REVIEW: Metroid: Samus Returns

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

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Perhaps most exciting are the high octane boss fights in the game. You’ll be hunting some 40 Metroids, and while it’s true you’ll face many of the same type, ranging from the basic Alpha to Gamma to Zeta and Omega, the game keeps finding ways to spice these battles up. For one thing, the layout of the arena keeps you on your toes. Sometimes you might fight in a room with lots of floor, others you might be isolated on a rocky island over a pit of lava, being assaulted by angry Metroids. It also goes without saying that each type of Metroid has its own pattern of attacks, though they keep them exciting since the same variety of Metroid might have elemental variants with unique skills. Hot blooded Metroids tend to light the floor on fire while electrical Metroids surround themselves with a field of dangerous energy before charging. It’s good not to get too cocky after getting used to battling them, since even the smallest Metroid can wipe you out if given half a chance. You’ll need to be fast, precise and counter at the right time to guarantee success, and even then, you’re almost certain to take some damage in the bargain. And that’s just talking about the standard Metroids. There are other boss fights I won’t spoil, suffice to say they are some of the most challenging I’ve faced in the series.

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Visually, the game is stunning, and makes great use of the 3DS’ strengths. There’s a ton of detail in every environment, from mechanical ruins with fiery traps to ominous caverns full of purple poison, and much more. Likewise, the enemies in the game are delightfully animated, and each looks different and has a distinct attack pattern. While there are some color swaps, this didn’t bother me overmuch, since a new color meant a more powerful variant, and I appreciated that visual cue. Most impressive were the bosses themselves, all monstrous, hungry beasts. If that wasn’t enough, the cutscenes that occur when you counter a boss are all a delight, as each reveals Samus’ character without her having to speak one word. On the sound side of things, I had a bit of a mixed impression. I know this is a remake, so I should expect old songs to get reused. But my complaint is many of the songs I recognized I believe were from Super Metroid. Though that’s probably the best entry in the series, I wanted Samus Returns to have it’s own unique sound, not riff off the best tunes from the rest of the series. That said, using songs from Metroid II wasn’t really an option, since they have not aged well, and Samus Returns does a good job of making the environment of SR388 come to life. Even if the sound invokes less isolation and dread than the music from Super Metroid, it still does a good job of immersing the player. I won’t, however, complain about the sound effects. From the hum of Samus’ blaster to the screech of enraged Metroids, the sound effects truly make the game universe come alive.

Samus Returns | Metroid Detector

Be a dear and tell me where those pesky Metroids are.

There’s a lot I loved about Samus Returns, but it wouldn’t be fair not to mention those areas I felt that the game missed the mark somewhat. The first instance of frustration happened during a chase sequence, where failure to move quickly results in instant death. This portion required you to turn into a morph ball, and sprint and grapple your way forward as a massive grinder tries to get closer and pulp you. My problem was, the game kept resetting my weapon to Beam attack when I died instead of Grappling Beam, which meant I had to spend precious, frantic seconds using the stylus to select it while avoiding instant death. If I could have just paused the game to equip the Grappling Beam instead, this wouldn’t have been an issue. Another annoyance happened when I got super missiles. Missiles can only be fired while holding the R button, but super missiles also require you to touch the icon using your stylus. As a righty, I can’t easily hold R and also hold the stylus to select the super missiles from the menu. I was basically forced to hold R and use my thumb to get super missiles to work, which is risky and imprecise during battles. If the game would only allow you to customize the controls, even if it’s just switching which button does what, this wouldn’t have been an issue.

Samus Returns | Spider Ball

The Spider Ball is an absolute joy, and makes traversing environments a blast.

My other complaint regards amiibo. As one of those not fortunate enough to secure the new Samus and baby Metroid 2 pack, it also meant I wasn’t getting the full game experience. I don’t mind having amiibo unlock content, but when it’s content integral to the experience, such as unlocking new modes and galleries, there should at least be some alternate method to acquire such features. It’s a slap in the face to fans of the Metroid series who want to experience the full game, but can’t because features were stupidly tied to non essential amiibo. At the very least, if Nintendo intends to continue this practice, they should offer special editions which come bundled with all the requisite amiibo. Gamers are more than willing to pay for such novelties, they just need the opportunity to do so.

Samus Returns | Purple Death

Do yourself a favor and don’t take a swim in that…

Even though it stumbled a little, overall I was quite pleased with Metroid: Samus Returns. I managed to beat it in just over 12 hours with 62% map completion, and only got seriously stuck a handful of times. Not only was this remake gorgeous, but it offers a fantastic return to form for the long running series. If you’re a fan of the series, or are just looking for an excuse to jump on board, you can’t go wrong for only $39.99. Best of all, if the ending is any indication, this might not be the last remake of a 2D Metroid we can look forward to! Here’s hoping Samus is around for many years to come, annihilating alien scum and looking great while doing it.

Review Score

Review Copy Purchased by Author

About Josh Speer

Josh is a passionate gamer, finding time to clock in around 30-40 hours of gaming a week. He discovered Operation Rainfall while avidly following the localization of the Big 3 Wii RPGs. He enjoys SHMUPS, Platformers, RPGs, Roguelikes and the occasional Fighter. He’s also an unashamedly giant Mega Man fan, having played the series since he was eight. As Head Editor and Review Manager, he spends far too much time editing reviews and random articles. In his limited spare time he devours indies whole and anticipates the release of quirky, unpredictable and innovative games.

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