Ever since Metroid Dread was announced back at E3 this year, I’ve been so excited to play it. Mostly because it’s a traditional 2D Metroid, of course, but more than that – it’s a follow-up to my favourite entry in the series, Metroid Fusion.
The Hunter Becomes The Hunted
There’s a reason why this edition’s called Dread, and it’s certainly not due to the fact that it sucks. What’s happening this time is that Samus will often encounter these WALL-E/Matrix-looking robots called E.M.M.I. who’ll stalk the protagonist around specific areas of the map for the entirety of her adventure. And folks, make sure you have a towel handy because those palms are going to be sweating.
These guys will chase after Samus relentlessly and even temporarily close nearby doors of escape if they’re hot on her trail. And if Samus gets captured by any of the robots, then there’s a 99% chance you’ll be booted straight to the game over screen. The player technically can survive the assault by counter-attacking at precisely the right moment, but you’ve got to time it to perfection. I think I landed 1 counter out of 15 attempts, so that should sum it up well. When the robots do eventually spot Samus though, it always – without fail – turns into a frantic, press-the-nope-button type of affair. Because the player has to account for the fast-approaching E.M.M.I.’s movements, all the while struggling to solve each environmental puzzle Metroid Dread lays out in front of them.
Once I had cleared a few of these chase sequences however, I couldn’t help but look back and praise them as such great examples of quick-thinking, high-pressure moments that always felt ultra satisfying to clear. If I could liken them to anything, it’d be how Nemesis or Mr. X from Resident Evil would suddenly burst into the room to try and subdue the main character. But in this instance, I’d say it’s more of a zonal defence (if that makes any sense). Early on in Metroid Dread, Samus gains an invisibility power-up which does make things a little easier, although these encounters never get any less panic-inducing.
Refining The Classic Formula in Metroid Dread
Speaking of power-ups, this is Metroid after all. So you can expect to find stacks of hidden HP and missile expansions, along with an ever-growing arsenal of abilities and upgrades to help keep the game fresh. As the Metroid cliche goes, there’s always a reason Samus loses her powers at the start of the journey, and it’s honestly no different here. Her repertoire is heavily inspired by Samus Returns on 3DS, but it just feels so much better to control this time around with the Switch’s additional buttons and more precise analog sticks. Plus, your hand’s not going to hardcore cramp out on you every 30 minutes… I curse my big hands every day.
Running through the iconic labyrinthine levels of Metroid feels like a nice home-cooked meal from mum. And with a mix of veteran and fresh new devs on board for this title, these guys are just showing off at this point with how expertly layed out these stages are. Expect to be trekking from planet to planet, with a nautical tonne of great puzzles and tricky enemy placements that’ll really test out your Metroid-Vania skills. That all being said, I think a slight hint system would’ve made the experience a little more smooth, as there are points where the player will occasionally find themselves completely lost. But as a whole, the level design, enemies and boss encounters in Metroid Dread are some of the best the series has seen yet.
One area that lacked a significant amount of depth though, was the general story and character presentation. Compared to Metroid Fusion, where Samus’ narration makes the entire experience come across as super serious and intimate, Metroid Dread’s on the other hand, feels like more of a missed opportunity. It seems like Nintendo’s terrified of letting Samus speak after the shenanigans of Other M, but I think her inner dialogue and chats with Adam would’ve really suited this game, especially considering how Metroid Dread is a direct sequel to Fusion. Did they somehow forget that somewhere along the line? Nintendo, what happened here? Regardless, the direction of the cutscenes are legitimately spectacular. And when you combine that with the familiar sounds of the Metroid franchise, your eyes are going to be glued to the screen, trust me.
This is one of the easiest recommendations I’ve made all year. Metroid Dread is such a refined, polished piece of work that is just so addictive to play. The level design is glorious, the bosses are magnificent and the atmosphere is practically second to none. The story is kind of irrelevant, which is a shame, and a subtle hint system would’ve been appreciated, but all in all this game is simply too much fun.
Metroid Dread raises the classic formula to new heights, with a cat and mouse gameplay hook that makes it extremely hard to stop playing. The sprawling level designs, tough-as-nails boss fights and hidden collectible locations help Metroid Dread easily rank in the upper echelons of the series.
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