened race, that creates the Metroids in the first place and unleashes them on the galaxy. Both groups trying, in their own way, to create bigger and better tools for killing. They each experiment with biological weapons. Even Samus herself is not immune to this. Her body is changed so that she can serve her purpose.

The Doors

Change through force. One weapon against another spawns endless bloodshed. The very doors of countless species in the Metroid universe speak of the simple truth that war is a part of this universe: shooting doors opens them. Destruction allows greater access. Killing one group for another is commonplace. Weapons speak for their wielders.

Samus is defined by her enemy, the Metroids. The game series is not named after her. She is the hero in that she is always against another, greater threat. Across the games, she is sent on missions, given objectives and tasked with destroying one group after another. She is a weapon and she is fluent in the language of her universe: to proceed, shoot.