Loneliness. Despair. Survival. From the ruins of planet Zebes to the unfriendly wilderness of SR388, these terms permeate Samus Aran’s adventures through the cosmos. Between battling Space Pirates and eradicating the treacherous Metroid from existence, Samus’ journey to becoming the ultimate warrior has been fraught with peril. Join us as we continue her story with her first outing in the third dimension – Metroid Prime.
With the recent release of Metroid: Samus Returns, and Metroid Prime 4 on the distant horizon, The Game Fanatics have decided to dig deep into the narrative of the Metroid series. With a little research and a lot of gaming, we’ve discovered a rich backstory filled with mystery and lore. And if you’re interested in reading about the Metroid series’ unique and tumultuous release history, look no further.
Catch up on the first part of our chronological excavation of the Metroid series. Here we examined the canonical Metroid manga to learn exactly where our orange-suited heroine came from. Or take a look at the second part, where we continued her story with the original Metroid, and examined the epilogue and differences presented in its remake, Zero Mission.
Here, we look into the narrative and lore present in Metroid Prime for the Game Cube. It’s story both builds off of what came before, and creates the basis for the rest of the Metroid Prime subseries.
Samus on a Mission
Release: November 17, 2002 (NA)
February 23, 2003 (JP)
Console: Nintendo GameCube
Director: Mark Pacini
Producers: Shigeru Miyamoto, Kensuke Tanabe, et al.
Studio: Retro Studios
Three years after the events of the original Metroid and Metroid: Zero Mission, Samus is a fully fledged, highly respected bounty hunter. She’s journeying through solar system FS-176, fully equipped with the gear she had obtained on Zebes, while tracking down a hunt. FS-176 is the same system that houses Zebes, the Chozo planet she grew up on and returned to in an attempt to eradicate Mother Brain and the known Metroid from existence. It’s here that she unexpectedly receives a distress signal from a Space Pirate research vessel called the Frigate Orpheon.
The Orpheon was one of the few Space Pirate ships to escape destruction three years prior when Samus initiated the self-destruct sequence on Mother Brain’s base within Tourian. It also managed to remain intact after Samus destroyed the Space Pirate mother ship shortly thereafter.
The Introduction of Phazon
On The Orpheon, Space Pirate scientists were experimenting on creatures from the planet below, Tallon IV. They were using a substance called Phazon, a radioactive, highly volatile material rife with mutagenic potential. It causes docile creatures to become violent, often forcing them to develop additional limbs and mandibles. More often than not, creatures exposed to Phazon increase in size exponentially. The substance was foreign to Samus, but it became clear that its source was from Tallon IV below.
The Orpheon was also the base of operations for restoring the thought-to-be-dead Ridley. After his defeat on Zebes, Space Pirates recovered Ridley’s body and began making cybernetic enhancements in order to keep him alive and increase his destructive capabilities. Thus he became Meta Ridley, a being determined to return the Space Pirates to their former glory. And, perhaps more intently, to destroy Samus.
When she reaches The Orpheon, Samus finds corpses of Space Pirates strewn about the halls. Covered in bites, puncture wounds, and blunt-force points of impact, the Space Pirates had been killed by the very creatures they had subjected to Phazon mutation. The prime culprits for the destruction are the Parasite Queens. They are common parasitic creatures from Tallon IV that had been mutated into massive, acid-spitting beasts. Two had been dispatched by the Space Pirates, but one remains in her chamber above the ship’s reactor core. Samus takes out the final Parasite Queen, forcing it to fall into the core below, initiating a self-destruct sequence.
Onward to Tallon IV
As Samus evacuates The Orpheon, Meta Ridley reveals himself. But he soon flees amidst its impending doom. A blast from the destruction knocks Samus into a wall, removing her Varia Suit and many of its upgrades. When she reaches her ship, she immediately follows Meta Ridley towards the surface of Tallon IV. The Orpheon itself drops through Tallon IV’s atmosphere and crash lands in a waterlogged region.
Though parts of Tallon IV remain beautiful and lush with vegetation, it soon becomes clear that Phazon has infected the planet. Parasites, beasts, vegetation, and more have all mutated into violent creatures, ready to attack Samus on sight. As she journeys through the planet’s various ecosystems, Samus quickly discovers that Tallon IV was once inhabited by a race of Chozo separate from those who raised her on the nearby planet Zebes. These Chozo were highly in tune with nature and spirituality, but had suffered an apocalyptic event.
50 years prior to the events of Metroid Prime, a living meteor known as a Leviathan struck the surface of Tallon IV. With it came the introduction of Phazon, hailed as a “great poison” by the Chozo. Inside the Leviathan was a creature they referred to as “The Worm,” and deemed it a threat to the galaxy. The Chozo focused all of their efforts on sealing off the impact crater site of the Leviathan by creating The Cradle. This structure housed 12 totems that acted as locks. These could only be opened when 12 corresponding artifacts spread throughout Tallon IV were gathered by a chosen hero.
A Prophecy Fulfilled
Though the various races of Chozo had colonized numerous planets, they all held a similar prophecy regarding the Leviathan, Phazon, and Samus. They knew a “Worm” would bring with it the “Great Poison,” but did not know when it would strike or how severe its effects would be. They also knew that, quite some time after the Leviathan’s impact, the Chozo of Zebes had taken in an orphaned human girl.
Their prophecies foretold of a defender that would come to destroy the great evil wrought upon Tallon IV. They described her as a hatchling, a newborn, “walking the path of corruption, a lone figure shining in the toxic shadows. She comes dressed for war, and her wrath is terrible… does she approach even now, arriving in our race’s last hour, a savior clothed in machines crafted long ago by Chozo hands?” This savior, of course, is none other than Samus Aran.
A New Mission
With her mission slowly unveiling itself, Samus journeys across Tallon IV to gather the 12 artifacts and destroy the “Worm” encased within the Leviathan. Because the planet was once inhabited by the Chozo, upgrades to her Chozo-designed suit are scattered across its diverse landscapes. Though her powers had been stripped from her, Samus regains her morph ball, missiles, charge beam, and more as she fights through the Phazon-infected creatures across Tallon IV.
Common creatures from Tallon IV transformed and became dangerous from the Phazon. But larger beasts became downright destructive under the Phazon’s influence. Flaahgra, which was once a sacred plant to Chozo, morphed into a monstrous being that poisoned Tallon IV’s waters. A fully grown Sheegoth, with its massive ice crystal back plate, defends the frozen Phendrana Drifts. And Thardus, a result of the Space Pirate initiative “Project Titan,” was a rock beast imbued with the powers of Phazon.
Space Pirate Meddling
The dark transformation of land and beast throughout Tallon IV proves a challenge for Samus. But it’s the Space Pirates that begin to pose an even more serious threat. Though the Orpheon crash landed and became mostly submerged on Tallon IV, many space Pirates survived the fall, and many others had been working in the Phazon Mines prior to Samus’ arrival.
After traversing through the Orpheon’s wreckage, Samus finds herself in the Phazon Mines. This is the central location where the Space Pirates began to operate on Tallon IV. There, she discovers that the Space Pirates had not only been testing Phazon on local lifeforms, but they have also been testing it on themselves. They referred to these tests to genetically enhance their own DNA as part of “Project Helix.” Most notably, they transformed certain eligible Space Pirates into Elite or Omega forms.
Elite Pirates have enhanced strength, aggression, and wield plasma artillery cannons. Omega Pirates grow to enormous sizes, wield two cannons, and can absorb life force from pools of Phazon. They were potentially going to replace the common Space Pirate, but their incredibly short lifespans and susceptibility to the maddening “Phazon fever” kept the Space Pirates from fully committing to the project.
Lower level Space Pirates were also given modifications based on Samus’ weapons. These modifications were mostly successful, though some failed miserably. For example, four Space Pirates were mangled in attempts to adapt their armor to operate in a morph ball form.
But the most concerning Phazon tests the Space Pirates undertook were on a relatively small batch of Metroids.
The Return of Metroid
The Space Pirates kept hold of a few of the parasitic creatures from before the fall of Zebes and managed to breed them exponentially using gamma radiation. These Metroid naturally feed off the evil energy within the Phazon and become more powerful than ever.
Similar to the Metroid Samus dealt with on Zebes, these “Tallon Metroid” are vulnerable to cold environments and ice-powered weaponry. However, they seem to have built up a mild resistance to this Achilles heel. The Space Pirates attempted to keep them contained to the frozen corners of the Phendrana Rifts. However, multiple instances of outbreaks occurred during their experiments. These primarily focused on introducing Phazon to their modest Metroid population. In turn, fascinating, dangerous permutations of Metroid emerged.
The Hunter Metroid, a red-tinged adolescent Metroid, is capable of lashing out at long distances with extended tentacles. Fission Metroid, on the other hand, are nearly identical to standard Tallon Metroid, except they can appear to be yellow, purple, white, or red. These colors are susceptible to specific weapons Samus can wield, and are immune to certain others. Upon destruction, a Fission Metroid will split into two, randomly colored Metroid for Samus to fend off.
With great effort, Samus obtains all 12 Chozo artifact keys and gains access to a Phazon-resistant suit. After dealing with with dozens of Space Pirates, Phazon imbued creatures, and mutated Metroid, she is able to unlock the seal on The Cradle. But nothing’s ever that simple for our orange clad heroine.
Meta Ridley finally comes out of hiding and attacks Samus. Though she once feared her nemesis, she has become accustomed to dispatching Ridley. Even with the ability to shoot energy beams from his mouth, he is no match for her weapons. Before his defeat, he destroys the 12 totems. However, ghosts of the Chozo come to Samus’ aid and push him off The Cradle and into an abyss. They then grant her access to the Leviathan without the totems present.
Metroid Prime Appears
Filled with exceptionally potent Phazon and advanced forms of Fission Metroid, the Leviathan proves to be an incredibly dangrous zone to traverse. However, the most dangerous part of the area rests at its core – the Metroid Prime.
Though unconfirmed, it’s highly likely that an escaped Metroid from the Space Pirate’s experiments managed to find its way through The Cradle and the cyphers placed by the Chozo to enter the Leviathan. Filled with raw Phazon, this Metroid fed off the dark substance for months. It grew stronger and more grotesque far more rapidly than any Metroid before it. The Space Pirates detected that an energy source was growing exponentially within the Leviathan. But they had no idea that a Metroid was responsible.
Samus is the first person to ever come in contact with the Metroid Prime. In its exoskeletal state, it’s a massive, crab-like beast. It constantly changes its strengths and weaknesses as it combats Samus. It continuously burrows deeper and deeper into the Leviathan as Samus manages to gain the upper hand in battle. Once it reaches the depths of the crater, Samus destroys its exoskeleton and reveals the core of the Metroid Prime.
This core form resembles a massive Hunter Metroid. It has a translucent body, with a red cranium and six glowing tentacles. It continuously spawns various strains of Metroid throughout the battle. Each time it does this, it creates a pool of pure Phazon in its wake. Using her Phazon suit, Samus can stand in these pools and enter hyper mode. In this state, she fires a high-powered beam capable of causing considerable harm to the Metroid Prime.
Metroid Prime Reborn
The beast eventually succumbs to Samus’ prowess, and destabilizes into a primordial goo of Phazon. Though it appears that the Metroid Prime is completely defeated, in a last ditch effort at survival, it latches onto Samus’ suit. Samus struggles and is separated from her Phazon Suit, leaving her with a downgraded Gravity Suit. Samus quickly escapes from the collapsing crater and manages to land on her bounty hunter ship just in time to witness the complete destruction of the Leviathan. Her mission, it seems, has been completed.
Unbeknownst to Samus, however, the Metroid Prime latched onto the stolen Phazon Suit. It combines its own DNA with the residual DNA of Samus within the suit to rebuild itself, slowly but surely. The two will meet again.
Next Time on The Metroid Story
On the fourth part of our Metroid retrospective, we’ll sift though the plot of Metroid Prime: Hunters for the DS and explain its potential importance to the future of the franchise. We’ll also dig into the intriguing narrative and lore of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Here, Dark Samus makes her true debut, and the true Samus has a whole lot of darkness to sift through.
In the meantime, for all your video game news, reviews, and more, stay tuned to The Game Fanatics.