Metroid: Samus Returns 3DS Review
Samus Aran is finally back with a Metroid game that fans can be truly proud of. It’s been 9 years since the last, most would argue, with the release of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and even longer still since the last great 2D adventure, Metroid: Zero Mission, came out back in 2004. Metroid: Samus Returns is the perfect title and choosing to remake an old game instead of continuing the plot even further was definitely the best way to go. Seemingly a hallmark of Nintendo franchises, the Metroid timeline, whilst interesting and deep, is also very confusing. Mostly this is due to the fact the games are released so few and far between but is especially problematic since the franchise has existed longer than I have, over a multitude of consoles, and even splits into a ‘spin off?’ series under the sub-name ‘Prime’. Not only that but the divide between 2D and 3D games isn’t for everyone, making it pretty unreasonable to expect the average player to really get what’s going on in the Metroid universe.
That’s where Metroid II: The Return of Samus comes in. Samus Returns retells this mission’s plot and is probably the simplest Metroid story available – ‘go to the planet SR388 (where the Metroids were first created) and eliminate them’. There’s no need to know who created them or why, just get down there and blast all 40 of them to smithereens. Just like that we’re thrown right into the game, where the first thing I noticed was, whilst the poor resolution and the washed-out colours on the 3DS leave a lot to be desired, the depth and detail of the 3D looks simply incredible. After that I noticed how crisp the controls felt, even after being forced to use the circle-pad over the d-pad. Platforming is on point, as is expected, and the ability to either run and gun or plant your feet to aim more accurately using the shoulder buttons, allows for a lot of freedom during combat, transforming the more challenging boss fights into epic battles based on skill and skill alone.
The first area, complete with power-ups, enemies, and the first few Metroid encounters act as a tutorial of how the rest of the game is going to go. Each area contains a strange device that requires the DNA of ‘n’ amount of Metroids before a poisonous liquid is removed, allowing the player to continue to the next area with another machine and yet more Metroids to hunt down, until the last one is found and wiped out. This is how the entire rest of the game goes and completely eradicates all possible confusion about where to go or what to do next, a problem often found in the Metroid ‘genre’. In fact, the reason I have found myself praising the game so highly is not just because I found it to be a ton of fun but it seems to solve many of the problems that Metroid-esque games often have. For example, it’s not uncommon to be slowed down by tough or mob enemies in these games, forcing the player to stay back and boringly take pot shots or run through them and tank the damage, killing the pace. Well, with the addition of the parry, originally found in Other M, the player can stay mobile and fight these stronger enemies quickly with skilled timing and platforming, instead. Once again allowing the player to learn and develop their skills through gameplay.
And trust me – it’s needed. Whereas the normal Metroid fights can be anywhere from pointlessly easy to a 3-part boss fight based on learning attack patterns and quick reactions, the more interesting and complex boss battles, which I won’t spoil here, are a damn good challenge and often took a fair few attempts. Learning the different phases and attacks are one thing but sometimes even dealing damage to the enemy can be a puzzle that requires the use of several abilities/weapons, such as the grapple hook or slowing down time, and it’s all so incredibly fun. That’s the keyword here – fun – the exploration, the fighting, the puzzles, acquiring new powerups on a regular interval, and especially the chases sequences make for a brilliant and more-than-slightly addicting experience. What’s also great is that my original playthrough clocked in at 11 hours (14 for 100%…those darn red spikes broke my brain!), a very decent length and yet still enjoyable enough for me to want to go back and play on hard mode or even fusion mode, which is sadly locked behind an amiibo.
Furthermore, not only is the game great but the hardware is too. The dual-screens that the DS systems are named after feel so natural for these 2D exploration games, a thought I first had playing Steamworld Dig. Health, ammo, energy, weapons, and especially the map are on display at all times using the bottom screen, which leaves nothing to get in the way of the action on the top screen. Weapons are changed by tapping them for quick access and even better is the ability to change between standing and morphball mode by tapping the map, meaning it can be done mid-air for some great dodging and platforming tricks. Plus, the addition of the ability to scan what’s around Samus makes exploration interesting and not all about shooting random blocks hoping to find a secret, a pitfall a surprising amount of similar games fall into. Then, when something new is discovered but can’t be reached yet, due to not having the correct ability, it can be tagged on the map as a reminder to come back later – what a great solution and perfect use of the secondary screen.
Honestly, I could rant on about how completely badass Samus comes off in some of the more action focussed cutscenes, or about the incredible soundtrack that brings back all the nostalgic classics (headphones on full volume recommended) but I think calling it an incredible Metroid game says all that and more. As a dabbler in the series, I’ve definitely been hooked and will be going back to play through all of the titles I’ve skipped over to make amends. I don’t remember the last game I played that intrigued me so much I had to do some research and ended up reading through the entire history and lore of the in-game universe. Well, Samus Returns did. Now I know all about the history of the Chozo race, Samus’ origins, and hope so much that it does well enough to justify a real comeback for the Metroid franchise. Simply put – Samus Returns is the new benchmark against which all other games of this genre will be measured against.