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Metroid: Samus Returns review

September 22nd, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments

metroid samus returns
It’s so nice for Metroid to be back. Other M was a good while ago now and it was unfairly maligned. It wasn’t amazing, but it was better than you’ve heard. At E3 2017 Nintendo made the big reveal, Metroid Prime 4 coming to Switch. Awesome. Then they followed it up with “by the way here’s a complete remake of Metroid 2”. That was pretty amazing for Metroid fans. Not only is there a new Prime coming, but there were in fact 2 Metroid games coming out, when it seemed like Nintendo might have abandoned the series altogether after Other M (and some other thing that wasn’t Metroid).

There was an element of worry here, with MercurySteam being the developers. They made all 3 Castlevania Lord of Shadow game, including Mirror of Fate which was a Metroidvania style of game, and all these games sucked horribly. But I didn’t let their past sins influence my hype. I figured maybe all they needed was Nintendo’s guidance to end up doing something actually good.

Metroid 2 itself was a game that was cool, but hard to play, especially now… The Game Boy had a tiny low-res screen, so to have the detailed graphics that game had also meant you couldn’t see very far around Samus’ sprite. It’s pretty hard to go back to that game. So a remake is a very suitable thing. There WAS a remake called AM2R (Another Metroid 2 Remake) but it was fan-made and Nintendo did what all companies are legally compelled to do and shut it down (though they should’ve done so 10 years ago when it was starting development, not be dicks and wait 10 years for it to be ready). With their own remake coming, it made sense to remove the fan-made one, beyond the legal reasons of protecting their IP.

So let’s go and see if this remake is any good!

Developer: MercurySteam
Publisher: Nintendo
Date of Release: October 15th 2017
Platform: 3DS
Genre: Metroidvania

Rated E10+ for Everyone over 10

Presentation

I actually really like the graphics. I wasn’t convinced by the trailers and screenshots, but actually playing it, it’s pretty nice. Clearly the textures are low-res and any close-up shots of Samus don’t look too great, but there’s lots of detail in the backgrounds (surprisingly putting the 3D on is really nice in this game), the enemy design is cool especially the Metroids, though I find most of the normal enemies are too small, and the animations are actually a really nice addition, so despite there not being voice acting Samus does have some personality. In Metroid 2 on the Game Boy you saw almost nothing since Samus took so much of the screen, here there’s really no problem. As far as the 3DS goes these are pretty solid graphics.

On the music side of things there’s some from Metroid 2, but surprisingly MercurySteam opted to take lots of inspiration from Super Metroid. One of the area uses the Maridia tune. If you go to any areas that are hot (thus require a certain upgrade) you get the Lower Norfair tune. Both of those despite neither Maridia or Norfair even being on the same planet as this game. I did very much enjoy the music, even if it was older tunes they were redone and quite nice to listen to. The one complaint I have with the sound is with the Aeion power that reveals breakable blocks… if there’s breakable blocks in your area there’s a REALLY LOUD beeping noise, it’s fucking annoying.

Story… well it’s a remake, so same story as the original. Here the story is actually in the game though, instead of mostly being in the manual. After the events of Metroid 1, Samus thwarting the plans of the space pirates to use Metroids for evil and defeating Mother Brain, the galactic federation sends a team on SR388, the home planet of the Metroids, but they all die. So Samus once again gets sent, because the galactic federation sucks, to exterminate the entire Metroid species. Ouch. And that’s really about it, within the actual game after the intro there’s not much story. There’s enemies that are foreshadowed and later fought, but that’s about it. There’s even enemies that aren’t foreshadowed at all and later fought. There is one important bit of story at the very end (both before and after the credits).

Gameplay

So this game’s a “Metroidvania” style side-scrolling platformer. As per tradition, instead of just having a linear parth, you have a large map to explore, find power-ups, and eventually find equipment and abilities that will enable you to advance further.

This game’s flow is comparable to that of Metroid Fusion. You get an area, there’s a number of Metroids you need to defeat in that area, and when you do you unlock a path to the next area (or the next part of the current area). In this case the areas have big pools of poisonous water that gets drained when you killed enough Metroids. So it’s linear, but there’s some exploration/puzzle-solving required to get upgrades. You can backtrack to find those as you get more stuff. Travel is made easier by a teleport system, which is actually not that bad, the teleports tend to be few and far between. Also the game makes itself easier by not punishing you much if you die to a boss or Metroid (respawning you right outside the entrance to said boss or Metroid)

The base gameplay is largely as you expect from Metroid. You jump, shoot, you can wall-jump (which is a lot easier to do than in Super Metroid), you can switch between a normal shot and missiles, you can turn into a ball and drop bombs… The standard stuff. This game adds several features though.

There’s Aeion skills (why not aeon?), which are… interesting. The first one is super-overpowered and actually reveals part of the map around Samus, including the position of upgrades and it makes blocks that can be broken flash and beep (which as mentioned earlier is a huge annoyance). It reduces some of the exploration aspects of the game, but the process of actually getting the upgrades is still good (and if you don’t like it… don’t use it I guess). The other Aeion powers are a defense increase and a power increase, though they drain your Aeion energy REALLY fast (even with lots of Aeion energy upgrades). Not gonna spoil the last one but it’s one that’s actually required for progression through the game and was pretty fun to use).

Another new feature is directional aiming. By holding L you plant Samus in place and using the circle pad you can aim in any direction. This is quite cool and works out a lot better than I was expecting.

The last new feature is the melee attack. Nearly every enemy in the game has some kind of attack where they’ll charge at you (prefaced by a white shine). Press X at the right time and you hit them which stuns them, and then if you mash the shoot button you’ll generally kill them in one shot after the hit (if you wait too long after the counter the single-hit kill won’t work so you’ll need to shoot them more). Bosses and Metroids tend to have counterable attacks, which lead to nice cinematic moments. In a way it’s kind of annoying that every enemy has counter like that, but it’s not a huge problem if you ask me. Plus it’s the best way to deal damage, you deal a lot extra (moreso if you shoot Super Missiles during the cinematic parts against Metroids). I don’t mind the counter myself, but I know it might bother some people since Metroid is usually a game where you try to stay at range from enemies to fight them.

Controls are a big point of contention with this game if you ask me. There’s a lot you can do, and that makes for a busy button layout. There’s functions on the touch screen for weapon-switching and instant morphball, there’s the free-aim thing with L (or spiderball), there’s shooting missiles by holding R and shooting (so if you want to free-aim missiles you need to hold both shoulder buttons), aeion commands with A (plus you switch between them using the D-pad), melee attack on X… there’s moments where you may realistically have to press/hold like 6 buttons at once while moving. My biggest complaint is that it’s a side-scroller and you can’t move with the d-pad, this always annoys me, but it’s understandable due to the free-aim. My biggest problem here is that I actually died several times because the circle pad didn’t properly detect me pressing up to get out of morph ball mode which made me get caught by a boss attack.

There’s around 40 Metroids to defeat here, but they’re not just the normal Metroids you might remember from Super Metroid. Here they actually evolve into partly bug-like creatures (and more forms later on), which tend to have hard shells with squishy bottoms and faces. There’s several versions of some of the basic versions, with different elements which lead to slightly different patterns and ways to kill them. There’s a lot of similar Metroids, but they’re fun enough to fight that they’re not a chore. There’s several bosses in the game (most of which actually aren’t Metroid forms, I consider the Metroids mini-bosses rather than bosses), but some of them I found to be pretty badly designed. The robot robot for example has some weird hitboxes, was where the lack of d-pad movement really ruined me and the final few hits to deal on him are really fucking dumb. The final boss is really fun though, even if some of its attacks are a bit stupid IMO.

The upgrades are mostly useful, but there’s one that’s just… kinda there. The Ice Beam (not much of a spoiler, all Metroid games have an Ice Beam) is useful for like 2 places in the game as far as platforming, otherwise you only need it to fight Metroids (because it’s the only beam that will deal damage to them, otherwise you need missiles). Kinda odd. Note: using a charged ice beam freezes much longer.

(What some Metroid fans might know as “Shinespark” is back, but it’s done VERY differently from Super Metroid… I’m not telling you how it’s done… heck the game doesn’t tell you or even give you a hint)

Overall

Metroid: Samus Returns is very good. It has issues, mostly with control and some of the boss design. Also the amiibo features are dumb as fuck, specifically the Metroid amiibo which unlocks Fusion mode… no seriously it’s really dumb (especially for people like me who have a normal 3DS so no Amiibo functionality), why would an entire difficulty level be hidden behind an amiibo I don’t want (I already have a Metroid figure)?

The levels are fun, fighting the Metroids is fun for the most part, the upgrades are mostly cool, the graphics are great, lots of replay value if you want to get everything (speedrunning, even casually, is definitely a thing here in the same way it was in Super Metroid and Metroid 1). It’s a fun game. It’s obviously a better way to play Metroid 2 now that you can see more than an inch away from Samus, and have a map, and have new power-ups. The map-scanning Aeion is probably a bit much, for some and there’s a bit too much focus on the melee counter, and 2 of the boss battles kinda suck balls… but those problems don’t outweigh the good.

Overall I’d put it around the level of AM2R. They’re very similar while also being very different. Clearly the creators of both games were big Metroid fans, and both their Metroid 2 remakes did different things in appreciation for the franchise, may it be the graphics, enemies, gameplay elements or music. Both are definitely worth playing, I don’t really feel either is superior to the other. If you’re a Metroid fan you MUST get this (and you probably already did).

This does set up for a sequel (the incorrect one, which is weird), so we’ll see if Nintendo lets MercurySteam do more. I’d be okay with that.

I kinda wish this was on Switch (and sequels probably would be), but it’s fine on 3DS.

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