Metroid’s haunting ambience and dark tone are the hallmarks of its series. Inspiration from the Alien movie franchise and H.R. Metroid, like H.R. Metroid Dread is a series that’s getting closer. Samus is prey from the moment she steps foot on Planet ZDR. Every deadly creature – and machine – in the world is hungry for Samus’ blood, and she is trapped miles below the planet’s surface, far from her ship. The only way to escape is via the barrel of her cannon. While Samus’ latest adventure delivers the classic exploration-based platforming/action we’ve come to expect, I never shook the all-encompassing anxiety that gives this adventure its name … and I loved every minute of it.
Metroid was the first to explore large nonlinear space. The world of ZDR is essential for Metroid Dread. Contrast to Cataria’s deadly lava flows, the Artaria subterranean waterfalls are a stark contrast. Burenia, however, is the home of a vast underground ocean that’s teeming in carnivorous marine life. This environment feels alive. Rainwater runs along the sides and sides of alien tram systems, while cool air drifts down from frozen platforms. Exotic insects gather near light sources but scatter when Samus comes.
These exotic locales are endlessly rewarding because of the essential upgrades that can be found all over Planet ZDR, like breadcrumbs. A handful of powerful new abilities is incredibly useful. Samus’ storm missiles allow her to secure multiple targets and unleash a torrent of explosives. Dread’s new upgrades don’t include many of the old-timers MercurySteam was required to add. Although Metroid would not feel as good without the morphball, it is disappointing to find this upgrade after hours of playing a Metroid game. Samus could have used more of her classic abilities to make room for newer upgrades. Metroid Dread sometimes feels like it’s retreading the same old paths, which is disappointing in an otherwise fantastic experience.
Dread is able to do a few new things that shake up the formula. One of these new additions, E.M.M.I., is a powerful enemy type. Extraplanetary Multiform Mobile Identifiers (EMMI) are formidable robots that have an array of devices that would make a starship blush. Samus is unable to defeat E.M.M.I.s at a fair battle. Samus must avoid them or hide with a new cloaking device, which grants temporary invisibility. The tense encounters with cat and mouse left me feeling sweaty and I ran frantically for my safety each time.
Samus can temporarily upgrade her arm gun at certain points in the story. You are able to take down the E.M.M.I. These encounters are difficult even for fully-armed people. You need to be careful with your timing and footwork, as one mistake can result in you being stuck at the Game Over screen. These challenges are rewarding, naturally. Dread will also face other bosses that present a significant challenge. The giant, three-eyed reptile Kraid is back. The battle took place within a small space. It was difficult to dodge the spikes coming from Kraid’s belly and then climb up the walls to get him in his face. These battles are fair because each boss follows a pattern. I felt euphoric after conquering each mountain of combat.
Metroid Dread starts with Samus trapped at the bottom Planet ZDR’s vast unground network. It is an inversion to the usual opening, which often sees Samus descend into the center of darkness. This suggests that MercurySteam, the developers of 3DS Metroid: Samus Returns, is prepared to reorganize the Metroid formula. Don’t be fooled; Metroid Dread follows Nintendo’s familiar blueprint for better or worse – but mostly for the better. The journey itself isn’t frightening in any traditional sense. When I came face to face with an alien monstrosity, I didn’t get up from my seat. Dread is a powerful atmosphere, with its intimidating boss encounters. Metroid Dread, despite some hiccups within its timeworn routine is an exciting white-knuckle ride you should not fear.
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