The Metroid series, which has left its mark on hundreds of games, has celebrated its 30 year anniversary last year. After a long time without a classic Metroid 2D game, we finally got Metroid: Samus Returns. It’s a remake of the second game of the series, Metroid II: Return of Samus.
We play as Samus Aran, a badass intergalactic bounty hunter sent by the galactic federation to the planet SR388 in order to exterminate the deadly alien species, the Metroids. We get to venture deep inside the planet, through tunnels, subterranean temples and factories, while hunting down these monstrous creatures.
The temples, the caves and caverns, all get a whole new level of depth, thanks to the power of the new engine. Turn on the 3DS’s stereoscopic 3D, and it becomes even more immersive, without sacrificing framerate or causing nausea. Even without directly interacting with it, the backgrounds bring the scenes to life, with aliens or robots roaming around or performing their tasks. Samus Returns is, without a doubt one of the prettiest games to ever come out on the 3DS family of consoles.
The music only builds on top of all of that. When you enter a dark cave, the music goes all quiet and intimidating, but when you enter a super-heated tunnel filled with molten plasma, the music might turn into something raging and orchestral, alerting us to how dangerous the area is. These are all remastered tracks from the original game, and they help deliver a sense of urgency throughout the game. After all, Samus is heading on a near-suicide mission, and a new threat hides around every corner.
While the game is a remake, it doesn’t stop it from bringing a lot of new elements. Since the 3DS has an analog control stick, Samus can aim in full 360 degrees, allowing for faster and more precise gameplay. Now when you battle a boss, you can move around and aim for its weakpoint, without being forced to shoot in 45 degrees or in parallel to the floor while jumping up and down awkwardly as in previous games.
As you go through the game, you’ll obtain upgrades which let you get into deeper and more dangerous areas of the deadly SR388. Nothing beats getting a new ability, then going back to explore all the new paths that suddenly opened up thanks to it. It’s almost like an addiction – each time I got a new ability, I found myself going back to collect all the hidden upgrades that have finally become accessible.
Among these new abilities are upgrades that drastically improve Samus’ mobility, both directly and indirectly. Since the maps are enormous, mobility is crucial, and in addition to the different upgrades, the map has teleportation stations scattered throughout it, which help you get quickly from one area to the other.
Since the game is the first 2D Metroid game coming out for the 3DS family of consoles, it’s great to see how the game utilizes the dual screen architecture. Normally, the bottom screen will display the map – a very important feature since we’re exploring tunnels, temples and subterranean forests, but it also allows us to change beams and other armament.
In addition to the standard beam, which gets upgraded as you progress, and the ice beam, which is especially effective against Metroids, we get to use the grapple beam. This new weapon didn’t appear in the original, and it allows us to hang from special blocks and rip out obstacles. The grapple beam can be very satisfying to use, and allows for some really cool ways to attack some of the bosses. However, it usually requires switching into mid battle, and it’s not always as easy to use. It also seems that just when you need it most, the grapple beam would suddenly miss its target.
In addition to the grapple beam, Samus receives an array of new abilities called Aeon Abilities. These abilities utilize the Aeon Gauge, which can be refilled by defeating enemies, and range from a Scan Pulse ability, which reveals a chunk of the map, to an ability to slow down time. The Aeon abilities actually give you unique ways to solve puzzles, and offer plenty of creative ways to help you fight bosses and enemies. All of the Aeon abilities helped me a lot during the game. The Scan Pulse ability helps hunting down all the upgrades, and the Shield ability saved my skin multiple times in boss battles.
Now let’s talk about those battles. Aside from running, taking cover, and blasting various enemies which feels exquisitely satisfying, the story itself revolves around hunting down each and every Metroid. Throughout the game, you’ll run into a lot of Metroids, which serves as bosses. Since planet SR388 is a perfect ecosystem for the Metroids, they evolve and grow during the game, from small single-celled organisms to large reptilian threats.
The boss battles are loaded with action, and rich with different attack patterns. Bosses will chase you, launch rocks, energy balls and other destructible objects at you, and will require you to utilize the entirety of Samus’ arsenal. Later on in the game you will also encounter more dynamic bosses that will change the way they attack as you weaken them throughoutthe fight. One of the most exciting parts in the game for me was the boss battle against the new enemy construct called the Diggernaut – a gigantic drilling mech, which transforms during the battle and will require you to use almost all of your weapons and skills in order to defeat it.
While the game has a great difficulty curve, those of you seeking even more challenge would be able to replay the game in a higher difficulty level after beating it. In addition, if you get the Metroid Amiibo, you’ll be able to unlock the extra-difficult Fusion Mode. Other than that though, once you’ve collected all of the upgrades and beaten all of the Metroid, the game runs out of things to do, and if you’re a veteran to the Metroid series like myself, it might fly by a bit too quickly.
With intriguing caves to explore, upgrades to hunt, and intimidating bosses, Metroid: Samus Returns is an action masterpiece for the 3DS, and is an amazing remake of the original. While the controls may be a bit cumbersome, and the game swept by quickly, every moment of it was worth it. It’s so good to have Samus back.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.