Metroid: Samus Returns

Late in the 1990s, many videogame series made the leap from two to three dimensions, including The Legend of Zelda and Metroid, with their gameplay adapting to the visual change. Some series made the leap well, while others didn’t, and while the latter franchise’s 3-D Prime subseries got decent reception, fans still yearned for throwback, and thus came Metroid Fusion and a remake of the debut title in the series, Metroid Zero Mission, both on the GameBoy Advance. Years would pass before the next Metroid title with two-dimensional gameplay, Metroid: Samus Returns for the Nintendo 3DS, released, a reimagining of Return of Samus on the original GameBoy, providing an experience on par with prior 2-D entries of the pantheon.

Series protagonist Samus Aran, true to the game’s moniker, returns, initially able to fire her arm cannon at enemies, the player able to use the 3DS’s analog stick to point her weapon in any direction, players further able to lock her in place (still able to jump) and fire at will at the enemy, a feature proving to be a real godsend. Samus sporadically receives upgrades to her combat and exploration abilities, not to mention increases in the maximum capacities of her regular missiles, super missiles, power bombs, maximum life, and energy that powers abilities such as a shield protecting her from damage to her life.

Samus’s goal is to exterminate a certain number of Metroids on the planet she visits, another feature somewhat critical to her success being the ability to execute a physical counter which, when timed right, can throw them off balance, making them more vulnerable to damage. Mastery of this technique can be somewhat tricky throughout the whole game, and the ability of these Metroids to drain Samus’s life quickly can make the game slightly hard. Even so, sufficient tracking of their patterns can be enough to avoid damaging attacks, and aside from the slight difficulty of the game attributable to not enough energy upgrades and way too many standard missile upgrades, the gameplay serves its purpose.

Like other two-dimensional Metroid titles, Samus Returns features a vast world to explore, with certain abilities necessary to further her exploration, and plenty teleportation facilities unlockable. Somewhat preventing players from losing themselves is the ability to use energy to scan the surrounding area to reveal unvisited places on the automap. The only real problem in terms of control is the absolute sloppy placement of missile, energy, and life-recovering points, with many stretches to boss Metroids lacking these facilities, not to mention the inability to view playing time within the game.

The Metroid series has never been heavy on story, and the remake is no exception, with little revealed in the series mythos or Samus’s backstory.

The sound effects are fitting, but there’s very little original music in Samus Returns, with most of the tracks that are present hailing from Super Metroid, and the game largely relying on ambience to get the job done.

The visuals, though, are a definite high point, with the 3DS making good use of the game’s three-dimensional capabilities, alongside believable enemies, animations, environments, and whatnot, although there is slight pixilation to Samus and the enemies’ models.

Finally, the remake sports less than a day’s worth of total playtime, with the big explorable world and hard mode unlocked upon finishing a playthrough enhancing lasting appeal.

Overall, Metroid: Samus Returns is for the most part a successful reimagining of its GameBoy predecessor, what with the upgraded gameplay central to the series, big contiguous world to explore, polished visuals, and plentiful lasting appeal. It does, however, leave plentiful room for improvement, particularly with regards to the difficulty accountable to the disproportionate life and missile upgrades, the terrible placement of recovery points, the lack of an engaging narrative, and the disappointing audio. In spite of its flaws, the game is very much worth a look from fans of prior games in the franchise, not to mention those that enjoy action/adventure titles that don’t quite qualify as roleplaying games.

The Good:
+Solid Metroid gameplay.
+Plenty to explore.
+Polished visuals.
+Great lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Not enough energy upgrades.
-Sloppy placement of recovery points.
-Excuse plot.
-Phoned-in audio.

The Bottom Line:
A good throwback Metroid game.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 5/10
Music/Sound: 6/10
Graphics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Hard
Playing Time: 12-24 Hours

Overall: 7.5/10

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