Metroid is one of Nintendo’s most interesting franchises. After getting a hot start on the NES and gaining fans throughout the years with releases on Nintendo platforms (except the N64), Samus really hit her stride on the GameCube getting two releases, and three on the Wii. Then, silence. After the utterly disappointing Federation Forces, it seemed like the Metroid franchise was in a tizzy and no one knew what to expect. After Metroid Prime 4 was announced at E3 2017, during the Treehouse Presentation Nintendo also announced Metroid: Samus Returns, a reimagining of Metroid II on the Game Boy for the 3DS. 2D Samus hasn’t been seen in a long time, so how is her return to the original format?
Metroid: Samus Returns follows the same story as the original Metroid II. Taking place after the original Metroid, Samus is sent to planet SR388 by the Galactic Federation to rid the planet of a Metroid infestation, after several teams were unable to do it. Things, of course, get interesting once Samus starts to delve deeper into the mission.
While the story itself is fine, I do think that this is one of the few missed opportunities within the game. The presentation for the story feels very lacking, with scrolling text and still images conveying the story, and nothing ever really gets fleshed out any deeper than the original game. I didn’t really expect a deep narrative, but it would have been a great opportunity to flesh out the story more and add more to the lore of what is happening on SR388.
Retro Vs. 3D
When you land on SR388, you get the first glimpse of the redone visuals in the game. While I can see some people favoring a more “retro” art style for this game, I think the modern style of visuals suits it very well. Samus looks great, enemies have great animations, and some of the set pieces and backgrounds are fantastic with little things happening in them. The color palette does feel a bit limited though, and I think they could have done a bit more with that, but for the most part, Samus Returns looks good, and has solid 3D capabilities as well.
The audio has also been remastered in Samus Returns, and the music sounds great when you can hear it. For some reason there is no option to adjust the SFX and Music levels within the game, so you are stuck with the default setting. I know the Limited Edition version of the game comes with an audio soundtrack, but it would have been nice to hear the background music be more prevalent in the audio mixing.
The thing that matters the most, of course, is gameplay, and Metroid: Samus Returns adds a ton of new stuff to the original formula of Metroid II to make it a great play-through even for veterans. Samus comes equipped with many new abilities, the main one being the melee attack. With a precise timing mechanism, a melee attack will stun an enemy when he is attacking you, making him easy pickings for a killing. At first, the melee attack felt a bit tacked on, but as you venture deeper into the game, the melee attack becomes an essential piece of the gameplay.
Samus also has new abilities called “Aeion” abilities that she can use along the way. For example, a Scan Pulse is one of the abilities you get early in the game that allows you to see areas that can be damaged by morph ball bombs or missiles, etc. Besides those abilities, she can also now shoot in a full 360-degree radius by holding down the L trigger, giving a lot more freedom in the controls.
Take It Slow
All of these new abilities are great and are needed, because Samus Returns is a very tough game. Playing it as a run and gun will get you killed VERY quickly, so it’s essential to learn the game’s new mechanics. It can be a bit frustrating at first just how quickly Samus’s energy can drain, but it does encourage exploration to find additional Energy tanks as well.
Metroid: Samus Returns is a great return to form after the Federation Forces debacle and should make fans of the series happy with the final product. Aside from a few presentation hiccups and difficulty curve, the improved visuals and added content make for a solid entry in the Metroid universe. We have been waiting for Samus to return for a little while now, but the wait has been worth it.