How much do you like Metroid: Sams Returns, the second most criticized work in the Nintendo 3DS remake series?Your answer to this question is important-because it may determine how much you like Metroid Fear, The latest entry in the series and the hype about the “main” Metroid storyline told in the 2D entries in the series.
The lineage between the two is obvious. Both are developed by the Spanish studio MercurySteam and Nintendo’s famous EPD development department. When you start playing Dread, the direct clues from one game to another are clear. Most prominently, Sams retained the physical counter-attack she made her debut in Metroid 2 Remake-but in terms of its general movement and handling, Fear matches its development predecessor very well.
However, in other respects, fear is completely different. In fact, I think it draws inspiration from the past three Metroid games in almost the same way. The combat and game feel come from Samus Returns. Super Metroid brings a broader sense of non-linearity, leaving you with almost no direction to figure out what to do next, except for using your damn eyes, no waypoints (except those you set yourself) or map navigation form. Yes, there are also rules in game design that allow players to get rid of the “expected” sequence of events. Finally, the flow of the game is closest to Metroid Fusion, and this title comes immediately before fear in the sense of the story.
The name of the game comes from the sense of fear, which is intended to be inspired by being hunted-a sense of tension developed in Fusion and meant to be enhanced here. Enter EMMI, this is a nearly indestructible robot that hunts Samus through the interior of the ZDR planet. All the time, Dread, like any other 2D Metroid, follows the template set by the original game and honed to perfection in Super-but once you enter an area where EMMI is loose, the equation changes significantly.
Conceptually, EMMI is excellent. Most of the content of Metroid is about slowly exploring, discovering secrets and new paths-but when you are being tracked, this is much more difficult. So there is a nominal fear—although it may be for the wrong reason. With the exception of a small window for counter-attack and short-term stuns, EMMI is unparalleled in terms of functionality, and contact with them will cause Samus to be captured and immediately end the game. Instead, the game recommends that you run first and then sneak-Sams has mastered some stealth techniques, and stealth is the key to passing through the enclosed area where each EMMI is located. Yes. The concept is great. Can you feel one but is coming?
In addition to the great concept, the execution of this idea was carried out frantically between great and very, very frustrating. The feedback given by the game about what your robot enemy knows is great-a small animation hints that you have made enough noise to attract attention, and the pleasure of successfully escaping is great. However, killing immediately is an exhausting pain, especially when you end up crossing back and forth multiple times in the EMMI residential area while trying to find the next path forward.
Besides, isn’t EMMI that scary? Maybe it depends on their design-they are essentially impersonal and robotic. Perhaps this is a difference in animation, where 3D usually contains fewer nuances than 2D. Whatever the reason, these stalkers are not as scary as SA-X, it is a terrifying enemy in Metroid Fusion. The game keeps telling you how dangerous and scary EMMI is, but in fact they are just an inconvenience. After the huge execution of SA-X and Metroid’s obvious alien inspiration, it feels like a missed opportunity. This game is called Metroid Dread, because this is the feeling that series steward Yoshio Sakamoto wants to evoke. Eventually, he should probably swap this title with Metroid Fusion-because Fusion is more efficient in creating fear and setting the player’s pulse.
In any case, when you clean up the earth, you will eventually unlock “mysterious energy” that can be used to launch powerful shots to kill one of these trackers-so in the end you can explore these areas unimpeded. By the way, the order in which you perform this operation may be an important determinant of fast running and sequence interruption, because Samus gains certain key abilities after defeating certain EMMIs-each is color-coded and has Samus that can be used from them Unique abilities acquired there.
Most of the rest of the content is the same as the Metroid course. You travel across the earth, unlock multiple areas, and then use elevators, shuttles, and conveyors to move between these areas. When you gain new abilities, it is good to look back for new bonus items to power Samus hidden in the previously traversed area. Sometimes, the progress needs to go back and forth naturally-even though I only picked up about 40% of the items when I reached the final boss, I went back and continued to explore and unlock the rich mine.
To be fair, Metroid is one of Nintendo’s most “hardcore” dedicated gaming franchises-and Fear tends to that. Sometimes this can be surprisingly ruthless and difficult, especially in boss battles-before identifying their patterns and knowing how to fight them back, I bounced a bit for double-digit attempts, and I know others are performing worse. Much. Strangely, some boss encounters are also “scripted”-which means that once you reach a certain point and start fighting, it is impossible to backtrack to better prepare or get upgrades-you just have to keep trying.
In fact, it usually feels that the game is balanced, and going back to get a lot of health energy boosts will only help you a lot-later enemies cause ridiculous damage. However, this escalation of the enemy also coincides with the fact that EMMI is no longer an inherent threat. I think the key is that ZDR is never attractive. When you play a stomping power fantasy, the adventure is almost over.
In this sense, I want to know what Metroid Fear will be like as someone’s first foray into Samus Aran’s adventures. At the beginning of the game, there is an extended sequence that allows you to get started quickly, but at the same time, the story may really only come to fruition if you have considerable knowledge of the series. Combine it with the ruthlessness of the game-which sometimes feels a bit unfair-I would say that this is not a game for novices.
However, in other respects, Dread feels like one of the most successful Metroid entries. Sams’ character is sublime; her purposeful way of movement in cutscenes and gameplay, and what it means when she rarely breaks the silence. Sams often mixes with other power armor wearers, Master Chief and Doomslayer, but let’s be realistic: she is cooler than the two of them combined, at least when she is right, old-school Sams, no nonsense. Or ask for permission from an idiot to save her own life, just like in other Ms. Similarly, the Silent World of Fear is excellent-it has a logic in the way the world works, and discrete areas are connected in a way that feels natural. Although there will inevitably be some logical extensions to serve the purpose of game design, it is a very meaningful planet, which is not always true in this series.
Where Dread is unremarkable, it feels like it did so to serve the genre metaphor and the design works deliberately reserved from the 1980s in this series. The open design is great, but searching for an almost complete map for a box that can be exploded can be painful. The same is true for those ruthless and ruthless bosses, until you understand the one thing that tripped them up, especially when they return in a more powerful form later in the game. But these things are basically true throughout the entire Metroid series-in this sense, the feeling of fear is a suitable ending for the 2D Metroid saga, at least for now. It feels that MercurySteam has consolidated its role as the guardian of this branch of the series, and I hope to see them return again. The Samus Returns port of the Switch will not go wrong either.
Metroid Dread is likely to give those who have been counting down to release what they want: an exciting experience consistent with their love of past games. There are original ideas here-but it’s better to think of them as evolutions of things before, rather than anything groundbreaking. Difficulties and progress road signs are full of stumbling blocks, but all of them feel very Metroid. Fear is not a Super Metroid, but that game is a cold history. Regardless of that game, Dread is up to the standard of the series and is very worth seeing.
Disclaimer: Tested on Nintendo Switch OLED model. A copy of the game is provided by the publisher.