Aside from the odd game that was last year’s Federation Force (a weird and kind of fun little co-op game, the reveal of which was so hilariously misjudged that the game was about as welcome as a drunk heckler at a sainted mother’s funeral), we have been tragically Metroid-less since the 2010 release of Metroid: Other M, itself a very divisive game. During this absence, the Metroidvania genre has exploded. Games such as Cave Story, Ori, Guacamelee, Hollow Knight and countless others have come and gone; but Metroid remained missing.
Series fans had all but given up hope, especially considering Nintendo’s infamous handling of numerous Metroid fan projects over the years. Come E3 2017, we found out that Metroid games are like buses. While Metroid Prime 4 may still be a long-way off, we have Samus Returns (the first 2D Metroid since goddamn Metroid Fusion) right here and now. While it isn’t perfect, I am glad to report that Metroid is finally back.
While it isn’t perfect, I am glad to report that Metroid is finally back.
Samus Returns is a remake of Metroid 2, a Game Boy game and series black sheep. The original saw Samus explore the monochromatic world of SR388. Tasked with the final genocide of the Metroid race, she must hunt down and destroy a fixed number of the deadly aliens. It traded the sprawling world of the original for a more claustrophobic, linear experience. Samus Returns presents this world in glorious colour and makes great use of the 3DS’s stereoscopic 3D to make for a world with real depth. A mini-map has been added, sitting on the bottom screen. Samus also has all-new Aeon abilities, which unlock over the course of the game. The most useful of these is a map-scan function, which highlights blocks that can be bombed, the locations of items, and laying out your immediate surroundings.
The original’s linearity is still preserved, despite the addition of teleporters that warp Samus around the map. Aside from collectibles, there is very little reason to revisit previous areas, but these areas have been greatly expanded upon. Combat has a little of Other M mixed in - Samus is much faster and nimbler than she has been in the past, allowing for her to quickly weave between foes. No longer is Samus tied to eight-directional shooting, now possessing 360-degree control of her shots. She even has a counter attack, one you’ll be using a lot to expose weak points to the many, many adversaries Samus Returns throws your way. And this is all needed because Samus Returns is a hard game. Enemies do more damage on the standard difficulties here than in the harder difficulties of other games. Enemies are aggressive, and many of the bosses require serious endurance, and firepower, to take down. These additions to Samus’ repertoire are welcome, but the sheer number of difficult encounters can result in combat being often frustrating and, at times, a bit dull.
The additions to Samus’ repertoire are welcome, but the sheer number of difficult encounters can result in combat being often frustrating and, at times, a bit dull.
Samus Returns isn’t the pinnacle of the series. Its faster pace and focus on combat results in a great modernisation of Metroid 2, but one that loses a little of that overwhelming, more horror-like atmosphere that the original presented. It’s adherence to Metroid 2’s linearity over exploration stops it from being as free-flowing as Super Metroid and the Prime series. But overall, this is a fantastic (if at times overly difficult) revival of one of the lesser known titles in the series. Samus is back, and I sure hope it stays that way.