[Review] Metroid: Samus Returns
Posted on September 12, 2017 by Dennis Gagliardotto(@LyonHart_) in 3DS, 3DS eShop, Reviews
Release date: September 15, 2017
Developer: MercurySteam / Nintendo
Samus Aran has a long history with the video games and is easily one of the most iconic and recognizable characters of all time. But unfortunately, the famous bounty hunter along with the Metroid series itself have been mostly dormant for quite a while. However, now Samus is back, and it feels incredible to have her at the forefront once again. Even if Metroid: Samus Returns is just a remake and not a brand new title, beggars can’t be choosers, and I can promise that everything the game has to offer touches base with everything we’ve wanted from a classic Metroid title for a long time while remaining fresh and feeling contemporary in its mechanics, gameplay, progression, and world.
It doesn’t take long after booting up Metroid: Samus Returns to feel the love and passion that exudes through the game, not to mention the cleanliness of the UI, the presentation of it all, and the chills you get from the eerie yet equally beautiful ambient and atmospheric soundtrack. Players will find themselves in the shoes of Samus on the planet SR388, who’s been sent to this planet filled with Metroids and other lethal alien creatures to find out what had happened to a previous crew, the Galactic Federation Police, after they’ve gone missing. Upon landing she must delve into the deep confines of the planet, and upon doing so clear it of the Metroids while uncovering what had happened to the previous soldiers. However, there is something much, much deeper going on here.
It’s a standard sci-fi story that doesn’t deviate too far from the original, and while it’s great that there’s an immense amount of lore to find yourself sifting through via collectibles and environmental storytelling, the gameplay is just so good that, for better or for worse, overshadows it, grips you in, and keeps you unable to put it down. Just like Metroid of old – and the Metroidvania genre in general – there isn’t much hand-holding going on here. You’re left to explore and hunt Metroids at your own free will, while of course being rewarded by your curiosity and exploration, finding plenty of upgrades, teleport locations, energy and missile reserves, and much more.
For those who have been playing games for a long time, especially Metroid titles, it gives that old school feel that’s much appreciated, especially in an age where some Nintendo titles can be beaten in just a few hours in one sitting. While the 2D Metroid games haven’t exactly been known for their length either, Samus Returns has such a makeover that it all feels brand new and is a treat to go through, even for those familiar with Metroid II: Return of Samus.
A lot has changed visually and in some ways mechanically, such as the clean and easy-to-use Free Aim which allows you to target enemies at a full 360 degrees. However, the game still honors the original as much as possible at its core. This is what a true remake is: something that is made from the ground up, has all the elements of what made the original or particular game so great, respects its core functionality while updating it for the modern day age and gamer that have a sense of nostalgia and inviting those to jump in for the first time in a way that’s not demeaning or loses its historical value.
Metroid: Samus Returns features entirely new Aeion abilities that further add to Samus’ arsenal, and weren’t present in the original Game Boy game. Beam Burst, for instance, lets you fire off shots in rapid succession. A few other abilities can be found as well. Each one naturally runs on Aeion, which can be obtained by collecting orbs from defeated or parried enemies.
The brand new parry, or counterattack, system is extremely easy to use and a welcome addition to Metroid: Samus Returns, giving the combat an added layer of depth so shooting nonstop doesn’t feel like a chore. With the use of the “X” button, perfectly timed counters can result in the enemy getting stunned for a moment and give an opening in which Samus will automatically target the enemy once you shoot. It gives a small window, but more often than not it has the ability to kill the enemy if they’re more of an obstacle in between sections. Mini-bosses and bosses themselves will require much more damage and thought to go into defeating them rather than counter, shoot, counter, shoot. There’s a small window in which you can do this, but timing it should become easier the more you play through and feels good to execute once you get it down – not to mention be a massive lifesaver at times! Enemies have a slight indication of when they’re going to attack you as well and when a parry will work to your favor, as they’ll spark for a split second before charging at you. It’s at this point you’ll want to utilize your parry ability right before they make contact to execute the reversal and get the advantage and auto aim.
Another notable inclusion is the amiibo functionality in Metroid: Samus Returns. While the figures don’t contribute much and aren’t necessary in the slightest to enjoy the game, they do give some nice bonuses. At the time of this review, we weren’t provided with the Metroid amiibo releasing alongside the game on September 15, but I was able to try my Zero Suit Samus and Samus Super Smash Bros. amiibo. They provided me with an Energy Reserve Tank and Missile Reserve Tank respectively, and completely by accident offered a nice advantage during a fight against a Metroid that for whatever reason kept destroying me over and over again. Rusty? I’d say so, but having that extra boost when I really needed it was a big help. There has been some controversy about the unlockable “Fusion” difficulty mode tied to the Metroid amiibo, but a standard hard more is also included.
The game speaks for itself on so many levels, and also doesn’t force things like the bottom screen on the 3DS too much down your throat. It gives a nice overview of the map, but that’s really about it. You can tap on it to form into a ball if you’d like, but just about everything has a dedicated button and is intuitive. Samus Returns feels good, looks good, and plays good. It’s hard to not recommend this title if you’re a 3DS owner with the slightest interest in Metroid. It feels amazing to have Samus Aran back and on another adventure, even if it’s one that feels familiar rather than finding ourselves on a brand new adventure. We’re just happy to be back home.
Metroid: Samus Returns is, in every way, a fantastic title that has so much to love about it in just about every direction of game design. It’s fun to play, hard to put down, you feel the sense of progression as you gain upgrades and feel yourself getting better at timing counterattacks, jumps, and the like, and the way the levels transition as you get deeper and deeper into SR388 is a sight to behold. The game is incredibly fluid with no hiccups whatsoever and is easy to jump into for most gamers. Metroid: Samus Returns drives forward the genre to new heights and brings back a character that lots will consider their favorite.
Everything about Metroid: Samus Returns gives vibes of respect and understanding of where the series came from, how it began, and where it will lead. There isn’t a time while playing when you pause and take in the landscape before you without feeling the importance of a character and a series that has contributed so much while consistently innovating and making players fall in love all over again. From the fluid gameplay that gives you the seamless transitions between fight, screens, and cinematics, to the engulfing atmosphere within SR388 and graphics that bring Samus and her world to life with some of the best visuals the 3DS has to offer, Metroid Samus Returns is a love letter to those who have wanted a 2D Metroid game for years, and also welcomes those that want to delve into the Metroid universe with arms opened wide. Remake or original, it’s great to have Samus back. Ms. Aran, we’ve missed you, and we salute your return.
Metroid: Samus Returns review copy provided by Nintendo for the purposes of this review.