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OPINION: In Defense of Proteus Ridley

Recently, a couple good friends of mine – including our own Doominal Crossing – were chatting on Twitter and saying how they felt conflicted about Proteus Ridley showing up at the finale of Metroid: Samus Returns and serving as the final boss. One on hand, they felt that the fight in a bubble was fantastic, but on the other hand, felt like it diminished the somber, reflective tone of Metroid II’s ending.

While I think that’s a valid criticism – after all, Samus obliterating an entire race of species should be treated with a weight and introspectiveness a moment like that deserves – I just couldn’t bring myself to agree with that sentiment. While I certainly respect the idea that, for some, Ridley showing up out of the blue might diminish that original ending, I wanted to push back against the idea that this battle taints the atmosphere of Return of Samus.

So you be the judge and jury as I present my case for why Proteus Ridley doesn’t deserve the hate he gets.


The Quiet Moment of Sombre Reflection Doesn’t Really Exist in Metroid II

Let’s start off hot. The supposed vibe that Proteus Ridley ruins at the ending of Metroid II doesn’t really exist I would argue. Now of course, a big part of video games is forming your own opinions and interpretations of what you’re seeing, but towards the ending of Metroid II, we see Samus hesitate to eliminate the Baby Metroid, ultimately deciding to let it live and ultimately turn it over to the Galactic Federation.

What people might forget is that after the Baby hatches, you go for a short stroll and then the game ends. There’s no text; no monologs; no subtle design changes; nothing to really suggest Samus feels any one way about her elimination of the Metroid species other than the fact that Samus spares the Baby. Guess what? The exact same scenario plays out in Samus Returns as well.

I would never say that people shouldn’t project their own thoughts and feelings towards a game they love, but I would also suggest that by taking Return of Samus at face value, the moments of quiet reflection and somber acceptance that my colleagues spoke of isn’t really present in the game, but rather, their own head canon. What Metroid II tells us is that Samus views the Baby as a piece of cargo, something to be transported and studied versus something to be loved. Which leads us to…


Proteus Ridley Retroactively Enhances Super Metroid

After the Baby hatches and Samus decides to spare it, the two unlikely partners end up exploring SR388 together, uncovering secrets and learning about the Chozo who came before. Throughout this, you can see a real bond form between them, which culminates in the Proteus Ridley fight. The Baby’s help in taking down Proteus Ridley is probably the difference between victory and defeat, and we see Samus and the Baby fighting for each other against formidable odds.

Seeing these two crucial characters actively form a bond makes the events of Super Metroid even more devastating in retrospect. Maybe it’s just me, but *that* scene against Mother Brain, where once again, the Baby does what it can to save Samus, hits so much harder after watching the connection between Metroid and Bounty Hunter grow during the events of SR388.

It also makes sense why Ridley would be the one to go after the Baby on the Ceres Space Colony. It always seemed logical that, as leader of the Space Pirates, Ridley was the right guy for the job, but now knowing how Ridley must hold a grudge against the Baby for the part it played in his defeat on SR388, it makes even more thematic sense now why Ridley himself, leader of the Space Pirates, would personally see to it that the Baby was captured.

Speaking of Proteus Ridley retroactively making games better…


Proteus Ridley Acts As A (Loose) Link Between the 2D Series and the Prime Series

I don’t think I’m alone in wishing that there was more crossover between the Metroid Prime sub-series and the main series as a whole, ans currently, Proteus Ridley is the closest link we have between the two. Appearing to be half mechanical and half organic, Proteus isn’t quite the Ridley we know from Super Metroid, but he’s also not the mechanical entity known as Meta Ridley either.

The recent Metroid Prime Remastered actually drives home even more how similar Proteus and Meta Ridley are, forgoing the entirely mechanical faceplate of Meta Ridley in the GameCube/Wii version and presenting him with an exposed face, a la Proteus. The 2D games have never really acknowledged the events of the Prime series, so to see even a small commonality was pretty exciting.

Of course, one of the big areas where Proteus Ridley and Meta Ridley differ is…


The Fight Against Proteus Ridley Is Awesome

I mean, what more needs to be said here? Everything about this fight works, making it one of the most dramatic and exhilarating fights in the series, and at the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Everything from the menacing green sky, to Samus’s ship lurking in the background representing escape just out of reach, to the cinematic shots of Samus and the Baby teaming up, to the pulsating music that gets more and more intense as the battle goes on… it’s all just so masterfully done. I think there’s a reasonable argument to be made that Proteus Ridley is one of, if not the, best boss battles in the entire series.

If Samus Returns’ intention was always to have you explore SR388 with the Baby after defeating the Queen Metroid – a decision I loved then and love now – then imagine how anticlimactic it would be if, after grabbing that last expansion, you were to just climb on your ship and fly away into space. Samus Returns has incredible bosses throughout, and it saved the best for last.


I Rest My Case, Your Honor

While I respect while some may not agree, I just can’t buy the “Proteus Ridley ruins Metroid II” rhetoric. For the Prime connection, for the emotional cache this fight affords the Baby Metroid and your bond with it, for the excellent mechanics of the actual boss fight itself, I would make the argument everyday that the trade-off of not having the game end with that fabled fight would make Samus Returns a much lesser experience.

Now it’s up to you, though! Are you in agreement, or do you think Proteus Ridley was unnecessary and tacky? Let us know in the comments below!