Developer: Mercury Steam
Release Date: 10/08/2021
Available Exclusively On
Metroid has finally returned with a 2D game after almost two decades. With various spin-offs and portable outings, everyone wondered when Samus would return to her roots. The team behind the excellent Castlevania: Lords of Shadow series tackled this entry and did a fantastic job. There are some major additions to the game plus classic gameplay that any fan will immediately get sucked into.
Thes story isn’t much to talk about. It’s no different than many other Metroid games with Samus stuck on a planet and you add Metroids, a mysterious sinister force, and Samus trying to escape/stop the Metroids from their evil doings. The story doesn’t pick up until the final scenes, but it’s there to hold the game together and isn’t anything special. Samus starts out powerless, like every other game, and it’s your job to navigate the labyrinthine areas with various terrain types and try to reacquire your abilities to navigate around and advance through the areas. There are a ton of abilities to unlock. About a dozen and in between are boss fights and tons of Energy and Missible tanks to find. These are scattered and hidden throughout the entire game and some are incredibly difficult to find due to various abilities or advanced techniques that need to be learned.
Various abilities include the Power Bomb, Screw Attack, Phase Beam, and Gravity Suit, among many others. Some are classics some are new, but I feel the upgraded phases of the power beam and bomb are just to pad out the game. The missile also gets three different upgrades, and I felt it was kind of unnecessary. The game uses hot and cold to lock out certain areas and your missile is affected like this as well including your suit. The game could have been much simpler and more enjoyable with about six fewer upgrades and smaller areas. I played the entire first half by myself and this is when things started getting way too complicated. I love Metroidvania games and have finished previous games without a guide, but getting most of the upgrades required a guide. Specifically, ones that require using the Speed Booster which requires insane skills and perfect timing. Some upgrades took me an hour just retrying over and over until it became muscle memory.
This also falls under boss fights. They require precise attack memorization, and complete and total focus and mastery over the controls. This game can be incredibly hard and I can see many owners of this game never finishing it. The final boss had three phases and it took me nearly two hours to perfect the timing for each attack in each phase before I could beat him. I understand old-school gamers will love this, but it became a chore when boss fights are repeated often, sometimes three-fold, just to pad out the game more. While they became easier since it was the exact same boss thanks to new skills, it just got old after a while. The extra repeated boss fights could have easily been cut out. Most of them don’t even reward you with a new ability.
This leads to the game being way longer than it needs to be. My final timer said 9 hours, but if you include all the deaths it was closer to 12. If you don’t bother with the extra upgrades you could finish this game in about 6-8 hours, but there’s tons of backtracking, you’ll get lost frequently, and some areas seem obtuse on how to access them. Many blocks will have symbols that show which ability is needed to pass and then there are certain doors that require certain abilities as well. One new addition to combat is the counter move and this is essential for winning boss fights. When the enemy flashes you can press a counter button to do massive damage. This will also make regular enemies easier as the game goes on. There are maybe two dozen enemy types in the game.
The last thing I want to mention, and probably the most controversial thing that has divided fans are the E.M.M.I’s. These are certain areas that have a robot chasing you and you must find a way to destroy it. A lot of times you are trekking through these areas multiple times before finding the big gun that can kill them. They can climb up walls, on ceilings, and through Morph Ball tunnels. There’s no beating these guys the old fashion way. There are many other factors slowing you down such as water, doors, and various obstacles. They don’t notice you right away. They have a yellow cone that will detect you even through walls. Make too much noise and they will come running as well. If you get caught you get two chances to counter to stun them and keep running, but if you die you start back at the beginning of that zone which isn’t too bad. They don’t stalk you through the entire game thankfully as they are confined to their dedicated zones. I’m torn between this new feature. On one hand, they are well-made enemies and it’s satisfying when you find the gun that blows them up, but again it also slows the flow of the game down. You sometimes have to Cloak and hide from them or find the perfect path through a zone and die numerous times. I won’t miss them if they never return.
Visually the game looks among the best on the system. No slow down and smooth animations and crisp audio throughout. This was the first game officially launched for the Switch OLED and was designed with the screen in mind. It looks amazing on the system with colors that pop and really show off the new large screen. Sadly, pre-rendered cut-scenes run at 30FPS and it feels kind of jarring. Once you finish the game you unlock Hard mode and Boss Rush mode, but I found no reason to go back unless you want to complete the game 100% or increase your completion time. This is a Metroid game I doubt I will go back to just because of how many things slow the overall flow down. The E.M.M.I’s, the extra abilities that don’t add much, and the frequent repetitive bosses. It’s a solid Metroid game outside of these design choices.