Samus Aran Origins Revisited: The Metroid Creature
The reaction to my “Metroid Hidden Influences” video has been amazing. If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch that one first, then come back here. Because this…is the Bonus Chapter.
This is a transcript of the video above. The article version contains only a fraction of the visuals; I recommend watching the video for the full experience.
Previously on “Metroid Hidden Influences,” I made the case that Metroid’s biggest influence isn’t Alien, but rather Space Cobra — a Barbarella-inspired comic that was adapted into various forms of animation. In response, viewers shared Cobra-related observations of their own.
Did Johnson’s trusty robot Ben make a cameo in Super Metroid? Did the green jewels around Jane’s neck inspire the off-model Zero Suit in Metroid Hunters? And my personal favorite: Did the talking computer screen in Barbarella inspire the talking computer screen in Metroid Dread? Or at the very least, the EMMI Zone doors?
However, it was Twitter user GSK who sent me a lead on what might’ve inspired the titular Metroid creatures themselves.
Metroids, of course, are energy vampires that start out very small, and grow in size as they feed on various lifeforms. Although traditionally depicted with scary teeth, the earliest concept art for the Metroids portrayed them with small tentacles.
I touched on a few potential influences in my previous video, like the space jellyfish in Baraduke, or the space jellyfish in Underwurlde. But neither felt like the “smoking gun” I was looking for, mainly because they were both missing a key Metroid behavior: Head-glomping.
Before I can take any space jellyfish into consideration as a potential Metroid influence, I really need to see some head-glomping, because space jellyfish are actually more common than you might think. There’s a long, long history of space jellyfish in science fiction going all the way back to War Of The Worlds in 1897. And even that was likely inspired by jellyfish encounters in earlier science fiction stories like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea.
For more on the history of undersea anxiety, I recommend watching Jacob Geller’s recent deep dive on the Fear Of Big Things Underwater. (Did I just say “deep dive?” No, that wasn’t meant to be a pun, I was just—) Look, my point is this:
War Of The Worlds was also available in Japan, where it inspired Space Invaders to introduce the first space jellyfish in a video game. And from there, who knows what inspired what? All we know is that there were no space jellyfish in Space Cobra.
Or were there?
As I noted previously, the Space Cobra animated series followed the original comic pretty closely, with most differences being related to tone. Book Five — adapted into four episodes of the show — was a violent take on the sports genre where Cobra infiltrates a team that plays Rugball, a deadly combination of American football and baseball.
But the four episodes contained absolutely nothing related to Metroid — unless you count Smash Bros. So when I got to Book Five of the comic, I thought, y’know what? Maybe I’ll just skip this one.
And that is where I went wrong.
Because where the adaptation ends with Cobra winning the big game, the comic continues a short epilogue about the day after, which quickly transforms into an obvious homage to the movie Alien.
In this bonus chapter, the Galactic Patrol is terrorized by an energy vampire that starts out very small, but grows in size as it feeds on various lifeforms. And once it becomes a full-size space jellyfish, it attacks people by, would you believe? By glomping on their heads. We have head-glomping action, people!
And if there’s *any* doubt left in your mind that Cobra is Metroid’s biggest influence… Well, let me show you one more thing.
Although the creature never made it into the animated series, it did get animated into a commercial for a handheld game. The Psychogun is an LCD game that takes place from an overhead view, which unintentionally gives the impression that Cobra is rolling around on the ground.
This concept appears to be the basis of a mini-game in WarioWare: Twisted! for the Game Boy Advance, a game produced by Metroid co-creator Yoshio Sakamoto. The mini-game was named “Mewtroid” in English and “Nekoroid” in Japan — “neko” meaning “cat.” But according to a developer interview in Nintendo Dream magazine, it was originally called “Nekobra,” a punny reference to Cobra.
The name was changed for obvious reasons, yet they left the main screen illustration largely intact — including Nekobra’s imitation cigar.
Which might just be the closest we’ll ever get to a direct admission from Nintendo that Metroid’s biggest influence has always been Cobra.
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- Cook And Becker “Space Invaders: Five Unknown Facts” (Mar 9, 2022)
- Nintendo Dream Vol. 126 (Jan 2005)
SPECIAL THANKS: Jerry Baez (@JerryBaezAlchemus), Chris Chapman (Retrohistories), 魔王ブラゼ (@the-blaze), Andrew Fiore (@thefieldsofdawn), GSK (@gosokkyu), Hemidark (@Hemidark), Jonathan Holmes (Talking To Women About Videogames).
MUSIC: “Rolling At 5,” “Backed Vibes Clean,” “Spy Glass,” and “I Knew A Guy” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com). Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 (creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)