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Metroid Fusion – “Sector 1 (SRX) SR388 Return Area” (Minako Hamano)

September 4, 2010

Unlike a lot of people, I really love Metroid Fusion (2002). Granted, it wasn’t as awesome as Super Metroid, but then again, there aren’t too many games that are as great. Long story segments aside, the game has wonderful controls, a great new enemy, and was a blast to play. (In fact, I beat it in the store – I played the game the whole way through on the store kiosk!) I am also a fan of the soundtrack, even though I don’t love the Game Boy Advance sound system. The GBA sound system certainly gets the job done for portable gaming, but it lacks the booming bass and the sheer weight of the instruments that was present in the SNES. Compare any SNES soundtrack where the composer knew what he was doing to even the best GBA soundtrack, and to me, there’s just no contest. However, for Metroid Fusion, the composers were able to produce some pretty boomy music out of the system, and my favorite of which is the main theme to the game, “Sector 1 (SRX) SR388 Return Area.”

Metroid Fusion – “Sector 1 (SRX) SR388 Return Area” (Minako Hamano)

“Sector 1 (SRX) SR388 Return Area” (a rather self-explanatory and boring title indeed) plays in both the opening story sequence as well as the first level of the game, a recreation of the SR388 ecosystem on a biological research station called BSL. Keeping in line with the theme of action, terrible monsters on the loose, drama, and intrigue, “Sector 1” makes use of high-stepping notes played on strings and piano that rise and fall with the kind of exposition you would expect. It jumps straight into the action with an introduction that follows the rules of perfect game audio, a handful of solid notes that is instantly recognizable in not just five seconds, but a half-second of playback – not only are we jumping immediately into the game, but we are also returning to the Metroid universe for the first time in 8 years. At the same time, the song has a low drone and booming drums that gives the piece a great edgy sound and about as much weight as you can get out of the GBA. The track has great development, playing more like a rondo than anything else, with a short theme that is constantly reinterpreted and interspersed with new material. In fact, the track is so long, it seems that the piece had to have looped somewhere, but this is not the case – its loop point is at 2:33, making it an incredibly long piece for the GBA. The theme develops slowly, rising and falling to a height of drama at 2:05. It follows roughly with the introductory cutscene, which has lots of dramatic reveals, but also works great for the SRX sector which is full of atmospheric mist from the X parasites clogging the ventilation systems.

There have been surprisingly few arranges of the “Sector 1” theme, considering how awesome the song is. One of the most promising was the orchestral version used in the E3 trailer, but sadly this was never available as a clean track. Thankfully, Minako Hamano remixed “Sector 1” in Super Smash Bros. Brawl in a very dramatic mix that was heavy on synths, strings, and trumpets, with flute support for the intense sections. She moves deftly from one instrument to the next, with heavy synth lines sprinkled throughout, creating a dramatic melodic landscape that mirrors the song’s development. In some places too it reminds me of Jonathan Dunn’s work with Jurassic Park 2 – both have very similar atmosphere. Sadly, the piece is a little shorter than the original, with a loop ending around 1:55. Also, Metroid Metal released a spectacular arrangement this year that’s long, epic, and thoroughly enjoyable.

I’m a little disappointed though that there hasn’t been a remix that really capitalizes on the boominess inherent to the original piece. I can’t help but feel that if this were composed on the SNES, it would have broken more than a few windows with bass cranked…

Anyway, Metroid Fusion was composed by Minako Hamano (Super Metroid, Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening) and Akira Fujiwara (Super Princess Peach, Tetris DS), though the audio was directed by Kenji Yamamoto. I took a guess that Minako Hamano composed “Sector 1”, given that she did the remix from Brawl.

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