Metroid: Samus Returns
Welcome back, I missed you
Posted on September 27, 2017
I don't remember how I ran into Metroid
games. Before I bought Super Smash Bros. Brawl
in 2008, Zero Mission
was nothing but a random game with a cool robot dude on the cover, which is why I never bothered to buy it. I'm happy I got into the saga late, otherwise it would have made 13 years without a new 2D installment that much more painful. But Samus is finally back, thanks to the combined efforts of Nintendo and Spanish studio Mercury Steam, who also worked on Castlevania
, with mixed results. Was it worth the wait?
Here we go again.
Being a Metroid II: Return of Samus
remake, Samus Returns
follows the same plot as the original. After the events of the first game, the Galactic Federation realizes how dangerous Metroids are, and decides to scout their home planet, SR388. After a team of soldiers went missing, the Federation entrusts this job to Samus, who then immediately sets off to put an end to the threat once and for all.
After the relatively long intro, there's not a single word spoken in the entire game. There's only a handful of cutscenes, they all last a few seconds, and they do their best to portray Samus as the badass bounty hunter she is.
Don't expect an epilogue the size of Zero Mission: story-wise it's largely the same, only much longer and with a handful of very-welcomed additions.
The 3DS is a very, very old handheld by now, yet Mercury Steam managed to create a stunning, breathing world, despite the 2D perspective. Small crabs walking around, huge crystals crumbling down, Metroids flying around, weird sea creatures diving in a small pond, the backgrounds are amazingly detailed, as is Samus herself and her animations. I especially like the new design of her suit, the more "aggressive"-looking visor (awfully resemblant of Dark Samus's), the neon lights here and there, etcetera.
Your journey will be accompanied by a large variety of music. You'll listen to rather quiet (maybe too
quiet), atmospheric takes on Metroid II's soundtrack, soothing or intense remixes of themes found in other games as well as all-new compositions, and they all sound amazing.
Sound design in general is really good. Be it running, landing in Morphball form, bumping into an enemy or whatever, every sound effect is distinct.
Xenomorphs are back, now greener than ever.
Metroid II was a very different game from the rest of the series. Since you were forced to search for and kill every Metroid in a given area before being able to proceed to the next, instead of only being limited by your current power-ups, less emphasis was put into exploration, resulting in a more linear experience. Samus Returns has the same basic structure, but each area is now infinitely larger and filled to the brim with secrets, many of which are bite-sized puzzles, and some of which, following the series' tradition, can only be accessed later on. Helping you find your way is the first of the newly-introduced Aeion Abilities, the Scan Pulse. When used, part of the area around you will be automatically added to the map, including hidden items. If you don't want any kind of help, you're free to explore the depths of SR388 without it.
Given the sheer size of each area, backtracking could've been a nightmare. Thankfully the introduction of (sparse) Teleport Stations, the fact that the map is always present on the bottom screen and that you're free to place up to ten markers on it, greatly mitigate this problem.
Samus will automatically aim on the enemy she counterattacked.
The Aeion Abilities and fast travel aren't the only new additions to the series. The most prominent example is the counterattack. Press X, and Samus will perform a vertical sweep with her arm cannon which, when used during an enemy's lunging attack (when it flashes white), will leave it temporarily stunned. I wasn't keen on this idea at first, but not only are they extremely satisfying to pull off, but they feel like a natural extension to Samus's abilities, and you won't be able to rely on them nearly as much a few hours into the game. Before then, you won't have a choice, your beam is extremely weak at first, and you only have so many missiles.
While previous games only allowed her to aim diagonally, holding the L button and then rotating the 3DS' Circle Pad, will let her stand still and let her aim at 360 degrees. I love this, it makes me feel much more in control of Samus, though people might say that finding a good position to shoot was part of the challenge. But don't worry, there's plenty of challenge, as Samus's opponents, be it Metroids or regular enemies, have never been this fierce, agile and resilient. This is not an easy game: doing so much as touching your enemies might even make you lose an entire Energy Tank, or even more. This increase in difficulty made certain encounters, which you would have otherwise "tanked" through in older games, some of the best in the entire series. Sadly, enemy variety is lacking: you'll find yourself fighting the same "bats" and "spiders" over and over again, only recolored for the occasion.
In the end, no matter how many different iterations of Return of Samus I play, it will always lack that je ne sais quoi that made me fall in love with entries such as Super and Zero Mission. The joy of sequence breaking, the joy of finding a very important door and coming back to it hours later, it just isn't there. Yet, I still really, really like this game.
Because Samus Returns isn't just a Metroid II remake: it's a love letter to everything Metroid, one that every 3DS owner should read, long time fan or otherwise.
Go buy it at the speed of sound.