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Samus and the Nintendo 64 Needed Each Other
Nintendo did a tremendous job of featuring its biggest stars on the Nintendo 64. Mario, Yoshi, Kirby, Donkey Kong, Link, and even Pikachu all got at least one game of their own for the system. Pikachu even got a special version of the Nintendo 64. There is someone missing from that list, however. Someone who also needed to be featured and was sadly left out. That someone is Samus Aran, of Metroid fame.
Despite being a popular character choice in Super Smash Bros, there was no other mention of Samus anywhere on the N64. It was as if she didn’t exist. There were no Metroid games at all between 1994 and 2002. During those 8 years, an entire generation of gamers missed out on Samus. The people who were introduced to gaming during the N64 era had no idea who “that guy with the energy balls from Smash Bros” really was. The people who grew up with Samus were left to wonder if they would ever see her again, if they hadn’t forgotten her altogether by the time Metroid Fusion and Metroid Prime came out. At best that was sad, at worst it was a crime against gamers. The absence of Samus left Lara Croft to carry the torch for badass female video game protagonists and, in my opinion, Lara couldn’t hold Samus’ Zero Suit. Samus pulled off a twist on the NES that would make M. Night Shyamalan soil his pants. She followed that up by starring in one of the best games of all time on the SNES. Imagine what she could have done on the N64 and how that could have given Retro Studios even more to work with for Metroid Prime and given them a head start on making 3D Metroid titles. Additionally, by skipping an entire generation of consoles, Nintendo lost out on the opportunity to further develop the Samus character and the story of the Metroid series. They lost 8 years worth of storytelling by leaving Samus on the bench.
Just as much as Samus Aran needed the N64, I think the N64 needed Samus, too. While the first thing that comes to mind when you think of things the N64 may have lacked isn’t necessarily 6′ 3″ women with crazy metal suits of ultimate alien destruction, a well done Metroid 64 could have gone a long way towards silencing critics who thought that the N64 did not have enough mature titles. It also could have drawn in some of the “hardcore gamers” that Nintendo seems so desperate to prove themselves to these days. Consider that with the thought that a Nintendo 64 Metroid could have introduced 4 player multiplayer to the series, and you suddenly have a game that would have had the ability to sell consoles. Then you could have had special edition Samus N64 units and collector’s edition cartridges that could have been colored to look like the Power Suit. Next, you could have added Samus into the Mario Kart series and into the multitude of other Mario spin-off games. A solid Metroid title on the N64 carried with it an unlimited amount of sales possibilities not just for the game itself, but for the Samus spin-offs and tie-ins that would have become available.
In the end, the Metroid series survived and I am very happy about that. Samus and the N64 did do just fine without each other, but they could have done so much better with each other. What do you think? Was it better for Nintendo to leave Samus alone for 8 years? Was the N64 better off without her? Let me know in the comments. Join me back here next time when I give you a three handled salute.