After years and years of waiting for Metroid Prime 4, we get Metroid Dread instead…from literally out of nowhere. Even better, it’s a 2D Metroid! To quote Sheev Palpatine, ‘It’s a surprise to be sure, but a welcome one.’
As a fan of Metroidvanias, there’s practically zero chance I would pass up playing Metroid Dread, especially since I love the Metroid series.
Now that I’ve played Metroid Dread? Is it any good?
What is Metroid Dread?
Metroid Dread is the latest in Nintendo’s Metroid series. It’s a 2D action adventure game (with 3D visuals) with a heavy focus on exploration and backtracking. The game is a single player experience developed by Mercury Steam (makers of Castlevania Lords of Shadow) and Nintendo.
Canonically, it’s the latest in the series as well, taking place after Samus’ disastrous mission in Metroid Fusion for the Game Boy Advance. After barely surviving her fight with the X Parasite, Samus finds out that there may be more of them out on a far flung planet.
The game actually starts off after Samus’ landed, with her going up (and losing) against an unknown Chozo warrior. All her equipment and upgrades destroyed, it’s up to Samus to survive and get new gear to combat this unknown threat.
From then on, the game plays like your traditional Metroid game, with Samus exploring multiple areas to uncover new gear that can unlock previously unpassable locations. It’s all routine…except for one thing; the E.M.M.I.s.
There bad boys are the Earth Federation’s special scout force that was initially sent to the planet to determine whether the X Parasite was really on-site. Somehow, they’ve been corrupted and now hunt Samus instead.
They’re not normal enemies either. They’re pretty much indestructible and chase Samus down with unstoppable resolve as soon as she enters one of the areas they patrol. Once they lock on to Samus, they’ll stop at nothing to capture her.
If they do, it’s game over!
While you’ll get upgrades that let you escape them easier (such as a dashing teleport and stealth camouflage) but these only stave off the E.M.M.I.s for a few seconds at best.
The only way to stop them is with the Omega Cannon, a blaster upgrade for Samus that can be used once before its energy dissipates. You’ll always need an Omega Cannon blast to take out an E.M.M.I and it’s always a relief when you manage to absorb the energy needed for it from these brainy mini-bosses.
That’s because you know it’s finally time to take out the E.M.M.I. that’s been a pain in your ass throughout the area you’re currently in.
There is an alternate way to tackle E.M.M.I.s, though it’s temporary and mostly based on luck.
Samus now has a counter move she can perform whenever an enemy flashes. Time it right and you’ll stun the enemy and allow Samus to pull off a killer counter hit.
The counter also works on bosses, if done right and even E.M.M.I.s.
Countering E.M.M.I.s are tough though. If you mess up, you be dead. It’s best left as an emergency move and not something you want to rely on constantly. That’s due to their attack flash being random! You can’t predict what’s coming when you don’t know it’s coming. Only luck will save your asses then.
Other than the E.M.M.I.s, Metroid Dread is classic Metroid, which is a great thing in case you’re wondering.
The exploration elements are top notch, and it’s always a joy to access new locations. The drive to upgrade Samus is a primary factor in why the game is so fun. You’ll always be tempted by the game with unreachable items or an inaccessible doorway.
I do wish that the game had some form of quick travel though. Sometimes the room you want to go to is on the opposite side of the map or worse, on another map entirely. That means you’ll need to waste time trudging through a ton of rooms just to get there.
It’s just boring and serves no purpose.
It’s a great feeling when you finally have the gear to nab them or open up new pathways that stymied you before though!
One thing that seems to have been relaxed somewhat is Metroid’s unforgiving difficulty. Enemies don’t seem as relentless, nor do they hit as hard this time around. I played the game with the Nintendo Switch’s Pro Controller and it made everything a breeze.
The fixed aim mode (L trigger) makes pinpoint targeting (which includes the always tricky diagonal shots) incredibly easy to pull off. That means it’s easier than ever to hit enemies from weird angles. It’s especially useful for bosses, who usually have a small weakpoint that you need to target.
Speaking of bosses, there are quite a handful of them…including some faces fans of the series might find very familiar.
All of the bosses have their own unique fight mechanics and it’s fun finding them out and abusing them to punish them. If you’re good enough, you can even counter them when they do certain attacks, which will allow you to dish out massive amounts of punishment via a cool interactive cutscene.
That brings me to another point; the visuals. The graphics in the game are pretty damn good, even though they’re presented in a 2D fashion. Character models are very detailed, the environments are nicely animated with stuff happening in the background and the animation fluid.
I love the attention to detail that Mercury Steam’s infused Samus with, especially when you fire off a fixed shot behind her. Instead of turning her body around (like most games would do), she just twists her hips instead!
The frame rate is pretty stable at 60FPS too, which makes everything flow smoothly.
The only thing I’d have wanted better was how loading’s handled.
Getting back in the game after a death takes about 5 – 10 seconds, which is an eternity. 10 – 15 seconds seems to be the timing for area transitions. Perhaps gaming on the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X with the SSDs have spoiled me, but I found that to be a damn long time to wait.
The Bottom Line.
Metroid Dread is undoubtedly one of the best Metroid games of all time.
It successfully fused the exploration aspects the series is known for with a touch of horror in the form of the unrelenting E.M.M.I.s. The controls are sharp and responsive, there’s a huge map to explore with a ton of gadgets to unlock as you’re doing so and everything moves along at a silky smooth clip.
The story could use more beefing up but that’s never been the series’ strong point.
There are times when the game could’ve been much clearer on where you’re to head next (such as after you’ve gotten the Morph Ball) but thankfully, those times happen only a handful of times. The loading also could be faster, but those are nitpicks that are barely worth mentioning.
Otherwise, it’s an incredibly polished game from start to finish.
The best Metroid game in years, and one of the best Metroid games ever! A definite must play for anybody with a Nintendo Switch.
- Huge maps to explore.
- Tons of gear to find.
- Outsmarting E.M.M.I.s
- Cool bosses.
- Countering is fun.
- Smooth animation and framerate.
- Loading times are a bit long.
- No idea on where to go sometimes.
- Barely any plot.
- Needs quick travel.