They say it’s a “re-imagining” of the original Gameboy sequel, but Metroid: Samus Returns feels more like an independent game that hits almost all of the right notes.
Developer: Nintendo, MercurySteam
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: September 15, 2017
In its 31-year history, the Metroid franchise has explored all types of avenues from its humble beginnings as a 2D side-scrolling platformer to an action packer first-person shooter. The latest installment hits shelves on September 15th and is titled Metroid: Samus Returns.
If the name sounds vaguely familiar, that is because this game is technically a remake of the 1991 Gameboy sequel Metroid II: Return of Samus. And much like its so-called “original,” the story follows our heroine, Samus Aran, as she hunts down an infestation of Metroids on planet SR388. It may seem odd that her military superiors would send her alone, but I think she can handle it.
The basic story of this reimagining is the same in essence, although this time you hunt forty Metroids instead of thirty-nine. However, aside from the story, this version is like playing an entirely new game with new elements and completely new soul. The Metroids are much like James Cameron’s alien, in the sense that they emulate their hosts.
In this version of your mission to exterminate the wily pests, the gameplay is much more action-orientated. They have implemented a new “melee counter” ability which lets you parry an incoming attack and then automatically aim and shoot a power shot. This new ability really gets your adrenaline up as you fight your way into the depths of the foreign planet.
At first, this can be a daunting new addition, but after a while, I found myself actually preferring it to just shooting an enemy half a dozen times from afar. As the game progresses, you will find yourself trying to counter multiple enemies at once, and at times I had to decide which enemy I’d take a hit from; sometimes it’s just too much action.
Another new feature in this version is the Aeion Abilities, which provide both an element of empowerment and a new reason to make the puzzles and mazes even more challenging. There are four of them to unlock, and you do so by the time you are about 3/4 of the way through the game. The Scan Pulse allows you to check the surrounding area for passages and items. Lightning Armor is unlocked next, which allows Samus to saunter through poisonous algae and take damage without consequences.
After a huge gap in the middle of the game with no upgrades, our heroine receives the Beam Burst, which could be best described as a Gatling laser gun. Finally, there’s the Phase Drift ability, which is more fun than necessary since it slows down time without stifling your own speed. All these abilities are limited by a rechargable yellow gauge which can be upgraded to lengthen.
Without giving too much away, I can say that the progression of Metroid: Samus Returns follows the original by throwing different breeds of Metroids at you in varying difficulty. There is a learning curve involved, though. The increasing challenge of fighting the game’s four types of aliens sometimes left me cursing and stepping away from the game for a couple hours.
However, Metroids are not the only bosses in this game, and that is something that really keeps the game fresh as you play. As you descend into the depths of planet SR388, you notice a single red dot following you around, and the source is frightening. There are more humanoid type bosses that will pop up every so often, nicely giving you a break from killing aliens.
When it comes to suits and weapons, Metroid: Samus Returns really stuck to their roots and didn’t really introduce anything we hadn’t seen before. In fact, they nixed the long beam and made you start with a blast that reaches the other end of the screen; makes sense to me. And instead of giving you half a dozen different types of beams, they have only three with a variety of upgrades and variations. Thanks to the touchscreen of the 3DS, changing weapons is a breeze and can actually be done in the middle of a hectic battle without pausing the action. This feature makes the game feel more intense and realistic as you fight the infestation on planet SR388.
But all the fun items over the history of Metroid are present, from the playful ice beam to the two kinds of missiles. And once again, the Morph Ball is more than just an armadillo knock-off and can once again bomb, jump, and crawl up walls. By the second half of the game I found that I had tons of abilities that made the gameplay tons of fun; even if I was just revisiting old areas to search for tanks.
In a new addition to Metroid II (but not the series) we are re-gifted with the grappling beam from Super Metroid, as well as the ability to stand perfectly still while aiming in a full 360-degree range. In fact, aside from Metroid hunting, this feels more like a remake of the SNES title thanks to underwater areas and lava pits.
And as always, there are tons of upgrades like holding more missiles, multiple energy tanks, and refill stations to replenish ammo and energy without having to kill hundreds of enemies to prep for a boss fight. The doors got a makeover too and are now beautifully animated upon opening. There are more types of doors than ever before and some can only be unlocked with a certain weapon that at times won’t be acquired for some time. Another great feature is that when you defeat an enemy, the dropped missiles, energy, and Aeion cells are absorbed from afar so you don’t have to go fetch them.
Once again, there are multiple areas that you must explore and travel to by way of elevators and teleport stations. Each area has one or more pods which require a certain amount of Metroid DNA to unlock, forcing you to fight your way forward. Hunting down Metroids can get a little tedious later in the game, especially near the middle when upgrades and new weapons are scarce. Luckily, if you’re stumped, you can go to the DNA station and they’ll point you in the general area of the final required Metroid.
There are a few things I have grown accustomed to that I miss, such as epic battles with familiar enemies. I would have loved to see a boss or two like Kraid or Ridley rise from the dead and once again haunt my dreams, but she did already kill them in this storyline. Still, it would have been nice to fight some sort of monster bigger than the 3DS screen.
The only other gripe I have with this episode in the series is with a few of the normal baddies that you encounter. Some make energy tanks a necessity because they can drain 100 health in a single hit. Furthermore, later in the game you encounter a harder version of a past enemy with a different colored skin; seems lazy to me.
Metroid: Samus ReturnsNintendo
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.