Head's up for story spoilers from all Metroid games, including Metroid Dread.
I ♥ Kraid
There's a lot to love about the Metroid games. The eerie, alien atmosphere. Their unique search-action gameplay. Perhaps most of all, the star of the show, Samus Aran herself.
Me? I love Kraid.
Yeah, the big lug who blocks your path in two of the games and is this close to a tutorial boss. That one. Buddy, I wrote an article gushing about a one-off baddie from Wario's Woods of all things, you should know my taste in favourite characters is terrible. This one doesn't even have dialogue!
Why should you like Kraid? I'll tell you why you should like Kraid.
HE'S THE UNDERDOG!
Of the first game's villainous trio, it's Mother Brain and Ridley who were the real stars. Early media portrayed the former as the real brains of the operation (har har), the villainous mastermind that western comics and cartoons would use to scheme from behind the scenes, casting a sinister but memorable presence despite her lack of autonomy.
For many years, Mother Brain was treated as the series' headlining villain, and although a short-lived tenure, her actions in Super Metroid rightfully earned her Samus' vitriol.
Ridley, meanwhile, would become the dark horse baddie as the year's went on -- the one with personal ties to Samus, having killed her parents and possibly even led her to becoming the warrior she is now -- would she have been adopted by the Chozo otherwise? He's mean, he's nasty, he's vicious, and he just won't stay dead.
Even when he's got no horse in the race, he'll show up just to be a pest, literally dragging himself out of his hospital bed after his last beating just to dog her one more time. If there's a villain that represents the theme of never-ending, undying dread, it can only be Ridley.
Kraid? He's just along for the ride. If he's done anything to earn Samus' scorn, we're not aware of it -- he just shows up to block the road sometimes. High-ranking Space Pirate and vicious monster he may be, she probably holds as much a vendetta against him as she would a traffic light.
Compared to the aforementioned mainstays or even Dark Samus, there's not nearly the same lore surrounding Kraid as the others. He's assumedly a regular among the Space Pirates, if not a high-ranking figure, actually recruited into this gig and not just a big dumb monster they unleash upon the world.
Is he intelligent? Does he belong to a recognised species? Or is he just an anomaly, a freak of nature who exists only to antagonise and destroy?
Even from the beginning the games and all ancillary media have seemingly made a point of not fleshing him out, which the obnoxious contrarian could say only makes him more mysterious...
... but it's very likely there's not that much to say about a three-storey fatass. How do you write a character who can't fit in the same room as any of his peers? That won't stop me from thinking he's got hidden depths, though I'll have to get back to you on what those depths may be.
He's the biggest bastard you fight in these games! Barring his first appearance on NES, every time he's shown up has been a technical showcase; a huge, lumbering enemy who blocks your road and occupies multiple screens worth of vertical space. How much of the graphics budget is put towards just putting him in the game?
More than just a sprite, he's a big freakin' monster. How does a thing get this huge in the first place? There's nothing else as big as him! Not quite kaiju-sized, if we're being anal about size classifications, but still the biggest darn thing any of these planets have seen, or faced off against Samus on the reg. If you want an impressive battle between woman warrior and mountainous monster, look no further.
His funky proportions might be friend-shaped in my messed-up perspective, but this dude's a freak. He's a monstrosity big beyond belief, with three eyes and all manner of uncanny horns, thorns and warts -- his diminutive little claws and spiked missiles he can launch from his belly don't help his image either. Yuck!
Beyond his exterior that's alternately warty, scaly or flabby, dude's implied to be a gross nasty chemical factory. Beyond gargling boulders from his maw, the three mysterious openings on his belly excrete whacked-out crap of their own, from his iconic spiked projectiles (intended as blunt force instruments to whack Samus in the face, but unwittingly doubling as platforms and footholds), as well as explosive purple goop.
Metroid bosses are all unique flavours of gross, but in straddling the line between the familiar and recognisable (bipedal dragons!), and the strange and unsettling (ALL-NATURAL PROJECTILE BELLY SPIKES), Kraid's somethin' else. He's cute and ugly and charming and disgusting, and I love him.
NO, HE'S BIG!!!
Look, let's not beat around the bush. We got a fat dragon on our hands. Dragons already have my attention, but when they're round, too? That calls for some hooting and/or hollering. But in the name of fairness, I will do my best to address this with nuance, grace, and a minimum of sweating.
Most of the enemies in Metroid fall under a few banners. You've got your weird bulbous sacks, like the series' namesake among others. There's the skittery critters of various shapes and sizes, but undeniably skittery and/or crittery. There's some eyes and some legs and maybe a faint resemblance to an animal if you're really generous about it. That one's a bit like a seahorse, innit?
And then there's the bipedal boys. Not actually that common outside of the Space Pirate grunts or various named characters, but either because of their size relative to Samus or the number of limbs they've got, we're inclined to view them as sentient, intelligent, malevolent.
The Space Pirates are the ones with the laser blasters and kung-fu kicks. Ridley's got such a dramatic flair that he hangs around the torn-apart space station just so he can surprise Samus from the shadows. A total drama llama. The list goes on.
Disparate as they may be in the roles they play, these types of creatures tend to follow a familiar structure. Arc-shaped heads with stooped backs; long, clawed limbs, and often digitigrade legs. The Chozo, the Zebesians, the Luminoth... it's definitely the shape most Metroid lifeforms fall in line with, and likely a stylistic holdover from its Aliens inspiration. They're lithe, nimble, and depending on the pose, as graceful or as menacing as they want to be.
And then there's Kraid.
He's got a few of those traits -- he's big, he's got two arms and two legs, he had that arc-shaped head thing going on for a hot minute -- but he's otherwise a total outlier. And it's mostly because dude's got a waistline measured by the yard.
Look, you so rarely see fat aliens, alright? And when you do they lean into the 'human' conception of excess weight; bloated guts, saggy tits, stretch marks, all that fun stuff.
When bugs are usually the go-to influence for designing alien lifeforms, those two traits tend to be a smidge incompatible, because when's the last time you saw a beetle with a booty like damn? (don't answer that)
(all i'm saying is you'd think hippos and cows and other animals with built-in chonk would be inspiration for this kind of thing, but what do i know about character design)
That's a long-winded diatribe just to say that Kraid's an outlier on the traditional Metroid monster design. For every element he has in common, his stature as a big chunky hunk fights to counteract it. I could conspire some body positivity angle into this, but I might be stepping out of line. I will be vouching for Kraid positivity though. Please let Kraid know you're happy to see him. He's only been in three games, he should know he's doing a good job. Flinging your fingernails at people is thankless work.
Now, the joys of liking obscure characters (and by joys i mean reasons i am disenchanted with forming attachments to most things) is that those suckers show up once, maybe twice, and then never again. Octoman was lucky to get five game appearances, and an anime role!
Kraid's in the funky position where he's arguably seen as a series mainstay, having been there since the debut and making a couple notable appearances in games and spin-offs... but not actually key or popular enough to show up on the reg. Again, mostly because of the size thing. It's a lot of monster to have to factor in.
As exhausting as it is to constantly bang my fists on the table screaming "WHERE'S KRAID" for years at a time, seeing him show up again is a delight, and arguably half the fun -- he's seen a lot of changes throughout the years! Although invariably playing the role of big dumb roadblock, seeing how his design has changed or what new tricks he's got up his sleeves is a treat.
This is a hamfisted way of transitioning the article from "I <3 Kraid" to "The Evolution of Kraid's Sprite", because if there's anything I apparently enjoy more than writing diatribes about embarrassing fixations, it's also being extremely granular.
Nintendo Entertainment System
Where it all began! The debut of every dang facet of the series, however abstracted it may appear looking at it after years of advancements. I could give you the diatribe, but I'd only be delaying the obvious point: Ridley and Kraid are pretty different, aren't they?
The pair were pretty minuscule in their original appearances; still larger than the other baddies, for sure, but compared to their respectively gangly and gargantuan frames in later instalments, minuscule is appropriate. Mostly because this was early days; giant fuck-off monsters weren't yet what we associated with these two, but technology was limited, weren't it. If they were any bigger there'd be sprite flicker across the map!
This Kraid is so different from what we usually expect from Kraid, he almost deserves his own name, but I've committed enough crimes against fanon as it is. The basics are there already though: he's certainly reptilian, with a pleasingly croc-like snoot and big stompy claws. He's wide, the chunkiest lad you're going to face in the game, with the thick black pixels suggesting some sort of texture, be it scaly or flabby or something suitably disgusting.
There's also his green back, its wavy pattern suggesting it's a hairy mane, but the white highlights leave it open to interpretation as a shell or spiky hide if you're so inclined. Man's only got two frames of animation, but they do the job of selling him as a lumpy mound of warring facets.
His fight is almost vaguely tactical; he launches arced claws from his rear and three spikes from his front, the latter of which block Samus' projectiles. You need to find an opening to land a shot where the spikes won't block your path, while duking between the rain of pain, which also makes getting behind him easier said than done. By modern standards it's pretty simple, but given the competition in this game, it's more demanding than anything thus far!
It's also a sign that even this early, it was established that Kraid's projectile spikes are among his signature traits. The sprite makes no meaningful accommodations for them, mind you; they just sprout from his front or his back, and don't really line up with anything. It makes a mean challenge, but aesthetically it's a bit of a fumble. I know, holding NES games to artistic standards. How petty can one get?
The art design in the original Metroid is so interesting to me; built entirely on solid black backdrops, using it both to evoke the oppressive alien atmosphere, but also to fill in the gaps in the sprite work.
As raw pixels these things look like indecipherable junk half the time, but the black not only makes them feel whole, it brings out their grungy alien aesthetic. These aliens are hella alien, and perhaps the muddiest of Nintendo's pixel art on the console, yet that's almost a part of the charm.
There's a tactile beauty to how the game handles its limited assets, however obnoxious and frustrating it may be. Although many of their games in this era were built entirely on black backdrops, Nintendo very rarely dabbled in screen filling bosses built from background layers. Mother Brain is made that way, as is Medusa from Kid Icarus, but you rarely saw them utilise this trick to the same extent as other developers, and not nearly as big.
A big nasty screen-filling Kraid on the level of a Contra boss would've been neat, but out of sorts with their game design at the time. Nintendo played it pretty humble then, and fair play, honestly. Not gonna stop me from pissing and moaning about how totey Kraid is, though.
The manual art arguably does some heavy lifting, with a more gnarly approach to these monsters than even their sprites might convey. Ridley is perhaps the most iconic example in that regard; though his sprite is a slightly cartoonier version of the bastard we know and love/loathe, his depiction in the manual is extremely uncanny. He's blue, for a start! And also has an eyeless, sucker-like face? What's that all about? He looks like Birdo with a mean case of mumps.
... speaking of Mario games, this Kraid might as well be Bowser. He's green and orange, he's rotund, he's got the shaggy mane -- it's just facets of Bowser dialled up a notch! The Koopa king was only a year old at this point, to be fair, and it's possible this was just common monster design of the era.
The art does a good job playing up just what a cacophony of textures this man is, looking like a partially deflated parade balloon made of seaweed and potato skins. The wrinkles and folds on that man's arm are something else. Like a bean bag grew claws, sentience, and a bad attitude.
He is spiky, isn't he? This canonises his belly spikes -- only two this time, with the top one portrayed as a horn -- and also introduces three large spikes curling upward from his back to explain his arcing projectiles.
These would be dropped from future appearances, partly because they're a bit ridiculous (though what part of Kraid isn't ridiculous, let's be honest), but also because all hope of getting behind Kraid would be quashed with his sudden growth spurt. They'd find a new use as his projectile claws, though.
It's a fun start for Kraid, but it might as well be a different monster entirely, y'know? It's very Famicom. I don't know why, but his design feels emblematic of the era when artists had their work cut out either in interpreting sprites, or conveying complex designs with such technical limitations. Most of the iconic facets are there, just not in the way we're accustomed to seeing!
The Bowser comparison is hard to ignore; he's suitably more uncanny and monstrous than the Koopa king, but with his stout proportions and fuzzy mane, it's hard not to find him some level of charming. Whether that's in an earnest "isn't he adorable" sense, or in the facetious "how cute, he thinks he's a threat" sense is up to you.
Original Kraid is alright. He's chubby and furry and scaly, just a cacophony of weird alien traits, and all the more funky because of it; perhaps the most easily identifiable of all the enemies, by virtue of being a relatively bog-standard bipedal creature. Kraid stands out from the crowd, the chunkiest foe you're gonna fight until Mother Brain, and it's certainly a fun starting point; a curiosity to see where his more iconic depictions evolved from.
Kraid in comics
Kraid's NES incarnation would appear in more comics and media than his more iconic version, actually, thanks to the proliferation of Famicom-centric manga and gamebooks in 1980s Japan. It's a treasure to see Kraid get so many media appearances in the first place, each with their own artist's rendition of his oddball design, some more cutesy than others.
from Shounen Oh! Gag Comics
I just wanna say, hats off to the Metroid Database for being shockingly thorough about the series' gonzo supply of tie-in media. You're hard-pressed to find any Mario site that acknowledges manga beyond Super Mario-kun, but the MDB goes above and beyond in addressing the one-off bullshit found in magazines and manga anthologies, the sort of thing that was printed once and then never again.
They might not be "important" in the grand scheme of things, but as insight into the franchise's evolution and perception over the years, they're fabulous resources. And also more scraps to scrounge through for Kraid freaks, because our boy's not exactly pivotal.
A shocking amount of kids manga at the time wasn't just about video games, but about kids playing video games, in case you thought children's media in Japan wasn't dorky enough. Not even being transplanted into the game's world... just three gamers on a couch around a kotatsu playing a game and getting very worked up about it. I'd call them proto-webcomics if that weren't fatally scathing to all parties involved, myself included.
Look, mangaka know how to make the mundane exciting, and gosh darn if those skills aren't put to the test. Folks probably know about this stuff courtesy of Famicom Rocky, but it was just one of many in a surprisingly budding short-lived genre of kids crap.
Famiken Ryu is at least delightfully batshit, with the buff video game nerd having to travel through a gauntlet of video game worlds in a bid to rescue his girlfriend Sayaka, with an explosive jaunt through Metroid before moving onto Super Xevious. If you wanna find out what comes next, you better buy the increasingly rare tankobon! And learn some Japanese too while you're at it!
Ridley and Kraid each get an iconic page to themselves before they get blown to smithereens, and bless 'em, artist Ryuichi Hoshino knows how to draw some delightful monsters. Kraid and Ridley both look a treat.
Sadly, it seems you're out of luck if you want to see more monster stuff in Hoshino's penmanship; the closest you'll probably get is his officially licensed Finding Nemo manga. I wish I were joking.
While some manga put a fellow gamer in the starring role, others are a little more in-universe. The Famicom Hissho Technique-Kan manga took that approach, with a kooky, comedic take on the game's protagonist bumbling their way through the game and loudly narrating their strategies and thought process.
The clean art by Yuu Minazuki is cute and does a good job making the monsters distinctive and recognisable, a good standout from the streamlined Samus. There's absolutely nothing to remark about Kraid's appearance (or even Fake Kraid's appearance), barring panels where he chuckles menacingly and gets bonked on the head.
You know who's standout though? Mother Brain! Who knew giving that chrome dome a lizard face would do wonders to make her more iconic! No, I'm not biased, whatever would give you that impression?
To glean anything meaningful from Kraid is a farce at the best of times, and especially if you're an idiot trying to highlight his manga appearances. He's a foe in the Zebes Invasion Order gamebook, and one not to be taken lightly, with Samus' first-person narration remarking "his enormous, pudgy body moves faster than I thought possible."
Bit of an embellishment no matter what version of Kraid we're talking about, but nice to see he's got more talents than just being a bloated porcupine.
Kraid's Super Metroid incarnation does make a rare serious appearance in the Metroid E-Manga (first published in Magazine Z), where, surprise, he's a voiceless, monstrous behemoth who manages to land a mean hit on Samus, and pays dearly for it.
His depiction is some panels is a bit gormless, while others are surprisingly snazzy, but his gory destruction is but background noise to Samus' defiance against Mother Brain's psychological needling. Not one for Kraid lovers.
from Famitsu Comix: The Shape of Happiness
His best appearance, honestly, is in the gag manga The Shape of Happiness, where Kraid masquerades as a cute monster girl, an elevator operator, and also his own body double, all in the space of ten panels. Given it's by the artist we know better as Charlie Nozawa, author of the Super Mario Adventures comics, it's the kind of wackadoo nonsense that's perhaps an affront to Metroid's mystique, but makes a darn fun five-page read.
If you're expecting creative interpretations of his character, or exploration of his standing among the Space Pirates, get outta here. As rewarding as that would be, don't expect it from overworked writers hustling for a paycheck. Just enjoy the various artist renditions of him and don't sweat the small stuff.
Kraid wasn't nearly as prolific on Western shores, though. He appeared exclusively in Valiant's Captain N: The Game Master comics as a pint-sized dork to be effortlessly clobbered by Samus, and that was it; next to two instances of being a background character, getting used as a blunt instrument during a prison brawl was about his most pivotal contribution.
Kraid is sadly absent from the Nintendo Power tie-in for Super Metroid, though after the character assassination it does to Ridley, making him a cowardly sap who's itching to bail at the nearest opportunity, perhaps for the best. Woulda been neat to see him rendered in Benimaru Itoh's lovely style, though.
Kraid even made his unexpected TV debut in Captain N, as a completely unrecognisable dragon dork. He's not named, or important, or anything, serving only as a nameless grunt to be trotted out on rare occasions solely for a bit of variety -- the only reason we know it's Kraid is thanks to the extremely helpful discovery of the production's model sheets.
It's extremely not Kraid, the furthest from Kraid he could possibly be, but darn it if he ain't adorable. The crooked eyes? The buck teeth? Lookin' like somebody's scaly D&D character? He couldn't be more precious, honestly. The grating nasally voice is both a detraction and also totally fitting, because of course being in this nerd's company should be a trial.
No joke, god bless the character designers on Captain N for coming up with such original and unique material. Having to create animation-ready material based off itty bitty sprites must've been an unenviable task, and hats off to them for making stuff that's still turning heads after all these years. Pompadoured aviator Simon Belmont is still more iconic to me than the skirt-wearing himbo he's canonically meant to be, and I'm sorry.
As my introduction to the series, I really do take for granted not just what a wait it was for Metroid to makes its return to home consoles, but also what a leap forward it was. Keeping fans in dire suspense and then blasting their tits clean off with such an incredible spike in design, technology and ambiance really can't be overstated. There's a reason people laud this game so much, overbearing as they may be at times.
A whole lotta things get a makeover in their jump from 8-bit to 16-bits, and Kraid perhaps got the most substantial one. After an initial fakeout involving a miniature version that's only a head taller than Samus, the real deal reveals himself -- and he's big!
A multi-screen spanning motherfucker, a room-sized setpiece, whose naturally forming spikes are now interpreted as barbed, scaly missiles launched from his belly to be used as platforms... on top of his projectile claws (repurposing his back spikes), vomiting boulders, swatting with his man-sized paws, or outright body-slamming Samus.
All the fights so far have been in enclosed chambers, and while this is no different, having it span multiple screens and be lined with hazards -- the narrow platforms, the bed of thorns Kraid rises from -- makes a terrific impression. Dude's a platforming challenge as much as he is a physical menace. After finally getting context by playing the original, I see how much Super Metroid is flexing. You think you know how a boss fight should play out? You think you know what Kraid looks like? Think again, chump!
Half the fun of this switcheroo is in the build-up; Kraid's makeover had been forecast by the golden statue blocking the route to Mother Brain, but it sure as heck ain't to scale.
Not just in-game, but even the packaging materials hype up the big boy, with Kraid's presence on the box and cartridge limited only to his feet (and his gut) poking in from top of frame.
Without context you might think that's just a moon looming over the planet's rocky surface... it's not until you get the full picture do you realise, oh, that's a tummy I'm looking at.
The art design in Super Metroid really is something else. Beautiful and ethereal, conveying a surprisingly vivid sense of texture; I can't vouch for knowing what the terrain would feel like, I just know it's always on my mind.
Nintendo had seemingly shied away from using the full 16-colours in their early SNES works, and yet once they did they stuck mostly to bright and colourful Mario games. To see them bust out of those limitations and tackle such alien subject matter is a trip. Zebes and its biomes take on a life of their own with something as simple as their themed floor tiles and pulsating backdrops.
The small enemies excel in the game's art style, with the sub-pixelling used to animate Samus' idle animation a particular standout. It's when it comes to bigger enemies that the quibbles tend to show, if you're granular about sprites and/or monsters. The bosses are all built on large static bases, animating only select portions or using linked sprites to simulate articulated limbs.
Kraid is among one the better demonstrations, honestly; spanning nearly three screens high with an opening mouth, clawing arm and moving leg, not to mention his belly spikes and boulder projectiles -- he's a one man setpiece! Practically an action figure playset, except it's a sprite of a fat dragon.
He's perhaps the most articulated boss sprite in the game, next to Mother Brain, who's got a more mobile body to work with. It helps you can get to savour her animation since she never leaves the screen; Kraid's off-screen so often, you've precious few vantage points from which to appreciate his graphics!
His Super appearance really is a transformation, innit. It swaps out that shaggy mane for a scaly, rock-like hide, his legs and scales looking like craggy boulders. Its transition to his underbelly is like cracked stone, suggesting this dude's just a solid lump of mountain. He's got no shortage of disgusting textures, from the rocky volcano like spouts where his tummy missiles are fired from, to the ridges running along his back and sides.
Despite his rocky composition and tail dragging gait, he's perhaps the most versatile he's ever been. In addition to his trademark claw projectiles, he can also barf up rocks when blunt impact damage is preferred. Speaking of impacts, he's more than just a blockade, he can barge forward and slam you against the wall on a whim!
It's the one and only instance of him using his own body as a weapon, and not just for its biological production of claws and spike platforms. He can move at a scary pace for a beast this big! For a dude with such a disproportionate leg-to-body ratio, hats off for being able to haul himself around at all.
The official art downplays the rocky angle a smidgen, partly because they picture himself largely from the front. The craggy seams as it transitions from his hide to his tummy are depicted closer to veins or stretch marks, a common sight on grossly oversized monsters -- look at the "Mother" boss from Turok 2.
The rocky stuff is more distinctive, giving him a more unique texture, but it sure ain't cuddly. Is that good or bad? Depends how far down the Kraid rabbit hole you are.
It's admittedly only when I was exposed to better Kraids (Zero Mission my beloved) that I found fault with this one.
My big gripe: I don't like his head? He has an elongated cranium that extends past his shoulders (such as they are), with his now-trademark crest to signify where his face begins. It's suitably monstrous, more than a little inspired by the phallic domes of Alien's Xenomorph, but it just doesn't come together that well in my book.
Kraid, like most Super Metroid sprites, is depicted in perfect profile, with no other angles or perspectives. It was the style at the time, but with Kraid's three-eye situation I end up misreading it as a slightly askew expression; like his face is at a funny angle, or his eyes are bunched up like a mudskipper's. It's not the only time I've misinterpreted old game sprites, but definitely the one that bugs me the most!
That, and he's long. Dude's a giant egg shape with weird, stumpy legs tacked onto his sides. Again, it's suitably alien! None of these lifeforms should have comprehensible anatomy and bodily structure, because who are we to know what the gravity and atmospheric conditions of Zebes are like? Maybe that's a sensible shape to have, actually? But with his lack of movement or animation, it's hard to get a handle on what range he's got; he's just a big towering cinder block.
It's an impressive sprite, but also a wonky one. I love seeing technology and artistry evolve, but after seeing Zero Mission, it's hard to go back. That ramrod straight posture, his lower jaw tucked into his chest with no discernible neck... it makes an ergonomic sprite, and to change it would require dedicating a lot more memory to this one-off boss. But what if you made those allowances? Kraid deserves it, surely.
The official artwork does a much better job, though, portraying him in a more dynamic light, immobile fatass he may be. It's the major instance of Kraid and Ridley sharing the screen together, playing up their alleged partners in crime dynamic, with Kraid looming over the Brinstar jungles.
It's great art, truly selling the monstrous scale of this guy and as a threat to be taken seriously. How much of that transfers to his in-game appearance is arguable; he just looks better in my memories than he does in-game, but it remain a significant step in Kraid evolution. Would folks have remembered him were it not for this game's innovations?
kraid & ridley: bffs?
Because of their recurring nature (if appearing in two out of three games before a decade's hiatus counts as recurring), Ridley and Kraid were treated as a pair in the early days of the franchise's fandom; the movers and shakers of the Space Pirates, the brawn to Mother Brain's, er, brain. The gruesome twosome, the dastardly duo, whatever other inappropriate alliterations you wanna pin on 'em.
It's a compelling dynamic, one that harkens to familiar villainous trios; whether you want to draw the comparison to Robotnik and his "dumbots" Scratch and Grounder, or to the Doronbo Gang of Yatterman fame, or hell, even Mother Brain lording over King Hippo and Eggplant Wizard in Captain N. Or maybe you'd just not make the comparison at all. That's fair too. These references are pretty dusty.
But the two are rarely, if ever, depicted sharing the screen together. Naturally, because two bosses at once in a video game is asking a lot, but beyond sharing a spread in the NES manual or appearing together in splash art for Super Metroid, we've little reason to believe Kraid and Ridley actually interact or engage with one another.
They're both agents under the same banner; peers at best, yet to even call them acquaintances seems a stretch. Ridley's a real go-getter, while Kraid's job title might as well be living blockade, or meat shield. One's constantly out in the field and the other's stuck in the basement.
(for the record, the only source to speculate on Kraid's rank or status is the German Super Metroid Spieleberater, which constantly refers to him as a "mutant" and a "Wächterinsektizid der Zyklus 3 Klasse", or "3rd Class Guardian Insecticide." gonna assume that last part's lost in translation...!)
Not that we can't have fun imagining, though. Is Kraid as big a bastard as Ridley? Kraid's a bit hard to see eye-to-eye with, partly because he's three storeys tall. Would Samus consider him an adversary or just an obstacle? I feel like there's a threshold where holding a grudge against something X times your size just seems unwarranted... though to be fair, I haven't read Moby Dick. Maybe that'd change my tune, who knows.
Obviously that size reduces Kraid's autonomy like a thousand-fold -- he can barely make cool poses, for a start. Ridley's the perfect size for both interpersonal haranguing as well as interstellar fuckery. Kraid's probably flattened a few civilisations in his lifetime, but that kind of comes with the territory of being big and beautiful.
He shouldn't apologise for taking up space, though if he gets the chance to appear in court he should probably apologise for a few of his wrongdoings. Y'know, just to emphasise that crushing cities is a crime, not being big enough to crush a city. Don't hate the player, hate the game.
The frustrating thing is, since we've seen far more of Ridley than any other Metroid villain, every assumption we make on Kraid uses that guy as a baseline. Ridley's a bastard of magnificent proportions, and I wouldn't expect him to hang out with people who aren't on his level of bastardry, or at least facilitate it. How big of a bastard is Kraid? Is he even aware of his bastardry when all are ants before him?
Or maybe it's refreshing for Ridley to hear from folks on a totally different register, where simply being a monumental fatass is enough to cause problems for people. Ridley's gotta make problems, but Kraid just is a problem. When a restaurant's gotta remodel to the size of a city block just to take your reservation, making prank calls takes on a whole new life.
We can at least affirm that Kraid's probably a sore loser compared to Ridley, if his Dread appearance is anything to go on. Zero chill, pompous grandstanding, and making no headway whatsoever. Ridley might be screeching like a chicken with a fire up its ass during combat, but he has his moments of brooding menace. I like to believe he'd coach Kraid on that front, but give him all the worst advice. What are friends for?
I say that sarcastically, and then I hear someone suggesting that Ridley shows up so often not because he's a petty little pissant who loves the spotlight, but because he's taking the bullet for his buddy Kraid. He can't go to Tallon IV, he should be in bedrest! While the thought of Ridley having a selfless bone in his body is completely foreign to me, I can't say it doesn't warm the cockles of my heart.
Of course, these are all but headcanons. The games have offered no insight into their relationship, what rank they hold above each other, or anything of the sort. You're free to perceive them as mere co-workers, a pair who just can't stand each others' guts, or lovers (jilted or otherwise) if you're so inclined. Kraid's the biggest blank slate you could possibly imagine. Make the most of it! There are two, maybe three people who'd be grateful for more fuel on the Kraid fandom fire!
Super Smash Bros. Melee
It'd been 7 years without a new Metroid game, but the series was seeing a resurgence of attention courtesy of Smash Bros. -- not just with Samus as the sole female rep in the first game, but with two arenas representing it in Melee, one even featuring our boy Kraid! His first 3D appearance!
Although nothing more than a decorative background object, they fully modelled and rigged this guy for his three-dimensional debut, putting his Super Metroid design through its paces to work as more than a big segmented sprite. It's cool to see him so big and so chunky, and so animated as well! Kraid is more of a mountain than a mobile creature by his nature, so to see him yukkin' it up in the background and swiping at the playing field is a fun change of pace.
If the guy's gonna rise from lava and strike the playing field, sacrifices have got to be made -- this Kraid's got legs!
They were this close to decorative in Super Metroid, his chassis parked on the ground and dragging a tail behind him to boot, so it's a little uncanny to see him on legs that actually give his gut some clearance, never mind carry him sensibly.
It's a logical necessity, but... ehhh, y'know? He's gotta have legs, but I never said they had to be functional, or at least so lean. Bowser's got better leg definition than that! Undeservedly so!
While I do enjoy the juxtaposition of Kraid's bulbous bod with these scrawny turkey limbs, I like it best when I'm left wracking my brains over how this dude gets around. This one makes it too easy. Run it back! His anatomy is almost feasible!
That said, his legs suddenly become that bit more charming when you use the debug camera to see him rise from beneath the lava. Seeing his legs tucked in against themselves, then thrusting himself up to a standing position, gives the big lug a bit of character you'd be hard-pressed to see otherwise. Whether his legs are really meant to bend like that, or just contorting to keep them off-screen as long as possible, I'm not sure. I just like them being impractical.
Although tricky to see, this seems to retains his elongated Xenomorph-esque cranium, his dome extending above the slope of his back... though it may also be interpreted as a high-set neck? It helpfully gives his head some distance from his chest, but just kind of looks weird on the whole.
Cranium or not, it only really works when we consistently see him in profile, and it only raises questions of how his upper jaw works. That and it's just ugly and weird. He's bulbous in so many other regards, and having a fat head is only fun as an insult rather than a literal physical trait.
It's a fair enough model, one that accentuates the contrast in his design -- his bulbous bod and his thin, reedy limbs. It's a weird design to begin with, and to translate it into 3D had to have been an undertaking -- how do you animate a boy this big?
It's not without its quirks, though. To my knowledge, it's the only instance of having blank white eyes rather than his trademark red, and carries over a detail present in his concept art but not his sprite: the light tan colour also marking the undersides of his arms and tail. It lends him some spice, though, so that's appreciated.
As a glorified stage decoration, he's not given the polycount he probably requires, though it's a shock to see him in three dimensions at all. It's an awkward arena and a bit of a dickens to fight on -- something of a recurring trend in Melee's stages, honestly -- but the fact Kraid shows up at all is a treat.
Ridley might've had more appearances in Smash by this point (as a distant sprite in the first game, as a trophy, and in the intro cinematic), but did he appear as the centrepiece to an entire arena? This is Kraid's time to shine!
What seemed like a fun little cameo turned out to be the best we saw of him in 3D for decades to come, actually -- Kraid just kept missing his next shot at the big time! With a new 3D Metroid on the horizon, you'd think one of the biggest names in the series would be a shoe-in, and not just because I'm overselling his importance.
Yeah, so, this dude exists only as a 3D render released by Retro Studios modeller Gene Kohler, as Kraid was ultimately dropped from the game. I'm sure to be making a 3D Metroid game for the very first time was enough of an undertaking -- to also include one of the most dynamic setpieces, now fought using a full 3D range of movement, would've been an extremely tall order.
People have talked up Metroid Prime's 3D manoeuvrability for years, and it still holds up -- the perfect balance of floatiness blended with appropriate weight and heft. To put those jumps to use against incoming missile platforms would perhaps be asking a bit much, without making them inappropriately glacial, but darn it, it'd be neat is all I'm saying.
Kraid ain't looking quite himself, though. See, Ridley isn't just Ridley in this game, but Meta Ridley -- the name he gives himself when he's still crippled after his last fight (chronologically the NES game!) and still has his mechanical bandaids on. A bit like me having my legs broken, showing up to a fight in crutches and calling myself Armoured Ragey. It makes an impression, at least until you learn the circumstances behind it.
As such, this reinterpreting of Kraid for Prime's new art design, vaguely in line with the techno-organic approach used for his cohort, suggests this might've been Meta Kraid. It's a boffo model, one that leans hard into the monster angle, boasting more exposed fangs than all the previous Kraids combined.
His arms and claws have been made particularly thin and needle-like, their spiked ridges and armour plating a disturbing contrast with the rest of his bloated frame. I want to draw parallels with the pregnant Alien Queen from Alien: Resurrection, but that might just be because I rewatched it recently (what's the deal with that alien getting sucked out ass-first at the end? is that fucked or what?).
All sign of rough hide or rocky scales are absent, at least from this angle -- what we get is a Kraid who's all sensitive underbelly, nothing but flabby folds and textured membrane coating his torso... yet he's still got the whole tummy spike business going on. It's a truly disgusting contrast, giving the impression touching his body would feel like a bin bag full of sewage and used syringes.
As a monster design, it's truly striking, an abominable fusion of misshapen beast and unholy technology. Are those dots on his helmet(?) his eyes? Where's his jaw?! Is it even an attempt at truly reviving Kraid, or simply generating enough electrical impulses to animate him enough to be a threat? You ask a million questions just looking at him, which is among the best qualities a Kraid could have.
As a Kraid, it's low on my personal rankings of them. It's certainly unique, and perhaps set a precedent for drastically reimagining Kraid (if Super Metroid hadn't done that already, hurf), something concept artists in the fandom went buck mad with. He's just not a handsome boy I wish to smooch enjoy hanging out with. He looks like I'd get a skin condition just looking at him. By those qualifications, a low tier Kraid. Redditor Kraid.
Tangent aside, Prime Kraid could've been neat, but you wanna do Kraid right, and you wanna make a boss battle that does the premise justice. I've enough grievances with the boss design in the Prime games, and I confess I would almost surely have been frothing with frustration at however this one would've turned out. Not an indictment against the designers, more a reminder of my bad taste and worse gaming skills.
Kraid's growth cycle
One of the strange facets about Kraid, one often acknowledged in fandom trivia but rarely explored further, is that Kraid has clones, officially named Fake Kraid or False Kraid. The NES game pits you against a discoloured duplicate of him should you take the leftmost path; it behaves identically, but instantly explodes if grazed with anything stronger than Samus' standard blaster. There's no in-fiction explanation for this, and it's just treated as one of many dick moves by the game's designers.
Super Metroid would have a similar fakeout, in having you enter the bowels of Kraid's lair, navigate a treacherous tunnel where spikes shoot at you from off-screen (not unlike Bowser's fireballs in Super Mario Bros.!)... all to find this Kraid isn't much bigger than Samus. Not even as big as the golden statue, and you don't get a reward for killing him. You'll know all about it when you meet the real Kraid!
Again, there's no lore to explain it, no official reason for its existence beyond the developers laughing, "I tricked you, idiot!" The Super Metroid Players' Guide (a pack-in with special PAL region copies of the game) would dub this little dude Baby Kraid, which is almost surely apocrypha, but let's run with it, why not. I'll give me an excuse to talk bullshit for ten minutes.
It seems it was originally intended for both bosses to have fakeout dupes in the original game, with an unused Fake Ridley ready to roll if you hack them back in. Paired with the similarly unused Stoke in Super Metroid, a teeny tiny bite-sized Crocomire, it seems boss monsters having their own diminutive copies was to be a trend, though this only manifests in Kraid and Draygon, the latter implied to be the parent of the Evir enemies.
It calls to question the nature of these monsters; Draygon's depiction on the golden statue suggests it's a key figure among the Space Pirates, and integral to Mother Brain's schemes. But for all the implications we as humans make about this allegiance between weird disparate monsters -- sinister agendas, villainous machinations, interpersonal communications -- it could just as easily be a more advanced version of animal relations made in the wild.
Commensalism, mutualism, even symbiotic relationships, perhaps. Animal stuff! What does Draygon know of the galaxy at large? Who can say, it probably just wants a place to chill and spawn its young in peace, so if Phantoon and Kraid have its flank, they can employ its brood wherever appropriate. Whether Crocomire had a say in Space Pirate affairs or was just muscled out of his turf... that's to be addressed when the Space Pirates stand trial for their crimes.
But I'm in no position to go into crap like that -- what do Kraid's baby photos look like???
It was Metroid: Other M that had the inexplicable notion of revealing what Ridley's growth cycle was like, among other twists and revelations that had no real bearing on anything. The end goal of this plot wrinkle -- besides character assassination for Samus -- was to explain how his corpse wound up in Metroid Fusion to be absorbed by the X parasite.
I could punch holes into that game's writing all day if you let me, but I am grateful for it introducing brand new ways for Ridley to be a hideous, disgusting creature. Samus rightfully has major beef with him, but even she's gotta appreciate what a fucked-up little gremlin he is.
Anyway, baby Kraid. You could extrapolate that, just like Ridley, Kraid begins as a teeny tiny little critter, with fluffy down or feathers to make up for his lack of regulated internal temperature... just like NES Kraid!
Once his internal thermostat kicks in, he sheds to be nothin' but scales... and balloons to over five times his size over who knows how long, because there really ain't the same difference in shape as Ridley's infancy.
There's the claim that alligators never stop growing, and given Kraid's bigger than ever come Metroid Dread, who even knows what a fully-grown Kraid would be like?
While we're throwing disreputable claims around, there's the mistaken belief that human eyeballs remain the same size from infancy to adulthood, and we just... grow into them. As amusing as that image is, nebulous health websites claim they do grow to at least 1.5 their size by the time we reach adulthood, and you only gotta look at baby reptiles to see those suckers' eyes grow just like the rest of them.
I bring this up because Kraid's eyes measure roughly as tall as Samus' chest and helmet, anywhere from 12 to 20 inches in circumference between Zero Mission and Dread. I thought I could use this factoid to formulate a coherent growth cycle for the big lug, but no, I'd only be making an infant that's weighed down by its own massive eyeballs. Which, honestly, would fit right in with Metroid's messed up monsters. How do the Zeela even get around with unergonomic peepers like that?
I'll cut this thought short before I start asking if Kraid hatches from an egg and where baby Kraids come from, because there's only so far down the rabbit hole I care to go. My obsession has its limits, believe it or not!
Metroid Zero Mission
Game Boy Advance
Real talk: playing it for the sake of this article was my first time giving the original Metroid a fair shot. I'd tried it before, but bounced off it hard enough to become a human cannonball.
It's an entrancing little game, a testament to the design that went into these old titles, well and truly making the most of what little they had, if perhaps to the point of obfuscation and absurdity.
I only got as far as I did with Game Genie codes, mind you, because you're reading an article by a Kraid appreciator, not someone who's actually good at any of these games.
Fascinating as it was to see the original game to the end, it also gave me greater appreciation for Zero Mission, as this is more than just giving it the Super Mario All-Stars treatment. It's a game that needs a lot more to make it palatable for modern tastes, as well as stack up to its successors, and boy did Nintendo deliver! Not just a refined take on the original, but oodles of new content to make it a very fresh experience. But you know what's the freshest thing of all? MY BOY KRAID
Lookit this chunky bungus! Look at the shapes on that lad! Sharp points, craggy scales and puffy proportions in perfect measure! Still images don't do this guy justice, he's in constant menacing motion, be it his head craning on his stout neck, his claws flexing in anticipation, or even the spouts on his abdomen pulsating like... horrible disgusting spouts. It's an incredible sprite, a testament to the graphic designers on the game, and to Kraid's new look.
His design is cleaned up from his last appearance, arguably streamlined to better fit the common image of reptilian monsters in media, with his face getting the biggest makeover. His elongated noggin is now interpreted as a beefy neck, giving his face better definition than before, with his cranial spikes now dotted across his neck and back.
The facial crest now takes on a life of its own, forming the eyebrow ridge beneath his upper eye, and splaying out dramatically like something out of Devilman. His three frontmost spikes are now swept back, pairing nicely with his crest, better defining where his neck ends and his head begins, as well as offering less wind resistance. To mention the narrower snout would only be addressing semantics, but I just wanna remind you of his snoot. It's a good snoot.
It's pretty much as you remember him from the shoulders down; the piddly claws, the big tum-tum, all the good stuff. His shoulders are mounted lower, making for a slouched posture more befitting of a creature of his size, which is helped now that he's a touch shorter and wider, giving better ballast for all that junk in the trunk.
His rocky texture is seriously downplayed, now portraying his scales as lumpy and warty -- no less gruesome, just a different slant. His tummy spouts are smaller, and their placement changed to more central on his abdomen; something that looks more natural and better befits his curves, but could just as easily have been tuned for the sake of gameplay.
The Game Boy Advance titles mark a change in 2D Metroid, eschewing the floaty, low-gravity sensation of the Super Nintendo game for something more 'grounded'. Samus hasn't nearly the same height or hang-time in her jumps, but with the newfound ability to grab onto ledges, it makes interacting with the environment that more tactile. The more compact levels mean you're no longer somersaulting for over half the play-time, something that still feels a bit uncanny to me, but it feels a rightful step forward for the series in my book.
It also makes fighting Kraid a bit more hands-on than before -- literally! Where before Samus could leap up to his maw in but a single (High Jump Boots-aided) bound, you need that platform to get within striking distance. Kraid will demolish the supporting structure with his belly spikes should you fall down, which now must be used as footholds to get back up again. There's not the room to cruise on them like you could last time, but it makes them a more essential part of the battle rather than another excuse to spend the whole fight in freefall.
Needless to say, this is a pretty big change, far from simply rehashing Kraid's first fight on NES! You are on a small platform evading his incoming claws and swipes -- that kind of resembles it when you really stretch the definition, right?
It's arguably a step-down from his Super Metroid fight, ability-wise; Kraid is far less mobile this time around, taking only two steps backwards and forwards, only enough to put him within claw swipe range, and obviously making the prospect of him body slamming you more preposterous than before. Not like that saw much use to begin with, but by making the arena much more cramped, it makes for a more engaging battle, where you can't ignore the dude's presence from off-screen. Engage Kraid, motherfucker.
It probably goes without saying I'm very partial to this Kraid. While it lacks some of the surprise of his last fight, the presentation is just so much more striking, with a design that ticks all the right boxes. He's big, he's round, he's scaly as balls, he's round, and his makeover does him a world of good. I mentioned he's round, right? And that snoot!
While you could argue this new look homogenised his design a tad, I'd argue it helped solidify it. He has a lot going on in his previous appearances, and when you notice certain facets they almost become distracting, like his distended cranium. Who asked for that?
There's fun to be had in exploring his old traits, but sometimes you just gotta lean on the obvious draw. He's a fat dragon. What more could you ask for? What more could I ask for?! (my lawyer advises me not to answer that)
It's the fattest he's ever been and I could not be happier. You could argue its an impractical design; he's at his least mobile, only taking one inching step backward and forward, with an arched back and arms that can barely reach past his titties. I could make the counterargument its his best design for those same exact reasons. And it's my website, so you better write in with some convincing emails for me to say otherwise.
If I had to grumble, by making his facial crest such an iconic feature, it's given everyone who attempts to figure out how it works a serious headache. It takes on a very different shape between sprite, cutscene art and official render, and even the concept art doesn't seem to agree on it!
In some doodles it sweeps inward, outward, upward, backward... how thick is it meant to be? How far does it splay from his skull? Nobody knows! That's the joy and bane of every sucker who's into monster characters -- all these intricate details give them such spark, but good luck remembering how they work without in-depth reference...!
Not that the concept art is all that accurate to the final model. They lean heavily into him being a shortstack: wide, squat, with arms that'd trail on the ground if he weren't conscientious. The man is full on Dragon Quest Drakulard mode, this close to a beach ball with arms and legs pinned on.
Naturally I'm an advocate for Wide Kraid, but the proportions are just a bit extreme. He's cramping on Crocomire's turf with a bod like that!
Physique aside, it is a great resource for figuring out his funky shapes; not just his stringy arms and stodgy legs, but to see his face rendered in such loving detail, with snaggle teeth and lizard lips out the wazoo. I just wish there was more! I gotta see more of this funny fellow in the top corner!
One of the aspects that's rarely addressed about Zero Mission's development is it very nearly had a different art style. The devs apparently pursued more cutesy, chibi proportions for Samus, glimpsed only in Ridley and Kraid's concept art and in a short-lived promotional video.
We have Nintendo of America to thank for knocking that on the head, but it still took a little while for the finalised art design to settle in.
This is most prominent in a prerelease screenshot starring our boy himself. Look at this lumpy man! His head is far bigger in relation to his body, with much puffier proportions -- his hands more bulbous than they've ever been, and seemingly sport either more than two digits, or multiple claws per finger? Thumbs, even?!
Alongside more pronounced spikes on his neck and back, he's also totally missing his facial crest, stripping him of iconic features! All that and the arena is set in rocky terrain more befitting of Norfair, as well as parking him in a lava bath. As much as lava is associated with Kraid for some reason, we wouldn't fight him in the stuff until until Metroid Dread nearly twenty years later.
We've only a single static screenshot to go off of, so who knows whether this was an actual first draft of the sprite or little more than a mockup. It makes for an eyecatching early screenshot, a demonstration that Zero Mission is more than just a straightforward remake, so it definitely sells the tone.
As a Kraid sprite? Well, it does the job -- it's recognisably Kraid. Who else is as big and green as that guy? It does a fun job handling his textures, trading in Super's rocky exterior for something more flabby and warty, with a half-dozen folds between his jaw and the base of his neck.
Otherwise, much happier with what we got. I'm not optimistic it would've animated well in this form, and I'm not sure how I feel seeing his tongue in such graphic detail. It's not even pointed! No wonder they went back to the drawing board.
Anyway, Zero Mission Kraid is is a top tier Kraid. For the sacrifice of his more oddball qualities, it makes for a more readable and expressive design, one that accentuates his better qualities -- namely being a fat bastard. It's a pity his fight isn't as robust as it was last time, still treated by many as an easy tutorial boss... but again, we'll forgive it because where else are we going to get a Kraid as round as this?
He could literally pose no threat, existing solely as a spectator to cheer Samus getting the Speed Booster, and I'd still be hooting and hollering over this guy. He's a good Kraid!!
ecology & physiology
Old video games didn't exactly invite you to look at them too hard, especially if you wanted to read into why things are the way they are. Wavers and Geemers fly in arcs or scuttle along platforms because it makes an appropriate platforming challenge. Crocomire's lair has hydrochloric acid because every boss needs a weakness. It's a video game, stop reading sense into it!
It wasn't until Metroid Prime that we got some honest-to-goodness information the fauna you run into throughout the games, giving a bit of context for their behaviours -- offering a surprising amount of insight into their their hunting patterns, natural behaviours, and why they do the things they do.
The Zebesians, Ridley, and other bipedal creatures, clawed beasts that they are, are still dextrous and intelligent enough to have human-level capabilities, with their own agendas and machinations. Ridley's a bit of a grey area, given how his goal is seemingly to make problems on purpose, but we could assume he could do productive things if he turned down the bastard dial a bit.
Kraid, meanwhile, is just a farce of anatomy. A bipedal beast with shockingly little autonomy. He's in the oldschool t-rex school of design, sporting tiny little claws close to his chest and a tail-dragging gait, but with none of the other aspects that made it almost feasible.
He's lugging a tail as long as he is tall, not to mention a gut that's probably got three feet of clearance at the best times, when it's not trailing against the earth. He can evidently move when he wants to if his dash attack in Super Metroid is any indicator (and it's not, given it only occurs when his lower half is hidden off-screen, helpfully obscuring how infeasible it is), but what kind of environment is this guy even suited for?
Because of his penchant for emerging from beneath the ground, folks have extrapolated he must be a natural digger or burrower, living within the magma-filled bowels of Brinstar.
While it's certainly a possibility, I can't imagine it's his natural lifestyle. Have you seen the claws on this puppy? They're totey! Any good den-digging animal worth its salt is either gonna have claws like spades or limbs long enough to scoop real fast. Who knows, maybe those two claws have good leverage on them...?
That said, it's hard to imagine the lifestyle of animals that live predominantly underground. You can show me as much nature footage and documentaries of moles as you want, I'm still going to be asking "how do those dudes live???" And the answer is "very differently."
Maybe Kraid's unorthodox shape really is suited to underground living? Digging and burrowing through the earth, if not swimming through it, treating it like his own molten sea. Would Kraid's ungainly form find new purpose for weaving through soil and rubble like a scaly, spiky whale? Anything's possible...!
But he really is obstacle first, lifeform second. His expressed purpose is to be a big lumbering roadblock, and lumbering is optional. You see a lot of fan artists attempt to rectify this with dramatic reimaginings of his biology, be it as minor as adjusting his leg-to-body ratio, or outright redesigning him to be more reptilian, more serpent-like, or just something else entirely.
There's plenty of compelling traits on him, enough for folks to still want Kraid around, it seems -- just not without an intense makeover first. I call them cowards. Creative and talented, yes, but cowards nonetheless. Embrace Kraid's ludicrous circumstances or hit the bricks, buster.
For instance: how does Kraid even get down there?? Do the Space Pirates airdrop him from orbit, and wherever he stops as he ploughs through the earth is his new home now? You've seen all the regenerating blocks in these games, it's not without precedent.
Once he does down there... what next? If he eats, what does he eat? If he hunts for food... well, that's an absurd image, innit. Do the denizens of his domain forage for him? Is it a lion pride situation where having this fatass around is good for morale, so everyone does the work for him? Maybe he's a big help for the local community. Ponder the logistics of having a friend the size of a building who really wants to help out.
Although he's never seen in lava in his original appearances, he's always associated with the stuff thanks to the domains he reigns over and his Smash Bros. stage. Is he somehow key to this lava flow or terraforming the environment? Is he just that much of a nasty disgusting boy?
Another oddity is that in all his canonical appearances, Kraid's lair has been marked by a distinctive monstrous entrance. Nintendo's NES games were no stranger to including freaky imagery just for the sake of it, like the monster statues in Legend of Zelda that, to my knowledge, to this day remain representative of absolutely nothing.
I can understand decorating your pad the way you want it on Zebes... yet even in Dread, where Kraid should rightfully have no say in the decor, it shows up yet again. Could it be a Chozo thing...?
Heck, is he even native to Zebes? The NES manual makes a point of stating that Ridley originates from there and is "controlled by Mother Brain," but extends no such clarification to Kraid. At the time one might believe Mother Brain was a corrupting influence on the otherwise benign fauna, but later games would ixnay that; Ridley's been a bastard since before Samus was born.
This was just idle pondering until Metroid Dread saw release, and suddenly there's imagery and context clues to suggest ties between the Chozo, Zebesians, and possibly even Kraid.
Is Kraid but only one of his species who thought, being oppressed sucks, oppressing others is where it's at? We don't know his side of the story, man, he just shows up to barf rocks at people.
There's a lot to ponder about Kraid's existence. A lot of the Metroid universe is nonsensical, let's be honest; Kraid's just an outlier in that a lot of his impractical qualities boil down to "why you so big???"
I love 'im, though. I'm always thrilled to see him, and though he may be easy to defeat (so much so that he's seen as a joke by many players, though probably for other reasons too), getting a dose of fat subterranean dragon in my life is always appreciated. Keep doing what you do, Kraid. Somebody appreciates it.
Once again, we had another long hiatus between Metroid instalments, a wait made worse not just by Other M's questionable direction, but its unforgivable lack of Kraid (can you believe they brought back Phantoon instead!?). So for most of the 2010s, another Smash Bros. and some oddball offshoots were all folks had to tide them over.
For the folks who wanted a new Metroid, or a new F-Zero, or an Animal Crossing game about high stakes manhunts for fruit thieves, then Nintendo Land would have to tide you over! Having yet to play the game, I think it looks cute. A fun, creative reimagining of familiar imagery through the lens of costumes, puppets, and animatronics in a whimsical theme park setting. It might not be the multi-player Metroid adventure exactly like we were dreaming of (one that's still out of reach if reception to Federation Force is anything to go on, which i have also not played and also think looks cute), but I gotta commend them for the creativity.
And I gotta say, Kraid gets a fun, creative reinvention for the sake of Metroid Blast's gameplay. A big mechanical tower in the centre of the arena, you have to use the grapple beam to get within range of his face (either rappelling up his platforms or clinging onto a friendly gunship, giving you free movement of the entire arena), shoot the button on his snoot, and then launch power bombs into his open maw, represented like a skee ball chute. You can watch the explosive roll into his glass-domed torso and let 'er rip.
Kraid can't directly defend himself, having all the autonomy of a battery-powered toy, instead relying on enemies or his own automated defences to keep you off his back. His platform/base/body/however you want to interpret it is lined with doohickeys, from laser turrets to missile launchers to extending platforms, the very thing you need to scale him. Each phase of attack adds an extra layer to scale, with buttons across his body that need shot to make his face vulnerable again.
It sure ain't a biological answer to fighting Kraid in 3D, but it's fun and creative is what it is. And hey, he looks cute too! Obviously everything below the shoulders is just all-purpose battle tower, similar to the battle stations you'd wreck in Super Mario Galaxy, but seeing his wiggling claws and flapping jaw really sells the image of an animatronic monstrosity.
Even his crest gets a new lease on life, set on hinges and left to rhythmically waggle with the rest of him, almost like expressive ears. Who knew a lifeless robot could show us new ways of appreciating Kraid?
You could have a lot of fun experimenting with Metroid's facets, be it its world, its gameplay, or its iconography, but it's perfectly understandable that folks can be a bit touchy about it. Despite giving the Metroidvania genre its name, there's nothing else out there quite like Metroid; the same nuances, atmosphere, or attachment to its characters.
When every Nintendo franchise is seemingly on the brink of forced hibernation should they perform under par, you wanna see a game deliver what you want, not some crazy experiments! Stuff like this was perhaps a tease for fans still waiting for acknowledgement the series wasn't dead and buried at the time, but now that we're not so starving we can appreciate it a bit more. And its Kraid, too.
The Metroid series, cryptic as it is, ain't much for exact facts and figures. The year in which it's set; how old Samus is; even what ordinary life is like away from the bounty hunters, the warlords, and all those dang monsters.
The closest source we've gotten to Kraid's height is allegedly from the Metroid Zero Mission website, pegging him at "over two stories tall"... though with the website long dead and Flash having kicked the bucket, we've only Wikitroid's word to take for it.
What we do know is Samus is 190cm tall, just shy of six foot three inches, courtesy of a variety of sources, from Nintendo Power featurettes to Super Metroid concept art! Whether this applies to her ordinary human height or to her Power Suit is another matter -- a matter that fans are forever bludgeoning each other to death in their lust for Samus as an amazonian powerhouse -- but "Samus is 6'3" is a good metric. She can be our measuring stick!
6'3 is 75 inches, so if we divide 75 by the height of her sprite, and then use that sum to multiply the height of Kraid's sprite, then we'll get our answer... right? That's how maths works, doesn't it? I'm rubbish with calculations, but I know enough to measure the circumference of dumb animal characters. I'll be measuring in inches, the most impractical unit to convert from, because I am a slave to the imperial system.
In the NES game Kraid is an outlier on many counts; not only if he dwarfed by Ridey, but he's even a smidge shorter than Samus as well! Although both are 4 tiles (or 32 pixels) tall, Kraid's cranium comes up a pixel shorter than Samus, with or without her power suit. He is a wide lad, at least two or three times broader than her torso, so still a beefy boy.
Thus, this Kraid is likely around 184cm / 6'1, if not the same size as Samus. Not quite the shortstack he is in Valiant's Captain N comics, but perfect bullying height.
Super Metroid gives us a few measurements: the Mini-Kraid comes in at 62 or 63 pixels, depending on its animation frame, translating to 246cm / 8'1. Baby got a growth spurt! Of course, that's peanuts to the real deal, who's a verifiably heckin' chonker. Standing at 298 pixels tall makes him approximately 1182cm / 38'8, nearly five times larger than his miniature version!
Measuring his concept art gets similar results, using a mixture of the Samus reference doodle included and official art for scale: somewhere in the vicinity of 1150cm / 37'9 to 1184cm / 38'10, depending on what foot you measure from; the perspective's a bit funky for the purpose of conveying how his sprite works!
Of course, this version of Kraid is notable for being far more erect than the rest, with perfect posture and everything. To be fair, it only looks this way because of the lack of back fat or hunchback, but measuring only to the shoulders puts him in the 32ft range. His head alone is as big as all of Samus!
It's Zero Mission where we'd see Kraid as a slouchy boy, measuring to the arch of his back putting him at 1069cm / 35ft. the posture makes a difference, but this seems to be in the ballpark.
Notably, it's here where Ridley comes into his own as a lanky lad; his head is as long as Kraid's, and he'd probably stand as tall as his chest if he weren't permanently hunched! Without his cohort to put a size cap on him, Ridley would wind up monstrous sizes in his 3D appearances, with Prime, Other M and even Smash Bros. all making him stupidly huge -- mostly for clarity of gameplay, but also because why not.
Since Kraid's 3D appearances for years had been solely in wackadoo spin-offs, measuring him there is tricky. Smash Bros. intentionally mucks about with player scale for the sake of balance, especially with Kraid as a background element not scaled to be interacted with. I wouldn't know where to begin converting Mii heights to human height for the sake of Nintendo Land.
Dread doesn't help matters by not even modelling Kraid's undercarriage to completion; there's no legs down there! Thus I'm left to make the executive decision that Kraid's gut must be trailing on the ground at all times, otherwise what's even the point, so we just measure from the arch of his back to his tum-tum. Scaling an in-game screenshot to match the 3D model (and making concessions for Samus' stooped combat stance), we get a result in the ballpark of 2060cm / 67'7 to 2400cm / 78'8.
... he certainly grew, didn't he? There's a lot of variables and factors to this inaccurate way of doing things -- we'll have a better idea once the raw models in their original sizes can be stacked up to each other, but the fact remains he's twice as big as he was before.
What's worth noting is that Kraid's sprite in Zero Mission matches up to his Dread model pretty well when scaled up; despite doubling in size, his head, shoulders and claws still match in proportion. Does this man ever stop growing?!
Is there a lesson to be learnt from this? Well, numbers are meaningless, for a start. Lesson two is that Kraid can be as big as you want him to be; exact measurements aren't important, it's how impressive he looks. He's a showpiece! Give us the biggest freakin' monster you can find!
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Here we go again! One of Nintendo's many strange vices is bringing back stages nobody asked for, so Brinstar Depths makes its return in the latest Smash outing, now with fully redone graphics, not just cheapskate ports like in Melee. Kraid's been sadly absent since Melee, barring his Super Metroid art being used as a sticker in Brawl, so we finally, finally get our chance to see our boy get the HD treatment!
Well, it's still Brinstar Depths, so it's not exactly a sterling appearance: he's still there only to yuk it up in the background, rotate the arena with his claw slash, and then peace out into the lava again. Because Super Metroid is ancient history, the model is now redesigned to be based around his Zero Mission design, taking its tweaks and proportions into account. Out with the long noggin, in with the flared crest!
It's not a total update to match that appearance; it's still tweaked to accommodate the proportions of the Smash model, so he's still got those noodly turkey legs to prop himself up on. No tail-dragging, belly-trailing posture for this guy, sadly.
Likewise, it seems to paint his inner arms and undercarriage the same colour as his belly just like last time. He also looks more tan than green, though it's tricky to tell because of the baked-in red hue from the lava bath he's lounging in during the fight. Conveying 'accurate' details is tough in 3D on account of so many warring factors; UV maps, dynamic lighting, bump mapping, all that cobblers I don't fully understand...!
I mentioned before how Zero Mission played up his facial crest something fierce, and now it's time to face the music: how does it translate into 3D? Well, about as good as you could expect for a model that exists only as background detail. The crest is splayed out and eye-catching, but the more you look at it, the more it just feels off to me. Is it meant to be this thin and this wide...?
It worked fine in their debut because you only saw Kraid from one angle, but now that he's seen from all manner of perspectives, it just looks a mite ridiculous. Without his wide, stocky gait from the game they originated from, it looks impractical -- moreso than usual. What biological function do these things serve? And why is a Smash Bros. game making me ask these questions?
I can't argue too much; it's a pleasure to see Kraid come back at all, and the concessions made to match the portions of last time are interesting. It would've been nice to see the true lardass Kraid get his dues, but y'all know I'm biased, right? Super turbo champion edition biased? Ultimate's already coming down in chunky and/or scaly bastards -- we got K.Rool and Ridley as newcomers, and Bowser's still a beast... I can't go asking for another, surely?
I say that, but I only just heard that there were people campaigning for Kraid to be the last character added to Fighter Pass 2. Why wasn't I informed?!
As floored as I would've been, not only would asking folks to pay money to play as this elephantine space lizard be a big ask, but I honestly don't know what he could bring to the table. What can he do that K.Rool can't in a more versatile and creative manner?
I would trust Nintendo to do his moveset justice were it a reality, but such a reality exists only in my dreams, where F-Zero has a dating sim and PenPen TriIceLon saved the Dreamcast. It ain't to be, lads. But hey, if anyone wants to put their muscle behind a modding effort, they've got my well wishes!
Kraid's more than just a stage presence, though. He has an unusual role in the World of Light, the closest thing the game has to a story mode: hundreds and hundreds of themed matches against fighters pretending to be other characters?
It's a funny old business: "Spirits" of characters from the represented companies' IPs manifest as copies of the playable fighters with gimmmick-laden tricks or strategies. If you just wished Ryota Hayami from Wave Race were a playable fighter, then you're in luck! If you'll accept Shulk from Xenoblade Chronicles as his stand-in!
By this logic, you can fight against Kraid... if you're willing to take Donkey Kong Country's King K.Rool as an acceptable substitute. They're both fat lizards I have undue fondness for, but it's just not the same...!
Defeating "Kraid" in World of Light does grant access to his dojo. Er, yes, Kraid runs a dojo! Dojos exist to muck about with Spirit stats, each one represented by a character from a headlining franchise within the game -- Star Fox's Peppy O'Hare mans the spacebound dojo, Goron leader Darunia represents Zelda in the Light Realm mountains...
It's an eclectic choice of representatives, and by that crazy moon logic, Kraid's choice seems almost reasonable? He's the only recurring Metroid character not yet represented as a fighter or assist trophy, so it's only fair to give him a role. Would I have preferred him as an assist trophy? Absolutely. As a playable character? Even better. But for the sake of practicality, letting him oversee menu management is far less trouble to implement.
He's unique among the dojo owners for not speaking to you, and instead just... roaring. The text then assumes what he must have said in the captions beneath. Everyone else speaks in line with their prior depictions, but since Kraid's never had dialogue, this is the road they take! This is a concession made for the overseas releases, apparently -- in Japanese it's just roaring with no subtitled translation.
It's charming and can be read any number of ways, whether Kraid is fully dedicated to his role as cheerleader and personal trainer, or completely bamboozled by this turn of events, but in no position to actually act against it. If the Smash Bros. tag on every fanfiction website weren't a minefield of low-effort dreck, I'd almost consider checking how folks answer this conundrum. Money's on the table if you recommend me a good one.
Anyway! It's always good to see Kraid, especially when he's updated to how we're more acquainted with him now. He's suitably chunkier than he was in Melee, putting that polygon budget to good use, and his animations given a modest bit of flourish. It ain't gonna be my ideal Kraid given the esoteric circumstances he's here for, but to see Kraid acknowledged in this day and age is a trip, and his bizarre role in the World of Light is just gravy.
the Kraid diagram
The absurdity of Kraid's shape is half the fun of him, but I'm the pedantic so-and-so who can't rest until he spends at least thirty minutes trying to figure out how this fat space dragon works (current record is nine hours and counting). I like problem solving, alright?!
Look, there's no getting around it, but this aside is probably gonna be extremely wanky (this entire article is on thin ice as it is). I just gotta mull out loud how the heck Kraid is put together. If it works out then it may very well serve as a reference point for artists trying to draw this guy. If it doesn't work out then I'll probably be added to a furry mailing list. I will neither confirm nor deny if this counts as a win-win.
Kraid's easiest to understand when you think of him as an upright alligator; how his limbs bend and body stoops makes a lot more sense when you imagine a member of the family Crocodilia being hoisted on an invisible harness. How much of it still makes sense when you add all that padding is another matter, but when you think "Kraid", the instant word association should be "impractical."
So: his head! The Zero Mission concept art does a good job showing how it works; his other appearances are a bit more jowly, but so long as you think of dragons it should be familiar enough to figure out.
Ignoring the stint in Super Metroid where had a big dumb cranium, he's gonna have a stout neck forming the arch of his back; his back is dotted with spikes from his neck to below his chest, the higher ones white before turning green to blend with his scales.
The three eyes are crucial! In Super the middle eye is only slightly raised with a thin ridge to separate it from the flanking pair, while Zero Mission expands the facial crest's role to form that thicker ridge.
Dread ditches the ridge and drastically flattens the 'dome' of his head, making it seem like his eyes rise from a smooth, sloped surface. Again, not unlike an alligator! At this rate there'll be a Kraid resembling every member of the reptile family.
I call it the facial crest for lack of figuring out what else it could be...! They're like vestigial wings in his Super Nintendo appearance, placed roughly where the ears would be on a bearded dragon, but like so many fictional dragon designs, are there just to look cool more than they are practical. Its more central positioning in Zero Mission is what makes me call it a crest... or them a crest. Not sure on the plurality of it either!
So... how does it work? Beats me! It's portrayed simply as an immobile lump on his upper jaw, but Nintendo Land's animatronic depiction has them on hinges, allowing them to behave like expressive ears. Which I think is cute, and also helps skirt the issue of what angle or shape they're meant to be -- if they're ears, they can point any way they want!
Below the neck he's a bit easier to figure out; round paunch, puffy shoulders, all that good stuff. How round and puffy said features are differs between games, with Zero Mission at their most preposterous.
His arms typically taper down from bulbous shoulders to skinny wrists, though how far down and how quickly they taper changes between depictions; Melee seemed to popularise the chonk ending at the elbow, with variations on what happens after. Zero Mission just has his lower arms as skinny sticks, with zero curves to denote musculature, which is A Look. Dude's got no palms as far as I've seen; it just transitions straight from wrists to fingers.
Now the part that's going to get me put on a watchlist: those belly spikes. As far as I can tell, few sources dare to acknowledge the things he launches from his stomach (certainly not in a biological sense), because to analyse the anatomy of Metroid monsters too closely is to reacquaint yourself with yesterday's lunch.
The Nintendo Power Super Metroid guidebook refers to them simply as "platforms", while the PAL region guide calls them "spikes", but also says they launch from his chest. Dude's got a long thorax if that's the case.
NP's guide to Metroid Zero Mission refers to them as "claws"... and, I mean, it's kind of on the money? They are textured just like his flesh, with green scales and pointed spikes not unlike the claws on his hands.
That game's artwork bears similarity between the two, but the sprite and everything about them in Super Metroid paints them as monstrosities of their own making, with no resemblance to his digits. The resemblance seems purely coincidental, however much it might spark the imagination for Kraid's potential regenerative qualities.
The spikes are present by default in almost all appearances --they're an iconic part of his look! -- but only sprout in Zero Mission and Dread come his second battle phase, suggesting they're an implicit defence mechanism, not something he'd be exposing if he weren't under duress.
The spouts (also rarely referred to in official media; the disgusting-sounding "stomach openings" from the Super Metroid NP guide is the only answer we've gotten) have some repulsive sucker motions in ZM and Dread, stretching and quivering, so make of that horrible fact what you will.
The middle one is seen with a bruised purple infection surrounding it in Dread, and is capable of launching explosive gunk in arcs. Whether that's an additional benefit of this fucked-up anatomy or Kraid weaponising his own health defects, it is a mystery, but it's the first time we've seen it!
If this article were written months ago I would've called the police if I were asked "what's inside the holes?", because Kraid attracts some wild fans (exhibit A, your honour)... but then Metroid Dread chose to let you launch Samus inside his gut in Morph Ball mode, where she can lay bombs to defeat him almost instantly.
If you don't lay bombs... then, er, Samus dies somehow. I'm just gonna assume Kraid did a sick abdominal crunch, the one bit of cardiovascular he knows. Otherwise I ain't gonna touch this one. I don't wanna poke around his private parts, I want this article to celebrate Kraid as a person! Have some respect!
Anyway, let's stare respectfully at Kraid's legs. It's here I bring up the upright alligator analogy again, as his legs aren't designed to be seen fully stretched out, but always tucked in on themselves... or with thighs so massive the rest is practically vestigial. I'm dreadful at deducing out how animal legs work. Doubly so when it's animals with weirdo physiologies, and Kraid's bodily structure is this close to farcical. It's why I love 'im!
But it's also a reminder of how designing something in 2D animation can be hard to carry over into 3D. Kraid's animations in the 2D games are but puppetry -- disembodied sprites moving in such a way to give the illusion they're part of one, dragon-y whole. I mentioned his puffy forearms in Zero Mission -- literally a trio of floating orbs overlaid to resemble natural, three-dimensional movement.
So when his legs are just big blocks with an articulated foot, it's a bit hard to parse even before you address his puffy physiology. Is that a knee, or are his thighs just like that?
There ain't real-life animals to turn to, because what animal is shaped like this?! The best comparison I can think of is either a penguin, or simply a human walking crouched with their knees tucked to their chest. I personally envisioned Kraid's legs as meaty oversized thigh atop tiny ineffectual calf, but there's probably more bones in that ham hock than I might expect.
It's clear that Kraid's design is just too preposterous to work without thought and consideration -- which he is rarely worthy of. Y'gotta strike a balance! His Smash models do good, but only because they change his shape and posture significantly, giving him more calf than he's ever been seen with. A necessary sacrifice? Perhaps. One I won't stop low-key grumbling about? What do you think?
The cop-out resolution to this aside is that Kraid's seen big changes in all of his major appearances -- which is the norm for all Metroid characters, honestly.
If something's giving you trouble, just wing it! Kraid is what you make of him! Look how much Ridley's design has been tweaked over the years, and folks still recognise him! I haven't met a Kraid I didn't like, at least not until I forced myself to take a stance by writing 20,000 words on the subject.
Oh shit it's Kraid!!!!! I know we've been reading about him the past five hours by now, but that was the seemingly universal response to our man showing up in the second Metroid Dread trailer. What's he doing back?! Wasn't he dead??? Why's he shackled up like this?! Who'd even go to the trouble of capturing him or cloning him!?
Those short trailer snippets prompted a lot of questions, to put it lightly! But first, the facts: Kraid is found in a lava-filled prison cell in ZDR, and he ain't much pleased to have visitors, especially when it's Samus. He's seemingly imprisoned, held in place by a neck brace and shackles on his claws, the only thing keeping him from tearing into her immediately (like he'd be competent enough to accomplish that).
So! Kraid! He's back, and uglier than ever! I am blessed to be catered for.
After his perfect posture in Super Metroid, every game since has seemed determined to make him even more of a wretched, stooped-over ghoul, and this certainly delivers. He now sports a flabby neck pouch not unlike our terran gators, used to facilitate the return of his boulder-spitting attack.
Given his extremely slouched posture, his head leaned farther forward than it's ever been before, the neck pouch is a good gesture at not just forecasting his attacks (fulfilling his contractual obligation as easy tutorial boss), but fills the gap between head and body quite nicely.
You should know what a sucker I am for all things crocodilian, and I am in love with the new look he's got. The lumpy scales, those gnarly fangs...!
We get a fresh take on his facial crest, now as thick and crusty as his entire upper jaw, and a fair bit stubbier than before, but no less fearsome. There's mass and heft to them that suggests he could bludgeon a beast to death with them, if not carve through steel, if such a thing were actually feasible for him. Trying to headbutt when you are taller than most things and lucky to see past your own gut is a big ask.
He's a big boy, looking bigger than ever before -- and yet he looks a little smaller too? Deflated, perhaps; certainly lost some weight in solitary confinement.
Which is understandable; the Smash games have shown the concessions necessary to make this guy work in 3D, and if you were to slavishly adhere to his Zero Mission proportions, you might as well be making a moon for Super Mario Galaxy. Look, if Kid Icarus can have Metroids, then we can loan out the monsters to other Nintendo franchises, surely.
Kraid's body takes on a different look, his smooth underbelly now ridged and segmented, his centre spout festering and discoloured. Who's been mistreating our boy?!
Two of the ridges do align with his back spikes, suggesting this is just their new look, but there's reason to believe he's been subjected to abuse under ZDR confinement. The fact everything he shoots from them also squirts pink nasty gunk's probably a sign he ain't in the best of shape. Like, moreso than usual.
This is the first fight where Kraid is well and truly immobile -- his shackles lock him in place, so his disgusting projectiles are his only way of reaching Samus. Not that he can't get hands-on -- in the second phase he'll swipe or outright punch at Samus if she gets too many shots at his face!
His claw swipes in previous games have looked a bit piddly, so to see him put his weight behind a right hook like this is a treat. You can even parry these moves to score a cinematic attack into Kraid's maw -- either a mean feat of strength to show what Samus is capable of, or an example of just how weakened our boy is. You've nothing to prove, Kraid! You're a two-time loser but we still love you!
As a result of his immobility, and the fact the fight is set entirely in a lava bath, we never get to see Kraid below the waist (however that's defined on a shape like his)... in fact, he doesn't even have any legs! He hasn't any modelled on! He clearly has legs, the intro to his second phase employing some clever camera framing to hide their absence as he comes waddling up to Samus (hootin' and hollerin' over that one, a terrific demonstration of this bozo's heft, top 10 kraid moments).
His model just ends in disembodied abdomen; it'd be wasteful to model legs in a fight where they'd be totally obscured, after all. But as a big dumb Kraid nerd, I can't help but be miffed. The leg-to-body ratio is one of the most important facets of judging a Kraid! How can I present my complete assessment if I don't see them leggies?? I can make assumptions, because what is this article if nothing but reading far too deeply into a throwaway boss encounter, but still...!
Despite the hype in the trailers, Kraid doesn't put up much of a show -- his presence is not remarked upon, he holds no standing among the baddies, and he even goes down with a bit of a whimper.
His defeat is somewhat inconclusive, if not an outright cop-out -- Samus doesn't truly defeat him! She does some kickass stunts off his body, but it's him unwittingly snipping his own confines that's his undoing, evidently the only thing propping him up.
He sinks into the lava and sure acts like he's drowning, and once again we're left with a million questions: was that neck brace actually his life support? Did he die? He didn't explode for ten seconds so we haven't that metric to judge on. But most importantly: he's coming back for round two, right? He can't go down like that, surely!
Sadly nope; Kraid is not seen again, and revisiting the arena later shows nothing lurking in the lava pool. The ending battle against Raven Beak has some malarkey about the X Parasite infecting the matter left on the station and fusing with him, resulting in a monstrosity that's a combination of all prior bosses -- all built into Kraid's enormous bulk, with his head splitting open to reveal Raven Beak inside like an oyster. It's pretty gross.
It doesn't come stomping toward Samus. Instead it crawls towards her, using its six arms for leverage, suggesting its bulk is totally legless... seemingly treating the omission in Kraid's model as an asset. It's a striking image, a perfect representation of a lifeform too twisted by assimilation and mutation to even support itself. But you don't have to dwell on its biological logistics because it only exists for 20 seconds before Samus vaporises it. Phew. Close one.
Anyway, this is a long way to address the absence of legs. Whether Kraid was killed by Samus is inconclusive, but he sure as heck got absorbed by the X sometime during the game's events... and with the gestalt entity and the X vaporised by the battle's end, I don't think Kraid walked outta this one. Or waddled. Boy's not a mover.
Given talk of this game closing the book on this era of the franchise, it would certainly line up, with the mainline villains from the first instalment all certifiably dead by this point... but, y'know, Metroid's not one for keeping dudes dead for long. With any luck Kraid'll be back before you know it. It's like he was never disintegrated!
Metroid Dread released with an artbook as part of its special edition, and it does include three pages pages of lovely Kraid material... but all from the waist-up, sadly. No trace of his legs, barely a glimpse of his tail...! They're terrific pieces, though, playing up his underbelly with a glowing lava-like texture, a vivid contrast to his dark, scarred scales.
He went through a few designs, all of them with a big gator influence, and a lot of iterations upon his facial crest. Some are thick upswept horns, others are almost like tusks, stretching far forward to the tip of his jaw. They're all mean looks, if only continuing to prove how impractical those things are.
What's interesting is two pieces showing a greater mechanical presence, more than just his cabled shackles. His upper jaw is covered with a metal mask, mechanical clasps run across his crest/horns and something held below his lower jaw -- either an improvised muzzle to keep his mouth from opening far, or a Kraid-sized horse bit...? The whole piece is connected to his neck brace via an articulating rod, a more overt demonstration of the imprisonment he's kept under on ZDR.
Of course, what turned more heads is the single image depicting an entirely different Kraid -- broad, buff, bipedal, and barely like you'd imagine him! He's still a chunky customer, but one with a more top-heavy build, like a scaly lava-hued strongman more than our big belly boy.
It's an absolutely baller design, and one that folks have been somewhat thirsty over on social media. It's a look, alright?
It is, however, a bit of a stretch for Kraid. A mutant based on his DNA? A genetically modified evolution? Perhaps. But regular ol' Kraid? A bridge too far, my friend.
It's an incredible creation, one I would've loved to have seen implemented in some capacity, even as an unrelated monster, but you can't just remould my boy without permission like that.
Dread is a delight in how much it's given to fans who've waited hungrily for so long; the fact it's got Kraid is satisfaction enough, but he's got mystery too?! A lot of new Chozo lore is implied through background details and bonus imagery, with hieroglyphs implying the Zebesians once were (or are?) their slaves...
... and a gallery portrait shows Raven Beak in the midst of capturing Kraid, who's not going down without a lot of squirming and whining. Are the Space Pirates being poached for their tech and know-how? What possible reason could they have for holding him captive like this?! You don't give Kraid room and board unless you really mean it!
If you want to get really pedantic, there's reason to believe this might not even be Kraid, but just another of his species? The Metroid Dread Report volume 6 refers to him as "a giant monster that appears to be Kraid," not outright identifying him, and the timeline suggests Raven Beak was preoccupied during the events of Super Metroid, so Kraid probably couldn't wind up here without some convoluted circumstances. But who knows, right?
The silent interaction between him and Samus suggests they've got mutual history, but they're not exactly meeting under neutral circumstances; anyone would be snippy if they were bound and starved. It's perhaps a low blow for Samus, fighting a foe that's physically restrained from touching her, but I think she has every right to expect things she's killed to stay dead.
But yes, needless to say, this is a good Kraid. It's a fresh take on all his most disgusting features, with some grisly new details for good measure. His stompy, ineffectual waddle in the mid-fight transition is outstanding, exactly the kind of piss-poor autonomy I could hope for from this guy. It's our first time seeing the guy move in three dimensions! We don't even see his freakin' legs, but the implications are just mwah. We stan a stubby-legged king.
And honestly, it's such a great take on his design. All the bumpy, rocky, gnarly texture you could want from his scaly hide, but also implying the disgusting chemical factory that's probably brewing in that gut of his. Total nasty man.
His fangs are a treat, his lower lip studded with teeth like tusks, pointing in every dang direction. And his eyes!! It's not enough for them to glow, they've got vertically-slitted eyelids now, giving him an all-new sinister look. Very chic, very daring.
All in all? Just about everything you culd ask from a new Kraid appearance. Dude's anatomy remains impractical as all hell, and his existence continues to be a nonsensical mystery.
For treating him like a surprise comeback, it also offers him no respect whatsoever; Samus instantly lowers her guard upon seeing who it is, and gives zero shits about his futile grandstanding.
As an arguable series mainstay one could deem it an insult, but what's he done to deserve any respect?
Perhaps that's the true definition Kraid. An impressive front to an insurmountable dumbass. Never before has he been more relatable. Love ya Kraid. Come back soon.
how does Kraid survive?
Nintendo have had a spotty record of thinking whether or not fans should give a shit about story; Ridley, Kraid and Mother Brain have been exploded across multiple games, showing up right as rain the next time they're needed, and we're told not to think about it. Clearly someone gives a hoot, as we've been drip-fed explanations for why Ridley's made repeated comebacks, with a robotic duplicate, body augmentation, and two separate clones all to explain his resurgence!
Of course, with fewer appearances and lesser prevalence, there's less clamouring for how and why Kraid manages to come back. How on earth could a dude so big make anything resembling a hasty exit? Did the Space Pirates really go to the trouble of retrieving him, or is it easier to just have his cloning data on file?
Given how ye olde sprite games were a bit lenient on depicting death -- things just explode! -- it's ambiguous when a villain is merely "defeated", no longer a threat to be concerned about, or outright obliterated. Ridley exploding in the first game/Zero Mission wasn't deadly, but exploding in Super was a canonical death, apparently. Is Kraid ever actually killed, or does he just throw in the towel?
One very silly theory from deep in the bowels of furry Twitter is shooting missiles down Kraid's throat doesn't actually kill him -- it just makes him heavier until the floor gives way beneath him. He sinks after every defeat, after all!
It's a somewhat loose interpretation of how mass, weight, and rocket-propelled explosives work (and don't even get me started if you fight him with charged shots instead), but given the implied chemical factory that is Kraid's gut, who can possibly say how those elements intermingle. I like this one for making Kraid a victim of Tom & Jerry-esque pratfalls; the kind of dope who'd step on a rake and smack himself in the face if they made rakes in his size.
Personally, I speculate that he just... survives both planetary explosions. I mean, his hide's totally impenetrable, he burrows through rock, he lounges in lava like it's no big deal. What difference is being at the epicentre of a planetary detonation gonna make?
Whether he simply coasts gently through space afterward or is yeeted at lightspeed across the galaxy is up for debate. Whatever the case, it's probably a darn sight easier wrangling him in zero gravity than trying to haul him out of a planet's atmosphere. That might explain the self destruct sequences, actually -- easier to just blow up the planet than try getting him off it.
My favourite theory I've come across is "Kraid is just so cool he refuses to actually die". Call him an ineffectual chump all you like, but at least he walks away with his life after every run-in with Samus. Whether you read that as him simply throwing the fight when shit hits the fan, or literally so tough Samus cannot kill him in a way that matters, I'll let you decide. Because taking stances in my novelette-length essay is just a bridge too far, apparently.
None of this answers anything but I'll take any excuse to make up bullshit about Kraid, as should probably be evident by now. I mean, if Nintendo ain't gonna clear up the issue then who else do we turn to? GOD???
You should be blessed Random Hoo Haas is somehow not completely unhinged just yet. Give it another year of quarantine and then we'll talk.
tying a bow on this mess
I hope you enjoyed this article about fat dragons and the minutes of your life you'll never get back again. Is Kraid worthy of love? In my biased opinion, yes. Is he worthy of respect? That's another story.
What conclusion I'd want to come to after all this remains a mystery. More Kraid in games, Metroid-related or otherwise? Well, duh. Advocating for different fresh takes on Kraid's design, or a more cohesive centralised one? I think more Kraid is enough to wish for. If Kraid were fatter, uglier, and had access to a time machine, then most of my wishes would be answered.
Perhaps the real takeaway is that you can make up any ridiculous monster for a video game, some one-note monstrosity designed only to be a cool (questionably), short-lived adversary, with no ambition of it ever being more than just a bump on the road... and there'll be some smitten imbecile who'll give their life for it.
Whether that reflects poorly on the monster designer for not foreseeing the freaks in the audience, or the freak for falling in love with a beast that'll only disappoint them with their lack of depth and nuance... again, who can say. "Misguided" feels like an appropriate word for one or all parties, fictional monster included.
Heck, perhaps it's a reflection on the fleeting nature of fictional characters and those that crush on them. Anime hunks and babes are a dime a dozen, cute boys or girls with quirky traits and colourful attire designed to hit certain beats and archetypes for fans to spill their wallets to purchase merch or tokens of their affection.
In time, how many are forgotten? What was once a labour of love, the root of one's obsession, becomes but foam on the ephemeral waves, forgotten when the next attraction arises, or when all graven images decay. This anime girl has pigtails, so now she's my new favourite.
By comparison, monster loving is forever, because what else is there like these bad boys? There's no shortage of humanoid heartthrobs, but what else could fill the dragon shaped hole in my heart the way Kraid can? Plenty of things, perhaps, but none that hit the same chorus of beats that this misshapen monster does.
Not unlike the Metroid series itself; it's inspired generations of creations, many of which have gone on to do incredible things of their own, its own self-fulfilling cycle of creativity and inspiration... but nothing may ever capture the same exact essence of Metroid. You can do your best to emulate, but to recreate deep-held connections from scratch is a tough order, be it with the media itself or the characters within.
One rarely creates with an idea of what splash it may make, be it the humble programmers of the Famicom era unaware this was the birth of many genres, or the character designers blissfully oblivious to who'll fall head over heels for what they draw on the clock.
Nobody made Kraid thinking "this'll be somebody's favourite character," and it's perhaps not a fate I would have asked for myself, but it's funny the way things work out sometimes. Creations and connections are often the result of factors we cannot observe, how they are perceived beyond our control, but so long as everything gets its moment of appreciation I like to think it all works out.
actually scratch that, new takeaway
where's my fucking kraid amiibo nintendo
gimme a giant assfuck kraid
you only need to make one, no need for mass production, just make it big enough to flatten Staten Island
it doubles as subversive marketing and also a Mecca for giant losers
(i should not write postambles at 2am)
Not that I imagine many people would want to be associated with this mess, but I'm putting their names down anyway.
TheLadyOfBees: For (perhaps unwittingly) prompting this whole idea and indulging my bullshit.
herrDoktorat: For putting up with my bullshit.
Ray: For alternately indulging and putting up with my bullshit.