Every game has one: the annoying character who makes you want to throw a controller at it to make it shut up. Tingle in Zelda, for instance; or Navi, when she buzzes nonsense at you. It gets annoying in Halo 3 when Cortana is going crazy and interrupts your game with her moments. Wynne, lecturing and sermonizing in Dragon Age. Justice, coming in all self-righteous and screwing things up for Anders and for Hawke in Dragon Age 2. Isaac Clarke in Dead Space annoyed the heck out of me, because he felt really passive to me; all I did was bring him back and forth based on what other people in my comlink told me to do. I only got through half that game, because it just got boring playing after awhile (though I did like seeing how many awesome ways I could die). But I think he annoyed me so much because he reminded me of the most annoying character I’ve yet experienced.
I present to you: Adam, from Metroid Fusion.
One of the more salient features of Metroid gameplay has always been the exploration. Samus strikes out after a bounty, loses her suit items, and through the course of the game, must regain them and finish her mission. There’s a lot of exploration involved, and the ability to explore freely, discovering secrets and the like, is awesome. As a result, Metroid has also lent itself well to sequence-breaking challenges. It was one of the major elements of the early games, and even Prime on the Game Cube was broken by tenacious individuals eager for a challenge.
But when Metroid Fusion came out for the GameBoy Advance in 2002, Nintendo clearly wanted to go in another direction. Much of the formula remained the same: Samus was alone on a giant derelict space lab, searching for suit upgrades and ways to complete her mission. But they introduced the element of Adam. Adam was an AI unit in her ship’s computer, who disseminated throughout the lab’s computers, and communicated with Samus during and in between missions. It added more to her mysterious back story, which was fine, but Adam also told Samus where to go and when, and what upgrades to look for. And there was no way to bypass it.
Yes, it provided a new challenge: can we sequence break Adam, who is part of the game designed to force gamers into the sequence? Can we speed run a game that has all these interruptions? People did manage to speed run it, but not with the same sorts of speeds achieved in other Metroid games (at least early on: some research has shown me that someone managed a :48 run of Fusion, in 2008. In the early heyday of Fusion, that I’m recalling, no one had done that yet). Red Scarlet managed her :55 110% Super Metroid run because she could sequence break. You could play Super Metroid in just about any order you wanted. Not so with Fusion, and it was because of the addition of Adam.
The other annoying thing about Adam is that what he added to Samus’s back story added a huge amount of inconsistency to her character and her story. Until then, we knew Samus had been a bounty hunter; we knew she’d been raised by the bird-like Chozo. But suddenly she’d also served in the military? Under the name Samus Aran? Most of the effect of original Metroid was in the fact that no one knew exactly who Samus Aran was, down to gender. Adding in Adam, as Samus’s former CO in the military, added a whole new dimension to her past, but also made the story inconsistent. And inconsistencies in stories are one surefire way to jolt people out of the moment.
Not only does he make the game far too linear, but he changes Samus’s character. I like the kick-ass-and-take-names Samus; I don’t mind her being introspective, I mean, she does it in Sky Town at the end of Prime 3, and it’s really well done. She’s thoughtful and sensitive, but still strong. But Adam makes her less introspective and more…well, she questions herself. She doesn’t have any of the usual self-confidence.
Adam doesn’t let Samus do her own thing, so she questions whether or not she’s doing the right thing. Initially I thought this was my own over-analysis of the characters in the game, but after Other M came out and I saw videos and read articles about Adam’s role in the game (play-wise similar to Fusion), I realized maybe I wasn’t too far off the mark. He turns her from a confident, ass-kicking bounty hunter who’s the best at what she does, into an uncertain, scared, childlike version of herself. And as someone who grew up thinking Samus was awesome because of what she represented to me, Adam just plain annoys me.
So therefore I think Adam Malkovich is one of the most annoying video game characters out there, for what he did to my favorite character, and what he did to the gameplay style of Metroid overall.
Tomorrow: Day 7, Favorite Game Couple. Love is in the air? Or is it just platonic?