• Metroid Fusion's SA-X is a terrifying stalker enemy, taking on the form of Samus herself.
  • The SA-X mimics Samus at full power, making it an unstoppable force capable of learning and cloning itself.

Space has become a hotbed for horror. It is so vast and beyond comprehension that it's perfect grounds for cooking up all manner of terrors. Nintendo has played with this Lovecraftian concept, most prominently with Giygas from Earthbound. But the series that has most consistently toyed with capturing the unsettling aspect of space is Metroid. Taking on the role of Samus Aran, my battles with the Space Pirates have been treacherous, but nothing could have prepared me for the utter horror unleashed by the SA-X in Metroid Fusion, where a creepy doppelganger-like creature stalks us along our mission.

We all know the 'stalker' enemy, in which a seemingly unkillable creature hunts you down until you acquire the means of dispatching it, but the way it's done in Metroid Fusion is absolutely perfect. While on a survey mission, Samus is infected with a parasitic lifeform known as the X. Taking on the form of their prey, the one that infects Samus borrows her likeness in a Doppleganger-like fashion. When it first appears, it slowly walks into view, before turning to us as the screen cuts to its pale, lifeless eyes, before using the iconic rocket launcher to destroy a door. This scene alone assures us that the SA-X is no run-of-the-mill baddie, as the Metroid franchise has always had us shoot at doors, but to have something literally rip down those doors is quite a shock. Even when it walks, the SA-X's presense is punctuated by slow, hollow footsteps that echo, making it much more dreadful.

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Before the station's infection, a vaccine made from the DNA of the titular Metroid creatures was given to Samus to stave off the X's influence, allowing her not only to also absorb it for nourishment, with the downside that she's now susceptible to the Metroids' weakness to cold. This adds a layer of tension to each level, as you constantly scan your screen for the SA-X while navigating these environments. The kicker is that the SA-X mimics Samus at her full power, meaning it has taken on the form of a character who is known for making planets explode! After infecting Samus, the creature is more content stalking us, akin to the way a cat toys with a mouse. No matter what equipment we use, the SA-X is immune to it, at least until later in the game.

Metroid Fusion Nightmare reformatted

While the creature initially appears indestructible, its invincibility is only one part of what makes it such a monster, as it possesses knowledge and an ability to learn. The X creatures are capable of taking on the appearance of any living things they infest, so the space station Samus is originally investigating is infected in no time, with the SA-X leading the charge. Then things get even worse. Even when several Metroids are released and devour the SA-X, it has somehow managed to clone itself.

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As if being hunted down by this unstoppable nightmare weren't bad enough, there's now an entire army of them. While initially ordered to leave the investigation to the Federation, which plans to weaponize the SA-X, Samus correctly deduces that the creature would only infect the arriving Federation soldiers. Worse, it would gain knowledge of their space-travel methods, effectively granting it the ability to infect the universe.

Realizing there is no other way, Samus stays behind to confront the SA-X. We battle it, and once it's been damaged enough, it sheds its disguise to reveal a multi-eyed monstrosity with miniature heads growing out of its central one. After initially beating it, we arrive at the final boss, an Omega Metroid of immense power. It damages us severely, only for the SA-X to try and fight it. The Omega Metroid reduces the latter into it's nucleus form, allowing Samus to absorb it and finally gain her full strength. It's a fitting end to such a memorable enemy.

Metroid is chock-full of unique and terrifying enemies, but the SA-X perfectly captures all the franchise's unnerving elements. Forcing us to evade rather than confront the creature, the SA-X is Nintendo's greatest unorthodox take on survival horror.

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