A RETURN TO FORM FOR A FAMED BOUNTY HUNTER
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release date: 15 September 2017
The Metroid franchise has always had a love-hate relationship with fans and Nintendo. From humble beginnings, Metroid provided some of the best platforms in gaming history. However, in recent years, the Metroid franchise has hit a few bumps, and with their last release, Prime Federation Force, it seemed like the franchise would never regain its glory. Then, out of nowhere, at E3 2017, Nintendo announced that Metroid Prime 4 was happening and that a 2-D Metroid game was coming. It seemed that fans' prayers were finally being answered. Metroid: Samus Returns is a re-imagined version of Metroid 2 for Gameboy, with improved visuals and a brand-new combat system. Is this truly a return of the famed bounty hunter, or does the return have no impact at all?
In the year 20X 5, a lone bounty hunter, Samus Aran, is sent by the galactic federation to infiltrate the space pirate base on the planet Zebes. She foils the space pirates' plans to use parasitic organisms, called Metroids, and eventually defeats the space pirate's leader, Mother Brain.
Upon seeing the threat of the Metroids, the Federation sends a squadron of elite soldiers to the Metroid's home planet to investigate, but the squadron goes missing. After confirming the presence of Metroids on the planet, the Federation decides to send Samus to SR388 to exterminate the species once and for all. The message is clear: Defeat all Metroids once and for all.
For the story, that’s pretty much it. You go from area to area killing Metroids until you get to the end. That doesn’t mean that there aren't moments of story there, and it’s quite touching at the end. The story just isn’t a major focus, gameplay is.
As a 2-D, side-scrolling platform, Metroid hearkens back to an older time. Planet SR388 is the main setting of the game, and is split into eight areas. Within each area is a set number of Metroids you need to defeat before being able to move on to the next area.
What makes these areas great is just how big they are and the secrets they are filled with. Each area is unknown, which leaves the player to fill the map. This brings about a great sense of exploration for the player and provides many great moments, like when you discover a shortcut to a previously locked area.
You never really feel lost, as there is a sensor in the suit for Metroids in the area; once you start getting close to a Metroid, the sensor will start beeping, and the closer you get the louder it beeps.
Follow the beeping of the sensor, but if you ever do get lost, you can take the DNA back to where you collected it from the Metroids to the DNA machine and it will show you exactly where the Metroid is hiding.
Planet SR388 is filled with creatures that want to kill you, and are even deadlier than Metroids. You’ll have to jump, run, and shoot everything in your sight.
To do that, you’re equipped with the most advanced suit and weaponry. Samus is equipped with her normal arm cannon, which can take down normal enemies. She later gains access to an ice beam that freezes enemies and a grappling beam to grapple certain surfaces.
Samus does gain more weapons through her journey by upgrading her normal arm cannon. In addition to her cannons, she also has her missiles. While the cannon has unlimited ammo, missiles do not as they have a limited capacity and are collected from enemies and reload stations.
In addition to her cannons and missiles, Samus also has access to her aeon abilities. She starts with scan pulse, which scans the area and reveals secrets on the map. This ability is the most useful, as secrets are revealed on the map; this does take away from the exploratory side of the game. Samus gains more aeon abilities later in the game, such as beam burst and lighting armour.
Using aeon abilities depletes the aeon meter, killing enemies that drop aeon orbs that fill the meter. The use of aeon abilities can aid in killing enemies, reaching other secret areas, and opening doors.
The biggest gameplay addition is the counter system. Nearly every enemy in the game can be countered, if you time it right, just before they attack. This leaves the enemy stunned and auto-locks your cannons, allowing you to kill them quickly.
The countering system is both a great addition and a detriment, as it makes killing enemies easier. The drawback to this is it takes away a lot of the challenge in the game. Although you have the ability to free aim, which allows you to kill enemies from afar, countering is just easier to do.
There is also a problem with bosses. In each area, Metroids are the main bosses. The problem is that all the bosses play the same, so it becomes very repetitive as they repeat the same moves over and over again. This issue worsens as you can face the same Metroid repeatedly. Although you do meet new Metroids, and they are great at first, they also start to become repetitive as you'll soon realize that you’ll face that same Metroid five times.
The countering system also plays a role in the boss battles because the ability to counter them leads to a lack of strategy—you can simply wait to do a counter move. This initializes an interactive cut scene where you can do high damage. Its saving grace, though, is the last couple of bosses; they are some of the best in the game, pushing you to the limit and making you use of all your skills. Those final fights really make up for the repetitiveness of the game's bosses, but it’s sad that you have to face many of the same ones before you get to them.
Another problem arises in the controls. Having to switch cannons can be annoying as you have to touch the bottom of the screen to change it. The controls aren’t bad; it just felt odd. The Y button was set up to shoot and the A button activates aeon abilities, which led me to using abilities when I didn’t want to. Your fingers can start to cramp when you play for a long session due to the strange layout, and not being able to change it was really weird. I found myself fighting the controls quite a bit.
Metroid may not be the prettiest game on the 3DS, but it does look nice. The character models look good, and Samus herself looks really detailed, but when zoomed out the system just isn’t able to provide the high quality. I do wish that they had done more with the backgrounds because they seem pretty lifeless. Overall, the presentation isn’t bad, though it does show the limitations of the 3DS.
Metroid:Samus Returns is just that—a return to former glory for our favourite suited bounty hunter. Although the game suffers from some repetitiveness and the counter system is a great addition, it is also a crutch. This is truly a return to form and brings in hope for the future of the Metroid franchise.
Recommendation: This is definitely a buy, both for old fans and new players that want to try out a Metroid game for the first time.