I’ll fully admit that my first experience with Samus Aran was in Super Smash Bros. I wasn’t able to get the NES or SNES until later in their runs, and even then, I never got to play the original Metroid titles. I did get on board when Metroid Prime and Metroid Fusion came around, and I’ve been with the series ever since (I didn’t get Federation Force though, I have integrity). So when Metroid Dread was announced at E3 2021, I was pumped, and as I hope this Metroid Dread Review shows, it was well worth the wait.
Game Name: Metroid Dread
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 10/8/21
What’s immediately obvious with Metroid Dread from the moment you open up the game is that there is an incredible level of polish in this title. MercurySteam was the team behind Metroid: Samus Returns on 3DS, and they made that game look good as well, but Dread is their crowning achievement so far, and just on looks alone, the game should be heralded as one of the best on Switch. I mean, just look at Samus!
But I’ll get back to the visuals. The story of the game is canonically the most “recent” title. Meaning that it takes place after the Prime Trilogy, Super Metroid, and, most importantly, Metroid Fusion. Samus is dispatched to a planet known as ZDR, where video footage of an X-parasite (the main enemy from Metroid Fusion) has been spotted. Samus is dispatched to handle the situation because she is able to fight them off due to her now very intimate (see: DNA splicing) connection with the Metroid species that used to hunt them.
Of course, nothing can ever be easy for Samus, and within the first few minutes, you lose all your abilities (this time called “physical amnesia”), you meet a warrior-like Chozo who isn’t happy to see you, and you’re put in the bottom-most levels of ZDR and have to find your way back to your ship and get the heck off the planet. Did I mention that was just in the opening few minutes?
What unfolds from there is a sprawling adventure truly worth of the subgenre “Metroidvania”. Because you’ll go from location to location and not just get your powers back, but explore and see all that Planet ZDR has to offer. And it’s a lot.
Not the least of which is because they stuff a LOT of lore within the areas in terms of the places you see, the enemies and bosses you fight, and more. For example, we find out that ZDR was once home to a sect of the Chozo that were warriors. It’s them who were able to turn the planet into this sprawling landscape and as you can see via my screenshot above, they went BIG on this place. Also, your favorite commanding A.I. Adam is back to help you on your journey.
Props to MercurySteam for making ZDR such a unique and engaging place while also giving players a familiar feel and touch to it all.
That goes similarly to the gameplay. Because not unlike with Samus Returns, a lot of what Samus did in that game is back, as well as classic moves like the ScrewAttack, and some new abilities as well.
But to be clear, Metroid Dread doesn’t just hand you everything on a silver platter. You’ll be going a while without some of your most standard abilities, such as the Morph Ball. And you’ll be BEGGING for it at times in the early goings of the game as you KNOW how to get into certain places, but you can’t because you don’t have the abilities to make it through.
Which brings us to one of the most-hyped elements of the games, the E.M.M.I’s. These are Galactic Federation robots that were sent to ZDR to get samples and clues as to what is going on. Turns out, the villainous Chozo known as Raven Beak is able to get control of them, and sets them up in areas for Samus to face.
These are the characters that put the “Dread” in the title of the game. Because especially early on, you have 0% of beating the fully functional ones, and you’ll be doing everything you can to get away and live to fight another day. The simplicity and yet tenacity of the E.M.M.I. makes them truly terrifying. If they lock onto you, you have to struggle to get away, and even though they give you ways to escape even when they catch you…it won’t be easy.
But that’s part of the fun, you’ll push yourself to get away from the robots with every encounter. Just to be clear though, the team at MercurySteam were smart enough to know that you would get bored of these robots over time so each one is special in its own way, and as you go on, your focus turns from them to Raven Beak and his plans for the X-Parasite that just so happens to also be on the planet!
Yep, you thought they were gone, but NOPE!!!
True to fashion, the game gives you plenty of opportunities to go and power up Samus in various ways. Not just with new powers, but with Missile Expansion Packs and Energy Tanks that’ll help you push through in the later parts of the game. And trust me when I say, you’ll need them.
Because the basic enemies can be really tough at times, the E.M.M.I’s can kill you in one shot, you’ll face various Chozo Warriors, including Raven Beak, and of course, major boss fights that’ll have you testing your skills to the limits.
The bosses are truly standouts. You saw some of them via the invisible lizard monster and returning favorite Kraid, but there are others. Such as an “experiment” gone wrong, the Chozo I mentioned earlier, a tentacle monster that you fight while underwater and have restricted movements, and more. You will feel accomplished by the time you beat this game, guaranteed.
I also want to make a special note of how Samus Aran appears and acts in the game. Because if you recall, Metroid Other M did NOT do Samus (or Metroid fans) any favors, but Dread fixes that in spades.
We see her not just in very sharp-looking armor, but in the BEAUTIFUL cutscenes that happen in the game we get to see her in action in ways that just shine. As well as show off her confidence, skills with her weapons, and so on. We even get to see her speak Chozo for the first time! And then in the final battle there’s a moment that is just too cool for words and I won’t spoil, but it shows that NO ONE should try and tell Samus to just die…she won’t.
Speaking of cutscenes, MercurySteam did a fantastic job of blending the gameplay and cutscenes in the game near seamlessly. The only true “loading” screens are when you take elevators or trams or teleporters to new areas, or when you go from a boss fight room back to the regular areas. And they only last a few seconds so it’s no big deal.
This game is rich in visual detail from top to bottom, and as many people have said, it’s just so dang polished it’s criminal. Apparently, this game took 4 years to make and it shows that the time was well spent. Because between Samus, the world, the enemies, the cutscenes, and everything in between, this game is a visual marvel.
So, what holds the game back? A few things, sadly. The first one being that some of the items in terms of the Missile Expansions and the Energy Packs can be REALLY hard to get. They’re scattered all over ZDR and at times you need to do REALLY specific things to go and get them. I ended my run at a bit over 50% and I was fine with that because I heard about some of the ones that require “perfect mastery” of your skills and it…didn’t appeal to me. Granted, I know that 100% unlocks more stuff, but I was fine with just beating the game, because it had been a long time since my last truly new Metroid title.
Another issue was with the control scheme. Because of the plethora of abilities that Samus had, it could be hard to get what you wanted to do done in the midst of a boss fight. Especially when that boss fight was against someone like Kraid, the Chozo Warriors, or Raven Beak. I died multiple times because in the heat of the moment I pressed the wrong button and thus took a lot of damage.
Finally, and I know this won’t be a problem for some, the game did eventually have a repetitive nature to it. Mainly in that you would just go from one new spot to another and get another item just so you could open up a newer spot. The game was able to make you feel the importance of each find, but by the end I was just hoping there wasn’t another thing to find so I could go and handle my business.
In the end though, as this Metroid Dread Review perfectly states, this is a fun title all the way around. Is it my favorite Metroid game? No, but it’s definitely top 3 (alongside Fusion and the original Prime). It’s everything fans have wanted from 2D Metroid for a while, and MercurySteam delivers. Plus, with the interesting story ending, there’s a lot of possibilities for Samus now in terms of where things can go.
If you’re a fan of Metroid, you should get Dread. It’s fun to look at, fun to play, fun to explore, and you’ll be entertained as you play as the best bounty hunter out there: Samus Aran.
Metroid Dread Review
Metroid Dread was a game 15 years in the making, and it was well worth that wait. Full of great visuals, fun enemies, new powers, and a true sense of fear via the E.M.M.I. robots, you’re going to want to try this title for yourself, and then recommend it to others.
- Metroid Dread Review