The very first time I played a Metroid game was Metroid Prime on the GameCube, and to be honest, I didn’t like it that much. I thought the atmosphere was rich with a sense of dread and wonder in equal parts but the first person platforming was clunky and the shooting felt heavy, lacking a sense of finesse.
After voicing my complaints about Metroid Prime, I was told to check out Super Metroid on the SNES, and even though it had been over a decade since its release, I thought it was fantastic and consider it as one of the best games on the SNES- a sentiment shared by many.
Since then, I’ve played other entries in the Metroid franchise like Metroid Prime 2, 3 and Fusion but none have really impressed me the way that Super Metroid did, and considering I never played original Metroid games on the NES or its sequel on the GameBoy, I thought it would be the perfect time to check out the remake of Metroid 2 and see what “Samus Returns” has to offer.
Length: 10~ hours to collect everything
After the events of the original Metroid, the Galactic Federation is convinced of the threat the Metroids pose to the galaxy, and task the bounty hunter Samus Aran to journey to a planet infested with the dangerous organisms and wipe them out once and for all.
As is the case with the classic entries in the series, the story doesn’t get any more complex than that. Samus has a job to do and she is a professional with the wits and skills to handle the job, procuring whatever equipment she might need along the way.
Given I never played the original Metroid 2 that this remake is based on, I can’t offer any direct comparisons so I’ll keep it straight and judge it as a standalone game.
Those who have played a 2D title like Super Metroid, Fusion or Zero Mission should know exactly what to expect here, as this is a classic 2D action-platformer with all the familiar tropes.
There are multiple zones with areas you can’t access without specific power-ups. Each zone is also home to a number of Metroids that must be killed in order for Samus to continue to the next area. There are a great number of upgrades littered throughout the map, many of which are hidden quite well. Luckily, the players are given access to a radar of sorts which can be used by expanding Aeion energy.
It highlights breakable blocks and also marks an area of the map along with all its secrets and proved a useful tool as I would use it when I didn’t know exactly how I could get to the next area and it would give me on idea on how I should approach breaking through a particularly tricky set of obstacles.
Other Aeion abilities included a lightning shield that repelled enemies and reduced the damage I took, as well as increase the power of my melee counter. I could also toggle a rapid fire mode which would drain energy with each shot fired but could overheat and destroy enemies that were otherwise invulnerable. Lastly, I could slow down time, allowing for movement over crumbling tiles and other timing specific movement that would be impossible otherwise.
All in all, the Aeion abilities were all quite powerful and forced me to manage my energy meter very carefully so I could have enough to use just what I needed in the right situations.
Outside of Aeion abilities, Samus had the ability to perform a melee counter that would parry a direct attack, leaving the attacking foe vulnerable for a devastating counter attack. The timing for this parry felt a bit too lax and easy to perform for how powerful it was, but it was a bit trickier to use on the tougher bosses, which balanced things out in the end.
Speaking of the bosses, given the context of the story where Samus is trying to eradicate all of the Metroid, she is forced to fight the same mini-bosses over and over again. Even though there are different evolutions of the Metroid as they progressed to become more powerful and elaborate, the fact remains that I fought the same types of mini-bosses dozens of times. It got to a point where I became so proficient at killing them that I was killing even the larger sized Metroid in a matter of less than a minute, and they became more of a chore than an epic encounter.
Luckily, there are some unique massive bosses to encounter, but they all come at the end of the game, where I had long grown tired of the gauntlet of same mini-boss fights. It would have alleviated the tedium a bit to have had those big boss encounters spread out around the game but that’s not the case.
Even though the mini-boss fights felt repetitive, exploring the various different environments was enjoyable from beginning to end, with solid level designs and a steady stream of upgrades as well as new abilities that kept me motivated to chart every corner of the map.
Despite the flaws with its pacing, Metroid: Samus Returns feels like true classic reborn- with all the polish expected of a modern release and stands proudly among the other fantastic 2D entries to the series.
Fun Tidbit – The checkpoints are fairly generous and I never lost too much progress by dying. After completing the game, a hard mode is unlocked along with the ability to use amiibos to gain special items.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.