“Is that a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s…a new segment!” That’s right, readers, today marks the introduction of a new segment I like to call Give Me the Creeps.
The concept is simple. I choose a franchise, and then I proceed to talk about the monsters in that franchise that creep me out the most. And no franchise is a better starting point than the Metroid Prime series.
As a kid, I never got into Metroid, but I thought Samus was cool in Super Smash Bros and I liked that she was a strong woman. By the time I got into Metroid Prime, I already had a pretty good idea of the games I liked, and shooters weren’t one of them. I’m not particular good at first person games, and the few times I’d played FPS games were things like CoD or Halo where it was just some graphics-elitist’s excuse to make me look like a moron in front of all his friends by beating me in multiplayer – in a game I’d never played before, on a console I’d never played before. Congratulations, elitist. You’re super cool.
Anyway, because of these experiences I approached the game with what I can only describe as unease. And that unease certainly did not lessen when I realized that the game was about being trapped alone on an alien planet with all kinds of horrifying alien creatures trying to rip your face off. Or your innards out. Or eat your soul. Whichever.
It turns out that Metroid Prime is a really rewarding game, especially for game lore buffs like me. You can scan pretty much everything with your nifty little visor to get stuff about its history, culture, physiology – it’s the kind of science I like, pseudoscience that sounds cool but I don’t actually have to study in school or pass a test about. And thanks to this scanner ability (and some help from Wikitroid), I can talk to you in painfully frightening detail about the monsters that freak the heck out of me the most.
I’m somewhat vulnerable to jumpscares. If I expect something to jump out at me, I can usually not flinch like I just got stabbed in the eye. But if I don’t expect it, I jump five feet in the air. As a kid, my stepdad would just burst into my room or sneak up behind me and shout totally innocuous words like “cupcake” or “banana” and laugh as I proceeded to freak out. Just to give you an idea of how jumpscare-able I am.
Shriekbats are the Metroid version of my stepdad shouting cupcakes at me. They’re not actually all that dangerous – basically they chill on the ceiling until something enters their territory, then they drop down to suicide-bomb anything that gets in the way. According to their scan data, their bodies reach up to 121 degrees centigrade (that’s almost 250 degrees Fahrenheit for my fellow Americans) , which is what allows them to explode on contact. The damage they do is minimal, though. So what’s scary about them?
Remember my jumpscare thing? You can just be walking along, minding your own business, when suddenly these things drop down from the ceiling screaming bloody murder. You have like three seconds to pop off shots at each one before they fly at you and explode, and I’m usually spending two of those three seconds recovering from the fact that I just hit my head on the ceiling.
In video games, big scary things are rarely all that scary. They’re slow and easy to avoid, and they’re usually stupid, so monsters that would probably be scary in real life are just inconvenient in video game land. Not so with the sheegoth.
Sheegoth are massive scale-covered, six-eyed, thick-fanged monsters with massive shards of ice protruding from their backs. Those ice shards are actually a sort of energy magnet, drawing in the blasts from all forms of conventional weaponry and absorbing it so the sheegoth can redirect it at you in the form of dangerous energy bursts. Now these things are supposedly vulnerable to plasma (read: fire), but here’s the thing: not really. You see, their hides are really strong and resist most blasts, and if you accidentally hit those ice columns on its back, the energy STILL gets absorbed. Sheegoth have only two weak points. The first is their soft underbelly, which you can only get to by curling up into a morph ball and then rolling underneath-
So what’s the second weakness? Well when the sheegoth has unleashed an icy breath attack to try and freeze you solid, they hyperventilate for a few moments, giving you a tiny window of time to shoot them in the mouth. Then you have to duck, weave, dodge, and probably not roll up into a ball until they use their ice breath again.
Whenever I see these things, I just go around.
#3: Chozo Ghost
One of my favorite tabletop games is a horror game called Dread (trust me, I’ll be talking about it on at least one Tabletop Tuesday this month). The Dread manual has this really good point on things we’ve been conditioned to fear – or not. Are you afraid of dragons? Does the sight of a dragon cause your heart to stop racing? Probably not. These massive, flying, fire-breathing death machines should be some of the scariest creatures we’ve ever imagined, but we’re not scared of them. We see them so often we understand them, and understanding counteracts fear.
I feel the same way about ghosts. You see them in everything, and they always work the same way. The same “spooky” tropes are used over and over again until ghosts aren’t really disturbing any more.
None of that is true for me when it comes to the Chozo ghosts.
These guys are spectral energy left behind by the dying Chozo, and then corrupted by Phazon in the environment.
“In English, please?” They’re ghosts, and they’re freaking crazy.
Chozo ghosts are invisible to every visor except for the x-ray visor, and when you first meet them, you’re not carrying one of those around. The ghosts only become temporarily visible when they attack, as they phase into your reality in order to throw balls of spectral energy at you. This is the one opportunity to hit them, but with what? Turns out their interdimensional nature reduces the impact of any weapon based on natural energies. Fire, ice, electricity – every cool weapon in your arsenal is useless. Instead, you have to stick to the dinky little balls of light fired from your standard gun.
According to legend, if you time it just right, you can hit them with super missiles. But I’ve never accomplished such a feat. As with the sheegoth before them, if I have the option, I run from these things as fast as my feet will carry me.
#2: War Wasps
You know the thing I said before about how understanding lessens fear, and common tropes aren’t scary and yada yada? Forget that I said that. Bees freak me out. I hate them. Particularly wasps. Any animal that will attack you for no reason is not an animal, it’s a monster. Wasps are real life monsters, and there are supposed to be adventurers out there to slay these kinds of things.
You can imagine my horror when I found out that Metroid has wasps the size of your face that chase you down, swarm you, and try to sting your eyes out.
There are lots of different kinds of war wasps. Some fly around you in circular patterns to confuse you. Some shoot their stingers at you from a distance. I hate them all.
Unlike the sheegoth and the Chozo ghosts, when I see these things, I make a point of fighting them. I shoot them to smithereens before they can start buzzing around my head and freak me out with that creepy sound they make. And then I find their hive, and I unload missiles on it. One is supposed to do the trick, but I want to make sure I’ve blasted the crud out of every single wasp inside.
“Relax, they’re just wasps.” I’ll relax when they’re dead. ALL of them.
“Really? The titular monster of the whole series? That’s what you’re most scared of?”
Let me talk to you about Metroids. Metroids are genetically engineered to be the ultimate predator. As such, in the natural world, nothing hunts them. Nothing has the ability to harm them. But they can harm everything.
See, Metroids have these cute little mandibles on their body that pierce your skin, grip you, and then SUCK THE LIFE OUT OF YOU. Not the blood. Not any other useful bodily fluid that keeps you alive. Just the life itself.
“Easy mode, just rip the Metroid off.” Physically impossible. There is no known force that can remove a Metroid once it’s feeding, with one exception: rolling up into a morph ball and then blowing up a morph ball bomb. That means that Samus Aran is the only living being capable of surviving a Metroid attack. Everything else is left as a lifeless husk on the ground.
“Okay, just kill it before it gets close to you.” Yeah, conventional weapons don’t harm Metroids. Their protective membranes are only vulnerable to one thing: freezing temperatures. Even when you manage to hit it with an ice beam, you still have to blow it to pieces with a missile. Otherwise, it just thaws out and tries to steal your soul some more.
“How hard can it be to shoot one with an ice blast?” Fun fact: Metroids are fast. They fly through the air. And they’re small. Small, flying, fast things are pretty hard to shoot at reliably. You basically have to hit the Metroid when it has almost reached you with its big ugly mandibles. And who wants that?
“Okay…well, they’re just monsters, so they’re probably dumb, right?” Wrong. Metroids are the ultimate predator, remember? They identify the most dangerous thing in the room and then suck the life out of it first. They know what hurts them and they make sure to take care of it before it becomes a problem.
“I mean…how many are there?” Plenty. When exposed to beta radiation, Metroids split into multiple copies through a process similar to mitosis. That means these things can multiply asexually; just because there’s only one doesn’t mean it can’t have ugly flying babies that suck out your soul as their first meal.
“Well…at least they’re not real.” Do they have to be real to be nightmare fuel? I certainly don’t think so.
There you have it, my list of the most disturbing creatures in Metroid Prime. Now that I feel like something’s crawling on me, I’m going to go cuddle my infant son and NOT think about life-sucking monsters. Did I miss something creepy from this series? Post it in the comments so we can all have even more things to be disturbed by.