With a little perspective, it’s easy to ridicule video games and the pop culture that surrounds them. The 1:14 minute YouTube video “Metroid – All Samus Aran’s Appearance Fanfares” doesn’t bear its name without some justification – it plays the roughly six-second long sequence of notes from various Metroid games that play when Samus Aran “appears,” which usually happens when you load up a save game and she heroically steps out of the save station. The very fact that there is a word for these six seconds is remarkable: “Appearance Fanfare” – of course not to be confused with the “Item Acquisition Fanfare”. As I said, it’s easy to make fun of it.
The video has roughly 91,000 views.
There are reasons for this. Sound has been an important part of Metroid games since the first release in 1988, supporting the sense of isolation and exploration of an alien planet as hostile as it is beautiful. Not only the sparingly utilized music, but also the sounds made by the world and Samus herself are memorable. No matter how lonely and lost you are in the depths of a planet, Samus radiates determination and strength wherever she appears. It’s important, therefore, that Samus is properly staged at the start of each game session, and it helps that this moment is backed up by a fanfare. It combines the feeling of loneliness in a vast foreign world with the strength to endure it. That’s probably why it has been featured in every Metroid title so that on February 25, 2016, “MrTanoki” was able to capture them all for eternity in a YouTube video, which has been enjoyed 91,000 times.
For the 3D parts of the Prime series, the franchise switched from a side view to a first-person perspective. But how could Samus appear to the player when they are seeing through her own eyes? Retro Studios surely didn’t inadvertently point the camera at Samus whenever she stoically and unyieldingly appears in the save station when loading a game. Only after this does the camera slowly rotate around her, just like Goldeneye 007 did at the beginning of each level. During this shot, the familiar appearance fanfare plays, preparing me to navigate Samus through the world.
Then, when the camera has landed safely in her head in one fluid motion and the fanfare has faded, the HUD appears and all the important readouts are projected onto the visor for Samus and me. This flare-up is accompanied by an electronic buzz; it doesn’t last a second. It marks the beginning of my control over Samus. My responsibility. It accompanies me through a journey that spans three games. No matter where I was just five minutes ago – on the phone, exercising, or eating – this sound centers all my attention on the world of Metroid – and puts me in the suit of Samus Aran. Because that unassuming sound, that fanfare after the actual fanfare, doesn’t belong to Samus, it belongs to me. First Samus appears, then I appear.
One can therefore debate whether MrTanoki did an improper job when he did not include the post-appearance sound in his video. Technically, he is right. It is not a part of the fanfare. But it is missing. Because what is a game without the people to play it!?
Metroid Prime successfully carried the franchise into the third dimension on the GameCube in 2002. Together with its successors (2004, 2007), it forms a highly acclaimed trilogy and is still one of the few three-dimensional game of this genre in a sea of Metroidvanias. In 2017, a fourth part was announced, of which there is still nothing to be seen. It can be assumed though that the game will have an appearance fanfare.
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