First appearance: Metroid (Nintendo, NES, 1986)
Likes: Kidnapping; Torture; Murder; Flower arranging
Dislikes: Vengeful orphans
Hopes: That Kraid will forget about the lawnmower he borrowed and subsequently broke after mowing over some rocks in lower Norfair

Profile by Nadia Oxford? | March 31, 2011

Metroid fans are the most battle-hardened video game veterans to ever set their buttocks on a couch. But even their insides quake at the sight of Ridley, Metroid’s bony, bristling dragon who has only to gesture with a talon to send mountains of Space Pirates tumbling after bounty hunter Samus Aran.

Ridley, who is usually found slumming around the superheated ruins of Norfair deep under Zebes, often guards the last road to Mother Brain. More often than not, he’ll offer up the most difficult battle in any Metroid game. That would be expected in any instance when you’re weighing the fighting prowess of armored dragons against brains in a jar, but Ridley holds his own with silent, merciless cunning. He can fly, breathe fire, and spear Samus with his tail. And it’s a known fact that he feeds on the heartbroken screams of recently-orphaned children.

But even as the greatest warriors begin life as tiny, shrieking, naked babies (ask your mom), Ridley began his life on the NES as a squashed, buggy creature who looked as threatening as that thing you saw racing around in your bathtub last week. Not pleasant to look at, by any means, and not necessarily easy to kill. But when Samus first encountered Ridley, her impulse was to take off her shoe. In fact, she did. Don’t bother running to Google image search to look that one up; Ridley burnt up all evidence after he was given another shot at menacing Samus in Super Metroid.

Circle of Life, right? We’re born, we grow, we die. Ridley grew up alongside Samus like some kind of twisted shadow, or a cruel variation of a childood rival. They first fought when he was a mere larva, and Samus was the victor. Ridley vowed revenge. As Samus honed her own skills over the years, Ridley hardened his carapace, sprouted claws the size of a man’s fingers, swallowed acid, drooled venom --

Nope. Nothing like that ever happened. Aliens don’t subscribe to the whole Circle of Life thing; they think it’s for sentimental viviparous mammals. With the exception of his stint in the original Metroid, Ridley has always been a beefy boy. Ask Samus: She was three when she saw Ridley for the first time on her home colony of K-2L (be warned, though, when she gets on the subject of her past, she tends to think out loud and never stops).

Ridley was a hulking maniac when he first visited Samus’ home colony and iced her parents. Then he shrank down to a potbellied insect-like creature for the first Metroid game. Then he grew again, and to date he seems content to stay with the “hulking maniac” thing. So what’s with the loud hiccup in Ridley’s growth cycle?

It all ties to a nugget of alien zoology. Like many varieties of alien reptiles, Ridley’s species is capable of changing its sex as the act of reproduction demands. In other words, if there is a shortage of male Ridleys in the galaxy during a millennium, then female Ridleys can become males for a few years, and vice-versa.

Female Ridleys are much smaller than their male counterparts, and grow a paunch to store eggs. In fact, at first glance, they look much less threatening than males.

Yes -- when Samus fought Ridley in the first Metroid adventure, he had indeed switched his gender. He doesn’t like to talk about it, so don’t bring it up.

But Ridley didn’t change his gender for reasons pertaining to the preservation of his species, which he is generally not fond of. His kind has a tendency to speak too loud on its cellphones, chew with its mouths open, and fart on space-buses at rush hour. Rather, Ridley’s temporary switch reaches back to a morbid curiosity. After mating, the females of his species devour the unresisting males. Ridley had once heard that his race tastes like chicken.

The rest, as they say, is finger-lickin’ history.

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