Review - Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS)
Missing in action since 2010, Samus Aran and the Metroid series were thought to be on ice for the foreseeable future due to Nintendo execs saying several times that Metroid games don't make waves and are financial bombs. Fans have been clamoring for a new Metroid for years and Nintendo finally conceded into giving them one but instead they got Metroid Prime: Federation Force, which does not feature main protagonist Samus Aran and bares little resemblance to any games in the franchise. Thankfully, Nintendo heard the cries of millions of Nintendo fans and revealed not just one, but two Metroid games at this last year’s E3: Metroid Prime 4 for the Nintendo Switch and Metroid: Samus Returns for the Nintendo 3DS. While we have to wait several years for Metroid Prime 4, Metroid: Samus Returns is the perfect appetizer to keep fans’ hunger sated for a little while at the very least.
Arriving at the tail end of the Nintendo Treehouse E3 stream, Metroid: Samus Returns came out of nowhere as it wasn’t included in the initial presentation, like Metroid Prime 4 was, and was played live for the streaming audience that stuck around. Metroid: Samus Returns is a remake of Metroid 2: Return of Samus, originally on the Game Boy, which some might say bares little resemblance to the original. Gameplay mechanics, level design, abilities, and Samus’s design are completely redesigned for a modern age.
Metroid: Samus Returns sees returning hero Samus Aran on a mission to eradicate the metroids from planet SR388. That’s basically it, there’s no plot progression nor any crazy twists or turns, it’s simply a mission in an isolated environment where Samus must destroy and collect the DNA of forty metroids, dangerous parasitic alien lifeforms. It’s a nice reprieve from the AAA blockbuster that forces you to listen to different characters throughout your adventure. Here, it’s just you and Samus.
Returning veterans to the franchise should get the gist of the platforming, enemy types, secret areas, and overall progression but the vets, along with new players, will be introduced to almost quality-of-life-like mechanics to the Metroid franchise thanks to developer MercurySteam. Instead of spending hours on end shooting every corner of a room to get to the next area, you can now use a special ability that highlights breakable walls, making playthroughs an absolute breeze if you have no idea where to go. The developers also included full 360-degree aiming for Samus, making enemy tracking and targeting so much better than the previous entries. There are various other power-ups, but the highlight by far is the parry mechanic. Once an enemy preps for attack, they’ll blink letting the player know that upon hitting the melee button, Samus will parry the attack and follow up with a high damage attack herself, usually resulting in destroying enemies instantly. This attack can be used against bosses in scripted events but is rarely meant to be a finisher. The only problem with the parry is that Samus has to stop to use it, so it can really slow down the momentum when you’re backtracking and just want to get on with the game.
Enemy variation is few and far between. Throughout my twelve hour journey, I feel like I only fought the same three enemies over and over again, which also appear in different color variations. The metroids themselves aren’t much different. Though the game has over forty metroids to fight, the first thirty to thirty-five feel only a little stronger than your standard enemies and are fairly easy to take down. I remember in the first few hours thinking that maybe they’re minibosses, but that thought died down after I had already found the first ten. It isn’t until I reached the Third Act where I found a great stride in boss fights and enemies that made encounters exhilirating. There’s one boss in particular I actually had a difficult time with but once discovering its weak point I felt so dumb that I was having so much trouble with it in the first place, but that’s what these games are about: discovery. Discovering new abilities, new areas, and new ways to exploit Samus’s strengths to overcome her foes.
When this game gets tough, it made me work for it. There were so many instances where I was pressing multiple buttons during an intense fight. Jumping, shooting, morph balling all within milliseconds, making my hands sweat and hurt after a while. It had been so long since I put my 3DS through the ringer but it was absolutely worth it. The game pushes you to use all of your abilities, taking you to task on everything you’ve learned, which I love.
The 3D in this game is insane in how good it looks and for the first time in a long time where I’ve played the majority of a game in 3D. The sprites and backgrounds really pop out as does Samus’s armor. The game is just gorgeous and when the camera transitions from gameplay to cutscenes, it’s seamless.
Metroid: Samus Returns is a welcome return for a near forgotten hero and her lifelong mission to destroy the metroids. Though the game could have used more enemies, the gameplay and visuals were strong enough to carry me through to the end. It’s good to have you back, Samus, and I can’t wait to join you on your mission in Metroid Prime 4.