Metroid Dread – Samus Returns…again

I’m a sucker when it comes to hype. Initially when first announced I was midly intrigued, but not enough to count down the days to release…then the reviews appeared. An initial barrage of 9/10’s with the odd 10 sprinkled in, my eyebrow was raised. Having played numerous entries in the Metroid series (Prime trilogy, Fusion, Zero Mission, I had dabbled briefly with Super) and completing a grand total of none, I didn’t think this series was for me. Until I bought Dread. And my cumulative total of completed Metroid games just jumped up by one.

This is such a well designed, yet unusual game. Both open and linear, it follows the same pattern as old Metroid games where you explore a map, find new items and powers, this then opens up new areas that were once locked, beat a boss, rinse and repeat. Metroid Dread does follow this logic, but the way it funnels you between areas is some magical design. While some may disagree, there was only once where I became lost for longer than ten minutes. Right before finding a new ability there’s usually a new way that becomes accessible slightly before, so there’s not a long period where you’re not finding anything new. Of course, you could just go further back and find hidden health and missile pick ups too if you so wish.

Exploration of course is only part of it, then there’s the combat. A new counter move is at your disposal, pressing the button just as an enemy flashes allows you to quickly parry an attack, something that becomes vital for later in the game, particularly because of the boss battles. A lot has been said about the bosses in the game, for me, they are for the most part perfectly balances. Yes, they are difficult for the first time when you encounter them, but this is all about pattern recoginition. Each new attempt at the boss you will slowly learn their pattern, and by the end of it you’ll beat them and barely take any damage. It never feels like anything is completely random, with every boss attack being able to be dodged, in part thanks to the brilliantly smooth controls of Samus.

The game just feels so good. By the end of the game you’ll be dashing and sliding everywhere, it feels great. The only downside being that the standard analogue stick of the Switch can be a little fiddly when you’re trying to do something more specific. For instance, ducking you have to hold the stick down perfectly, a little to the left or right and Samus just keeps running while holding her gun at that angle. It’s not ideal.

The one element of Dread that has become somewhat controversial are the Emmi’s. These robots explore certainly parts of the map and cannot be killed by conventional means. If you’re in close proximity they can hear you and give chase. It’s not until you find the specific weapon in that area that they can then be killed. They are a tense addition to the game that almost provide a new puzzle element as you try and find the fastest and quickest route through the area without getting caught. If they do catch up with you though then you have a last ditch counter that you can perform. This is designed to be incredibly difficult to get and if you reach the point of getting caught then it’s probably about a one out of ten chance of surviving. If you do die at this point though then the game thankfully just sends you back to the entrance of the Emmi room, and because of how fast Samus moves, you’re back where you were within seconds. Personally I really like the Emmi encounters, it provided a nice challenge that broke up the combat/exploration and never really became too frustrating.

There was one final moment of the game during the last boss where upon failing the post fight QTE I ended up having to restart the final boss. Unfortunately one downside of the game is that the QTE design seems to be stuck in the past with bosses not only requiring them to beat but also punishing you incredibly severely if you mess up.

Despite that final moment leaving a slightly bitter taste in my mouth, it’s not really enough to damage the quality I found in Metroid Dread. A good world to explore with a nice atmosphere, partly helped by the music (and yes, some of the more famous Metroid musical stings are present). With sales figures exceeding expectations I fully expect Nintendo are gearing up ready for a sequel and all I can say is, yes please, give me more.

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