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Ridley, as depicted in Super Metroid
|First game||Metroid (1986)|
Ridley (Japanese: リドリー Hepburn: Ridorī), also known by his aliases Geoform 187 and The Cunning God of Death, is the primary villain of the Metroid series (despite not actually acting as the main antagonist of any of the individual games he appears in). He is a draconic extraterrestrial who acts as Samus Aran's archenemy, due to his leadership position within the Space Pirates and the raid he led on her homeworld that included the murder of her parents when she was still a child. Despite having been destroyed numerous times by Samus, he is always resurrected, thanks in equal part to Space Pirate engineering and his natural regenerative ability, which allows him to swiftly recover from what would otherwise be fatal wounds as long as he is able to consume a requisite amount of biomatter from his fallen adversaries.
Originally appearing as a subordinate of Mother Brain, the primary antagonist of multiple titles in the Metroid series, he returns in Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption in his cybernetic Meta Ridley form, independent of such fealty. Despite his monstrous appearance, he is fully sentient, occupying a position of importance within the Space Pirate military and even revealed in the Metroid e-manga to be capable of speech, though he has not yet been witnessed speaking in any of the games.
Throughout the series, Ridley has undergone a variety of changes in appearance. In the original Metroid title, he was roughly the same size as protagonist Samus Aran and sported a more alien appearance (particularly in official artwork, which depicted him with eight eyes running down the length of his head and a small, lamprey-like mouth). In Super Metroid, he is larger than in the original title several times over, sporting purplish-brown skin, glowing yellow eyes, chameleonic abilities (possibly explaining his inconsistent skin tone across different games and even within different parts of Super Metroid), and an overall body shape that heavily resembles a European dragon. Later games depict him as larger still, and Other M departs from previous depictions by giving him a bulky, muscular form in contrast with his skeletal appearance in previous games, along with completely purple skin and flattened jaws resembling a pointed duck bill with a noticeable underbite. Ridley's vocalizations were first depicted in Super Metroid and took the form of a predatory screech; later 2D titles instead gave him piercing, high-pitched wails, while 3D installments such as the Prime games and Other M had him perform monstrous roars. His cybernetic form during the events of the Prime series is referred to as Meta Ridley and incorporates various ballistic weapon systems, while a robotic duplicate, Ridley Robot, appears as the final boss in Zero Mission. While he did not originally appear in Metroid II: Return of Samus in the 3DS remake Metroid: Samus Returns, Ridley returns as the game's final boss in a new cybernetic form called Proteus Ridley which takes place as Samus is about to leave SR388 with the Baby Metroid in an attempt to steal the last remaining Metroid though he is defeated once more.
The instruction manual for the original Metroid claims that Ridley is "the original life form of the planet Zebes," though the continued canonicity of this is disputable given the lack of any subsequent corroborating information and the frequency with which story elements from the original games have since been retconned. His trophy description in Super Smash Bros. Melee confirms Ridley's gender as male. Both Ridley and Meta Ridley appear in Super Smash Bros. Brawl as bosses that must be defeated.
Ridley's status within the ranks of the Space Pirates is unclear, with some sources stating that he is the leader of the entire Space Pirate race, whereas others portray him as simply the Pirates' military commander or even a mere enforcer within the Pirate military ranks, subservient to Mother Brain or Space Pirate High Command. Regardless, he is consistently depicted as a ruthless and cunning tactician who never passes up an opportunity to bring his considerable ferocity to bear on the battlefield, opting to overwhelm his opponents with an unwavering onslaught of attacks from his mouth, claws, and tail. He is also incredibly cruel, actively taking pleasure in the killing and torment of others; at one point in the official manga he taunts Samus by claiming he may have devoured her mother's corpse after killing her, and a Space Pirate log entry in Metroid Prime notes that being the mainstay of the Pirate security force is "a job he will certainly relish."
Ridley originally appeared in the Nintendo Entertainment System video game Metroid. Mike Sneath, one of three senior character artists for Metroid Prime, was responsible for designing the Meta Ridley version of Ridley seen in Metroid Prime. It took him about "20 to 25 days" to model and texture Meta Ridley, citing the wings as having taken a few days of his time, commenting that it took him a while to get the shaders to work to give his wings the appearance of having a "holographic energy." He was not involved with designing the battle with Meta Ridley, which was left up to the game designers. Andrew Jones, the lead concept artist for Metroid Prime, had little to do with the design of Ridley. The initial design submitted was rejected by Nintendo, while the second design the artists submitted was approved. Steve Barcia, the executive producer of Retro Studios, called Ridley his favorite enemy from Metroid Prime due to the quality of the battle and his fan appeal. He added that such a battle was rare for a first person shooter, which helped to set Metroid Prime apart.
After the destruction of Zebes (and subsequent annihilation of Ridley's body) in Super Metroid, a clone of Ridley was unintentionally created by a rogue group within Galactic Federation during an illegal top secret program to engineer bioweapons, many of which are deliberately based on the Space Pirates. He first starts off as a small, furred, bird-like creature whom the Bottle Ship scientists had named "Little Birdie." During the game, Little Birdie/Ridley undergoes metamorphosis twice; first into a large, lizard-like creature and finally into his traditional form.
It is revealed by MB (a human android modeled after Mother Brain and the main antagonist of Other M), posing as Bottle Ship director Dr. Madeline Bergman, that Birdie/Ridley was cloned from some of the genetic material recovered off Samus' Power Suit following the destruction of Zebes, and that the team of scientists had unknowingly revived Ridley (thought unsuitable to be a bioweapon) and kept by the Bottle Ship researchers like a pet. Despite its small size, the infant Birdie retains Ridley's dark intelligence and cunning. By playing dead in its cage, Birdie/Ridley managed to lure one of the scientists into its cage, where it brutally attacked and killed him. His body is later discovered in Ridley's enclosure by Samus, who senses a dark intelligence at work. Samus later runs into the clone in the Pyrosphere and manages to defeat it after suffering an emotional breakdown that led to the apparent death of one of her squadmates, Anthony, at Ridley's hands.
One of Adam's final missions to Samus is to finish off Ridley, whom Adam fears might be more dangerous than the Metroids if left unchecked, and claims Samus is the only one capable of stopping him. However, Samus later discovers his corpse after he is killed, having had his energy drained by the Queen Metroid on the Bottle Ship. His mummified corpse turns up again in Metroid Fusion on the BSL station, after having apparently been removed from the Bottle Ship by the Galactic Federation and placed in a sub-zero storage room for further research (potentially into further bioweapon applications). It is later infected by an X Parasite, allowing it to gain the ability to transform into Ridley-X (also known as Neo-Ridley). Samus later defeats the Ridley mimic and absorbs its Core-X, regaining her signature Screw Attack. What was left of the cloned Ridley's remains were destroyed along with the X when the BSL station crashed into SR388.
In other media
Ridley has made multiple appearances in the Super Smash Bros. series. He first appeared in Super Smash Bros. flying across the background of the Planet Zebes stage in his original Metroid incarnation, followed by an appearance during the opening sequence of Super Smash Bros. Melee and as a collectible trophy. He appears in a more significant role in its sequel, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, where he appears as a boss battle during the game's singleplayer "Subspace Emissary" campaign mode in both his regular and Meta Ridley forms. He returns as a stage hazard for the Pyrosphere stage in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, this time as his depiction in Metroid: Other M.
Many fans believed that Ridley would be a playable character for Melee, and it was rumoured that he would appear along with Toon Link and Bowser Jr. for Brawl. Director of the Super Smash Bros. series, Masahiro Sakurai, stated in an interview with Nintendo Power that the development team considered including Ridley as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but decided against the idea due to creative difficulties. His boss battle theme was included as stage music in Brawl as well. Unused Assist Trophy data for Ridley also exists in the coding of Brawl, suggesting that Ridley was originally meant to have a different role before being placed into the Subspace Emissary mode. In an interview with IGN about Ridley's exclusion from Smash Bros. for Wii U, Sakurai argued that reducing Ridley's size, wingspan, or mobility to include him as a fighter would not be true to the character, who is supposed to be a " truly threatening presence" that could only be correctly portrayed as a stage boss unencumbered by a fighter's size and balance restrictions. Nevertheless, Ridley continues to be one of the most commonly requested fighters for inclusion in future titles among the Smash Bros. community and the general gaming populace.
Ridley also appears in Dead or Alive: Dimensions as part of a Metroid: Other M-themed stage, capable of shooting fireballs at the arena and physically attacking combatants who get too close. A mechanical version of Ridley appears as a boss during the Metroid Blast minigame in Nintendo Land, along with an alternate version called "Ice Ridley."
Ridley appears a few times in the Captain N: The Game Master comics from 1990. In these comics, he looks almost exactly as he appears in the NES version manual, though his face is more lizard-like. Both Kraid and Ridley are approximately human-sized, as per the original game. In the Captain N cartoon series, Ridley is depicted as an individual of a full-fledged species of identical creatures, an attribute he at one point employs to impersonate a judge of the same species as him. Nintendo Power featured two Metroid adaptations. The Super Metroid comic follows the plot of the video game of the same name over the course of sixty pages, while the Metroid Prime comic does the same across eighteen pages. In the Metroid e-manga created by Yoshio Sakamoto, Samus first meets Ridley as a child as he leads the attack on her home colony of K-2L. As Ridley observes the destruction of the colony, Samus approaches him. Her young mind overwhelmed by the carnage but having recently been taught by the Chozo elder Old Bird that even unsightly creatures can be decent, she tries to befriend him, desperate for assurance that everything will be all right. Ridley appears to display a moment's pity toward her before abruptly revealing his true nature by preparing to annihilate her, out of either bloodlust or mercy. Samus' mother Virginia, however, arrives in the nick of time amidst the confusion of the Pirate raid and pushes her daughter out of the way of Ridley's fiery breath, dying instantly in the process. This memory scars Samus for life, and she summarily vows to avenge her parents and destroy Ridley and all the Space Pirates.
Throughout the history of the Metroid series, Ridley has received positive reception as the series antagonist. He is regarded as a favorite amongst both the Metroid fandom and the series's developers. Nintendo Power listed him as their sixth favorite Nintendo villain, citing both his involvement in the death of Samus's parents as well as his determination, dying at Samus' hands many times yet always coming back. Computer and Video Games editor Mike Jackson described Ridley as a "fan favorite." GameDaily called him the 16th greatest Nintendo character, commenting that he "beats Mother Brain by a mile as the coolest Metroid villain." IGN editor Jesse Schedeen called Ridley the real villain of the Metroid series, commenting that he would have to be included in a Metroid film if one were made due to him being too important to leave out. 1UP.com editor Nadia Oxford described the Nintendo Comics System version of Ridley as being more of a "squashed bug" than a "fearsome reptile." The 1UP.com staff listed the battle with Ridley in Super Metroid as among the most iconic in Nintendo history. They stated that his appearance in Super Metroid is more memorable than any other appearance in the Metroid series, and that his return from the original game added some familiarity to Metroid fans. GamesRadar listed him third on their list of video game villains who will never stay dead, calling him Samus's "great white whale" that, even while he has tormented her throughout her life, she just cannot seem to kill. Gaming Nexus criticized the lack of fellow Metroid villain Kraid in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, but stated that the developers made up for it by adding the best Ridley battle in the series's history. IGN editors Phil Pirrello and Richard George listed Ridley as the second most deserving Nintendo character for inclusion in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, stating that Samus was the only playable character in the game to represent the Metroid series (despite it being one of Nintendo's most famous and revered), and that the inclusion of Ridley would broaden the series's range.
However, Ridley's role in Metroid: Other M came under widespread criticism for the scene in which Samus is too immobilized by memories of her childhood trauma at Ridley's hands to fight back even after he attacks her, not snapping out of it until this episode seemingly results in the death of a longtime friend. Abbie Heppe of G4's reaction to the scene as a sexist portrayal of possibly the greatest female icon in all of gaming and narratively incongruous with the plentiful instances of Samus engaging Ridley head-on without issue in previous games typified the response from critics and many longtime fans of the series. Defenders of the scene claim that the message of the scene is about empowerment rather than weakness and cite a subplot within the official manga wherein Samus's first encounter with Ridley leaves her afflicted with symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, while its detractors counterargue that this plot point was resolved later on within the manga and that the abrupt reintroduction of it is nonsensical after years' worth of battles with Ridley combined with the fact that most players aren't familiar with an element of backstory presented in an obscure piece of supplementary material that is left unexplained within the game itself. Although the Ridley scene has since become emblematic of the polarized critical and commercial reception with which Other M was met upon release, the subsequent boss battle against Ridley is often regarded as one of the game's biggest highlights.
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