Review: Metroid: Samus Returns
Developer: Mercury Steam
Genre: Metroidvania/2D Platformer
E3 saw Metroid fans all over the world losing their minds with a small teaser image for a new Metroid Prime. Just a logo appearing over the familiar scuttle and electronic whir which pricked up the ears and hearts of all who knew what it meant. It wasn’t until later that day we also learned that a new 2D Metroid was on the horizon and I think feelings were at best mixed. Why are they remaking Metroid 2, one of the least popular titles? Why is it on 3DS and arguably dying console? Should we really allow ourselves to get excited over this?
Having spent the last few days playing Metroid: Samus Returns I would just like to assure my past self that yes, yes I am allowed to get excited about this because for all the questions surrounding why this is the Metroid we are getting it’s actually very good.
I’m a big fan of the genre that Metroid helped pioneer. 2D platforming games with solid combat and explorable worlds which slowly drip feed power ups so that you can become master of your domain are among my favourite titles. Trawling through maps to unlock new abilities which turn previous dead ends into opportunities and learning the patterns of enemies are key in this style of play and Samus Returns has earned the prefix Metroid in this respect.
Combat has a rhythm to it and in the beginning, it is important to pause and observe the way enemies move waiting for the perfect time to counter. This bait and switch dance makes up most of the interactions with enemies with some nigh impenetrable without utilising this counter move to expose a soft target. This can be disruptive to the flow of moving through the areas but timing it correctly can be very satisfying and after powering up some of my weapons and simply learning the game itself there was less stop and start to the action. Bosses also have a similar pattern and most will only take substantial damage after being countered which can only happen when they use a move that allows it. They also come mostly in the same variety of enemy and use similar move sets which can make fighting them tedious on time and almost too easy having you just going through the motions. Occasionally you will come across a totally different boss who’s moves will be more varied and they can be murderously difficult but are also a welcome change from the usual back and forth.
Fighting unfamiliar enemies and bosses always pose a significant challenge as without learning their patterns timings and weaknesses Samus can often die within a few hits, especially if ganged up on. There’s an odd sense of achievement in knowing that it’s just a matter of understanding your opponent until you can routinely take them down but be prepared to for a few deaths while you learn. Death can be a large punishment depending on how you’ve managed the save points scattered throughout the world when exploring, but I was thankful to learn that an autosave function kicks in before most significant battles making for less frustration on my many deaths to new bosses.
Another point of added ease that may annoy some hardcore fans is the scan and map systems. Samus has the ability to scan an immediate area which will reveal hidden rooms on the lower screen’s map and breakable blocks within site on the main display. I personally found this to be a welcome addition as it meant I didn’t spend as much time aimlessly shooting at or bombing random sections of walls. I preferred to limit my use so to not give everything away and I think that’s probably the beauty of the mechanic. Players who want the old school Metroid experience can simply not use the function or save it for when they are truly stuck. What I can say is even with my fairly liberal use of scan I still found myself having to pore over maps not too sure what area I’d missed finding the next power up, so those who love the meticulous nature of Metroid titles should still be satisfied.
The world itself tries to capture the influence of the original Return of Samus but in full colour and beautiful 3D effects. There’s a weird 80’s/90’s sci-fi vibe to the environments which is bright almost to the point of garish but feels right for a Metroid title. Samus and enemies pop against the intricate backgrounds and the animations feel like they take inspiration older sprite based games while being much cleaner and more in depth. The way Samus hangs from ledges, crouches, and casually shoots over her shoulder all give a cool action hero feel and the enemies movements all appear appropriately alien. And as pretty as this game is on 3DS the device hampers play with hand cramps from holding triggers, using face buttons and touching the screen all at once are sometimes unavoidable and I often found myself thinking how much better this game could look and feel on the Switch.
Metroid: Samus Returns is a great re-entry into the Metroid series. Nothing is too new or different and for the most part it feels like a modern day classic Metroid which is improved by adding new fluid controls and graphics to a tried and true formular. The repetitive nature of enemies and environments can make play tedious at times but at every turn, a new challenge appears with a new way to combat it which keeps the game fresh, fun and most importantly, Metroid.
|Metroid: Samus Returns is almost exactly what I wanted in a new handheld 2D Metroid title. Refinements on old good ideas ring through a fun world to explore and kill things.||4.1 4.1 ( on 4 rating)|