Samus Returns Is The Best Metroid Game In A Decade
She may not have saved the universe as often or sold as many copies as Mario and Link, but ever since the first Metroid hit the NES all the way back in groovy 1986, bounty hunter Samus Aran has remained one of my dearest video game heroes.
Don’t call it remake (but call it a comeback), Metroid: Samus Returns is a retelling of the second entry in the franchise, wedged between the first game and what is often referred to as the series benchmark 2D adventure, 1994’s Super Metroid. Originally titled Metroid II: Return of Samus when it was released on the Game Boy in 1991, the its lo-fi monochromatic graphics were a far cry from what gamers are accustomed to today.
Even if Samus Returns simply refreshed those dated visuals, it would still stand as one of the high points in the Metroid saga, which includes about a dozen games, including a pinball spinoff and something called blast ball that we’d prefer not to acknowledge.
Luckily, this is so much more than a spit-polish of an old game that’s collected a little too much space dust. While Samus Returns retains the same core concept of its originator—in which Samus must hunt down and destroy 40 mini-boss Metroids scattered throughout planet SR488—it greatly expands on the map, gameplay mechanics, and of course, visuals. The only thing that has been truncated in this updated version is the title.
Besides massively improved graphics and a sprawling campaign that will take well over a dozen hours to 100%, Samus Returns has some nice new tricks up its, uh, arm cannon. For one, the combat is fiercer than anything we’ve seen in a 2D Metroid game. Even in the more modern titles, Samus has only been able to fire in eight directions, but now she can comfortably shoot from 360 degrees. By holding the L button, Samus’ canon will produce a laser pointer that glows red upon targeting an on-or-off-screen enemy. It’s a very liberating update and something you will sorely miss when revisiting previous Metroid side-scrollers.
Another major addition to the game is Samus’ ability to scan an entire room for hidden items, doorways, and more importantly, destructible blocks. While some old-schoolers might scoff at the idea of such a shortcut, they’re obviously free not to use it. While I’m half nostalgic for those lost hours spent arbitrarily shooting and bombing walls in the hopes of finding something special, but actually finding nothing, I welcome this perk that will surely make the game more appetizing for newcomers. The newfangled map is phenomenal, but I didn’t feel the urge to backtrack through it more times than necessary.
While Samus Returns remixes many of Samus’ older and newer suit upgrades, one element that distinguishes this game from any other in the series is the timed counter attack. You may initially experience a mixed reaction to this new move, but not before long you will realize just how indispensable it is. While Metroid’s bevy of enemies have always been easier to take down at a distance, here you’ll notice they’re way more aggressive. No matter how strong or weak, they won’t hesitate to charge in your direction, which is when you’ll want to swiftly execute your parry attack that slows down time, allowing you to slice away at your foe and then blast away at them. Do yourself a favour and hone this skill sooner rather than later, because it’s guaranteed to save you from instant death on many occasions.
Let’s address the elephant in the spaceship: who doesn’t wish this game was released on the Nintendo Switch instead of (or along with) the 3DS. Yes, same. Now that I own Nintendo’s shiny new home/handheld hybrid, why would I want to play anything new on the more antiquated 3DS? While I can’t justify that the 3DS was the best choice for this release, I can confirm that this is one of the best-looking and playing games on that handheld to date. The background environments are so dynamic you’ll even want to crank up the system’s 3D effects for a change.
Slicker HD graphics and slightly less hand-cramping controls would turn this triumphant return into and out-and-out masterpiece, but no matter what you’re playing it on, without a doubt, this is the best entry since 2007’s Metroid Prime 3 on the Wii. If Nintendo decides to give Samus’ second quest yet another facelift, I won’t hesitate to commit Metroid genocide all over again because the game is just that damn good.
Metroid: Samus Returns is out now exclusively on the Nintendo 3DS. Check out the Overview Trailer below: