REVIEW: ‘Metroid Dread’ – An Emblem Of Everything the Defined the Genre (Switch)

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Metroid Dread - But Why Tho

Metroid Dread is the long-awaited sequel to the 2D Metroid series, developed by Nintendo and Mercury Stream and published by Nintendo. After her misadventures in Metroid, Metroid Samus Returns, Super Metroid, and Metroid Fusion, Samus has been lured to a mysterious planet ZDR by a video of a stray X Parasite.

There is a reason that an entire genre of games is named, in part, after the Metroid franchise. I’ve played a lot of Metroidvanias over the years, and almost none compare to the progenitors. Metroid Dread proves the series’ mastery over progression in adventure games once again. Metroid Dread is a simple game at first. You begin with a mystery, your powers are (shockingly) gone, and all you have at your disposal is your trusty arm cannon, a parry move, a jump, and a slide. But over time, you will amass all kinds of powerups, gadgets, weapons, and capacity increases. With each new acquisition, you’ll have to retread old ground and explore familiar locals anew in order to progress and find all of the game’s hidden secrets.

This style of gameplay has become fairly ubiquitous over the decades, but Metroid Dread does it expertly. It’s not a game where your new unlock gets you somewhere obvious from early in the game once and then doesn’t matter much later, like so many of its brethren. Yes, the game is more or less linear. But it’s filled with twists and turns across a well-constructed map and encourages constant exploration in equal measure to second-guessing whether you’re going the right way. I appreciate the bioluminescent bugs that fly under lights letting you know you’re going the right way every now and then, but I’ve also had the most fun getting lost I’ve had in a game in some time.

Samus is up to her old tricks and some new ones as you acquire more and more powerups. They’re all as satisfying as ever to use, although the control scheme for aiming your cannon and switching to missiles feels somewhat unintuitive or clunky. The pace at which you unlock new things is perfect, keeping you feeling like you’re progressing at a great pace even though there is always so, so much more to be done still every time. Absolutely gorgeous graphics, including intricately designed movement for Samus’s model, help the game stand out, feeling very current and very engrossing. There are also a number of different types of instances where the perspective briefly shifts away from 2D for QTEs, cutscenes, or certain actions that add to the modern feeling of the game.

Metroid Dread also earns its name, in particular. The game isn’t just a retread of the same gameplay from entries past. Seven robots called E.M.M.I.s were sent to ZDR in advance of Samus to investigate the planet, but they have each been corrupted into terrifying and deadly menaces. Throughout the game, each E.M.M.I inhabits a certain area, clearly demarcated by special doors, dreary music, and grey, icy visuals. These murderous fiends can crawl through small access spaces and sneak up on you for near-instand kills. You must find constant ways to dodge them, run past them, and otherwise avoid them until you can acquire powers that let you take them out. The only way to survive them once they’ve spotted you, other than running as fast as you can and escaping their zones, is a quick time event that never has the same timing twice and is genuinely difficult but very satisfying to pull off.

Difficulty as a whole scales great in Metroid Dread. Enemies are constantly evolving to become more and more difficult to kill as your weaponry advances along with them. And the boss battles are equal in their challenge scale. They have familiar weakpoints to any veteran Metroid player, but their patterns are challenging to learn and fun to master.

The only real issue I found was that, especially playing with Joycons, it was not always as smooth to control Samus as I’d hoped it would be. The worst was when it came to jumping and moving at the same time, where I would often simply not go any other direction besides upwards, despite the inputs I thought I made. This was also true of attempts to grab ledges, where it felt completely unintuitive and failed more often than not. Crouching and Morph Balling felt similarly too.

Metroid Dread is not only an excellent game and return of a beloved franchise, it’s emblematic of everything that defined the genre in the first place in a way that many modern Metroidvanias simply aren’t. Its exploration, upgrading, and re-exploration are never spoonfed to you and feel constantly like great accomplishments with great difficulty scaling and thrilling new mechanics and atmosphere.

Metroid Dread is available now on Nintendo Switch.


Metroid Dread
  • 8.5/10
    Rating - 8.5/10
8.5/10

TL;DR

Metroid Dread is not only an excellent game and return of a beloved franchise, it’s emblematic of everything that defined the genre in the first place in a way that many modern Metroidvanias simply aren’t. Its exploration, upgrading, and re-exploration are never spoonfed to you and feel constantly like great accomplishments with great difficulty scaling and thrilling new mechanics and atmosphere.