Metroid Dread review: one of the best games in the series

I haven’t gotten lost in a Metroid game since 1994.

It’s like being lost in the hallways, wondering where you should go next. Since the inception of Metroid, every Metroid title has been released. Super MetroidProvided assistance, either through waypoints and simply by offering a more linear experience. But being able to roam over vast expanses of territory without having to give a damn about the future? Hasn’t happened since the days of Ace of Base.

There I was many hours in. Metroid DeadI’m completely baffled about where to go.

Every minute was wonderful.

Metroid DreadThis is the direct sequel of Metroid Fusion, a game that’s almost two decades old. Nintendo explored what happened just after the original. Metroid — with the Metroid Prime series — or it has remade older games with updated mechanics, as with Zero Mission Samus ReturnsIt is. You can also see the continuation of this story here Metroid FusionWhat? We’ve had to wait an astounding 19 years.

Fresh off of wiping out the nefarious X Parasite with a massive explosion — she does that a lot — Samus Aran is dispatched to the planet ZDR, where some new nastiness awaits her. The mission quickly goes awry, and she’s knocked unconscious deep within the planet’s core, with all of her hard-earned upgrades lost.

This structure is quite a departure from Metroid structures that usually start at the surface, then go down. This is the In The fear, you’ll start in subterranean areas that are science’d to heck, with laboratories and metal walls, but as you get closer to the surface, the built environment gives way to ZDR’s natural environments. The norm is soon to be deep oceans or lush swamps.

Samus examines one of the more natural-looking Metroid Dread environments

Image: MercurySteam, Nintendo EPD/Nintendo via Polygon

It is important to keep the Metroid formula in mind when playing with it. Metroid Dread The fearMercurySteam was responsible for the creation of this page. Samus ReturnsRemake of Metroid 2, Samus ReturnsIt is. While it maintained the original’s 2D perspective, that game introduced wild departures from the source material, adding a melee counter and the ability for Samus to aim in 360 degrees, opening up new combat and puzzle possibilities.

Both these items return in Metroid DreadThese actions run smoothly and accurately thanks to the 60 frame per second game speed. But it’s not just the combat that’s enhanced by the Nintendo Switch. Simply moving about the world with Samus is amazing. I can’t think of a 2D game that feels better to control.

It is best to start early Fear!Samus does not have the Morph Ball technique. Instead, she’s able to do a slide, accessing small crevices when she approaches them at speed, like Indiana Jones slipping just underneath a trap door. These slides are fluid and graceful, making even the simplest explorative trips more enjoyable. For the Metroid series, Nintendo is no stranger to making moving through game worlds seem amazing. The fearThe pinnacle.

Samus flees one of Metroid Dread’s EMMII robots

Image: MercurySteam, Nintendo EPD/Nintendo via Polygon

Moving around this world is more than a pleasure. It’s a survival skill that you need to be able to move quickly. There are seven “EMMI” robots that populate the various areas of ZDR, and in contrast to most of Samus’s foes, they vastly outmatch her. Samus’s full power means that you are almost guaranteed death if you get in melee range of any one.

Metroid gamers who like the peaceful nature of Metroid gaming, where exploration is possible without worrying about a robot exploding from a vent, may find this disturbing. These sequences can be interesting, however. The fearThe core game is not what you are playing. For one: These robots are enclosed in specific areas called EMMI Zones, which make up a small percentage of the overall map, so you don’t have to stress about looking over your shoulder most of the time. What’s more, you’ll eventually be able to kill these robots, freeing these zones up for exploration at your leisure.

The EMMI sequences are thrilling; they feel less like sneaky stealth missions and more like frantic games of tag, as you’re grabbing on ceilings or dashing under walls to break line of sight from these metallic killers. It’s another risky change to the Metroid format, but one that pays off in variety and pacing, contrasting the feeling that Samus is this unkillable superhuman.

I will be clear: Samus is not an invulnerable superhuman. Even veteran Metroid players will die more times in Metroid DreadThis is a better option than any other franchise installment. This is an example of a It is hardGame. It’s easily one of the hardest first-party Nintendo games ever made.

Metroid DreadThere are approximately half a dozen boss fights, and two times as many minibosses. They are hard but can be managed and frequently feature returning enemies that have modified mechanics. What about the boss fights? Holy cow, they don’t mess around. This multiphase battle requires near perfect timing. Missing a jump or rocket can lead to an instant restart. One of the midgame battles saw seven attack patterns. I could best describe one as Metroid meets Flappy Bird. It gets wild.

Samus uses the 360-degree aiming mode to fire a missile in Metroid Dread

Image: MercurySteam, Nintendo EPD/Nintendo via Polygon

These boss fights never seem unfair because they are so well-tuned. These boss fights can be overcome if one has patience. These are more challenging than any other. Metroid DreadDark Souls bosses, on the other hand, can be a huge boost in difficulty when compared with the rest. Contrary to some Nintendo games, Metroid DreadThey will not lend a hand. There’s no Funky Kong mode or Super Guide that’s going to get you through these boss encounters.

Outside of boss fights Metroid Dread doesn’t offer up a lot of help. While much of the game is a reimagining of sorts, the exploration bits are incredibly true to the series’ roots. Aside from some (usually worthless) guidance from your AI companion, you’re left on your own to figure out where to go next.

I’m sure some people will find the lack of guidance in Metroid DreadIt can be frustrating. It was gratifying to run through the corridors and chasms to find the exact spot where I could use my last upgrade, which gave me access to an undiscovered path. You feel more rewarded than following a routepoint.

And yet, even though it doesn’t make things explicit, The fear’s map gives you more than enough tools to find your way through this world on your own. The map’s specificity lets you scrub through and see which rooms you’ve explored (or half explored), and seek them out. If you just got the Charge Beam, for example, you can highlight every Charge Beam door that you’ve already spotted — almost like you were taking diligent notes this whole time! It’s a genius way to parse the places you can now explore, without resorting to blunt waypoints. And it’s yet another way that Metroid DreadThis reimagines the classic Metroid principles for the modern age.

Samus delivers a flying kick to an enemy in Metroid Dread

Image: MercurySteam, Nintendo EPD/Nintendo via Polygon

Alongside modern design mechanics, Metroid Dread strives for modern visuals — a tough order for the aging Switch hardware. It’s a 2D game, but the world is fully rendered in 3D, and it looks great when played in handheld mode. It shines brightly on the OLED version of the Switch thanks to the high contrast shadows and vibrant environments. It is not available on the original Switch, or the Switch Lite. Wow factor, but it’s still one of the best-looking 2.5D games ever made.

The game runs on average at 60 frames per second, as I said earlier. Some areas of the game have heightened effects, so there can be some performance drops. Although these frame drops do not affect gameplay in any way, they are sometimes noticeable in a game that is otherwise fluid.

Also unfortunate: The game’s visuals degrade pretty noticeably when it’s played in docked mode. This is what it appears like Metroid DreadIn docked mode, it runs natively at 720p. Try blowing up a 720p image on a 1080p or 4K display, and you’ll begin to see why that’s a problem. The game appears blurrier and more washed-out when played on TV. This is far from handheld mode’s crisp 720p images.

Does it make a difference? You are wrong. Metroid DreadStill very accessible in docked modes. It’s just disappointing that you can’t fully appreciate the game’s visuals on an enormous TV screen.

These performance problems in first-party Nintendo games are rare. This could indicate that there is something wrong with the game. The fearThe Switch was made to be run on faster hardware, which, according to reports, had been expected to arrive in the new year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Switch capable of 4K video. Metroid DreadTo support it. But that’s purely speculative. For now, it seems that the Switch’s hardware can handle The fearIt works fine when used in handheld mode. However, docked mode can be a little difficult to use.

Samus charges up a new weapon in Metroid Dread

Image: MercurySteam, Nintendo EPD/Nintendo via Polygon

All other issues aside, these are the things that I find most captivating. Metroid Dread in ways I haven’t felt since 1994’s Super Metroid. I’m reminded of what it feels like to be left on my own, with no help to guide me, as I scour an unforgiving planet looking for some edge over those hunting me down. It’s terrifying and overwhelming, until it finally clicks and I find that Chozo statue with the next missing puzzle piece gripped in its claws.

The fearThe Metroid-style Metroid game is reimagined with care and confidence, trusting the player to take big leaps. While following its interwoven path of epic boss fights, satisfying upgrades, and otherworldly environments, all I could think was that this is the Metroid game I’ve been waiting for. It stands out among the most memorable entries in the series. I’m eagerly anticipating a new installment in 2040.

Metroid Dread Nintendo Switch will release the game on October 8. Nintendo sent a pre-release downloading code to review the game. Vox Media also has affiliate relationships. They do not affect editorial content. However, Vox Media might earn commissions for products bought via affiliate links. Here are some links to help you find. additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here

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