We learned that Greninja from Pokémon would be joining the roster along with Charizard as a fully playable character. Charizard is the meat of this however as he shares a similar fate to the characters of Princess Zelda and Samus Aran.
In Super Smash Brothers Brawl, Princess Zelda and Samus Aran could transform during combat into Sheik and Zero Suit Samus respectively, while Charizard was tied to the Pokémon Trainer character based on the version of Red from the GameBoy Advance game Pokémon FireRed, a remake of the original Pokémon Red on the original GameBoy, and as the Pokémon Trainer, you could switch between Squirtle, Ivysaur and Charizard mid combat or when one ‘mon was KO’d.
In the latest Direct, we learned that characters who were able to transform into other characters previously were going to be split apart, hence why Charizard is now his own character.
Furthermore, this meant that Princess Zelda and Sheik were now separate characters as were Samus Aran and Zero Suit Samus.
At what seems like a cheap attempt to expand the roster size with little to no effort was not the part of this decision that people took offense to. In fact, having the option to use one ply style or the other consistently and not be forced into both seemed to make a lot of people happy.
- Zelda could now summon a suit of armour known as a Phantom to do battle – an homage to her role in The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks where the ghost of Princess Zelda could possess Phantoms and use them to help Link in battle and to solve puzzles.
- Sheik was given bombs and a fancy new jump kick which fit her whole ninja motif, but Samus… Samus is where players, or at least English speaking players took offence.
- Zero Suit Samus, who was physically weaker than regular armoured Samus was given Jet Boots and a repertoire of kicking moves to strengthen her up as she was no longer the result of regular Samus’ armour falling off.
Wait? That’s it? A pair of jet boots is why people are complaining?
Not quite. See, the jet boots are designed in such a way that they look like high heels, and for many English speaking audiences who are still pretending that Metroid: Other M never happened, it’s an idea that has really stuck in their craw and become a rather large ‘Poke The Bear’ scenario.
See, back in the 80’s and even early 90’s, games had no voice over, no full motion video CGI cutscenes, and well, to the average player, Samus Aran was a badass no nonsense Bounty Hunter that kicked ass, took names and beat the tar out of you for looking at her cock-eyed.
And that’s only if you leave out the fact that depending on how quickly you completed the game, Samus stripped off her power armour revealing a leotard and legwarmers that are arguably worse than the Zero Suit she’s known for today.
Ok, so I might be exaggerating with the legwarmers, but hey, its 80’s NES pixels, red hair, pink leotard and boots are the order of the day, a far cry from the blonde hair and blue catsuit of today.
Even further, if you beat the game again in this version, you would further get a Samus in just her bra and panties. People are collectively forgetful about this.
In Metroid II (GB), Samus strips down to just a tank top and underwear, and takes her hair down.
Super Metroid’s (SNES) graphical upgrade gave Samus an anime-styled look and a black sports bra-type outfit.
Metroid: Zero Mission brought about the first appearance of the Zero Suit, and was the first game to divulge from the classic “hand on one hip” pose. Now, we are shown Samus with a clenched fist, almost doing the We Can Do It pose.
The Metroid Prime series mimics this to a degree. With Metroid Prime only showing Samus’s helmet being removed, which was a staple for those who were not able to finish the game quick enough. The Prime endings are only based on completion percentage, and no image of Samus without her Power suit can be seen in the game.
This was changed in Prime 2: Echoes, where upon getting 100% completion you are graced with a full pan-up of Samus shown in the Zero Suit. Though the character model is… eh.
Prime Hunters and Prime 3: Corruption also give us a look at Zero Suit Samus to some degree, but so what, eh? Just what am I getting at here?
What I’m getting at is that Samus has always been feminine. Since Day One. Even if back in the 80’s “Samus Is A Girl” was one of gaming’s greatest secrets, today, Nintendo loves to remind us that Samus Aran is the first woman of gaming and they will continue to do so.
So, what happened? Am I being an apologist for these combat stilettos just because I can, or because we should just shut up and accept it? Or…
Nothing of the sort. What I’m getting at is that Samus’ personality has always been consistent. At least in the Japanese version. She has always been feminine, she’s always been a show off by design, but that does NOT mean that she cannot be a badass at the same time.
English territory headcanon is a powerful thing. Samus is Xena in armour. Space Xena.
She’s not Princess Toadstool who gets kidnapped every weekend. She doesn’t go Go Karting with King Koopa , she shows up, she stomps Mother Brain and gets on her merry way.
Or, at least she did.
But then ‘Other M’ happened. Metroid: Other M, a game that was created as a collaboration between Nintendo and Team Ninja of ‘Dead or Alive’ fame/infamy. A game so reviled for its plot and voice acting that the highest of Metroid fans treat it as the Voldemort of the Metroid series. So, what was so bad?
In most cases/rants, you’ll hear that Samus became subservient to a man, and denied herself the use of weapons until they were authorised by this man, and that her constant lamenting over ‘The Baby’ portrayed the character as weak, feeble and unable to act on her own. And that freezing up at the sight of her arch-rival Ridley was a pathetic move. You’ll probably also hear arguments of ‘male privilege’ as discussions on the subject of ‘Other: M’ and how it links back to the Smash Bros. original Jet Boots get thrown around. A LOT of this is out of context however and people seem more than eager to jump on the bandwagon of bashing because it’s the ‘politically correct thing to do’.
So, let’s look at things in context and yes spoilers ahoy. Very. Big. Spoilers.
Metroid: Other M, despite being a Wii game is set after the events of Super Metroid (SNES) but before those of Metroid: Fusion (GBA), Other M finds our heroine Samus Aran resting on a Galactic Federation ship, convalescent after her battle against Mother Brain. Shortly after leaving, she picks up a distress call from a dormant bottle ship and sets out to investigate. Once there, she reunites with familiar faces from her days on the Federation Army: Anthony Higgs and her former commanding officer, Adam Malkovich. Following an attack from an alien being, the three split up to discover the nature of the strange threat.
So, chronologically, this is the third game is the series.
At the end of Super Metroid, you defeat Ridley, the dragon pterodactyl thing that is Samus’ arch rival.
The Ridley who shows up in Other M is a clone of that Ridley, unbeknownst to Samus, and given how if you take plot at its most literal, she only defeated Ridley days, if not hours earlier, so seeing the monster who ate her parents alive back from the dead not too long after she killed him and vaporised the planet he was on should by all rights put her into a Heroic BSOD.
Futhermore, due to the Metroid manga never being released outside of Japan, the Japanese version of ‘Fusion’ also benefitted from having extra endings that reflected on the story of Samus’s past.
And that in itself is a kick in the jaw to any fan, especially to a fanbase as invested in a series as Metroid fans. Not only do we lose out on an in canon story, but a story which has endings that actually put depth into the game instalments.
Metroid Fusion was released in the US almost a full 4 months ahead of the Japanese version. The Metroid manga was being created around the same time that Metroid Fusion was being developed. It’s also said time and again that American game players enjoy the Metroid series much more than Japanese gamers do, and is the most likely reason why Nintendo chose to go with an American studio to make the Prime games rather than a Japanese one (we’ll come back to that). Why the Metroid manga was never translated to the English speaking market will never be known, but it would have been fantastic for Nintendo to tell us about the origins of Samus through the use of these ending images rather than the “LOLNoJapanOnly” situation that happened.
So, we’ve got a kick ass bounty hunter that takes out mutant brains and dinosaurs, but no developed backstory. We get three fantastic games from a US studio in Retro games, and after that? The guys who made jiggle physics infamous are given part reigns over the next instalment where… the female main character actually acts like a woman? No, a soldier? No? Both!
And this isn’t even Team Ninja’s fault, there is a heavy amount of misblame here; Sakamoto was the head writer, and Nintendo signed off on everything, so you can’t just blame Tecmo Koei here.
Adam Malkovich, as Samus’ former commanding officer became the biggest jerk in the series as he decided when and how Samus should use her arsenal. He was portrayed as a father figure to the rebellious teenage Samus, annnnd the game’s terrible writing even screwed that up depending on who you ask. There are moments that scream abuse.
Samus was characterized as emotional and with self-esteem issues in the manga. She took orders from identified-as-male authority figures in Fusion and Prime 3, and worked for the Galactic Federation in Metroid, Metroid II, Prime 3, and Fusion. A major moment in the manga was her getting over her infamous PTSD involving Ridley. (But then, the manga justified this by flashing back to repressed memories of Ridley eating her mother alive right in front of her, while the game gives no context or explanation for people not aware of their history) Of course, Other M also contradicts the manga’s story in numerous other ways, so don’t try too hard to figure this out.
Also, as far as the whole “authorization of equipment” goes, it sounds just as stupid as mysteriously losing every one of your upgrades at the start of the game. I doubt they’ll be able to work something in that makes the need to power up sound sensible.
However, that BS with Adam not authorizing the use of the Varia Suit UNTIL the actual boss fight was ridiculous.
A lot of fans complained about the absurdity of Samus having bonded with the baby Metroid. Although it was not explicitly canon, this relationship was set up back in a lot of comics and guides for Super Metroid back in 1994.
I’m not here to do a study on Other: M. I’m not here to complain about what head writer Sakamoto did to the game’s main character and the control design. You don’t need me to tell you that while the gameplay is awesome and it’s graphically gorgeous, especially for something on the tragically underpowered Wii, the game’s writing and plot are terrible. But Samus’ characterisation is still consistent with prior games and the manga nobody knows about.
Just check out this video. It’s a promotional video for Super Metroid ‘hosted’ by Samus. Listen to the voice actress, read the words, then imagine that for 10 hours or so and you effectively have Other M in a bottle. (You will need to turn on captions)
So where does this lead to Jet Boots?
Right, that. As I’ve said, as much as English speaking audiences might look at Samus as “Arrive. Stomp Aliens. Leave.” Or a silent protagonists that blows up planets and shakes hands with scientists on occasion. But all too willingly do we recant the idea that Samus Aran, Bounty Hunter is a woman.
And as such, being beautiful by design as well as powerful does not detract from her, it does not detract from what memories we have playing the games on the NES, SNES, GB, GBA, GameCube.
A powerful woman does not HAVE to be bland and monotonous.
A woman looking sexy and powerful in fiction does not always mean that she is instantly being objectified. The character still has her ability to make her own choices and kick ass as she please. And also God forbid women choose how to look, or be designed as they would choose.
All this Jet Boots fiasco has done is draw out armchair game designers spewing nonsense like “Samus is a tough no nonsense girl! She wouldn’t choose that!”
Let’s be honest, the Metroid fanbase might hold Yoshio Sakamoto with the same contempt as Irish Catholics hold Oliver Cromwell (yes, I went there) but, I think her writers and story creators know her better than you.
Also, can I just say? Tough AND sexy women DO exist in real life, as you all seem to forget whenever heels/makeup/large breasts and badassery get anywhere near each other. Hell, one of my best friends is one of them. All it takes is one look at Zero Suit Samus in Smash Bros Wii U/3DS and you can tell that the character just reeks of “I’m Samus Aran, heels or no heels I can and will stomp a mudhole in your ass and walk it dry!”
The jet boots are at least functional. They’re a far cry from the “stripper heels” that the internet has taken to calling them.
Let’s take a look at the actual way they’re presented in the Nintendo Direct.
“In the previous title, Zero Suit Samus was designed with slightly less physical strength. So I thought we needed to find ways to toughen her up. That’s why we’ve given her a pair of jet boots and moves to work with them.
What used to be a weakness now results in this: (Samus is shown using the boots to recover from falling off the stage.) Kicks that provide both power and speed.”
From a technical standpoint, it’s shown that the heel portion rotates to boost her in various directions, as seen in the proper trailer when she boost-kicks diagonally upwards, thrust flames pointing opposite. Having a rotational design like that instead of multiple emitters is essential for cutting down size and weight, which is what the Zero Suit set is in comparison to her normal gear. As for the practicality of it, she was raised by bird aliens and has walked and fought in a variety of outfits on all SORTS of crazy terrain. Dealing with heels, and high tech rocket ones at that, is laughably easy in comparison I’d imagine.
Samus is a highly trained space age bounty hunter who’s been through far more than any of us can ever hope to keep up with. If she’s capable of kicking ass in those shoes, who are we to say otherwise? Or are you telling me the energy draining space jellies, psychic space birds, power armour, teleporting, and so on are all within the suspension of disbelief, but rocket powered heels on a woman trained to walk in all sorts of environments by bird aliens with different feet structure is somehow too far?
Even discounting Other M because it was badly handled in general, there’s nothing suggesting Samus has surrendered all other “Feminine” (which are just as arbitrary and socially constructed as “Masculine”) traits, first of all. Again, real women exist who are tough, proud badasses (though not in the intergalactic asskicking levels) and happen to dress with some or all of the traditionally “Sexy” visual identifiers (heels or cleavage or what have you) because THEY, INDEPENDENTLY, prefer the look. This idea that EVERY woman who’s capable of kicking ass would “OBVIOUSLY PREFER TO NEVER DRESS LIKE THAT EVER!” is just as much a baseless assumption as anything else.
Sakamoto’s “eastern” Metroid and Retro Studio’s “western” Metroid put us at an impasse of sorts. At first we had no characterisation, and now there’s so much of it in such sudden bursts that it’s almost impossible to agree on intent, but since so much of the internet usually sides with the Japanese intent (and if you think I'm lying, then I dare you to admit on pretty much any 'hardcore' anime/gaming forum that you prefer the US dub), then you have to take the original Japanese characterisation first and foremost and then work the US stuff into it. You can’t ignore one or the other because you don’t like it.
Just remember that none of this has any bearing on the Smash Bros. version of the character, which for all intents and purposes may as well just be a Figma in motion.
If we look at some more of the recent additions to gaming, Samus’ jet boots are no whackier or out of place than Bayonetta’s gun heels. And Bayonetta is a character that clearly, whole heartedly and unashamedly was created to be fanservice and every teenage boy’s wet dream.
However, by virtue of the game, we know just how badass she is as a character and even more so when putting those silly gun heels to use, her over the top sexy behaviour aside.
Chell from Portal used the Long Fall Boots, which were effectively spring heels, and they worked in the context of how ridiculous the Portal universe is. However, if Samus’ jet boots are supposed to deal with long falls when she is sans-suit, then that is a good thing, and not too out of line for a fighting game which has no bearing on the actual canon of the character’s primary series.
Even Raiden in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, while being a male example, still shows combat heels being useful, in this case to hold blades for his sword combos. And nobody gave out about the combat impracticality there, no, just how queer it was for a man to be wearing heels in the first place. (And if you could hear me groan when reading that sentence, you get a cookie.)
You could run through various characters who wear heels in combat from the Catwoman to the Sailor Scouts to BloodRayne to almost any female character in actual fighting games like Tekken or the previously mentioned Dead or Alive. I think in the end, we should be glad that these heels aren’t attached to the Zero Suit itself, because we’ve been there once, and it’s rather jarring because that does look flimsy and unhelpful. You’d almost want to snap them just to prove a point.
Just remember that the Smash heels have no impact on your fonder memories of the NES, SNES, GameCube or Wii games.
The last Metroid is in captivity. The galaxy is at peace.