Metroid villains occupy a curious place in Nintendo’s grand pantheon of bad guys. While Bowser and Ganondorf have practically been spouting their evil plans since the text box was invented, Metroid has never really given its villains a voice. It’s perhaps understandable given that the game’s main threat is a pack of face-grabbing, floating jellyfish-like creatures, but the likes of Mother Brain, Ridley and the Space Pirates have also had little opportunity to tell their side of the story over their 25 year tenure as Metroid’s top criminals.
But the Metroid Prime series changed all that. Through the clever and understated use of the logbook system, players were finally afforded a more profound look into the Space Pirate psyche– and they certainly unveiled a few quite surprising revelations if players dug deep enough. Barring some slight differences between American and European versions, here’s a look at what they had to say for themselves.
Pre-Prime, Space Pirates really didn’t have that much going for them.
If we put the logs in chronological order (as they were in the European version), they paint a very interesting picture. Beginning with the fall of Zebes, the Space Pirates seem strangely calm and collected despite all personnel being presumed dead, “either killed by the Hunter clad in metal or in the subsequent destruction of the underground facilities.”
The entry has an incredibly cruel and clinical tone, quickly skipping over the huge loss of life to focus on whether or not their research frigates survived their mother ship’s destruction. Short, sharp and to the point, it states that “Orpheon’s cargo appears to have a 100% survival rate; Metroids are healthy but on restricted feeding schedules due to uncertain supply status.”
Any sign of revenge for their fleets of fallen comrades is entirely absent, giving the impression that each Space Pirate is completely expendable– the most important objective is the preservation of the Metroids, and that collective goal is far more important than any individual’s survival.
Yet for all their calculating coldness, one thing that particularly struck me when I first encountered the Space Pirate data was the recurring phrase, “the Hunter” (i.e.: Samus Aran). Although we all know that Samus is a bounty hunter by trade, losing the “bounty” part of her title immediately casts a slightly more unsettling light on our heroine. She’s no longer hunting bounties– from their perspective, she’s hunting them, and their choice of words suggest that they fear her.
That said, ever the opportunists, the Space Pirates also issue instructions to “terminate” Samus, “preferably in a fashion that will allow salvage of her powered armoursuit and weapons. A considerable bounty will go to the unit who delivers Aran to Command. Dead or alive, it matters not.” It’s almost as if the roles have been reversed here, with Samus cast as the “evil villain” and any Space Pirate up to the task as the righteous “bounty hunter.” Equally, far from being supposedly mindless individuals, they’re incredibly organised, with ranks and units and a Command– the mirror-image of the Galactic Federation.
However, they are also a race without a home now that Zebes has been reclaimed by Samus’s efforts in the original Metroid (remember that Super Metroid comes some time after the events in Metroid Prime). It’s not known how much time they spent searching for a suitable planet to make their next head quarters, but the “Contact” entry depicts them as relatively desperate.
When they detect “a massive energy spike” on Tallon IV (the phazon mine), they immediately dispatch their reconnaissance scouts. There isn’t time “to form an accurate risk-assessment” as they believe it’s “unlikely” they’ll find another planet “this powerful” again.
However, their haste is not for their own sake. Once again, it’s solely to see whether they can get their Metroid experiments back up and running, and they show little to no regard for the indigenous life and culture on Tallon IV when they arrive. When they discover the containment field around Tallon IV’s phazon crater, the “Artifact Site” entry reads:
“As the field could hinder future energy production operations on Tallon IV, we must dismantle it as soon as possible. If this means the destruction of the Chozo Artifacts, it will be done.”
They don’t stop to think about why there might be a barrier to the phazon– all that matters is that they get their hands on it at all costs.
Equally, however, the Space Pirates also prove themselves to be an extremely curious and enterprising species. They quickly start work on their experiments with phazon, testing how the local parasites of Tallon IV react to various amounts of radioactive infusions, and then analyse sets of very detailed results to see where they can improve and what needs to be accomplished next. Their operation flourishes and continues to thrive, and High Command is so pleased with their progress that they predict the Space Pirates “shall rise dominant of this sector within a deca-cycle” if they keep going at this rate. They are at the height of their game, and their “joy” is best shown in the “Phazon Program” entry when it remarks: “Truly, these are glorious times.”
But perhaps the most surprising revelation from the Space Pirate Data is their relationship with Ridley. Although Ridley is generally regarded as a high-ranking member of the Space Pirates, possibly even their general (certainly one of their leaders), the “Meta Ridley” entry reveals that the Space Pirates actually have the upper hand when it comes to rank:
“We believe our creature, now called Meta Ridley, will become the mainstay of our security force, a job he will certainly relish.”
They use Meta Ridley for their own ends, even going so far as to call him their creature. The Space Pirates are the ones in control here, answering only to the bidding of High Command.
But this trend of creating stronger and stronger Space Pirates doesn’t stop with Ridley– when they start experimenting with phazon and their own embryos, the Elite Pirate project takes off, eventually leading to the devastatingly powerful Omega Pirate. Yet the “Special Forces” entry suggests that, despite the relish they experience over these genetic advances, they might just be evolving themselves out of existence:
“As we continue to observe the development of Project Helix’s Elite Pirates, it becomes increasing obvious that these warriors will usher in a new era of Space Pirate dominance […], the ideal mainstays of our ground forces. Though they are not as quick as typical Pirates, it makes little difference.”
Just as they show no concern for others, it’s clear that they also show no real regard for themselves. Either that or they’re so near-sighted that they cannot see the genetically-inferior future that looms in front of them as their more powerful creations overtake and outperform their efforts. Instead, they remain confident (or perhaps deluded?) that their existence will continue to be necessary.
This is seen again in their experiments on the Metroids– by infusing them with phazon, they quickly realise that “a small force of disciplined Metroids could wipe out entire armies,” and that taming them could be the key to the future success of the Space Pirates. But, it begs the question, at what cost to themselves in the long-run?
Interestingly, they actually seem rather baffled by how Metroids attack their prey, indicating that they don’t have as a strong handle on their capabilities as previously thought– “The victim does not lose blood or any other vital fluids, and yet the Metroid extracts energy; identifying this energy is our central problem.”
However, it’s here where the logbooks come to a close, save one more entry about the sighting of Chozo ghosts. To sum up then, it’s clear that the Space Pirates definitely aren’t the somewhat mindless minions that we perhaps thought they were before. They’re organised and sophisticated, with seemingly boundless knowledge and resources at their disposal; they have armies, research teams, language specialists, mad scientists and miners all imbued with a co-ordinated and orderly work ethic; and they will stop at nothing to achieve their goal. Neither selfish or selfless, the only thing that matters is the propagation of the Space Pirates and their utter dominance over their surroundings. The past is not worth worrying about; the future is where true glory lies, and even if they eradicate the need for their own existence, it will all have been in the name of progress.