If you would have told me a year ago that we would be getting a new Metroid game this year, I would have said, “alright, sure.” If you had told me that we would be getting a straight-up 2D Metroid game, I would have probably told you to get out of town. Now, if you told me both 3D and 2D Metroid games were coming, I would have probably laughed and secretly prayed that it were true.
Well, it was true. We got the announcement this summer that two Metroid games (TWO) were in the works and that we’d get one of them just a few months later. Well, I got the game and excitedly opened the package like a little boy on Christmas. Similar, I imagine, to how I opened the Metroid Prime Trilogy set several years ago. I threw it in my 3DS and started playing. Now, I’m going to share some of my experiences with you in this Metroid: Samus Returns review.
Samus Returns is a Return to Form for the Series
I’ve been repeating one phrase in my head for months: “Samus Returns is a return to form for the series.” This game is a remake of the second title, Metroid II: Return of Samus, which was originally released on the GameBoy. In the grand Metroid timeline, it takes place right before Super Metroid.
Samus is tasked with eradicating the Metroids on SR388, their home planet. As Samus, you traverse the depths of the planet finding these growing, mutating metroids, laying waste to each of them. You get several weapons, all returning from past titles, to deal with the infestation.
Melee Attacks is a new approach for the series
One of the new portions of gameplay for the series is the melee attack. You can now counter charging enemies with the press of a button to expose their weak spots and take advantage of their recklessness. This is key to the game, even though it becomes less necessary as you progress through your adventure. One issue that I and other have had with the melee attack is how it is mapped to the controls. It is mapped to the X button, which often feels like a bad fit for a reaction command. This would be resolved if the controls could be remapped like in previous Metroid adventures.
On top of the weapons, there’s also expansions to increase your tank of missiles, super missiles, and power bombs, just like most other Metroid games. At the beginning, you feel like you have to strategically choose whether you’ll use some of these limited items, but as you find more, you feel like you can lay waste to the enemies without batting an eye.
Using all of these weapons and combat abilities made me feel like a kid again. The game, as all Metroid games do, keeps powerful weapons from you until the end. You gradually get stronger and stronger and end up powering through hordes of enemies feeling like a beast.
You should 100% complete the game
A lot of people aren’t usually in to collecting all of the items in these games, but I highly recommend doing so. Running through the game at the end while finding the secrets I missed was one of my favorite things to do. Metroid: Samus Returns does a fantastic job at making you feel like a powerful bounty hunter that is truly unstoppable.
Now, you might think that this makes the game easy. I can assure you that that is not the case. Even on normal mode, I died multiple times when learning enemy attack patterns. Some of the bosses deal a significant chunk of damage, especially when you get into the Hard and Fusion Mode difficulties. I appreciated the challenge but also that I wasn’t overwhelmed off the bat. The game handles difficulty really well, especially since you can control how much energy and weapons stock you have.
One of my complaints, however, is having 40 Metroids to eradicate, while only having a few bosses. Boss fights in Metroid have always been one of the highlights of the series, as they require a touch of skill and talent. This game reuses some of the boss fights almost too many times. Gamma Metroids, for example, will run away from you mid-fight, forcing you to chase them down. At first, these Metroids were only mildly annoying, but after fighting sixteen of them, the fights became more of a chore. However, one of the best bosses in the series appears near the end of the game, and having even just one more fight like that would have made me very happy.
Classic Metroid-style Story that Doesn’t Assault You
I’m going to now shift to the story behind Metroid: Samus Returns. I am a huge mythos person, if you haven’t read some of my reviews before. Metroid, in particular, has such a fascinating mythos and lore set surrounding it. There are so many strange planets, species, and events that we learn about in these games. Most importantly, the best Metroid games only give you small pieces of these stories and ask you to connect the dots.
Samus Returns returns to this style of storytelling. Gone are the days of Other M where you feel like you’re playing a horribly written movie and the exposition is a nightmare (see Footnote 1). This game gives you some background at the beginning of the game, explaining your mission, then it throws you on the planet to play. There are small details in the backgrounds, the few cutscenes, and scattered around the map to help you piece together what happened.
Then, upon 100% completion (both of area collection and full game collection), you get access to a gallery of images that provide more backstory. I love how they do this. There is no explanatory text or dialog. You have to figure out what happened. I love this type of story telling. Now, it isn’t quite the same as the scan visor from the Prime trilogy (which is very hard to outdo in a 2D game), but it still gets the point across. Metroid: Samus Returns leaves many of the details to my own intuition.
The Music and Sound are Incredibly Immersive
Metroid music is so good! Metroid: Samus Returns has some fabulous songs in it. They’re all new compositions of some of the more iconic songs from the series, at least in my mind. Two of my all time favorite songs make a return in this game, the “hot place song” (Magmoor Caverns) and the “nature song” (Torvus Bog Subterranean/Brinstar Red Soil). It was almost chilling how fabulous the return of those songs was. The rest of the soundtrack is also fantastic.
My only complaint with the music is the lack of more than a few original compositions. I mean, I understand that this is a remake and that the Metroid franchise has a billion fantastic tracks, but I would have loved some new stuff. We could have also had some recompositions of the music from the original Metroid II game! That would have been fantastic. The only one that was new, or at least a repeat from the original, was the Surface theme. It was good, but again, I would have liked more.
The sound direction is also great. There are a lot of reused sounds in this game, with many of them returning from the Prime trilogy. This didn’t bother me because they’re great sounds and they fit the Metroid atmosphere really well.
If you plan on playing this game, I highly recommend playing with a pair of headphones. The reason is so you can enjoy the fabulous sounds and music. It made the experience so much more immersive and sucked me right in.
Metroid: Samus Returns can Rightfully Join the Other 2D Metroid Games
You know, I feel like I should mention who I think this game is perfect for. I think that it is a great first-start to the Metroid series. If you have never picked up a Metroid game, you should absolutely give this one a shot. I feel that the difficulty, combined with the Aeon abilities, make this game a perfect start for the series. I also firmly believe that the seasoned veteran will also enjoy this game. They might find issue with controls and the requirement of the circle pad, but the amount of exploration and familiarity bring them right back home.
I still can’t believe that this game came out. Nintendo returning to the 2D Metroid series, especially at the end of the 3DS’s life, is something I still can’t believe. I have wanted a new 2D Metroid game for years, and I truly believe that this game delivers. While it isn’t perfect, I really appreciate the time and effort that was put in this game. I had an absolute blast playing this game, and I can’t wait to see more games like these. This game can rightfully join the other 2D Metroid games in my collection.
- I firmly believe that a good Metroid game could have a more cinematic experience with cutscenes and dialog, even more so than Metroid Prime 3: Corruption had, but I’ll save that post for another time (please remind me on Twitter that I made this promise).
The copy of Metroid: Samus Returns used for this review was purchased by David and not provided by Nintendo. You can read our ethics policy for more information. The links to purchase below goes to Amazon.com or Target.com. Purchases made through those links may give us a small commission fee at no additional cost to you.
Metroid: Samus Returns
- Classic Metroid gameplay with a modern twist to keep things fresh
- One of the best bosses in the series
- Cool new abilities to ease the learning curve
- Music and sound direction is on par with the rest of the series
- Unmappable controls make it difficult to find a comfortable scheme
- Circle pad lacks precision of the D-pad for more technical techniques
- Doesn’t take advantage of the New 3DS extra buttons
- Not enough non-Metroid bosses