‘Metroid Dread’ a great return to form for the long forgotten series


Source: Nintendo

Michael Davis, Editor-in-Chief

After 19 years of absence, the newest 2D Metroid game launched on Nintendo Switch, “Metroid Dread,” brings the franchise back to life in a nostalgic yet fresh way.

Developed by MercurySteam and Nintendo, the game follows the intergalactic bounty hunter Samus Aren, sent to the planet ZDR. Her mission is to investigate a sighting of the dangerous parasite, X, thought extinct after the last game, “Metroid Fusion.” Along with X, she is sent to look into the mysterious disappearance of the Galactic Federation’s Extraplanetary Multiform Mobile Identifiers, or E.M.M.I, sent to ZDR before her.

Once on the planet’s surface, Samus encounters a mysterious advisory that quickly defeats her in combat and, in typical Metroid fashion, takes away all of Samus’ abilities, starting her at square one far below the planet’s surface. With this new adversary and the E.M.M.I under someone else’s control hunting Samus, she must fight to survive.

The story of “Metroid Dread” is surprisingly deep with the context from the four other games in the franchise, but its main purpose is as a backdrop to the gameplay, which is extremely responsive and buttery smooth. 

“Metroid” has never felt better, running and sliding at incredible speeds to traverse the large environments of ZDR. The perry mechanic also makes a return from the “Metroid: Return of Samus” remake, fitting the new fast paced gameplay to destroy enemies in seconds.

One big challenge added into “Dread” are areas of the map called “E.M.M.I. Zones.” Within these zones, E.M.M.I. will hunt Samus down, capture and kill her in one hit unless you stun them with a split second parry and run away. This adds a sense of horror to the game that is not only intensely stressful, but also exciting and rewarding once you escape them or obtain a special one time use Omega Blaster to become the hunter.

Finding secret missile, health or ability upgrades is satisfying and easier to do thanks to quality of life improvements like the map which shows which upgrades and abilities you have and have not acquired, highlights general areas where there is a secret wall to bust through and lets you set waypoints.

The game sees returning abilities, like the morph ball ability to roll into tight spaces, and adds new ones to keep the classic “Metroid” formula interesting. There are almost too many different abilities that mis-input or forgetting how to do one is inevitable, making mastery of the game difficult.

The challenging boss fights are cinematic treats. They are all original and varied, taking a few tries to understand attack patterns, adding to the game’s difficulty. 

The game is fairly generous with its challenges. If you die during a boss fight or E.M.M.I. encounter, it will spawn you right outside of the zone or boss room, letting you restart right away instead of backtracking from a save room like in previous games.

To complement the grand scale of the game as a whole, the 3D graphics are the best in the series, giving life, or lack of life, to the environments and enemies you encounter, giving lots of flair to all abilities and making this otherwise 2D side scroller feel as large as a 3D game world. From lush underground forest, red-tinted magma infested caves and metallic abandoned labs, every environment feels different from the last.

Unfortunately, the music of Dread leaves much to be desired, with the music not being as pronounced and memorable as in previous titles like “Super Metroid” on the Super Nintendo, but it still fills the silence while setting the tone for all of ZDR.

“Metroid Dread” is priced at $60 and has a total play time of about 12 hours for 100% completion and eight hours for a casual run. This is short compared to most major games released at the same price, but is passable if you enjoy one of the core values of Metroid, replaying the game in order to get a better time and unlock different pieces of art.

Despite some of the downfalls, “Metroid Dread” is a truly new and exciting entry in the Metroid series that sticks to the roots of the previous games while having its own identity. Hopefully this game will keep everyone waiting until “Metroid Prime 4” or the next new 2D Metroid game in another two decades.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars