For clarification, this review is spoiler-free and will not discuss story details from beyond the first 15 minutes but will discuss the core concepts of what makes this game worth your time and money.
Metroid has been one of many staples within Nintendo’s catalogue of award-winning IPs since the first entry arrived in 1986. Although this was before my time (Alive since 95) Metroid proved to be a hit, as 5 years later a sequel was born, Metroid 2 – Return of Samus. Spanning the 35 years after its introduction we were treated to a series of hiatuses producing multiple series entries. Metroid has long been a nonlinear platform game, dabbling within typical sci-fi action that required the player to plan, explore and learn through various challenges.
Although entries across the board have moved between 2D and 3D through the years, the roots remain within a 2D inspired side-scrolling format. As we look at the latest entry within the series Metroid Dread, from the advertisements alone we can see evidence of the roots that made these games so popular. Combined with a sense of anxiety and horror not yet explored in the series and a beautiful new art style favouring 3D side-scrolling. Dread proves to be a promising addition to the series on paper.
Metroid Dread opens with a short recap of Samus’s adventures, the most recent chapter that is highlighted being Metroid Fusion. Wrapping the details up through a series of simple art slides we are given the current goal of bounty hunter Samus Aran through an entry detailing her plan to visit a planet housing an old foe. Within the intro of the game, the new visual style is highlighted, showcasing just how beautiful the world of Metroid can be. What follows is a series of cutscenes and plot that eventually lead to the age-old trope of ‘You passed out and someone stole all your cool endgame stuff’. It may be a trope, but this ultimately serves to allow the player to progress and earn these powers back, even gaining additional powers in the process.
Gaining powers and moving through the various labyrinths will be how you proceed through this game, with narrated plot points and the odd cutscene also thrown in along the way. The goal of the game is to exit the death trap, however, there is a catch to this tried and tested playstyle. Shortly after you awaken, powerless and admittedly less broad, you encounter a special form of the enemy that sets Dread apart from other entries.
The E.M.M.I. robots that you may have spied on the cover art or in any promotional material are the main source of anxiety in Dread. These tall droids will pursue Samus endlessly and stop at nothing to catch her, pin her and stab her. E.M.M.I.s are fast and when a well-placed shot does nothing, initially your only option is to run and not look back. The saving grace of these mechanical monsters is that they are isolated to specific areas, giving you a chance to catch your breath as you explore. Although there is a way to permanently deal with them, this does not take away from the relentless chases that lead to anxiety-filled panic jumping along the way.
Ultimately this leads to a challenging adventure that will require your patience, reaction and resolve to be tested. The E.M.M.I.s can be seen as mini-bosses as they don’t really require much combat and are more a puzzle to be solved. There are however also several bosses throughout the game that will require more combat prowess. The Metroid series has always required a set amount of skill to progress through its many trials, demanding players be both agile and effective. Metroid dread doubles down on this concept, leaving very little margin for error.
Although this can be seen as quite harsh in comparison to previous titles, a little patience and practice will lead you to victory. If you’re a fan of previous titles, this instalment will reignite the love you had for the series. If you’re new to the Metroid games, this title provides enough to entertain any player who likes a challenge. In conclusion, Metroid dread is an inviting love letter to an age-old series that provides callbacks, challenges and an overall thrilling time.
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