It’s been a long time since Samus Aran has had a new adventure. Metroid is a franchise that needs no introduction, as it broke new ground and paved the way for many beloved titles we see today. Nintendo are ready to finally continue where we left off years ago with Metroid Dread. This new installment brings us back to the 2D roots we all know and love, adding in a layer of fear with new foes and environments. Does Samus shine within her roots, or is this offering come off as a mere act of fan service for a generation who have possibly moved on? Let’s find out.
Our story here is built around the parasite X, which was featured in Fusion. Learning that the parasite may still exist on a distant planet, Samus is sent to planet ZDR, where she soon learns there is more to this mystery after her arrival. Robots who were once allies (known as EMMI) are now hostile, and with Chozo Warriors with bad intentions also afloat, the player is taken through a decent-sized narrative with a lot of twist and turns until the credits roll.
Yes, the game still feels like Metroid – delivering a solid plot with the events of Fusion still lingering in this new tale. While the plot doesn’t lean into newcomers with a lot of history for the franchise, it does offer recaps through cutscenes of past events, offering just enough background to allow newcomers to know what is going on, despite being nearly twenty years since the previous title in this particular line released. Nintendo still do well to build a plot here, and while there are still some things left unsolved, we get a fitting conclusion to what is a AAA experience contained in this 2D universe.
Lose your powers. Explore the world. Regain Powers. Escape. It’s a four-step method for Metroid games that has been pivotal to its success for decades. Thankfully, that same foundation is still at work here, but executed in a way that still makes everything feel fresh and exciting. All of the usual perks here work as they should, but with a few added elements to cope with extra stealth sections that can appear at various times throughout the game. Free-aim and melee attacks have also been re-added from the 2017 3DS port of Samus Returns, which feel much more refined and fitting for the well-designed stages.
As mentioned, stealth plays a heavy role in Dread, as the EMMI robots are more meant to be dodged quickly before making an escape rather than fighting, as one would expect. These robots can be extremely difficult to maneuver around, so the player has to think quickly in order to progress when they encounter one. I am all for extra types of enemies in Metroid titles, but I will say that I found the EMMI to be a bit of a headache. It’s not that they’re not fun, as the sequences are exciting on their own and add a lot of the “dread” element while exploring. The issue is that Metroid is all about exploration and immersion. Sometimes, you will be so into exploring and glancing over the environment before a random encounter with yank you out, forcing you to run quickly and shuffle off to the next area. It’s an unnecessary interruption that I can see some players being mildly annoyed with if they are like myself and play these games to slowly crawl through stages and hunt for clues that piece together the plot.
Boss battles feel a lot more paced, offering a major sequence before allowing the player to utilize their full arsenal in creative fashion to smash down a baddie. Just finding some bosses feels like a great success due to never-ending tunnels and items scattered along the way, and getting to experience each one featuring its own unique mechanics and style is a shining point for Metroid Dread, delivering the ultimate payoff several times over. Re-playability all comes down to the player after the credits roll. This game is one that is meant to be explored again and again, and even with the less than inviting EMMI sections, hidden easter eggs and secrets will keep bounty hunters eager to soak hours back into the game just to see all it has to offer.
Despite being 2D, Metroid Dread still manages to bring out the best of the Switch, displaying crisp, polished visuals that create that rich atmosphere that the franchise is known for. It’s really all in the details. Every room and crevice are begging to be explored, with foregrounds proving to be just as fascinating as the backdrops within due to beautiful art design that makes the world come alive. Samus is also a stunner in this game, featuring what may be my favorite model for her yet. I can definitely see why Metroid continues to get such acclaim for not only its design but also art direction. Dread is yet another great accomplishment that is sure to be mimicked and imitated for years to come, as it sets a new standard for a genre that needed a good push.
Kenji Yamamoto returns to create another banger soundtrack to the franchise, as Dread’s collection of tunes is nothing short of spectacular. These beats set a mood for the experience, giving players ambience that has even minor actions cutting through like a hot knife. Is it better than other soundtracks? Well, not entirely as it doesn’t really re-invent much, instead delivering a familiar selection to players that work well with this unique playstyle featured here.
Metroid Dread is something special. Sure, it isn’t really going to blow away players like Super Mario Odyssey did, nor will it make the franchise any more of a household name than it already was. It’s a sequel that is up to par with its predecessors, refining the experience we know further by simply giving us the Samus we enjoy. I’m sure there will be many more Metroid titles to come and there will be some awesome changes ahead for Samus- but Dread is here to deliver a message. You don’t have to reboot or rework a video game namesake to make it great. Samus’ story might end here for now, but what a great entry this is to finalize a sci-fi epic spanning over thirty years.
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