It has been 13 years since the last 2D Metroid when Metroid: Zero Mission was released on the Game Boy Advance. Fans were a bit skeptical when Metroid: Samus Returns was first announced only three months ago at E3. Would this be a return to the series storied roots? MercurySteam, who developed the game, was widely known for their Castlevania series but could they pull off a 2D Metroid game true to its roots? They sure can and they sure did.
The game starts off with Samus landing on SR388 on a mission to exterminate the Metroid species. There are 40 Metroid’s in total, some of which offer enthralling battles. The majority of Metroid’s are alpha Metroid’s that do become predictable in their move sets after defeating a few of them. You will also encounter other alien species on this planet, the most annoying of which is this bat type enemy which hovers around and will randomly attack you if you get too close.
Most important for any Metroid game are the fighting mechanics and weapons and this game doesn’t disappoint. Most of the mechanics and weapons are throwbacks to series pasts, such as the charge beam and spider ball, but there are some new mechanics that add to the experience. Two of those mechanics are the free aim mechanic, that lets you shoot precisely in any given direction with the left joystick and the counter-attack which needs to be timed and sends the enemy back and exposed when executed correctly. Both features are welcomed additions to the series and already feel at home to the 2D Metroid experience. Along with the new fighting mechanics, there is also a new scan pulse ability that uncovers the area on the map just around Samus. This reveals paths and secret chambers. While this is a feature that will surely help out players who are stuck it also takes away from the joy of discovering new areas and items.
While the new fighting mechanics are welcome additions this is a tough game. I found myself dying many times early on, whether it was Metroid fights or simply not paying attention to the enemies around me. This is good and it forces the player to be aware of their surroundings. You can’t just bully your way through this game but rather have to take a slow and cautious approach to the game. This encourages more exploration in the game so that you can increase Samus’ missile arsenal and increase your health gage.
At times during the game, I couldn’t help but be in awe of the environment, whether it was rushing waterfalls or creatures moving around in the background. Not only is the game beautiful but it also felt lonely and frightening at times and does give the feeling to the player that they are all alone on the planet. In some cases the game had you venturing down below to a Metroid awaiting for you. The game design is also gorgeous and Samus looks and feels great. The way she moves and shoots her blaster makes her feel like a hard-core bounty hunter. The music was also top notch and the soundtracks in the game were enthralling. This game is definitely best played with a good set of headphones on.
A great indicator of a great game is where it is tough to put the game down. One where you want to keep on coming back to the game’s world the moment you stop playing. Metroid Samus Returns has that feeling and I couldn’t help but play it longer than I wanted to and pick it up the next day sooner than I should have. The game does everything so well and finally ends the long wait for another 2D Metroid game. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 13 years for another Metroid game.
Guest Reviewer: Theodore Nanos