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Metroid Dread review
by Uneducated_Reviews

I used to say that Metroid was my favorite game series, for me it was one of the coolest things ever, like thunder in a bottle. With each game that I played, I simply fell more in love with it, but then after Other M (a game that I really like mind you), my love would slowly but surely disappear. After a long silence from Nintendo (without counting Federation Force, because why would someone count it as a Metroid game?) in 2017 they launched Metroid: Samus Returns as a remake of 2 but I decided to skip it since it was a remake and I’m not that fond of those and because it was made by MercurySteam, a game studio that I only know for making three 3D not so well regarded Castlevania games. However, since the unveiling of Dread I was really curious about it and my flame of love for the series ignited, as it really looked like a pretty good 2D Metroid game, and now that I finished two times I’m glad that I tried it.

Artaria

The story takes place after the events of Metroid Fusion and it finishes some kind of arc that started with the original game, or that is what I heard. If you’re not familiar with Metroid lore, the game starts with a rather lazy anthology of events that explains in a general manner what transpired in those previous games, that aside, Metroid has never been about a dense story or anything so any newcomer to the series should do just fine with this preview. Getting back to the story, Samus accepts a new bounty mission on the planet ZDR as an unknown person (is this a correct way to refer to an intelligent life form?) sent a video to the federation of a living X parasite, an extremely dangerous lifeform that was seemingly extinct by Samus hand. According to Adam (a companion AI), the bounty wasn’t worth the trouble at all but still, Samus accepted it nonetheless. Soon after she arrives at ZDR she confronts a mysterious and powerful Chozo enemy, and the next thing she knows is that she has lost consciousness, downgraded her suit, and the interrogation of why the Chozo decided to let her live? So, part of the story will unravel that mystery.

Metroid Dread forgot about the more conventional narratives that were used in games like Metroid Prime 3 or Other M to do something similar like in Fusion, with some dialogues from Adam from time to time that serves both as lore building and exposition device. The most plot-twisty cutscenes are also pretty expositional by nature, and definitely would prefer a more interpretational approach but they’re not bad, they’re simply not great either. The story has some interesting twists, especially by the end but they also felt a little clumsy and forced to superficially add some stakes if you ask me, again, they’re not bad but aren’t great either.


Boss Defeated

Dread also approaches gameplay and exploration in classic Metroid fashion, making it one of the better if not the best aspects of the game. Combat is ultra-fluid and it's a reminiscence of Other M, with fast-paced movements like dashing and the newly introduced counter maneuver (I believe it was introduced in Return of Samus). Somewhere within the first half of the game we get the skill Flash Shift, which not only has the coolest animation in the game as it lets you evade attacks in a matter of half a second, but it also lets you traverse distances in a faster time.

The combat shines the most while fighting bosses, all of them are mean and defying enemies that will kill you pretty fast if you’re not paying attention as they will take a full energy gauge in one hit, you have to rely on reflexes and common sense to beat them. Countering it’s like a QTE mechanic but done it right, when an attack is countereable a flash like animation will appear in the enemy’s hand, weapon or limb, the catch is that these telegraphs only appear for a fraction of a second so it is quite easy to miss them and get heavy damage if you’re not careful, however, if you’re paying attention and you counter their attack you’ll be rewarded with a critical hit and/or activate a unique animation where you can shoot missiles or normal shots. The game never tells you if you can or cannot attack in these kinds of scenes so you need to rely on your common sense to interact, an approach that I like a lot by the way.

The boss fights only will increase their intensity with each boss you defeat, some of these bosses or mini-bosses are reskinned enemies but they all have some kind of new movement or appear with a partner to make things more interesting and never feel like you’re making a chore or repeating yourself. Of all the boss fights the final fight might be the best in the entire game by far, even of the entire series and I’m not exaggerating. It makes use of most of your arsenal and all the skills you developed in the playthrough, it is comprised of three phases and in a way, it is like solving a puzzle (most of the fights feel a little like that), but the brilliant part is that knowing the answer for that puzzle it is only the 50% of the fight, the other 50% depends totally on your skill level and by the end of a fight the rewarding sensation was almost Souls-like.

There are stalker segments directly borrowed from Metroid Fusion, in these zones you are chased by indestructible machines called E.M.M.I. These segments add good tension while you traverse the map and since every one of these machines has a different ability and their zone layout it’s different between them (not to mention as you progress, they keep getting more complex) they keep things interesting and challenging. E.M.M.I are relentless and ruthless enemies that will one-shot you if you get caught by them, when they caught you, you have two opportunities to counter their attack and incapacitate them for a few seconds to get away, they might be the hardest enemies to counter so it isn’t the most reliable method, but if you happen to cipher their timing you’ll be practically unstoppable, nevertheless, you’ll never feel safe until you take care of them when the time comes. While I don’t think this mechanic reaches the almost survival horror and frenetic atmosphere achieved in the stalker scenes in Metroid Fusion (as those encounters are unique and kinda scripted), it manages to maintain the tension up, furthermore, these set-pieces aren’t heavily scripted so everything can happen.

For those who disliked the more linear structure of games the most recent not-so-recent games, Dread features a lot of free backtracking and navigation. Every Time you arrive at an ambiguous objective you’ll be abstractly hinted to the next one (sometimes it isn’t as ambiguous), and after that you choose if go in that direction or backtrack and explore areas that you couldn’t given your limited abilities. Although I prefer this kind of exploration, navigation it’s a little weird as the ambiguous hints can be pretty unclear and the map display feels a little convoluted and hard to read, it is filled with important information like doors, items, weapons needed, etc. in the form of icons, but all this info can be way too overwhelming.

The difficulty is on the tougher side but nothing too impossible, the only time that I felt that I was overpowered was at the final battle and I was considering if I have enough missiles or not, so I went to explore ZDR to acquire some extra items. Two extra missiles and half an hour later I decided to try the boss again as I didn’t feel committed to do the extra work of acquiring more stuff, and my determination along with more continue screens that I’d like to admit paid off as I conquered the thing. Still, although the rest of the battles weren’t as challenging as the last one, I died at least 4 times in each battle, so expect extreme combat. Depending on your tastes it may or might not offer replayability, after you finish the game depending on your difficulty and completion time you’ll be rewarded with an allusive image to a past game and unlock hard difficulty. In my personal opinion, the awarded images aren’t enough even if they’re cool illustrated, and all of them save the last one only features Samus in her Varia Suit, so unlike Zero Mission or Fusion where you get several helmetless Samus images, this time you won’t have the rewarding feeling of watching Samus’s face and I find that disappointing. Nevertheless, the combat itself was enough for me to give it a second go as I felt that I was taking its full potential till the end, and the game took me 9 hours to complete so it’s easy to try a second playthrough and speedrun it or go full completionist.

My second playthrough took me 4:15 hrs to complete and it was intense and fun, but as stated, getting those images from scenes from other games is not a real incentive for me. If you go the completionist route you will acquire Chozo images which are a little more interesting than the ending ones but nothing too great either, so unless you really are into speedruns I think the game will only offer just two replays.


Quiet Robe

The art direction is pretty good in the character design area, at first, I didn’t like that much the newer Power Suit, although I prefer that with each entry Samus has a newly designed suit, but giving it time to get used to its characteristics and upgrading it to better suits I do think that it has a great design. Enemies are versatile and even when many of them had more Western appeal that I can’t say I prefer over the Japanese one, they’re still good. Environments are somewhat distinctive but they aren’t as interesting to stand out to remember them furthermore, although I really liked that one area which featured some kind of royal Chozo architecture. On the other hand, one of the strongest points of the series aside from its Metroidvania nature is the music.

Past games feature killer soundtracks that put you right in the mood of entering the unknown and being in solitude in a distant and dangerous place. In Dread, I can only recall just a couple of songs (the one that sounds when defeating a boss, and when entering an E.M.M.I. zone), and the rest of them fall into the category of environment background music, which is sad as I understand that series composer Kenji Yamamoto was involved but who knows.


Dread

Haven’t played Samus Returns, I can’t say how much the series has evolved in the hands of MercurySteam so I’m not sure how much of this is an upgrade from that game, however, my time with Dread was mostly positive, as it borrows elements from other Metroid games like Fusion and updates them to newer times. I would prefer a bolder approach in the opening part where Samus is again stripped down of most of her abilities and part of her quest is to get back, as I don’t prefer that kind of repetitive nature in games, but still, that doesn’t hold me to play with a grin on the face the entire time or having a lot of fun trying to defeat a boss even when they have killed me so many times. Still, it is a brilliant return to the 2D Metroid formula and I can see how MercurySteam has once again raised the bar (at least for many people) for the series. Allegedly this entry will mark the ending of the 2D Metroid games story, so let’s hope that the next one will surpass it both from a gameplay and narrative perspective.
«Just one more turn»
«Can’t stop playing»
«Constantly dying and enjoy it»
«Beaten more than once»

Other reviews5

Metroid Dread is basically the culmination of 35 years of Metroid games. It is the Metroid formula, perfected. Samus glides across the screen with ease, animated beautifully in smooth 60fps, dancing across the screen. She can slide, free aim, counter, air counter, sprint counter, air dash and more. It  is graphically amazing and looks fantastic on handheld. I was initially worried that it wouldn't live up to the imaginative sprites from older titles, but in some ways it surpasses them. I would only critique the ost for not being quite as good as prior games, but it is not bad either. I am tired, it is 2am. Review over. Buy the game you cowards its really good i swear
The game punish hard. But if u are willing to put the time to master the combat the loop is good. The animation are top tier and the movement too. The boss are all interesting and well designed with mutiple way of finishing them.  The main issue with the game is that the story is uninteresting, dont play for it. The voice of the ia is shit and u dont have scaner so it s gonna be your ia that gonna talk about evrything that 's needed to say to tyhe player. It s tidious and bad. Except that the gameplay is so good that graphism really imersive and well designed and it s run at a smooth 60fps. got for me
«Can’t stop playing»
«Constantly dying and enjoy it»
Pacing is off, half of the power-ups are useless because you’ll get an upgrade half an hour later, the game is very short, EMMI start out scary but turn tedious very quickly, writing is poor and minor story beats are nonsensical, ADAM (your AI) keeps telling you stuff that the game already told you a couple minutes before, exploration is disappointing since the game tends to close off all routes except the one correct one, power-ups are unsurprising and one of the later ones completely trivialises all combat except for bosses, boss fights consist of running, shooting missiles and QTEs and are very trial-and-error, controls are uncomfortable and complicated, music is forgettable … I do not like this game at all.
Some positive points: EMMI are very scary in the beginning, it runs on 60FPS (I think) and tends to do so quite consistently, the death screen is very cool and reloading after death is quite quick, the game reminded me how absolutely amazing Hollow Knight and Metroid Prime are (which you can get for a lot less than €55,-).