Metroid: Samus Returns
Game review on
Kris Godwin / Sun 8th Oct 2017
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A remake of the 1991 Game Boy title, Metroid II: Samus Returns, Metroid: Samus Returns (sans the II) is Samus Aran's first adventure on Nintendo's popular stereoscopic handheld, and the first traditional Metroid game in seven years.
Considering the 27 year gap between the two games, it's safe to assume there have been a few changes in this remake - but how does the game itself hold up in today's world?
Abandoning the controversial, cinematic approach of Metroid: Other M, Samus Returns is very much a return to the series' roots; emphasising gameplay over needless cutscenes.
Just like the Game Boy original, the game opens with a recap of the first Metroid, with Samus successfully infiltrating the planet Zebes, as she wipes out the Space Pirate menace, their leader Mother Brain, and the dangerous bio-weapons known as Metroids.
Determined to finish off the Metroid threat once and for all, the Galactic Federation sends Samus to the creatures' home planet of SR388, in order to track down a missing squadron.
For new Metroid gamers used to lavish exposition, the bare story may come as a bit of a shock - but this has always been Metroid's main appeal. Events unfold via the player's actions, with everything conveyed visually.
Of course, any Metroid fan knows that gameplay is king in this franchise.
Birthing the popular 'Metroidvania' genre, Nintendo's classic franchise is all about exploring labyrinthine environments, blasting dangerous creatures, and acquiring weapons and items that further open up the world.
Unique to Metroid II was the Metroid hunting mechanic, and it returns here. Basically, the game requires you hunt down 37 of the dangerous aliens, which are scattered all over the world. You need to defeat the required amount before progressing to the next area, and the buggers come in three types - Alpha, Gamma and Zeta.
Despite being a remaster, Samus Returns also introduces some new mechanics. Samus can use a new melee counter attack, which is done by pressing X at the right time. The time frame for this move is fairly generous, and successfully doing it opens your foe for a devastating blast.
Also new are Aeion abilities, which are special moves that allow our favourite bounty hunter to perform such feats like creating a shield, scanning the environment for secret routes, and unleash rapid-fire blasts. These drain your Aeion meter, which can be refilled by killing enemies and finding special caches.
Along with teleports that allow you to backtrack more easily, the rest of the game is textbook Metroid. Varia Suits. Ice Beams. Morph Balls. Grapple Beams. Its all here, and is as satisfying as ever. The whole game feels very good to play, and MercurySteam has done a superb job in capturing the feel of the series.
Of course, Amiibo are used here too. Using the new Samus figure blesses you with an extra energy tank and a refill of Aeion, whilst the delightfully squishy Metroid model reveals the location of the closest of his kin. The Smash Bros. Samus figures also unlock energy and missiles - and completing the game itself nets you the Fusion Mode (a harder mode and a new suit), and an art gallery.
The graphics do their job, but aren't the nicest the 3DS has to offer.
The aging hardware combined with the subdued, realistic art style doesn't paint a very pretty picture - and the low resolution is very evident.
Still, the 3D effects are superb, and the framerate is nice and solid. Don't let the blown-up pictures here fool you - it doesn't look anywhere near as bad on the actual 3DS screen.
Audio is totally Metroid; moody, with subdued tunes occasionally punctuated by monster screams and stressful battle music.
Hip Tanaka's influence is as present as ever, and composers Daisuke Matsuoka and Kenji Yamamoto do an excellent job is setting the sombre tone of the desolate SR388.
Overall, Metroid: Samus Returns is a great comeback.
Being a remake, the game isn't exactly the most revolutionary of the franchise. It feels quite safe in its offerings, but is nevertheless an incredibly welcome addition to the 3DS library.
Welcome home, Samus.