Dread begins with a short re-cap of the events of Metroid Fusion and some useful information about the eponymous Metroids to provide context for new players. Samus is tasked with investigating the uncharted planet, ZDR after receiving a transmission of an X parasite, previously thought extinct. Upon arrival, she is attacked by a mysterious Chozo who saps her of all her power. It is here that the core Metroid gameplay begins to unfold; starting out with very limited abilities, and slowly beginning to open new areas by utilising items that you find while exploring.
Samus herself is a joy to play as. She is extremely fast and intuitive to control, complete with her gun, missiles, slide dodge, and a counter-attack, which requires looking out for visual and audio queues in enemies in order to instantly kill them. While the first three areas are mostly linear, things really start to pick up in difficulty when it comes to fighting Dread’s bosses.
While I consider myself a veteran player of 2D side-scrolling platformers, even I struggled to stay alive in these encounters. The bosses here are very punishing and fast moving, with a plethora of attack patterns that require careful studying in order to counter. It does, however, feel extremely satisfying to finally defeat a boss, knowing that not only is Samus becoming stronger, but so are you as the player.
A significant part of Dread’s gameplay is dedicated to the E.M.M.I., notorious hunter-robots that have been corrupted with the sole purpose of pursuing and killing Samus. This aspect is what lends the game its name “Dread”, as it is these encounters that fill the player with that exact feeling. While the E.M.M.I. can be countered, this is extremely difficult to gauge, encouraging the player to take a more stealth-based approach. This new concept of avoiding these “insta-kill” enemies is a very refreshing addition to the classic Metroid formula.
Like any Metroid game, Dread is home to many secrets and hidden collectibles. Having finished the game myself with 100% completion, I guarantee it is not an easy task. Missile, energy, and bomb tanks are hidden all over Dread’s labyrinthian map, boasting some truly mind-numbing puzzles to solve to acquire them. While completionism is not a goal for everyone, attempting to acquire as many of these items as possible is a crucial way to see the entirety of the map, and really appreciate the way in which this incredible world was put together by developer MercurySteam.
Metroid Dread is a game 19 years in the making, bringing a 35-year-old story to a close. While it’s hard to gauge whether anything is worth waiting that long for, Dread may just be one of them. The mixture of fast-paced, engaging gameplay, difficult boss fights and an ever-expanding world to explore make Metroid Dread a powerful contender for the return of the beloved franchise.
Metroid Dread is available now on Nintendo Switch.