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Whither Now, Samus Aran?

by Greg Leahy - July 11, 2008, 3:20 pm EDT

Ahead of next week's E3 announcements, we look into the uncertain future of the beloved, but oft-neglected, Metroid franchise.

Of all Nintendo's many familiar franchises, the history of the Metroid series is perhaps the most remarkable, although not for any overwhelming sales numbers or other mass recognition. Instead, Metroid's story is one of struggle through periodic obscurity, triumphant returns, and truly great accomplishments seldom matched in all of video games.

Nintendo's groundbreaking heroine, Samus Aran, was left in limbo for eight years following the release of the masterful Super Metroid in 1994. A successor to the 16-bit classic failed to materialise on Nintendo 64, and fans grew worried that the series' highpoint could become simply its endpoint. Concern turned to elation when the franchise was eventually resurrected both as a handheld series following in the footsteps of Super Metroid, and as a console first-person adventure that defied expectations to capture widespread acclaim and commendable sales.

Sadly, any momentum from the franchise's 2002 renaissance now appears all but spent. The Metroid Prime trilogy has come to an end with its sales flagging. Retro Studios is apparently turning its attention away from Samus Aran for the first time, and it is unclear whether it will ever return to her universe again. Perhaps more unsettlingly for Samus' fans, the runaway success of the Nintendo DS has not been used as a vehicle to advance the series' rich two-dimensional legacy. Early in the handheld's life, indications of a project known as "Metroid Dread" emerged after two Prime-based spin-off titles were unveiled, only for it to seemingly fade into nonexistence in the years hence. Could Metroid once again be consigned to the wilderness?

With nothing definite on the horizon yet for Metroid fans to look forward to, we can only speculate on where Samus could go from hereā€¦

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