September 12, 2017

Metroid Samus Returns - Review

Metroid is a series that Nintendo loves to bring out from time to time, it may not be a big seller, but it has a dedicated fan base like no other, so the announcement of a new Metroid game at this years E3, caught everyone by surprise and it being released only three months later is massive.

Samus Returns is more of a retake on the 1991 GameBoy original Metroid II Return of Samus, outside of the core concept of hunting down 40 Metroid’s, little else has carried across. The map looks similar, but evolved for the modern gaming audience, in fact, unless you played the original, you would not know that it is a remake. Samus Aran has been tasked by the Galactic Federation to travel to planet SR388 and exterminate every single Metroid found there, the story is explained at the start and that is it, there is no exposition throughout the game, no Chozo lore to be found, the entire story is explained within the first 2 minutes of the game, then from that point it is all on you.

Once you have landed on the planet, you are all set to head out and find your targets, but to do so, you will need to upgrade yourself, as SR388 is a planet that is just as dangerous as those that you hunt. The first upgrade that you will encounter is the Morph Ball, one of the signature items that Samus is known for, however the best new addition is the games melee counter, something that allows you to knock an enemy back, if you time it right and then take the enemy out with a single shot. The melee counter does take some getting used to, not only do you need to get used to the enemies’ attacks and time your response, you also need to shoot the enemy almost right away, if you don’t, you must shoot them more. In fact, getting the melee right is just perfect, as a single melee counter and a single shot can take out most enemies, even the ones that usually require a good amount of shots normally. Thankfully, you can now free aim, holding down the left shoulder button, letting you cycle around the full 360 degrees and take out the enemy, no matter where they be, rather than the old 2d games and their locked 45 degree angles.

The other new addition to Samus’ arsenal is the addition of the Aeion powers, of which there are four, the first being scan pulse, which when activated will launch a large pulse, showing you all the rooms within a set radius. Each time you use the ability, you use Aeion energy, which you can reclaim from killing the many enemies that litter almost every single part of the planet. This might seem like a cheap move, for those purists, who want the traditional Metroid experience, but the Scan Pulse can help you from wasting time looking for that hidden entrance to a room you are trying to gain access to. The other options are an electric armour, a weapon boost and the final is a time dilation effect, slowing everything down, but Samus. Each Aeion ability has times when it must be used, outside of the Pulse, simply because the game has lots of roadblocks in your way, if you choose to not use them.

As you fight your way into the bowels of the planet, you will encounter gates, which restrict you from exploring further, thanks to their need for Metroid DNA, which you obtain from defeating the energy vampires. Once you have collected the required amount and deposit it within the gate, the poisonous water is removed, letting you proceed and while the first gate only requires one to proceed, additional gates require many more. Of course, as you descend further down, the Metroids get more dangerous, and while there are only four types of Metroid’s, they do have different ways of attacking, so keeping on your toes is a must. The other factor that you must consider is the rooms in which you fight the Metroid, some are nice and simple, some have multiple levels and other are death traps filled with lava or toxic coral. As you explore more of the dangerous world, your abilities will come into play in a big way, the spiderball for one, is critical to locating hidden items, but it is also the most annoying. In the original game, you would press down, when in your ball form and engage the spiderball, now though, you are required to hold down the left shoulder button and after some fights, hand cramps were a common thing I discovered.

The biggest issue the game has though, is that the progression is tied to the abilities you collect, which in turn let you locate and fight the Metroid’s, which is expected, the problem however is that the layout of the world is a bit of a mess and I ended up getting turned around more times than I thought possible. There was one time, where I was so lost, I was literally going over every single room in the past areas that I could, as I was thinking that I had missed something important. The game does offer you the map, on the touch screen, but what it does not tell you about is that you can pin little icons to the map, anywhere you want, to help you locate things you want to come back to, doing this, while helpful, does not help with the progression navigation. For the most part, the games map is cyclical in nature, keeping you moving down and around, but within each section, there are usually elevators that require you to move from section to another, within that area and while it may not sound too bag, given how easy it is to get turned around, it does hurt the flow of everything. The game does include teleport stations, to aid in getting around faster, they always seem to be just out of the way from where you need to go.

Presentation wise, the game sports a slick look, that is sadly hampered by the 3DS’s lack of power, but what the team at MercurySteam have done is incredible. The planet of SR388 has a distinct Metroid flavour, lots of natural rocks and caverns to discover and blended in amongst them are ruins of the lost Chozo race. The best way to describe it is if you took the Stargate movie and added Samus to the mix, you get ancient Egypt, mixed with space and it works. The look of Samus, which does evolve as she obtains her suit upgrades, is wonderful, thanks in part to just how fluid she moves. Her run, jump and even morph ball is wonderfully executed, but it is when you can free aim, having Samus face one direction, only to have her throw her canon behind her to shoot an enemy, that you get just how fluid Samus is now. All this is enhanced, if you play the game with the 3d on, as the game has layers in what it shows you, there were times when I would stop and just watch things happening in the background, with many larger creatures just meandering around back there.

Sound wise, the game has taken a lot of the music from the Metroid Prime series, combining it with remixes of the original games score and created something wonderful; but while the games soundtrack is incredible, it is the rest of the audio that shines. The game has a real lack of push to the sound and by that, I mean that it is more about the natural sound you hear around you, as you run across the world, from dirt to metal, you hear it. Samus in her morphball has this large donk sound if you land in that form, which again changes, depending on the exact surface you land on. Creatures also contain nice sounds and while there are only a handful of them in total, they each sound unique, though nothing can be compared to the Metroid’s themselves. The screech of the Metroid as it flies onto the screen, the lack of sound from other creatures as they fight to get away from immediate death.

Metroid: Samus Returns, is a return to the Metroid that fans have been demanding over a decade and Nintendo have exceeded my wildest expectations. While some control issues and a world that struggles with continuity hamper the experience, it is still not enough to hurt the game. If you want a reason as to why 3DS is still worth your time, this is the game for you.

Thanks to Nintendo for supplying the game for review

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