Metroid Dread. Right from the title he chose for the game, Nintendo wanted us to believe that the theme behind this new adventure by Samus Aran was terror, fear. The fear of an unknown planet, the anxiety of seven killer robots who are hunting us and the fear of a danger believed to be extinct, but which still threatens the galaxy. And it's true, the game is full of moments of tension, and never like in Metroid dread we find ourselves jumping on the chair with fright, running away, hiding, hoping not to be hunted down. From the first moment in which Samus sets foot on the planet ZDR, up to the credits screen, it is evident how much, even before fear, MercurySteam and producer Yoshio Sakamoto wanted to communicate a feeling of continuity with the past and of balance between modernity and tradition.
It took nearly twenty years to see a new 2D Metroid pick up where Metroid Fusion left off on the Game Boy Advance, and in the meantime a whole generation of indie developers have taken over the baton of metroidvania, modernized its language and fixed. new standards for the genre.
Yet, despite twenty years having passed, fans of the series will immediately find themselves at home: in the structure of the map, in the way of telling the story, in the progression of the upgrades and in the frenzy of the confrontations, the development team has been careful to create a game that seemed irrefutably Metroid, using modern technologies to enhance the power of Samus, the agitation of the chases and the spectacularity of the battles. Dread closes a circle left open twenty years ago, and does so with an explosive and fun episode that, like its protagonist, has all of Metroid's DNA inside.
Ah, for the Metroid Dread review we tried the game on the Nintendo Switch OLED, but you can find the impressions on the console in the article dedicated to the new model with a larger display.
For MercurySteam, the work done on Metroid: Samus Returns for Nintendo 3DS was something of a mess. Although appreciated, the remake of Metroid 2 clashed with all the limits of being, precisely, a modernization of a game for the Game Boy, but it still allowed the Spanish studio to become familiar with the language of the Nintendo series and with its traditions. With this "practice", the developer has repurposed in Metroid dread everything the series has refined over the years: from the clichés - such as the so-called "physical amnesia" that sees Samus lose his powers at the beginning of the adventure - to the maze of corridors and rooms that compose a map which turns out to be immense, labyrinthine.
Slipping off a precipice before meeting a boss communicates that there are no escape routes and increases the tension of the fight, while clues are often hidden in the backdrop that tell something more about the setting and sometimes serve as a prelude to what is to come. after. In some cases, mechanisms activated in one area end up having important repercussions on another, and returning to explore old areas with new abilities opens up new paths and a way to cross the environment completely new compared to the first hours of the game.
Samus's adventure is lonely, the bounty hunter does not speak to anyone (least of all with herself) and the only information on the ZDR piano and her enemies are given to her in specific rooms by Adam, the ship's artificial intelligence. As in Metroid Fusion, here too Adam is often verbose and didactic, and having a "friendly" voice so present throughout the game contributes to the development of the story, but also takes away the feeling of isolation of the first episodes of the series.
Unlike Fusion, fortunately, Adam tends to leave more freedom of discovery to those who play: there are still some moments in which he suggests to Samus where to look for the next point of interest, but he (almost) never does it by placing an indicator in the map and in general the experience is much less guided. On several occasions we find ourselves pleasantly disoriented and, as if it were a puzzle to be solved, we look carefully at the map in search of closed passages or areas that are still unexplored.
To facilitate the backtracking and navigation, the developers have however made several tools available: in addition to the classic teleportation stations, in the map it is possible to highlight all the doors or objects of the same type, you can place colored markers to remember important areas, while the rooms that hide a secret light up on the map. The latter is perhaps a bit too forgiving help, but especially in the advanced stages and in the end-game it proves indispensable to find all the hidden objects.
Power is everything
It had already been guessed in the past months, but the nearly eight hours needed to finish the game confirmed it: Metroid Dread is undoubtedly the most adrenaline-pumping, aggressive and fun-to-play chapter of the series. From the start, Samus has a number of skills at her disposal that allow her to move quickly and smoothly, to overcome obstacles without stopping and to attack enemies more ferociously. The ability to I will look at 360 ° while running is an unprecedented novelty for the series which, combined with the ability to slide, climb over obstacles in the race and execute an uppercut to neutralize incoming attacks, allows Samus to cross every room with an exploding fury.
If in Samus Returns you were forced to stop constantly in front of every single enemy, in Metroid Dread this no longer happens, and you are encouraged to play in a more aggressive and smooth way, in a perfect balance between the most modern elements experienced in years recent and the most offensive feeling of Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion. Compared to the previous Metroids, the camera has been moved a little away just to allow those who play to have a wider view of the room and plan the path to follow in real time.
Samus has never been so explosive, snappy and full of grit: she can fire during a slide and get up with a jump kick, stun an enemy with an uppercut and take them out with a cannon shot, and as you unlock new skills she becomes even more rapid and unstoppable. If Samus Aran is the most powerful bounty hunter in the galaxy, Metroid Dread's moments of exploration and combat are there to remind her.
As if that were not enough, this same determination MercurySteam wanted to transmit it also in the scene d'intermezzo and in the often gigantic boss fights, where the protagonist flaunts glacial confidence in poses and stunts so casual that she looks like a real braggart. The bosses are another aspect on which the Spanish team has clearly placed a lot of attention, after having their hands tied with Samus Returns. Not all battles are memorable, some purposely hark back to the series' past, and fans of monstrosities like Mother Brain in Super Metroid and Nightmare in Metroid Fusion will have to settle for less disgusting or terrifying opponents.
But all are titanic and push those who play to use Samus' acrobatic skills to dodge, jump, slide while looking for the weak point to bomb like there was no tomorrow. A pair of clashes, then, they are certainly among the best that the series has ever produced. It wouldn't have spoiled some combat in which to exploit Samus' abilities in a more original way, but to compensate and add a bit of variety and a real sense of panic we think the EMMI, the seven killer robots that patrol the different regions of the planet .
That of EMMI is an idea that Sakamoto has kept in the drawer for over fifteen years, and which was born as a direct evolution of SA-X, the nemesis of Samus who in Metroid Fusion represented a fearsome and indestructible presence, from which to hide and escape. Unlike SA-X, which appeared at predetermined moments in history, the EMMIs are instead relegated to specific areas that Samus must necessarily cross while exploring. They are fast, capable of perceiving distant noises, and can only be destroyed after finding a special disposable weapon: this means that, for the vast majority of the time, Samus must try to hide, perhaps using his classic morphosphere. to slip into narrow tunnels, or to become invisible for a limited period of time.
However, the tight spaces and the incessant patrols of the EMMIs will inevitably lead to being caught, starting a frenzied chase in which to look for the ideal path to be able to sow the robot. In some cases you have to activate switches or create passages while in the meantime you are trying to escape, an interesting idea that could perhaps have been explored a little more. In their behavior the seven robots are more or less all alike, but each encounter introduces some skill or some variant to be considered in such a way that each pursuit is always a little different from the previous one.
When hunted by an EMMI, Samus has one last and desperate chance to break free and survive, but to do so requires such severe timing that it is an extremely difficult undertaking. And it is better this way, because in this way the tension always remains high, as well as the panic and the fear of being doomed, but those rare times in which you finally manage to free yourself, the satisfaction is unparalleled. From the very first encounter with a battered EMMI, Metroid Dread teaches players that these powerful enemies are lethal but can be destroyed.
It is perhaps also for this reason that none of them manage to be as terrifying as SA-X in Metroid Fusion, but their speed and tenacity in chasing Samus are enough to keep the level of tension always high. When you enter a EMMI zone, the roles are suddenly reversed, and from unstoppable huntress Samus transforms in an instant into a defenseless prey. Yet these sequences are well distributed on the map, keep up the pace of the game and well balance the level of challenge of the entire adventure, while the musical accompaniment gives character to each area and makes the entry into a dangerous area even more marked.
Final with a bang
Since almost twenty years have passed since the release of Metroid Fusion, and since this will be the first episode of the series that many will have ever played, Nintendo wanted to make sure that the story was understandable and exciting even for those in Metroid there. approaches for the first time. A short introduction summarizes the few really important events of the previous episodes, presenting Samus, the Metroids and the parasite X that was thought to have been eliminated at the end of Fusion but which is sighted on ZDR. Thus begins a journey through the regions of the planet, from the rocky caves of Artaria to the rivers of lava that flow in the factories of Cataris, passing through the deep sea of Burenia or the inhospitable forest of Ghavoran.
In between, Samus will find out more about the secrets of the Chozo and he will find himself facing an even more dangerous enemy than the EMMI, with a thunderous and spectacular ending, where there is no shortage of twists and moments that will surely excite all fans of the series who in recent years have fantasized about the sequel to Metroid Fusion. Dread brings to a conclusion the narrative arc that began thirty-five years ago on the NES, closing the circle of a story that from the beginning was openly inspired by Alien and that part of that inspiration can also be found here.
Perhaps a few more hours spent on ZDR would have allowed MercurySteam to better elaborate some ideas just mentioned and to make some twists of the story seem less hasty, but on the other hand Dread does not even have a moment of tiredness: the pace is always high, the tension always present, and in the end what remains is the curiosity to find out what future the series holds and if, after Metroid Prime 4, there will be a relaunch of the 2D series. Let's hope this time we won't have to wait another twenty years.
CommentTested version Nintendo Switch Resources4Gaming.com
After all these years, it was not easy to close the remaining arc with Metroid Fusion with an episode that was consistent with the previous ones and at the same time managed to modernize the feeling of the 2D series. Metroid Dread succeeds, and despite the frequent interactions with Adam sometimes end up attenuating the sense of isolation typical of the series, what stands out is above all the rhythm of the game, the combat system never so disruptive, and the continuous passage between the frenzy in the moments of exploration and tremendous anxiety as soon as you set foot in an EMMI area. And in the end, what impressed us most about Dread is her, Samus. Fierce and powerful, more and more lightning fast and aggressive, and reminds us that it is on the planet ZDR with a very specific mission. Whatever it takes. As she loses her powers at the beginning of the game, of each game, the next 2D Metroid could start from scratch and mark a new beginning for the series, but whatever the future of the saga will be, we hope to find such a gritty protagonist and, at the end of the fair, so fun to play.
- A worthy conclusion that has been overdue for too long
- Aggressive, fluid and never so fun fighting
- One of the most memorable boss fights of the saga
- Adam perhaps a little too present
- There was room to elaborate on some ideas
- More variety among EMMIs wouldn't hurt