It is the future. On a brooding planet filled with danger a solitary figure strides through the darkness. The only signs of life are outwardly violent and your only support comes from those long since dead. You stride on regardless of the danger, your mission forcing you to explore further and your successes empowering you to push deeper. You head into the heart of darkness and, eventually, you emerge victorious. And then, hours later, it turns out you’re a girl.
It must have been a bit of a surprise in the 1980’s as boys and girls at home on their Nintendo Entertainment Systems discovered that their armoured space warrior was, actually, a women. Samus Aran is the hero of the Metroid series of games; one of the classic Nintendo franchises like Zelda or Mario. I discovered Samus in 2002 whilst reading Edge and I genuinely had no idea that the hero on the front cover was a woman. And to be fair why should I have? Where were the tits? Where was the tiny waist and acres of bare flesh. This was the zenith of Lara Croft era, Lads Mags and when the internet was comfortably putting porn into the hard-drives of adolescent men everywhere. Compared to all this Samus was a breath of fresh air.
The character of Samus is based on Ripley from the Alien films. Indeed producers were so enamoured by Ridley Scott’s masterpiece that they named one of Samus’s chief opponents after him. Like Ripley, Samus is brave, powerful and intelligent. Her agility and strength boosted by her armoured suit which is up-gradable as you push further into the game. By the time you reach the end of a Metroid game you feel almost godlike. You are invulnerable to fire, ice and are able to shoot through walls and freeze opponents. You can morph into a tiny sphere and explore air ducts and insect lairs. Whenever you reach a barrier you cannot pass a little more exploration usual rewards you with what you need. The games themselves are masterful and it is an added joy that Samus’s femininity does not play any major part in the way the game plays.
Unfortunately, some bright spark decided to get Samus out of her armour in one game. The net result of that decision was the pornification of her character. Just look at the image below. Big tits? Check. Tiny Waist, Check. Ass that won’t quit? Painfully there. It was a sad decision when the designers allowed Samus to be stripped bare of her armour. A bit like Judge Dredd taking off his mask. It really should never happen.
Regardless of this misjudgement I feel it is important to remember that Nintendo have once again made a brilliantly inventive and inspired character. Just like a fat italian plumber can be a hero, a woman is shown to be more than capable of being an adventurer and warrior. Most importantly, Samus does it all on her own. There’s no man rushing in to save the day, no love interest and most of all, no real issue of gender in the first wave of Metroid games. As an art form that often gets a lot of stick for it’s portrayal of women, Samus is someone to be celebrated.