Last Friday, the seven year wait of one of my beloved franchises made it’s long awaited return to glory. Metroid: Samus Returns was released, and I happily returned home from work that day to see the glorious box awaiting on my door step. This was the one Metroid game I was hoping for a remake, since I never got to properly experience the original, Metroid II: Return of Samus on the Gameboy. I quickly unpacked it, posted a silly video to twitter, and went underway into hunting down the Metroids.
I was a bit surprised, as I made a misjudgment in my purchase. For whatever reason, I thought the reversible cover with the art from the Gameboy version of Metroid II was included with the standard version of the game. So I was a bit disappointed to learn that I didn’t end up getting this, through my own error of course. The meat of the package is the game and the experience that comes along with it thought, so I didn’t waste time crying over spilled milk and got right into things.
The opening moments take me right back to those of Super Metroid. In a similar fashion, it starts out with an awesome rendition of the opening theme, along with text citing the events of the original Metroid game, accompanied by awesome art to go along with the recap. These pieces are amazing, as there’s tons of detail. I love the image above, showing Samus taking out Motherbrain with a Metroid clinging to her arm, and a couple other Metroids in the back ground. One appears to be frozen by the ice beam, while another is on fire! Poor thing…
Once you set down on the surface of SR388, the game opens up, and it’s appeal hit me right away. The controls are tight as fuck. Controlling Samus is amazing. She’s quick, agile, responsive, and now she can aim in a full 360 degree radius around her. The possibilities of what you can do as Samus seem endless at first.
It’s a bit trippy to get accustomed to the quick, tight controls. When I play 3D games, these days, I associate it with realistic physics. I would expect Samus to take time to accelerate to run and expect her to slow down to a stop. Instead, Samus’s controls feel just like they are straight out of Zero Mission, where Samus moves incredibly quick, and I love it. It’s quite liberating to play a 3D side scrolling that moves and feels this way.
As you go through and start learning some of the new mechanics and gain upgrades, this feeling seems more apparent. As Metroid games do so well, they make you feel more powerful as you keep progressing and finding new abilities. The new melee ability is very fun to execute, and can be tough to pull off against certain enemies, especially when they are in groups. However, if timed right and followed immediately by a well place shot, you can kill your enemy in one hit, and it feels pretty damn good to do.
The ability to aim freely around Samus is god send. Not only does it make dealing with swift enemies easy, the controls are very fluid. It’s incredibly easy to take aim and lay waste to enemies. It also adds style to how Samus takes on her foes. Having her dodge attacks and aim back at enemies behind her looks so damn cool.
Finding upgrades is as fun as ever. There are missile upgrades littered just about everywhere, and passage ways that aren’t accessible initially. Once you obtain certain upgrades later, you quickly remember those areas and head back to receive your reward.
What’s apparent quickly is walls contain very hard to spot areas that can be broken with your cannon, missiles or bombs. At first I was a bit disappointed with how this was handled. Metroid: Samus Returns, forces the player to rely on hints the game gives you, simply because these hiddens passages are extremely hard to identify. This can be anywhere from using statues to reveal Metroid locations, or using your Aeon Scan ability to expose structural weaknesses in walls, or reveal unexplored segments of the map.
I’m a bit of a purest when it comes to Metroid, so I actually prefer the game to not have to tell me these things. Take Metroid Prime for instance. The first thing I do when playing any of the games, even on my first playthroughs, was disable the hint system. I love the challenge in getting lost in the worlds of Metroid.
However, as I played through this sequence a few times in finding Metroids, by no means is it obvious or easy on where you need to go even when it’s marked on your map. The game gives you a slight nudge in the right general direction, but you still need find the secret passage way to get there. As mentioned, these passage ways are incredibly hard to spot and you’ll have to shoot and bomb every nook and cranny until you find them.
By the time I came to terms with this, I started exploring previous areas of the map. Using the spider ball, I traversed every ceiling and wall I could leaving a trail of bombs to expose any hidden passages or upgrades… yes, I do love finding things in Metroid.
It brings me back to an experience I had when I first played Super Metroid, and my agonizing journey in trying to find Kraid’s lair. For anyone who has played this section, you will know the entrance to Kraid’s lair is hidden behind a wall, breakable using a super missile. This is also in a very ordinary room, being the elevator from Brinstar to Norfair. The problem and challenge is, the wall looks like a regular wall. The only give away that there is something behind the wall is if you obtain a full read out of the map for Brinstar. This shows you an unexplored room next to the elevator to Norfair.
This journey to find this hidden entrance proved to be one of the most frustrating and enduring things I encountered in Super Metroid. I spent what felt like weeks running around every accessible area and just kept banging my head on the wall. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where I needed to go next. It was only when a friend of mine had their dad record the solution for me on VHS, and showed me how to access Kraids lair (some pre-youtube stuff).
My point about this story, is it taught me this is how Metroid works. You will get lost and you need to clue in on the smallest of details to be able to find secrets and advance. The hint here being the map showing the room next to the elevator. Samus Returns still manages to play on this element, despite giving a slight hint on where to find the next Metroid on occasion, without feeling like it’s giving too much away. It retains the challenge I love about Metroid games and finding your way through under ground labyrinths to your next goal.
Visually, Samus Returns looks great. The 3D graphics at first seem a bit primitive, but seeing the game run in action is a treat. Enemies are well animated and have nice queues that indicate their time to attack. The 3D effect is also implemented very nicely and adds alot of depth to any scene. There is also a haze like effect on certain segments that help set the tone in certain areas. The back drops are also spectacular, as certain areas will show of vast open areas with waterfalls or ruins in the back ground. It really helps make each environment stand out and keep things varied, which is something Metroid games do so well. No place ever feels the same.
One aspect I love in Samus Returns, is the attention to detail. There are a lot of environments I still need to explore, but so far, seeing the little touches that draw your eyes to the outer edge of the screen is very cool. Take for instance this vertical segment below. Along the outer walls, in the fore ground, there is a little critter crawling about. At first I thought it was an enemy that I could somehow get to, but realize it was purely for cosmetic purposes. In good old Metroid fashion though, it brings SR388 to life, reminding you there’s more than just enemies about here.
One area that hasn’t quite captivated me is the music. The tracks are rendered nicely, but I’ve yet to encounter any memorable music like in other Metroid games, besides the opening theme. Sound effects are good and I enjoyed playing Samus Returns with my big old headphones, to really add a boom to everything.
The enemies in Samus Returns are what sets this game apart from it’s other 2D counter parts however. In previous 2D Metroid games, the bulk of the enemies usually aimlessly wandered around, and didn’t seem to have much purpose in life, besides the occasional Metroid and Ninja Space Pirate.
In Samus Returns, the enemies now have a new found purpose, and that’s to put the hurt on Samus. Enemies are pretty relentless. At first sight of you, they’ll charge towards you, and when they hit, deal quite a bit of damage. If you are careless, two enemies can pose trouble and can probably take you out pretty easily. This is where the melee mechanic becomes very important, as it gives you an avenue to take out enemies quickly with a bit of patience. This whole new aggressive outlook on the enemies give it a feel like things out of Metroid Prime. Enemies feel more intelligent as a result, and react to threats near by, instead of mindlessly crawl up and down walls.
I think by now, you all can gather that I really love this game. After a long hiatus from getting quality Metroid games (Yes, I’m one of the few who enjoyed Other M), it’s so good to finally have Metroid: Samus Returns in our hands. I look forward to completing the game and eventually taking on the games hard modes, and perhaps getting 100% of the items and upgrades available. Of course, as tradition dictates, I’ll definitely churn out a full fledged review once all is said and done.
What about you? Have you picked up Metroid: Samus Returns? What are your favourite things about the game? Let’s get chatting in the comments section!