It’s been a while since we have been graced with a proper Metroid adventure. Sure there was Federation Force, and though I thought it was an okay game, many would argue that it doesn’t exist to them, but that’s neither here nor there. No, this is about Samus’ reimagined mission to SR388 in an attempt to rid the universe of Metroids.
Could Metroid: Samus Returns take on a fight against Samus Aran, or does it have less life than a victim of a Metroid feeding? Find out in our review after the break!
Metroid: Samus Returns
Nintendo 3DS Family Systems
Developed by MercurySteam and Nintendo EPD
Published by Nintendo and Capcom
Released: 15th September 2017 (NA and Europe)
Review copy provided by Nintendo
Screenshots and art courtesy of Nintendo
The plot of Samus Returns is completely identical to Metroid 2: Return of Samus, but here’s a little refresher for those who have not delved in SR388 (like I was before receiving my copy). The game takes place soon after the original Metroid, after Samus foiled the Space Pirates’ plan to use the Metroids as weapons. The Galactic Federation then set aims to try to eradicate the entire Metroid population, so sent troops out to Metroid home world on SR388. No one returned… the only thing that came back was a small piece of data containing Metroid DNA. Someone has to find out what happened to the missing marines and destroy the Metroid threat, and there’s only one person for the job… Samus Aran.
Though it should really go without saying, you know being a remake and all, a really good way of describing Metroid: Samus Returns is that it really goes back to its roots. I know this is very cliche and literally everyone is saying it, but it’s true. The title takes everything from Return of Samus and adds a bunch of features introduced later in the series to truly make it a really solid 2D entry.
You’ll be exploring the atmospheric labyrinth of SR388 while avoiding hazards, trying not to piss of the indigenous creatures, and, ultimately, destroying all the Metroids in the process. Once you have destroyed all Metroids in a specific area, and have absorbed their DNA, you’ll deposit the DNA into the Chozo gates. Obviously Metroid DNA has poison deterrent abilities, so depositing enough DNA will clear the next area of the toxic purple water, allowing you to progress further. Though the game generally progresses in a fairly linear fashion, the world layout is done in a way which feels quite open most the time. Almost always it feels like you are given a chance to explore every nook and cranny, which is especially useful if you want to upgrade your missile or energy tanks.
It wouldn’t be a Metroid game without your trusty power ups, and Samus Returns does not disappoint. Strangely enough you never seem to start off with all the abilities you ended up with in the last game. Are they considered contraband by the Galactic Federation because it makes the rest of them look like scrubs? Who knows! All the original abilities of Return of Samus have returned, such as the morph ball, ice beam, and screw attack, but now abilities from other games have also entered the fray. These new abilities include the grapple beam, charge beam, gravity suit, super missiles, and power bombs. All these new abilities add fresh new gameplay and varies some of the puzzles you’ll need to solve on SR388. You’ll unlock all abilities by finding the Chozo statues hosting them.
Don’t go thinking the abilities stop there, oh no. Samus Returns introduces brand new abilities called Aeion abilities. These aren’t optional extras either, some areas have been redesigned to accommodate the uses of the abilities. There are four Aeion abilities overall. One of which, the Scan Pulse, cane particularly useful for those who are new to SR388. If you’re stuck, I’d recommend using this ability as it may reveal a nearby false wall. Perhaps the Lightning Armour will help, especially if there is an Energy Tank at the end of a corridor full of Venom Weed. Don’t go using these abilities willy nilly though, you only have so much Aeion energy which can only be restored from Aeion orbs, usually dropped by enemies you melee counter, or at Aeion refill stations. Oh, and don’t go thinking I’m going to detail the rest of the abilities here, though I will say the other two are pretty awe striking!
One of the more noteworthy new additions in Samus Returns is the free aiming feature. In every 2D Metroid outing, you were snapped to 45° of aiming, with free aiming however, simply holding down the left shoulder button will allow you to aim at an unrestricted 360°, packed with your own laser sight. Sure you can’t move while in free aiming, but it makes combat so much easier and more precise. Speaking of combat, melee countering from Other M returns, allowing you to automatically aim at an enemy for a critical shot. Don’t go thinking that it will be overused however as it will only work if you have good timing, though performing well will activate some very satisfying quicktime events against certain bosses.
See how some of my reviews conveniently flow from one relatable subject to another, as now we’re on the subject of bosses. Forty of the forty-eight Metroids you encounter act as bosses within Samus Returns, very similar to original actually. You’ll very rarely see a Metroid in its original form as most of them have mutated from sucking the life force of other creatures… scary stuff really! They start off fairly simple with having to shoot their underbellies with missiles or ice beams, however later mutations will require more difficult strategies and faster feet.
Metroids aren’t the only bosses though, Samus Returns actually introduces some brand new ones which are actually fairly difficult. One in particular took me just over an hour to completely suss out the strategy, though it never felt like it got to the extent where it just became tedious, though that’s mainly thanks to the fact that there are automatic checkpoints right before you enter a boss room. There is one boss in particular which fans of the series may enjoy, and it’s likely you already know about it thanks to spoilers, but in case you don’t, my lips (and keyboard) remain shut!
Samus Returns does a few things to make her SR388 outing a bit more approachable for newcomers, heck, this is probably the most approachable full 2D Metroid adventure released. As I mentioned before, the Pulse Scan is very useful as it will reveal hidden passages, trust me when I say this, but some of them are really quite illogical. There are also now check points, so rather than having to start right from your last save when you get killed by a boss, you’ll now appear at the same state right before you went into battle.
Backtracking always seemed a pain in Metroid 2, luckily Samus Returns introduces teleportation stations. Originally, trekking from Area 6 to Area 1 would take ages to complete, however, if you have been activating teleportation stations on your expedition, just hop by your nearest one, and the journey will take next to no time at all! Additionally, there is a way to get a hint of where to go to next. If you have defeated at least one Metroid in an area, head on over to the Chozo Gate to deposit the DNA (let’s see which of our readers have an immature sense of humour like myself), and you will get a rough location of where the next Metroid will be. Another cool feature is the ability to place a coloured marker on the map. Let’s say you have found something pretty cool which you cannot reach until you’ve unlocked a new ability but you are afraid you’ll forget where it was, just place a marker to serve as a reminder.
The world itself is actually stunning to looks at and to listen to. Thanks to 25 years of technological advancements of handhelds, the visuals look absolutely stunning, and are greatly boosted by the 3D effect. The backdrops really look like a 3D diorama and set the tone well, I especially love seeing little critters moving around in the back. The music is also so good, I’d thoroughly recommend loitering around Area 5 just to listen to the calming, yet mysterious, music. Why not give it a listen now…
Metroid: Samus Returns really demonstrates how a remake should be handled, making it one of the must have titles for any Metroid fan. Return of Samus was much needed of a remake, and MercurySteam and Nintendo delivered fantastically by adding fantastic gameplay mechanics from other titles into the well designed world of SR388, as well as adding some more approachability without dampening the difficulty. If I only had one gripe, it would be the fact that the game had a good opportunity of exploring the lore of SR388, but that was unfortunately missed.
If Metroidvania games aren’t you thing, or if you don’t like a decent challenge, then stay clear of this title. On the other hand, I urge any Metroid fan, or those willing to give the franchise a chance, you purchase Metroid: Samus Returns, I’d fully recommend it!
Metroid: Samus Returns is out now exclusively for Nintendo 3DS Family Systems in Europe and North America.
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