Initial Release: September 15 2017
An ideal place for newcomers to understand the series before the eventual Switch debut that leverages the old and the new perfectly. The shapely shoulder pads of Samus are a welcome sight after such a long vacation, Samus has indeed returned.
Not unlike waiting for a bus, two Metroid titles were announced by Nintendo in June, Metroid Prime 4 and Samus Returns. Fans have been starved of the leading lady since the release of Metroid: Other M in 2010, so it’s high time we saw her revival, punchy title and all. Samus Returns revisits the series traditional 2D roots as a reimagining of Gameboy title Metroid II: Return of Samus, but this is far more than a simple remake.
Taking the bones of the original Gameboy title’s story and setting, the gameplay is fleshed out with new mechanics that make the pace of combat more fluid, exploration more innovative and puzzles that much more layered and compelling to crack. The introduction of a Melee Counter means that every enemy becomes a timed event, just before they strike you can deflect them away, leaving them exposed for a one-shot kill. Some enemies are trickier to counter, but the option to defend as you pepper plasma shots into extra-terrestrial-tooth-bats is a welcome addition and adds variety to combat as you wander through the many halls, terrariums and crystalline caves of planet SR388.
Enemies are plentiful and unique, but it’s not just foes that offer variety. The many landscapes Samus finds herself in cover sprawling, roofless crags, magma flooded passages and hallowed Chozo hallways. The 3D effect here is an atypical delight, the world more alive with the 3D slider pushed up, backdrops crumble as you traverse them and bosses swoop in from distant scenery. These bosses being the Metroids Samus has been sent to hunt down and eradicate, a species of weaponised parasite that have run amok. The toothy, B-Movie amoeba suck the life dry of all they come across, evolving and becoming that much more dangerous.
The game revolves around their culling, hunting them down one by one as you delve deeper into various sections of the planet by uploading their DNA to move forward. Casting off their squishy forms they evolve, to begin with as slightly threatening nautilus critters but soon grow to become reptilian hell beasts. It keeps these fights interesting and dynamic, a new form, attack or puzzle often thrown in to keep you on your toes. Charting their evolution as they mutate is a sight to behold as you further your search, leading to some truly gruelling fights.
Charting Metroid growth is one thing, but being able to chart your way across the game’s landscape is a truly novel feature. Done away with a map point to download the geography of the area, Aeion skills are introduced. The first of which is Scan Burst, allowing you to unveil a section of your map and all breakables in a local area, offering clues when you find yourself lost. It’s a great feature that dispels the infuriating and unfair moments you find yourself utterly lost, mostly.
With all these new features, fans can still expect a solid level of difficulty from all facets, exploration especially. Essential upgrades and skills are hidden throughout and often feel overpowered upon discovery, but are essential as enemies get stronger and challenges deepen, the balance it keeps is quite impressive.
An often tedious task in Metroid is backtracking, returning to areas now accessible with new equipment. The inclusion of lifts and teleport stations allows you to fast travel to an array of locations throughout the game, ensuring the hunt for both Metroids and upgrades is a seamless, enjoyable one. The distinctive soundtrack of the series is celebrated throughout, remixes of old tracks and fanfares underpin this reboot as an evolution of an older title.
With so many hidden secrets laden across SR388, players can opt to linearly sweep through the world murdering Metroids, but the jeers of the completion rate on your file might spur you on, being woefully low even if you’re down to your last few Metroids. These games are intrinsically designed to be combed through, birthing one half of the Metroidvania genre. Naturally, players are going to want to delve through and explore all nebulous nooks and crannies of the deep space epic, treasure and upgrades tucked away throughout. A nice feature in the main menu that rewards you for hunting is a gallery of sorts that unlocks as you collect upgrades, unlocking fragments of Chozo Memories, furtively forming images that pour light onto what exactly happened before the Metroids landed.
Samus Returns supports amiibo functionality, some unlocking sound tests, extra difficulty modes and art galleries. This is the only real major downfall of the title, as common extras that can be found in most games have to be bought as a figure separately to be enjoyed. These really should have been offered in game already, amiibo bonuses also offering extra health and ammo which is ideally all they should have gifted.
A Metroid title that takes us back to the roots of the series, its difficulty is something to be revelled in and showcases all that is brilliant about the franchise. An ideal place for newcomers to understand the series before the eventual Switch debut that leverages the old and the new perfectly. The shapely shoulder pads of Samus are a welcome sight after such a long vacation, Samus has indeed returned.
We were provided a copy of the game by Nintendo for review purposes.