When we talk about Nintendo licenses, we easily think of colorful, fanciful and general public universes: d ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons, with its curvaceous animals, Super mario bros, whose good humor seems stainless, passing by the Pokémon or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild, more melancholy but accessible to all … The leading figures of the Japanese firm thus always seem welcoming.
Yet it would be to forget Metroid, a science fiction saga born in 1986 to which it is difficult to attach the terms “good child”. Proof of this, his latest episode, released on Switch on October 8, is called Dread, which can be translated from English as “dread”. Released on the same day as the Switch Model OLED, this new adventure of Samus Aran and his armor consequently enjoys a high exposure. “This is the first time that a game Metroid comes out with such visibility and communication. It is an atypical, dark and demanding saga, which is aimed more at enthusiasts ”, rejoices Christophe Mallet, author of History of Metroid (Pix’n Love editions, 2016) and webmaster of the Planète Zebes site dedicated to the franchise.
The reference to “Alien” returns
Metroid Dread marks the return of a recurring comparison of the franchise with other cult works of science fiction: Alien, the eighth passenger, by Ridley Scott (1979), and derivative films. The game, in fact, features almost indestructible robots stalking the heroine, a plot that is not unlike that of the first four episodes of the saga. Alien, who confront the character of Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, with a nightmarish species endowed with an extraordinary combativeness: the xenomorph.
The parallels drawn between Metroid and Alien have never stopped since the game’s first opus. Among the potential winks or borrowings, we can cite a boss from the first episode named Ridley – possible reference to the director ofAlien – or artificial intelligence (AI) called Mother Brain, a name very close to Mother, the AI that guides the ship Nostromo in Alien.
“The reference to Alien was especially dissected by the fans ”, notes Christophe Mallet, however. Because, strangely, the creators of Metroid have been discreet on the subject for over thirty-five years and direct allusions to Alien from the show’s spiritual father, Yoshio Sakamoto, “Can be counted on the fingers of one hand”, he confides. One of his rare direct allusions can be found in an article in the British magazine Retrogame dating from 2014. He cites the influence of Hans Ruedi Giger, the Swiss artist responsible for drawing the creature and the alien vessel in the film by Ridley Scott:
“’Alien’ had a huge influence on the production of the first episode. The whole team was imbued with HR Giger’s design and thought it would be consistent with the game world that had been decided before. “
Similarities that marked Ian Derk, lecturer in communication at Arizona State University and contributor to the encyclopedia Aliens in Popular Culture (2019, untranslated), by Michael M. Levy and Farah Mendlesohn: ” Seeing Alien the first time I thought the Engineer [un personnage fossilisé aussi appelé le « Space Jockey »] looked a lot like the Chozo statues seen in Metroid. I think a lot of people of my generation discovered Giger’s aesthetic through video games like Metroid. “
For the scholar, the most glaring resemblance between the two works relates to the larvae of the metroids, the eponymous aliens: “After they hatch, they attack aggressively and attach themselves to the character’s head. The reference is rather obvious from the developers ”, he believes.
Two iconic heroines
The incessant comparisons between Alien and Metroid are also very keen on the fact that their main character is a woman. If, on this point, we know that Ridley Scott’s film did not have a direct influence, since the original team of the game has regularly said that this choice was made on a whim at the end of development. , the fact remains that the two heroines have subsequently revealed many similarities.
“Like Ellen Ripley in Alien, Samus Aran is one of the rare female characters of the time who is not defined by her relationship with a man ”, recalls for example Ian Derk. Both also express disenchantment with humanity, find themselves subject to large organizations they cannot trust, navigate labyrinthine structures, meet alien queens and find themselves confronted with a complex vision of motherhood in the face of a protégé of another race.
Strong thematic links which also make it possible to identify what distinguishes them: while the heroine of the film is a prey, the bounty hunter of the video game is above all a predator. “On many points, Metroid obeys traditional video game conventions that are based on mechanics of mastery and domination. Samus therefore has an armor that becomes more and more powerful as the game progresses. Ellen Ripley, on the contrary, never controls the situation ”, comments Brendan Keogh, Senior Lecturer in Communication at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia.
“The big difference between them lies in their heroic triumph at the endadds Ian Derk. Ripley “wins” by surviving rather than changing the world, while Samus’ actions echo across the galaxy. “ The first video games Metroid are thus less fatalistic than films Alien.
Consider Metroid like a banal decal fromAlien on console would therefore be an error. Rather, the game seems to maintain a fertile dialogue with its cousin on the big screen and the parallel between the two works shows above all the aura enjoyed by Alien from game creators in general. ” Alien and Aliens came out at a time when a golden age of the video game industry was beginning. His very clear sense of style and fascinating world became a touchstone for many developers in the late 1980s and early 1990s ”, underlines Brendan Keogh, co-author with Darshana Jayemanne of the article “Looking at the Alien in Film and Videogames” (2018).
The fact remains that, joystick in hand, the filiation between Alien and Metroid will never have seemed so current to us as in this Metroid Dread where, pursued by the killer robots EMMI, implacable xenomorphs of metal appearing shrouded in smoke around a dark corridor, Samus ceases to be a predator to become a prey again. Then resound in the head words that we can never forget: “In space, no one can hear you scream. “