When two new Metroid titles were announced this year I was over the moon. When I learned that one would be coming this year and was a ground up remake of Metroid 2 it was hard to contain my excitement. Metroid is a series I grew up loving, but unfortunately a few of the most recent entries had failed to capture the magic that made the games of my childhood so good. Many Metroid fans were starting to wonder if the day would ever come that we got another great Metroid game. I’m glad to tell you all, the wait is over. Metroid: Samus Returns is fantastic.
To say this is just a remake of Metroid 2 would be under selling this game a little. This release is far more than that. The core Metroid 2 game is remade here from the ground up with brand new 3D assets but developers MercurySteam have also includes quite a few new features to make the game their own and bring the game up to today’s modern gameplay standards.
The first thing those familiar with Metroid 2 will realise is that the world map is fairly different to the original game. But the core story and objectives are the same. In Samus Returns the Galactic Federation send Samus Aran to Metroid planet SR388 to destroy all Metroid life forms. One by one you will traverse through the many levels of the Chozo ruins to hunt down and defeat all 40 Metroids, plus some cool and interesting bosses along the way. A counter of remaining Metroids is displayed on the screen at all times, and in true Metroidvania fashion, certain area’s and abilities are locked off until you have met the required count of defeated enemies to progress as you need to turn in the collected Metroid data at the Chozo Seal at the end of each area to activate the next.
Many of the 40 Metroid battles are the same or similar in design and this does begin to get repetitive but manages to change up the fight formula before becoming too tedious.
The next new addition to the gameplay systems is the introduction of the Aeion gauge. Aeion is a collectible resource that is expelled from most defeated enemies that will replenish the Aeion gauge. This gauge is used to fuel the use of Aeion abilities, each of which has a distinct use in the game and can only be used while the gauge isn’t empty and gradually deplete the gauge during use. The first of which, which may displease the hardcore Metroid community, reveals the location of nearby secret area’s by highlighting the breakable blocks. This does make the game a little more approachable for newcomers to the series and does come in handy when you need to find your way out of a sealed room.
The third of the biggest upgrades comes in the form of the counter attack melee strike. This is a new ability Samus can use at any time by pressing the X button on the 3DS. It acts as a uppercut swipe attack but if timed correctly during some enemy attacks it counters their strike and places them in a vulnerable state where they can be taken out, usually with a single blast or two. I didn’t hate or love this new system and spent good chunks of the game not using it. But there are definitely times where it can come in handy, especially when there are multiple enemies coming for you at one time due to it’s ability to quickly take down some enemies.
Samus Returns definitely brings back what made earlier entries in the series such a joy to play. Progressing through the ruins to unlock the next weapon upgrade so that you can go back and open up previous blocked paths, finding hidden missile & energy upgrades and putting your learned skills to the test learning boss attack patterns and through trial and error, overcoming them.
Fans of Metroid Fusion or Zero Mission will feel right at home with Samus Returns. It’s bought into the modern era with the use of detailed character models and vibrant environments that look great on the 3DS and pop with colour. The stages vary from lush plant based area’s to glowing magma caves and mechanical landscapes. These stages come to life with the added background movement in the environments and bring an added sense of life to the planet of SR388.
Metroid: Samus Returns is a brilliant return to form after a couple of less than stellar entries in the series in past years. It stays true to what made Metroid great in the first place and by taking an existing title, bringing it up to modern standards and adding new mechanics, MercurySteam have truly delivered an amazing game that presents a great blend between fun exploration and challenging combat. Samus Returns is a game that any Metroid fan will appreciate and can easily be enjoyed by newcomers to the series as well.
A final retail review code was provided by Nintendo for the purpose of this review.