Thardus

         Metroid Prime is, in my opinion, one of the best games ever made. Prime 2 and Corruption were good too, but not as impressive. The Metroid series is all about a sense of isolation, a sense that you’re alone in an alien world, finding a way to survive through your weaponry and what you can find.
        Prime shows this very well, especially since it is the series debut into 3D. Rather than seeing Samus run around on the screen, you see everything from her point of view. You see every monster that you battle face to face, every item is inches from your nose as you get closer, everything is simply more personal in that perspective.
        It also helps that there is lore to be found too, showing either what your enemies the Space Pirates are up to, or the logs of the vanished Chozo that came before you, some segments even detailing Samus’ return to Tallon IV. It shows, in rather amazing detail, that there are people trying to find you, developing weapons and doing horrid experiments just to counter you, and that a long-gone race is counting on you to destroy the Poison that ended their kind and ruined their world.
        What is this Poison? A radioactive substance called Phazon, which, when it infects a living creature by proximity or otherwise, drastically increases their muscle mass and power, sometimes even giving them new abilities, while at the same time creating a massive addiction for more of the substance, increasing aggressiveness, and deteriorating brain tissue. Essentially, it transforms creatures into stronger, dumber versions of themselves that will defend any Phazon they find because they are addicted to it.
        Attracted to all of these qualities, the Space Pirates sought to use this substance to produce powerful new warriors for their army. You’ll find, if one cares to look, many bits of lore that show this, such as descriptions of how the Phazon affects a subject, failures to make such and such plan work, and our subject for today, a plan called Project Titan.
        This project entailed testing out if Phazon would have the same effect on inorganic matter as it would on living things. While that may sound a little silly, it does make sense. After all, science is testing things and collecting data, learning how things work. How would you know if it affects inorganic objects until you tried it? Common sense may say that’s a dumb idea, but common sense is often wrong, and this case is another example, because yes, using Phazon on rocks somehow created the boss creature Thardus.
        However, taming the beast was impossible, since rocks aren’t exactly known to feel pain. Therefore, the project was deemed a failure and moved into the Quarantine Cave. The door isn’t any bigger than usual, which makes me wonder if they moved it one rock at a time. Regardless, the creature has one of Samus’ power ups and the cave is in route to her objectives, so a fight is inevitable.
        Samus jumps into the snowy arena and faces what seems to be a pile of rocks, until a small rock floats out of the snow behind her, and the pile starts shaking. They somehow levitate and form a humanoid shape. The entity roars at Samus and the battle starts. Oddly, it does not attack immediately, but rather lets out more roars, spreading its arms and ‘looking’ skyward. However, it won’t remain stationary for long, and it’ll soon attack.
        It demonstrates impressive psychic powers in doing so, such as sending a wave of icy spikes at you by smashing the ground, which can freeze you in place and leave you open. It will also raise it’s hands slowly, glowing, and have rocks appear out of the snow and hurl them psychically as projectiles. They aren’t very fast, so they can be destroyed for health or ammo, but they can catch one unawares. His final attack is to roll into a ball and chase down Samus, prompting her to use her Morph Ball as well. It has only three attacks, it is definitely enough to keep even an excellent player busy, especially the rolling attack since in Morph Ball mode you can‘t use the radar to tell where Thardus is.
        The fight is made even harder by the fact that only one of the rocks that make up Thardus is a weak point, and there’s no obvious indicator, unless you use the Thermal Visor. This shows that one in particular has a large heat signature, and after enough firing that heat will overwhelm the visor because the rock covering that contained the heat and hid the rock has been shot off. From there one simply shoots it normally, since the Phazon rock will be an obvious bright blue. After one rock is destroyed, a new one can be found.
        Despite not feeling pain, Thardus will stumble a bit when a rock is destroyed, and howl louder. After three are destroyed, it will be temporarily invincible as it howls and uses its power to start up a snowstorm, making it hard to spot it and its attacks. This doesn’t impair the Thermal Visor, but when the Phazon rock is visible, that visor can’t be used, meaning you have to finish it off while nearly blind.
        After all but one Phazon rock is destroyed, the snowstorm will fade and the creature will smash the ground in front of it with its fists, apparently throwing a tantrum, before resuming the attack. After this last rock is destroyed, the creature’s cries slowly dwindle to nothing as the remaining, non-psychic rocks collapse into the snow. As Samus walks away, a tiny rock smacks into her helmet, making a hilarious ‘ding’ sound.
        All in all, Thardus is very bizarre for a giant rock monster, roaring despite not having vocal cords, and acting less like a being of stone than some kind of predatory animal. Think about it; it roars when it sees Samus, perhaps a display to frighten her off, and it shows frustration and annoyance that she managed to destroy parts of it.
        My personal theory as to how the creature worked is that the rocks weren’t somehow given sentience, but rather the Phazon itself is sentient, and it is simply using the rocks it has been attached to control the others. And yes, Phazon, the substance, is indeed sentient, so that checks out. Given how it drives other creatures to be territorial and angry around it, it makes sense it would act the same.
        It also showed, I think, to be somewhat capable of learning; the way it does its rolling attack has a similar motion to how Samus enters her Morph Ball. Perhaps it picked up the attack from seeing her change into a ball. However it was oddly dumb in other ways. Why wouldn’t it ever attack her up close? It’s a giant rock, odds are it can probably crush her. Well, one has to remember that it was created by Space Pirates, who likely, in the course of trying to tame it, attacked it frequently and wouldn’t get very close, opting to use their laser weapons instead. Therefore, its massive size and strength wouldn’t be of use, so it developed new tricks to hurt them, turning the very environment against them.
        While that may have worked against Space Pirates, ones who specifically were not trying to kill it and may not even been aware of its weak points, against the analytical and deadlier Samus it was at a clear disadvantage, while also ironically against an enemy that would have been much easier to deal with if it kept to close range attacks.
        Still, I do ponder something. Did it really die? It was Phazon, and even though the rocks were blasted to bits, I’d imagine it still lingers at that spot in very small quantities. Maybe that’s why that rock hit Samus in the end- it was final, parting shot from the once massive Thardus.

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