Is Ridley from Metroid Really Native to Zebes?


A long while back, a reader named Fizzle asked a simple question about Ridley from the Metroid series:

In the English manual for the original NES Metroid, Ridley was described as “the original life form of planet Zebes” and that he’s controlled by Mother Brain. Is this true for the Japanese version? What does “original life form” mean exactly?

As a follow up, is this perhaps mentioned in any other Japanese media for later games? I don’t think any English versions mention it again.

This sounds pretty simple, so let’s take a peek at the manuals!

Oh gee golly! I can win 75 missile blasts?! Yippee!Oh gee golly! I can win 75 missile blasts?! Yippee!
(English image courtesy of Metroid Database… I think)

Side-by-side, the text looks something like:

Japanese Version (basic translation)Official Translation
The master of Boss Lair II.It’s the head of the Mini-Boss Hideout II.
Jumps into the air and spews fire.It jumps up into the air and breathes fire.
A native life form of Planet Zebes that is under Mother Brain’s control.It’s the original life form of the planet Zebes and is controlled by Mother Brain.
Destroy it and you win 75 missile blasts!!!

So it looks like the translation is pretty much the same as the original text! Save for the added line at the end there, of course 😛

The Japanese term used is 先住生物, which refers to an aboriginal or native creature. Although, to get nitpicky, the official translation sort of makes it sounds like Ridley is the one and only original life form of Zebes or that Ridley is a member of the original species on Zebes or something like that, but it’s actually just an ordinary native creature.

You know, it’s not entirely related, but this also makes me wonder what the Chozo are considered. I don’t think they’re native to Zebes, according to later games, right? But I wonder if they were considered native to the planet when only the first Metroid game existed. Does anyone know?

Anyway, as for what other Japanese games have had to say about Ridley, I sadly don’t own any of the Japanese Metroid games except for the first one, and it’s a bit tough to find scans of them online. If anyone can help in that regard, I can update this post, though!

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  1. I’ve always heard that Chozo was a generic word for the statues, but it got picked up and expanded upon in the English release. Don’t know if there’s any truth to that though.

    1. It’s true. Chozo means “bird statue”.

    2. Well, 彫像 (which is pronounced chozo) is a standard term for “statue”, so my first guess was that it was based on that, but this Wikipedia article has more info on it:

      1. I don’t buy the following uncited info in that article:

        “While in the Japanese versions of the games, the beings are only ever identified by the generic term chōjin-zoku (鳥人族 lit. “bird-folk race”?), a misunderstanding during the localization process led to the mistaken adoption of the descriptor chōzō (鳥像 “bird statue”?), rendered “Chozo,” in the English versions instead.”

        I mean, how likely is it that Chozo is a misunderstanding of chojin-zoku and not simply an conjoining of the two words, much like “Pocket Monsters” was localized as “Pokemon”?

        1. Yeah, I’m not really sure what to think about it, the fact that it’s not cited makes me curious too.

        2. Looking at the Japanese Wikipedia page for Metroid, it definitely uses 鳥人族, but the Chozodia location in Metroid: Zero Mission is rendered in katakana directly as チョウゾディア, so it could be that 鳥人族 has a forced reading of “Chozo”.

        3. On the official Metroid II site, the statues are referred as Chōjin no Zō (鳥人の像). I’m not sure if the term was ever used in the English localization back then.

        4. Super Metroid was the first one where the Chozo were referred to by name in the English manual; the Japanese manual calls them 鳥人の像.
          The first game just calls them statues/像. I can’t find a Japanese manual for Metroid II, but they’re “artifactor statues” in English.

    3. The beautiful thing was that the less you knew the better, these statues were pretty much the equivalent to the “Space Jockey” in the film Alien, once Prometheus and later Metroid titles were released the magic was broken. 🙁

      1. I think the Chozo have retained their mystique by having no living Chozo actually appear, aside from the manga and some of the Japanese endings of Fusion. They’re still pretty cool in my books, pretty much close to what one would expect looking at the statues. Having them be the designers of Samus’ suit is also neat and makes sense.

        The difference is that the Space Jockey looked genuinely alien in the same vein as the Xenomorphs, and the final result was… a big angry white man. Awful choice. Turning the mysterious alien race into humans doesn’t just break the magic, it destroys it entirely.

  2. I don’t think this is considered canon anymore, though.

    Basically, Zebes was originally settled by a group of Chozo. They built an organic computer (Mother Brain) to run everything, but she started to get jealous of Samus (who the Chozo adopted and brought to Zebes) and went mad with power. When the pirates (led by Ridley) attacked Zebes, Mother Brain betrayed the Chozo and took control of the pirate force.

    To be honest, the dynamic between Ridley and Mother Brain is never really clear. Sometimes it seems like Mother Brain is just using Ridley and the pirates for her own purpose and something it seems like Ridley just let Mother Brain join them, but he’s still kinda of in charge? It’s kinda complicated.
    But I’m pretty sure Ridley is not originally from Zebes. They’ve never mentioned it again as far as I can recall, and the manga (which is considered canon) shows Ridley arriving at Zebes when he first attacked the Chozo colony. It’s not like he’d always lived there and Mother Brain suddenly took control of him (which is what the manual implies). If anything, it’s the other way around.

    1. Interesting, thanks! I guess they retconned stuff of this early stuff out at some point, I never realized that before.

      1. The way I understand it (I’m an old school fan) Nintendo pretty much rebooted the franchise with Prime and Fusion and with them came many retcons. Much like what happened with Zelda after Ocarina of Time… at least in the west. Destroy it and you win 75 missile blasts!!!

        1. The Prime plot got rewritten again for the European release after someone noticed the plot in the American version had some really huge plot holes in it (not sure how the Japanese plot goes). Metroid canon is a mess.

          1. And that’s without even getting into Other M, which essentially writes the Primes out of existence.

          2. It’s really just some minor details and the origin of Metroid Prime. In the NA version, it was discovered by the Space Pirates and modified, then it broke loose, which explains why it exacted revenge upon then in the sequel. Except that didn’t make sense because the area Metroid Prime is in is totally sealed off from inside and outside without the Chozo artifacts, so the European version rewrote it to say that the Pirates detected some presence within but couldn’t reach it. Except that also doesn’t make sense because it was still clearly using mechanical weaponry. (Judging from the list of logs, the Japanese translation used the European text, and since Metroid Prime Trilogy is based on the Japanese standalone Wii de Asobu release, it also uses the rewrite.)

            So basically, they swapped one plot hole for another.

            1. The bigger plot hole is how on Earth did a Metroid come to be the “worm” (Metroid Prime) mentioned in the Chozo logs from before the Space Pirates even arrived? What was a Metroid doing on Tallon IV? Did it come in the Phazon meteor? Are those Metroid Prime exoskeletons on Phaaze? Why are there any Metroids on Phaaze? Did they come from Phaaze or did Dark Samus take them there?

              Metroids were created by the Chozo on SR388, so the whole thing makes little sense.

              1. In all fairness, I think the whole “It’s a Metroid” mess is due to the rewrite. Originally, the Pirates noted that it merely resembled a Metroid-like organism, but not clearly identified as such and admittedly a bit more advanced. So…that’s actually one plot hole for the price of two (three is you consider that there’s no reason for it to be given the name Metroid Prime in the rewrite)…

                Huh, looks like the original version might make a little more sense.

                1. Not sure I agree. If one takes the perspective that plots in video games only exist to make the game more intriguing or satisfying, then one soon notices that not all plot holes are created equal. Let’s take a look at why exactly the plot holes you named are a problem:

                  Why is the “worm” a Metroid?
                  This is a problem because it clashes with an origin story given in another game. Or rather, it raises questions that are left unanswered. On a meta level, the reason the “worm” is a Metroid is because every Metroid game needs an excuse to have Metroids in it, and because someone at Retro had a cool idea for a final boss.

                  Why does Metroid Prime use beam technology similiar to pirates seen earlier in the game?
                  This is a problem because MP and the pirates haven’t met, and that is a genuine plot hole. However, I would argue that it works from a gameplay standpoint, because it reuses familiar consepts and makes them harder, and rewards players for finding the optional beam upgrades.

                  How did the pirates find Metroid Prime despite the crater being sealed?
                  On a narrative level, this is a problem because the seal was placed long before the pirates came. AND, from a “the plot makes the gameplay more satisfying” -standpoint, this raises the questions if collecting Chozo Artefacts is even necessary in the first place, since the pirates were apparently able to reach Metroid Prime without them.

                  So if you ask me, the two plotholes of the rewrite are preferable to the one in the original version, because they do not take away the feeling of achievement from parts of the game.

    2. I need to re-read the manga, but could it not be possible that Ridley still originates from Zebes? I don’t remember it contradicting this, but I could be wrong. He must have been some from some planet, after all. I sort of like the irony that Ridley is actually a native species.

      Also, the idea in Other M is that the Federation (and MB) is essentially recreating Zebes on the Bottle Ship, so is it not possible that Ridley’s clone is just part of that, given that he’s actually a native life form?

      Other M does imply that Mother Brain does indeed control all the life forms using a form of telepathy, too, including the Zebesian Space Pirates.

      The manga isn’t entirely canon, either. Ridley has never spoke in the games and shows no signs of being able to, for example.

  3. I didn’t realize it was like that in the first game. I know now it’s basically the Chozo who lived on Zebes (I don’t remember if they were native or just colonized it), while Ridley is definitely NOT considered a native to Zebes. In fact, in the remake of the first game, Metroid: Zero Mission, there’s a bunch of added cutscenes showing Ridley making his way to Zebes on a Space Pirate ship and hunting down and ambushing Samus in the spot where he was found in the original game.

    1. There’s only one way to fix these inconsistencenies: let’s get Nintendo to do a timeline for Metroid like they did with Zelda!

      Just kidding, that timeline thing is pretty weird and feels shoehorned-in 😛

      1. Oh dear god no. That timeline has done nothing good for the Zelda franchise. <XD

      2. They did that already on the Prime 2 demo disc. Metroid’s timeline is pretty straight forward.

        Original>Prime>Hunters>P2>P3>Metroid 2>Super>Fusion, with the manga being a prequel.

        Original, 2, Super and Fusion are all very explicit on their order in game anyways

        1. The manga’s not listed in any official timeline. Heck, from what I remember, the manga is actually about roughly 2/3 an adaptation of the original game’s events in the first place, so I’m not sure if that should really count. (As for the “it influenced Other M” argument – that point is moot because the Super Metroid Nintendo Power comic also strongly influenced the manga as well as Samus’s origin story, despite it being universally considered non-canon material).

          Some timelines (for instance the Echoes bonus disc) place Zero Mission after the original game for some reason, but it’s made clear at the beginning of the remake that it’s supposed to be a retelling according to Samus Aran herself. The two are virtually interchangeable as any storyline additions are never mentioned again, although you might say the original game’s mission record is the one in the history books and Zero Mission is an obscure version that comes from a primary source.

          The original NES (though not FDS) game is also included as unlockable content in Zero Mission, so I doubt the intent was to totally replace Gunpei Yokoi’s vision.)

          1. Well, Zero Mission has a section that takes place after the ending of Metroid, so that might be why it was placed after Metroid 1.

        2. Well, after the release of Other M, the timeline got retconned. All the Prime games, including Hunters, are no longer canon. Now it goes: Metroid -> Metroid II -> Super Metroid -> Other M -> Metroid Fusion

          1. Is there necessarily a source for this? People claim Sakamoto said they weren’t canon, but that’s not what he said at all. His wording more implies that they represented a side story, he didn’t outright dismiss them as non-canon. I don’t know if there is any other source that implies they are not canon.

            The Prime games introduced a lot of inconsistencies in the canon but many aspects of them, particularly the nature of the Chozo as depicted in the first game, have become canon and are referenced in Zero Mission in particular, although admittedly no direct story cues from the series are mentioned in that or Other M (although aspects like the Scan Visor are made canon). Zero Mission does sort of hint at the origins of Meta Ridley, however.

  4. Looking at that manual scan again… that fire breath of Ridley is definitely from an earlier build of the game. In the final build of the game the fire has basically the same palette as Ridley. Never noticed that before.

  5. Actually there’s a pretty clear-cut timeline for the series, with the entire Prime quadrilogy being set between Metroid 1 and 2, and Other M between Super and Fusion. But you meant alternate timelines, didn’t you.

    The Metroid Database has a scan of the Japanese Super Metroid manual if that’s what you’re looking for. Sadly it’s the only Japanese manual they have. They also have the Zero Mission one in Chinese for some reason.

  6. I always liked to think of Ridley as one of Mother Brain’s four generals. (Ridley, Kraid, Draygon, and Phantoon.) I don’t know a lot of the plot aside from Metroid NES, Super Metroid, and Metroid Prime, though. Is that still enough to earn my 75 missile blasts? They’re a hoot!

    1. Gotta love that big four! I made stories about them and Mother Brain as a kid. I wish they would get back together in a new game, that would so nostalgic for me.

  7. Once again, great work with the updates. 🙂

  8. Oh, thank you for doing this! I actually did some research into it myself after asking and pretty much found out the same deal, but having the information on what the term actually means (native species rather than “original” species) is very interesting and helpful, thank you.

    Incidentally, links to the Super Metroid booklet in both Japanese and English can be found here.

    This is the first game to refer to both the Chozo as a race and the “Zebesian” Space Pirates. Zebesians are a species of Space Pirate that are, as it suggests, from Zebes. This name has NOT been retconned by the way, although it was forgotten during the Prime series (where they are just called “Space Pirates”). And yes, despite this, the Chozo are considered the original inhabitants of Zebes… but perhaps Ridley predated even them?

    Information on Ridley can be found on page 37 of the Japanese manual, although if it’s the same as the English one, it won’t shed any more information on his personality or origins. If you could take a brief look at it to see what it does say, however, that would be awesome.

    I like to think that Ridley or his species lived on Zebes before the Chozo even lived there, and that perhaps he actually has a grudge against them for some reason. Ridley’s origins or how he came to be the leader of the Space Pirates are never explained, aside from that he is a creature with a strange life cycle similar to a Metroid (he starts off as a cute little thing nicknamed Little Birdie and turns into a hideous monster). Obviously, his species must be native to some planet, so why not Zebes? Seems everyone else in the series grew up there, haha.

    I even wonder if maybe he is actually related to the Chozo in some fashion, like an earlier experiment gone wrong or a nasty inbred cousin. Just a thought, though.

    1. Assuming Mother Brain’s Chozo backstory is still canon, she must have been plotting against the Chozo long before the Space Pirates invaded. The Zebesians being feral without Mother Brain implies that Mother Brain has always been their leader. I think that Mother Brain, being the leader of the Space Pirates (Ridley has been referred to as their general, but general doesn’t mean ruler), created Ridley, the Zebesians, and the Space Pirate organization and secretly led them until she eventually summoned them to Zebes and revealed herself.

      If Mother Brain’s Chozo backstory is no longer canon (Other M seeming to ignore Zero Mission suggests this), maybe Mother Brain was created as part of the Federation’s conspiracy.

  9. This has nothing to do with Metroid but I don’t have a Twitter account: I get the feeling that Mighty Bear Seven is a reference to Ultra Seven. It’s hardly obscure and it’s the sequel to an unnumbered series. It’s kind of tenuous though.

    While I’m on the topic, Ultraman is hilarious.

  10. I wouldn’t really get too worked up about canon in Metroid. Even if you disregard the question of “are Metroid Prime/Other M/the manga canon?” there’s still inconsistencies within the original series, like is Mother Brain the space pirate leader like all game manuals prior to Super Smash Bros Melee said, or is Ridley the leader and Mother Brain is just a defense computer, based on Ridley’s SSBM trophy description and Metroid Zero Mission’s manual? I think that could be a topic of another LoL article. Compare the Japanese and English versions of Ridley’s SSBM trophy and the Metroid Zero Mission manual and see if they agree on who the space pirate’s leader is.

    1. I remember Ridley being referred to as the space pirates’ leader in a Super Metroid guide from 1995, so that plot point is definitely at least THAT old.

      1. I didn’t know that. So I guess the disagreement has lasted longer than I thought it did.

    2. Ridley has always been referred to as “general” while Mother Brain has always been referred to as “leader”. I always figured that Mother Brain is the ruler and she appointed Ridley to the position of General.

  11. Thank god they added the part about the 75 missile blasts. I wasn’t gonna touch this game, but then I saw that and was sold.

  12. Those early NES manuals for games like the Legend of Zelda and Metroid had some really interesting illustrations for the bosses and enemies, to say the least. Initially I thought the somewhat weird illustrations were exclusive to the Western versions of the manuals, but nope they’re included in the Japanese manuals as well, as seen above.

    Also, that depiction of Ridley is particularly terrifying.

  13. MischievousMarina

    FYI, the Virtual Console version at least on 3DS has a digital instruction manual that retranslates this bit!

    Under [12] Boss Enemies, Ridley: “Flies up into the air and breathes fire. An indigenous life-form of Zebes, this creature is being controlled by Mother Brain.”

    And yep, it left out that added line about the 75 missile blasts!!!

    (Samus is also a girl, though the misdirection probably wouldn’t work anymore.)

  14. Well, this part is not going to be true if this game has a Hard Mode, because that 75 missile blasts is going to be halved into 37.5 missile blasts instead.