METROID FUSION / Nintendo / GBA
Fusion, the official canon sequel to Super Metroid (as we are informed by the title screen), opens with an ominous cinema of Samus seemingly ramming her ship drunkenly into some asteroids. After starting a new game we learn that during an escort mission, Samus was attacked by some sort of parasite (dubbed the "X" ... Extreme Classic Rock!) which made her wig out and send her spaceship insurance premiums through the roof. After major surgery and a dose of a brand new "Metroid vaccine", however, she can now eat the X like tasty snacks to restore her health and missiles.
This game gets experimental with the traditional Metroid formula, adding a lot of dialogue from Samus and a lot of cut scenes with a computer entity named Adam throughout. Samus is really quite talkative now. This was not to the pleasure of some, but personally, I'm only really concerned with the gameplay. The game's gimmick for removing all of your weapon upgrades this time around is that Samus's suit had bonded to her and had to be surgically removed. So you're basically back to zero, now getting your powers by absorbing particularly powerful X mutants rather than picking up suit upgrades.
The biggest change Metroid vets will notice (and possibly complain about) is that the structure of the game is quite a bit more linear than the previous three games (well, maybe not Metroid 2 so much - that one was pretty straightforward). This is the first time a game in the series has had an actual developing plot and narrative flow, but it comes at the expense of the freeform exploration that won over the fan base in the first place. You are essentialy led around by the nose by Adam for most of the game. This is not to say that there is no exploration or finding of hidden items, but the game tends to shuttle you from one sector to the next and while you can hop back and forth between them at times the non-plot-relevant areas are always carefully walled off from you (and the game is very strict about sequence breaking as compared to the other Metroid games). It's easy to miss a lot of the hidden items in the game, because you assume that you'll be able to come back later with all the upgrades and search more easily, only to find that by the end the game is frantically shuttling you from one place to the next and gives you no opportunity to return to previous areas. I'd like to say the new emphasis on story and characterization makes up for it, but outside of the SA-X (possibly the most intimidating villain in the series as of yet, with what is definitely the best entrance) it really doesn't. Samus's dialogue is uninspired. Adam actually does most of the talking, and he tends to say the same thing three or four times over.
Apparently the same team that did Zero Mission worked on this one, because like that game this one blows its load too early and has little left in the tank for the final stretch. The last hour or so of gameplay is a string of cheesily difficult bosses, annoying mazes (figure out what random block to shoot to get out of this screen! ok now figure out what random block to bomb to get out of THIS screen!), and a few trying jumping contests with the janky Space Jump. The game is basically trying your patience at this point, just seeing if you'll hang in there to see if things gets back on track. And you will, because the very good first portion of the game will have you hooked. And they're bastards for doing that.
All that aside, it's still a recommendation - there's enough fun and good gameplay in there to even out the weak and poorly-designed end run.