Metroid’s haunting ambience and dark tone are the hallmark 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 becomes prey as soon as she sets 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 pioneered the concept of exploring non-linear large spaces. Therefore, the ZDR world and all its diverse zones are vital to Metroid’s 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. The environments are alive: rainwater flows down the side of the alien tram system and cool air drifts from the sides on frozen platforms. Exotic bugs cluster around light sources, only to be scattered to the shadows as Samus approaches.
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 most recent upgrades were old favorites that MercurySteam felt obligated. 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 should have started off with her more traditional skills, and left room for better upgrades. Metroid Dread sometimes feels like it’s retreading the same old paths, which is disappointing in an otherwise fantastic experience.
Dread has a few tricks up his sleeve to change the existing formula. The most important addition is the creation of an enemy type known as E.M.M.I. The Extraplanetary Multiform Mobile Identifiers, which are strong robots with a wide range of tools that can make a starship blush, come equipped with powerful gadgets. 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. These intense cat-and-mouse encounters made me sweat and my stomach dropped as I ran for safety.
Samus upgrades her arm cannon at set times in the story. This allows you to flip the script on the E.M.M.I. This encounter requires careful timing and swift footwork. One wrong move could result in you being stuck at Game Over. These challenges are rewarding, naturally. Dread will also face other bosses that present a significant challenge. Kraid, a giant green reptile with three eyes returns. This fight takes place in a tight space. Dodging spikes from his stomach and then running up the sides to hit him in the face with the wall was extremely difficult. These battles are fair because each boss follows a pattern. I felt euphoric after conquering each mountain of combat.
Metroid Fear begins with Samus at the bottom Planet ZDR’s unground network. This inversion is a departure from the standard opening which sees Samus fall into the darkness. It suggests that MercurySteam (the 3DS Metroid developer: Samus Returns), is ready to change 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 is not scary. After turning a corner, I have never been able to get out of my chair and come face-to-face w/ an alien monstrosity. Dread has a strong atmosphere and powerful boss encounters that are sufficient to earn its title. Metroid Dread, despite some hiccups within its timeworn routine is an exciting white-knuckle ride you should not fear.
You can find more Metroid-like Metroid games in our Top 10 Metroidvanias list.
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