Life Lessons: Metroid Prime 3 style

Few of us can live life on Earth without some form of hardship. While difficulties in life are usually inevitable and far from pleasant, overcoming such incidents often shapes who we are, how we grow as human beings and can influence our quality of life. But what does this have to do with the fictional world of Metroid? Fictional stories have always featured heroes and heroines alike overcoming massive odds and succeeding against tremendous opposition, and Samus Aran's adventures hold true to this template. She survived the loss of her parents at age three, successfully rebuilt her life with the help of an alien civilization and tackles the Space Pirates every other week.

Naturally, the character of Samus and her stories depicted in the Metroid series are completely fictional and shouldn't be taken too seriously, but we've been lucky to see ongoing messages of strength, defiance and hope throughout the series. The Metroid Prime trilogy's conclusion in Metroid Prime 3 especially presents several powerful messages, even though they may not have been elaborated much in the game itself. Just be wary of spoilers from the game below - this piece is to be ideally read by players who have already witnessed the story.

During the opening events of Metroid Prime 3, Samus and her fellow bounty hunters suffer internal Phazon corruption at the hands of Dark Samus. While this grants Samus immensely destructive power when utilised in the PED suit, this incident may very well be the worst experience she's had to date (apart from the initial X attack in Metroid Fusion). Later in the game we learn that Dark Samus has been deliberately corrupting beings with Phazon to essentially take control of their minds. As far as we know the process is irreversible, so Samus is constantly in danger of total Phazon corruption that will ultimately lead to death.

Samus is powerless to avoid Phazon corruption.
Samus is powerless to avoid Phazon corruption.

Samus has been used to trusting her normally-formidable Power Suit for protection against almost anything. From the outside world. But when something comes along (Phazon) and cuts right through her defenses to begin eating her from within - and with no obvious hope for recovery - the human mind and spirit is all that stands between Samus' life and death. So let's take a closer look at what life lessons can be learned from Samus' suffering and personal struggle.

Lesson 1: The 100% rule

Scoring a 100% item collection rate is always something to strive for in a Metroid title, but this time it means something different. So often in life we experience events completely out of our own personal control, and Samus' Phazon corruption incident at Norion fits right into place. Let's go off on a tangent for a moment. Essentially without human life on Earth there would be no concept of good and evil, no concept of choice, and the universe would continue to go about its business obeying the laws of physics. If we as humans make these things a reality then for all intents and purposes we should have complete control over our personal choices in life and how we react and respond to events outside of our control.

Breaking down the percentage, think of it this way:

5% of life amounts to events that occur in our lives

95% is how we choose to respond and deal with issues

In Samus' case this ultimately represents how she chooses to deal with the threat of total Phazon corruption and seemingly ultimate death - or worse - irreversible corruption to Dark Samus' twisted side. In her case the 5% is the Phazon corruption incident. Instead of giving in and allowing the evil to win, she purposefully seeks to eliminate the Leviathan Seeds and stop the spread of corruption on other worlds. Even as her fellow hunters tragically succumb to corruption and join Dark Samus' side, Samus stands defiant, alone in her condition and without a clear answer for recovery. She takes a stand and literally uses the very substance corrupting her against the bad guys. That's the 95%.

One of the preview trailers released to promote the game has an audio narration of Samus' condition:

"She can feel it becoming a part of her... corrupting her. But what frightens her most... she likes it."

Now I don't know about you, but the scene of Samus emptying her stomach after defeating Mogenar definitely doesn't give me the impression that she'd actually like the condition she's in. But even if a hardship in life might actually feel good at first and is incredibly tempting to surrender yourself to, it certainly doesn't warrant embracing it wholly - what would have happened if Samus had embraced her corruption like Ghor was tempting her to do? That thought actually gives me more inspiration to beat the game on Hypermode and never see that yellow bar fill up completely...

This surprising reveal of Samus has an unpleasant purpose.
This surprising reveal of Samus has an unpleasant purpose.

Lesson 2: Have a clear objective

Throughout Metroid Prime 3, Aurora Unit 242 provides Samus with ongoing objectives so she always has something constructive to do, paving the way towards the ultimate goal. She never wallows in self-defeat or misery. When facing hardship it always aids to plan a course of action to deal with issues. Obligatory clichéd quote:

"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."

It's easy to lose track of where we want to go and sometimes we're smacked in the face with situations we don't know how to handle. Having an advisor or mentor, much like Aurora 242 is to Samus (as silly as that might sound) can definitely give us an edge and help pave the way to victory. Sticking to objectives adamantly is how Samus ultimately wins at the end of the day - here's another dicey quote that comes to mind, this time from the Luminoth of Metroid Prime 2:

"Through vigilance and strength, we create peace."

We don't know what's on Samus' mind during the game and she only ever audibly communicates how the odd glancing blow hurts, but her determination to succeed - even if it means journeying to the heart of the one location in the universe you don't want to be - can be incredibly inspiring.

Here's an objective: NEVER let that yellow bar fill completely!
Here's an objective: NEVER let that yellow bar fill completely!

Lesson 3: Never lose hope

No matter what you believe in (or not), hope is something that no human being should be without. So many thousands of stories could be told of survival against all odds thanks to the presence of hope and believing in a positive resolution. Samus' Phazon corruption presented no hope of a cure or salvation from the evil of Dark Samus' control - just ask her fellow hunters. We don't see how Rundas, Ghor and Gandrayda ultimately crossed the line and fell to Dark Samus' side due to their Phazon corruption, but their loss left Samus completely alone with her condition.

Oddly, the Galactic Federation never seemed to be too concerned with Samus' physical state. Aurora Unit 242 graciously apologises upon learning about the dangers of total corruption due to the PED suit's Hypermode overload state, but we hear nothing of the matter from then on. But that doesn't mean we don't know just how bad it is. Retro Studios gave us a neat feature with the Scan Visor of Metroid Prime 3 - switch it on and Samus' face is reflected in her visor where we can clearly see her eyes and nose snugly under the helmet.

At the start of the game she looks fine with those pretty eyes, but by the time of her trip to Phaaze at the climax of the game she has a face not many would want to see in a mirror. As Samus is continually hit with further Phazon corruption doses in the Leviathan Seeds, blue Phazon veins slowly snake across her face, her pupils turn bright blue and the whites of her eyes eventually turn jet-black. That's all the physical evidence we see and this makes it perfectly clear why Samus keeps her suit on to avoid the sight of what effect it has on the rest of her. It's understandable if Samus began to lose hope of ever recovering from this mess...

But as players direct the action, she continues with her mission and takes the ultimate risk of travelling to the heart and source of all Phazon in a last-ditch attempt to exterminate Dark Samus. She probably didn't even know what effect the planet Phaaze would have on her, or even what would happen if she could possibly defeat Dark Samus. That would take incredible courage and self-sacrifice to want to save the rest of the universe from the threat of Phazon without having a clear answer to your own hopeless predicament. Only hope could keep her going (and all those suit upgrades she picked up along the way). As we all know (whether you've finished Prime 3 or not), her hope pays off in the end. Dark Samus is utterly defeated, Phaaze is destroyed, and all Phazon ceases to exist - including the very Phazon corrupting Samus' body.

Samus agrees! Overcoming hardship is worth the effort.
Samus agrees! Overcoming hardship is worth the effort.

So there are just a few life tips to be gleaned from Metroid Prime 3, even if you played through the game without really noticing any of them (don't worry, it's easy to do). I won't pretend for a moment that real-life hardships aren't incredibly sad and demeaning. None of us deserve to suffer, and while a simple video game won't have the answers to all our problems (which is probably the last place on Earth you'd think to find them anyway), there's always something positive and inspirational to learn from a triumphant story of striving to overcome the issues within oneself.

Written by Falcon Zero on 11 February 2010.