(Available for Nintendo Switch only)
Metroid finally has its first 2D game in 19 years with the release of the previously cancelled game Metroid Dread. I have professed that I’m a huge fan of the Metroidvania genre which has been propped up by indie developers, but it has always felt like despite the fact we’ve had amazing games like Ori, Hollow Knight, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Knight and Ender Lillies, something has been missing; as the two games that started the genre were largely absent for a long time. While we could be waiting a while for Konami to give us a new Castlevania (not counting the Castlevania Advanced collection that recently released, and is brilliant by the way), but Nintendo were smart enough to ask Mercury Steam who did a brilliant job on the 3DS remake of Metroid Samus Returns to make this game, and with a bigger budget and more powerful hardware to create their vision. It also helps that the game launched the same day as the Switch OLED model which is what all 3 of us played the game on.
- Graphics: Now I might have noticed it even more since I was playing this on the larger and more vibrant screen of the Switch OLED but it really amazes me how good Metroid Dread looks. The environment oozes atmosphere in a big way, a standard for the franchise, but in this case, there are quite a few distinct environments and it feels like they use the hardware they’re working on to deliver a larger variety of environments than usual which look amazing, and Samus also looks amazing in these areas. The OLED screen really benefits in highlighting both the bright colours as well as the darker hallways, giving the areas that extra feel of isolation.
- Frame Rate: The game runs at a consistent 60fps in both docked and handheld mode and was largely consistent with it. There were a few noticeable frame rate drops but they really didn’t interfere too much and were pretty rare.
- Story: The story takes place at the end of the timeline of games, and shortly after the events of Metroid Fusion. The galactic federation received footage that the X parasite is still alive and, on the planet ZDR, and send out a group of robots known as the Emmi’s to investigate. When they become silent and communication is lost, the federation send Samus Aran in to investigate since she is immune to the virus. However, shortly after arrival she gets beaten down by a Chozo Soldier and dumped in the bowels of the planet with a new suit, with the only goal being get to the surface and escape. While that is the main focus the story, there is a large expansion to the lore of the Metroid universe particularly surrounding the Chozo, who have always played a big role. The emphasis on closing out the story that has been going through the 2D games is very apparent and it does a very good job. The way Samus is characterised as well is excellent especially given that unlike Other M, it is achieved mostly through body language, leading to one of the most badass versions of the character. The game really also nails the balance between gameplay and story. This is yet another thing Other M got wrong.
- World design and map: As I mentioned, the world is very varied and even more so than usual with each area giving distinct themes. These include environments of molten lava and ice, an underwater lab and even some jungles. I won’t give away too much since most of the best stuff comes from exploration, but all the environments feel better than ever for 2D Metroid’s. The game also gives you a really great map to aid in exploration as well. Not only will it tell you how much of each environment you’ve explored, but how much of the items for things like Missile and health upgrades, really aids when backtracking to boost Samus’s stats. I do have one issue with the map which we’ll go into in the cons section but overall, this is one of the best 2D Metroid worlds to explore.
- Controls and combat: The best controls make them feel like an extension of yourself and dread really achieves this. Samus’ controls really smoothly and it meant I was never worried about timing challenges, and any time I was screwing up I was never really blaming the controls. The combat as well is excellent not only do they bring back most of the combat from games like Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion but also brings back new features from Mercury Steam’s previous game Metroid Samus Returns. Most notably the melee counter and more precise aiming using the L trigger. Now these were good ideas, but not well implemented last time since they felt rather situational. This time they are much better incorporated and suit the combat well. The counter was something I was using a lot in combat even when it wasn’t required, and L trigger aiming won several boss fights for me. These features also benefit from having a better controller and button layout for this kind of combat compared to the 3DS which Samus Returns was on. The upgrades you get will be very familiar to you if you played previous Metroid games, though some you get later than expected (particularly the Morph Ball). However, the game once again eases you into these upgrades and the controls never feel too complicated with each upgrade so don’t feel too worried about remembering everything late game.
- The Emmi’s: The Emmi’s are robots which are localised to certain areas of a map in each of the areas. they are invincible and cannot be killed when initially around. Put short, they put the Dread of the title into the game, they are relentless and very smart so don’t expect to use a bunch of tricks to fool A.I. that you may have used in the past. You have no choice but to run and hide and if caught, it’s instant death unless you can counter. Plus, if they catch sight of you before you can get away to lower their alert level, all the exits from their area are cut off. The Emmi’s really are a highlight for just how heart pounding each encounter with them is and their presence is not to be taken lightly. Truly a highlight for the franchise in just how scared they can make you feel
- Boss fights: They’re outstanding and in a couple of cases a bit too easy if you can get an upgrade ahead of time. While there are some returning boss fights from previous games, the designs and tactics really are a highlight of the game and the brilliant use of checkpoints means you won’t have a ridiculous trek to get to them every time you die. The set pieces when dealing critical damage also really bring out Samus’ badass qualities
- Amiibo support: Whilst unfortunately due to supply issues with Europe, my Samus Metroid dread design, and Emmi amiibo hadn’t been delivered during my first playthrough. I did have plenty of Metroid Amiibo to test the functionality since any Amiibo with characters relating to the franchise work. I have collected all the Smash bros Amiibo to date so had Samus, Dark Samus, Ridley and Zero Suit Samus on standby but I also picked up the Samus and Metorid Amiibo that were launched for Samus Returns, in prep for the game coming out. Basically, all Samus Amiibo let you recover a certain amount of health and the enemy characters replenish missiles. Doesn’t sound too amazing but can get you out of tough situations without being a win button. I had situations where I used an Amiibo to recover health in a boss fight only to subsequently lose the fight and not be able to use the Amiibo until the next day, so be prepared to gamble with using them. While it’s nothing amazing and is certainly not going to reward collector as much as Smash Brothers or the new Animal Crossing update, it does have its benefit more than many other Amiibo functionality in games and is certainly better than a difficulty level being locked behind an Amiibo which was the case with Samus Returns.
- Difficulty spikes: I admit that all games should raise the difficulty as they go but I found a few of the spikes were a little too steep especially given that for many, with it now being on the Switch, this will be their first experience with a 2D Metroid game. There were a couple of times where I thought the game maybe should have toned down the difficulty a little bit because sometimes there were fights that felt extremely more difficult than they should be, given how the last area was. now take this bit with a pinch of salt since I might’ve not picked up too many health and missile upgrades that would’ve helped since I didn’t want to use a guide too much on my first playthrough, given how much exploration is a key part of Metroid’s appeal, but I have seen other review comments of the difficulty spikes and how it’s a bit unforgiving for new players. That being said the challenge of the game did make it feel even more better when I finally conquered something. Thank you, Reece, for the tip that won me the battle against the final boss.
- Quite easy to get lost: The map system is good, but I wish that like in Metroid Fusion, Adam (Samus’s A.I. in her suit) would give you a map marker on where your aiming for your next task. I got lost quite a bit in frustrating ways and while I was avoiding guides, they did eventually become necessary as I had no idea where to go at many points. Adam does give you advice, but it can often be too cryptic for its own good. As I mentioned this was something fixed in Fusion, and I don’t understand why it wasn’t in this. It’s not as if having a map marker would prevent exploration or going off the beaten track if you wanted to, Fusion was hardly a linear game. But for whatever reason it’s not here. A minor complaint I accept but a complaint none the less.
Metroid Dread is fantastic and one of the best games in the series. It looks great, the combat and controls are fantastic, the soundtrack is ominous, the world is a joy to explore and the Emmi’s make for great terrifying set pieces. The switch is a home for many great Metoridvania’s, and this one need in your collection if you love that genre. If you’re a newcomer, you shouldn’t be worried since the game isn’t too tied to the previous storyline or games, and it does a good job catching people up. It is perfectly fine as a first Metroid but if that’s still a bug for you, then check out Super Metroid which is part of the SNES collection included with the Nintendo Switch Online subscription, though still get this one to play immediately afterwards. If you’re a fan of the franchise and you somehow haven’t played the game, pick this one up you owe it to yourself to play it.
Please buy this game it’s fantastic and is a great Metroid Vania that can stand up with the best of them and this game needs to sell well to convince people that we’re still interested in Metroid as a franchise. It obviously is a Nintendo first party game so don’t bother waiting for a sale that’ll never come, unless you buy this game second hand it’s £50, so only wait on it if there’s another expensive game you want sooner or want to save your money for a year of the Nintendo Switch Online expansion pass, though I think this is a Game of the Year contender so expect to get a lot for your money.
And now for Reece’s review
My experience with Metroid Dread is that I have beaten the game on the “Normal” difficulty playthrough with a time of 6 hours 57 minutes and unlocked the “Hard” difficulty for a subsequent playthrough.
I played Metroid Dread almost exclusively in Handheld Mode on the new Nintendo Switch OLED model. This in my opinion was the best way to play Metroid Dread in comparison with the old models of the Switch, as my previous model was the original from 2017 which would run out of battery in under 2 hours.
Metroid Dread is the latest entry in the Metroid series that first premiered in 1986 on Nintendo’s original console, the Famicon Disc System marking Metroid’s 35th anniversary this year.
Metroid Dread follows the story of intergalactic Bounty Hunter Samus Aran in an undisclosed period of time after Metroid Fusion, and sees players investigate the source of a transmission that showed off wild X-Parasites (The antagonists of Metroid Fusion, that players thought they made extinct) so players have to travel to a new mysterious planet called ZDR and investigate since the X have the ability to wipe out all life in the galaxy if left unchecked.
Metroid Dread is also technically Metroid 5 in the classic 2D Metroid series as the series goes.
• Metroid (1986)
• Metroid 2: Return of Samus (1991)
• Super Metroid (1994)
• Metroid Fusion (2002)
These are the four previous entries in the series although modern remakes of some of the games have been made with Metroid (1986) getting a Remake with Metroid: Zero Mission in 2004, and Metroid 2: Return of Samus getting a Remake on the Nintendo 3DS in 2017 as Metroid: Samus Returns.
Metroid: Samus Returns is the most important previous entry for this game, as it was made in 2017 by MercurySteam (a Spanish videogame developer based out of Madrid) who then went on to make MetroidDread and brought over a lot of their features and gameplay innovations from said Remake with Samus Returns on 3DS into this new entry with Metroid Dread 4 years later.
Graphical fidelity. This is easily the best-looking Metroid game to date. Not only is it on Nintendo’s most powerful current hardware and although not as powerful as the PlayStation 4, the Switch is able to create beautiful vista’s and environments in Dread.
Samus Aran herself receives a major graphical upgrade with her new Power Suit being a combination of her classic Power Suit and the Fusion Suit (From Metroid Fusion, the previous canonical entry before Dread), as her Power Suit has begun to regenerate after Metroid Fusion and has had an impact on initial gameplay.
I personally enjoy the new design of the starting Power Suit as it feels different from previous games, but the graphical fidelity really shows as you can see organic strands covering the Suit which carries over from the Fusion Suit as it helps with the continuity from Fusion to Dread and the Suit just looks very unique in comparison to other starting Suits in the series.
One aspect that I didn’t realise was that as Samus gets more Suit upgrades (From the basic Power Suit to the Varia Suit to finally the Gravity Suit) they all look more aggressive in appearance with the jagged lighting effect going down Samus’ abdomen appearing more like animal scratch marks.
Every corner of the world of Dread is filled with detail and life, from small endemic flora and fauna life to the vast architecture from the lost civilization of the planet ZDR that has long fallen into ruins. All of which is a joy to explore as power ups are hidden everywhere encouraging the player to explore this vast new world and to backtrack later in game and use new power ups to access new areas they couldn’t before.
It is seriously impressive just the large scope and scale of the maps and for every inch of it to be covered in something interesting to look at (Or flee from if it isn’t friendly), and all throughout this the frame rate never drops even when rendering in all the details and moving entities.
Framerate. In my time playing Metroid Dread the game never once dropped a single frame during gameplay.
This is incredibly impressive when the game is rendering massive 3D vista’s with full details, but also when you are in frantic boss battles with entire arena’s covered in body horror while you are filling the screen with missiles and explosions.
Abilities. Samus is now much more agile in her base Suit than previous games, as she has access to the new Slide technique returning Power Grip. Allowing the start of the game to be much more dynamic as the player can explore a more varied environment at the beginning with just the base abilities this time around compared to previous entries.
This allows the game to be much faster paced as the player has more options to explore the environments and fight/evade enemies, as Samus feels less vulnerable when the Counter move returns from Metroid: Samus Returns. This makes it so the player pretty much can’t die to the basic enemies in the overworld as long as they can press the counter button before the enemy attack hits, as they can perform a follow up shot that instantly kills the enemy and refills a lot of missiles and health. Due to this, if the player is low on health and resources they can now grind much faster than in previous games to get a refill by reloading a room, as the enemies will respawn and thus infinite refills of health and missiles.
Samus also gets the return of many fan favourite power ups from previous games including all Beam upgrades (Minus Ice Beam) and fun abilities like the Speed Booster/Shinespark (Which allows the use of sequence breaking for advanced players).
So Samus plays and controls are better than ever and her range of power ups allows players a great degree of freedom to explore the world of ZDR, and on subsequent playthroughs can find new ways to sequence break the game and finish the game as fast as possible by getting power ups out of normal order (Players are even rewarded depending on how fast they beat the game, just like previous games).
Dread. Metroid Dread really lives up to its title compared to any previous game.
This is due in large part to the inclusion of the new E.M.M.I (Extraplanetary Multiform Mobile Identifier) enemy type that the player fights throughout the game.
The E.M.M.I are an evolution of the SA-X from Metroid Fusion, where Samus is hunted by a nigh unkillable enemy through large sections of the map where Samus can pretty much only flee until the player get a power up to stall or kill the enemy.
The E.M.M.I are always fun to run from as they have some of the best A.I from the enemies in the game and the area where you fight them cranks up the tension due to the old style film filter draining the colour and the audio being harsh and cranked up adds to the dread factor and puts you on edge.
The other bosses in the game are also really great as these are some of the largest and most imposing bosses of a 2D Metroid game. I found Boss 2 to be one of the most difficult and imposing because at that point you have little health or missiles so every mistake feels like it really costs you in your run.
The only absence of the feeling of Dread is in Samus herself, as in cutscenes she is now more confident and bad-ass than ever with her feeling more like the Doomslayer from Doom in her attitude due to being stylish in every situation. I would recommend players watch her in cutscenes especially in Boss 2 where she is almost effortless in dispatching of the boss and she now really feels like the Bounty Hunter we have always read about in the expanded lore and text logs in prior games.
Difficulty. Dread feels a lot more difficult that previous entries as enemies deal more damage than in previous games due to late game common enemies dealing over one full e-tank of damage per hit, so it promotes the idea to the player to play either more cautiously or full aggro.
The difficulty curve does lower as you get further in the game when you have more e-tanks to brute force your way through enemies and tanking the damage. This is exemplified when you reach the midpoint of the game where the X is released from containment because at that point every X you kill gives you a lot of health a missiles back especially if you kill them with the counter.
This means that if the player is struggling with the initial difficulty of Dread, then I would recommend doing some exploration to find more e-tanks or power ups as then the rest of the game becomes much easier with a larger arsenal.
Even the bosses get easier the farther into the game you get with the only difficulty spike being the final boss.
Controls. Metroid Dread offers a lot of new weapons to add to the arsenal of Samus and with that brings new controls that the player has to master in order to use them and most involve simultaneous pressing/holding of buttons in quick succession.
Most of these are normally fine and easy to use but as a person who has Dyspraxia I found it difficult to use all of the full arsenal as it requires you to press and hold multiple buttons at once. The biggest problem I had was using the Shinespark in confined cramped areas, as I constantly missed the timing to store the Shinespark after using the Speed Booster move and either ran into a wall or I was too far away from the area that needed the use of the Shinespark.
This wasn’t an issue in the older games but Dread is a much faster paced game (Thanks in part to the new 60fps) especially in its boss battles where you have very little breathing room and I found it very easy to be overwhelmed as I attempt to dodge the boss while fighting back.
Lack of direction. In comparison to Metroid Fusion where Adam used to show on the map where your next destination was for you to move towards Metroid Dread, this game instead just says work it out for yourself with no clear direction and the only clue being the occasional swarm of blue butterfly creatures at one door. Unfortunately, when you go through them I never saw another swarm until after I beat the next boss.
I think a better system would be a general map marker like in Metroid Fusion so you have an indication of the general section of the map to travel to and not an exact location, as I spent several hours just running around and attempting to find my next destination through which I found the occasional missile pack but mostly it felt out of place.
While this problem will not exist on follow up playthroughs it was definitely annoying on the first, and I feel like it was an avoidable problem since they already had the solution in Metroid Fusion.
If you are a fan of the Metroid series and own a Nintendo Switch then Metroid Dread is a definite pick up in my opinion and is worth the price of admission as I think Dread is easily the best non-3D game in the series since Metroid Fusion back in 2002.
Although this is not a good jumping on point for new players to the Metroid franchise due to its high level of difficulty for players who do not have experience with the series and while it is the 5th entry in the classic 2D storyline, it only gives the player a basic premise of Metroid Fusion.
Metroid Dread is also a great showcase of the vibrant and vivid screen of the new Nintendo Switch OLED Model and I would recommend players who don’t have a Switch or only an original Switch like I did to upgrade as it is worth it.
Metroid Dread is definitely a Game of the Year contender for me.
Anime Amigo and Nerd Consultant
And finally Elliots review
While it’s definitely not Nintendo’s biggest franchise, I don’t think the Metroid series needs any introduction. It’s one of the oldest series that Nintendo has (the first game coming out in 1986), and has one of the most loyal and passionate fan bases I’ve ever seen. Which is why it’s a shame that, for a very long time, we haven’t seen much of it. While the Metroid Prime series was still getting a decent amount of attention and new games in its style, we hadn’t seen anything new with the 2D Metroid games in nearly 20 years, outside of Metroid: Samus Returns, which, while still being an awesome game, was still a remake of Metroid 2: Samus Returns, not entirely a new game. That was until e3 2021, when Nintendo announced a brand new 2D Metroid game with Metroid Dread, a game that many had believed to have been cancelled years ago, with a release date of 8th October 2021, coinciding with the release of the Nintendo Switch Oled.
In Metroid Dread you once again take on the role of Samus Aran, the galaxy’s greatest bounty hunter. Not long after the events of Metroid: Fusion, the Galactic Federation sends Samus footage of an organism called Parasite X, which had been believed to have been extinct after the destruction of the planet SR388, alive on the planet ZDR. The federation had sent a unit of seven E.M.M.I. robots to the planet to investigate and collect DNA of the Parasite X, but not long after landing on the planet all communication was lost, leading them to have no other choice but to send Samus to investigate, seeing as she’s the only living being in the galaxy who’s immune to the effects of the organism. Not long after landing on ZDR Samus is attacked by a Chozo (a humanoid being with birdlike features) called Ravenbeak, causing her to have a powersurge of some kind and passing out. She later regains consciousness, having lost all her powers and very far away from the planet’s surface. She must now explore the labyrinth that is ZDR and return to her ship. The story, in all honesty, doesn’t really have that much of a presence in Metroid Dread, from what I can tell it’s mostly just a simple explanation on why the events of the game are happening. Not to say that that’s a bad thing, just don’t go in expecting a heavily detailed narrative.
As to be expected, Metroid Dread looks great. I played it on the Switch Oled, and it feels like the game was made to be played on that model. The areas that you explore all look distinct from one another and really help to promote this as a vibrant world. The game runs very well as well, during gameplay, when docked and in handheld, it runs at a consistent 60fps (on the Switch Oled at least), only really dropping on occasion when saving, but it always returned to normal when gameplay resumed. The soundtrack is also very good, having a very sci-fi ambience while exploring and really building up the intensity during boss fights and when running away from E.M.M.I.’s, it really adds to the mild horror elements of the game while also adding emphasis to the isolation you’ll likely feel while traversing the planet.
Metroid Dread is a 2D platformer with a focus on exploration and ranged combat. While traversing these areas you’ll be battling a variety of enemies with an arsenal of weapons and abilities that you accumulate throughout the game. Each enemy will require different strategies to combat them, meaning that, unfortunately, you won’t just be able to shoot your way through the game (I mean you can, but just be ready for a very large number of deaths and a severe case of carpal tunnel). Some, for example, won’t be damaged by your regular blaster beams, meaning that you’ll have to use things like your charge shot or missiles. Some enemies, when they attack, will give you a small opportunity to parry them, if done successfully you’ll be able to counterattack which is a guaranteed one-shot, unless it’s a boss in which case you’ll deal a fair amount of damage and gain some extra resources.
Easily the biggest and most frightening threat you’ll encounter in the game – that, let’s be honest you’ll likely know all about as it’s been a big part of the games promotions – is the E.M.M.I.. You’ll encounter one of these enemies in each of the seven areas you’ll explore in their own designated zones, and you’ll have to defeat them in order to obtain a power-up required for you to proceed. The one problem is that these things can’t be killed by traditional means, instead you have to find and fight a mini boss called a Central Unit in order to temporarily obtain the Omega Blaster, using that is the only way to kill it. Until then, all you can do is avoid the E.M.M.I.. This, however, is much easier said than done, as when you’re spotted by one it’ll pursue you relentlessly and you won’t be able to leave its zone until you get far away enough from it for it to stop chasing. To make matters worse, each E.M.M.I. works in different ways, utilizing different power-ups (the ones that you’ll receive from killing it) to catch you, not to mention the fact that the environment won’t hinder the E.M.M.I. the same way it will you. If it catches you, fear not, for you will have the chance to escape, the bad news is that the opportunity only lasts for a split second and is completely random, meaning that there are no patterns for you to learn, the only way to survive your encounter is to have a keen eye or sheer luck. Needless to say, be prepared to accumulate a large number of deaths from these things.
As mentioned previously, a massive part of this game is exploring the eight sections of ZDR. This place is anything but linear, as you’ll be having to backtrack through already explored areas as you find the power-ups needed for accessing areas, containing upgrades and progressing further into the game. When I called this place a labyrinth it was not an over exaggeration, as you will be getting lost a lot just from traversing. Hence why I suggest you don’t make the same mistake I did and use the Map Makers. When you find an area you’re not able to access because you lack the necessary power-up, you can leave a one of five different coloured makers on your map as a note on where you can go when you have what’s needed to continue. I didn’t use this nearly as much as I should have, which led to many hours of bumbling around like an idiot with no idea on what to do next. That being said though, as tempting as it may be, I very much suggest not looking up where to go next. I only looked things up on occasion – and even then it was just for the location of a couple of power-ups – because it felt so rewarding getting lost only to have those “What if…” and those “Ah-ha” moments of figuring out where to go next, it was honestly one of the things that made the game so great for me (even if it did lead to even more deaths from the E.M.M.I.’s). That being said though, it can be quite frustrating to have to spend a good amount of time having to run through the multiple zones just to get to one particular place that you need to get to in order to move forward. Whilst I do see why it happens – you can’t just have a fast travel system in a game like this – but it is still very annoying, even when the E.M.M.I.’s are dead.
As for the upgrades, I cannot stress enough how important seeking these out is. You’ll find them hidden throughout each zone, most often behind blocks that require a certain power-up to be destroyed – if the blocks are hidden you can determine what power-up is needed by shooting them with the missile. These upgrades will normally consist of missile upgrades, letting you carry more than before, or energy tanks that essentially give you another health bar. The later enemies and bosses will take away a staggering amount of health with each attack, some even taking away an entire health bar, so these things are incredibly important. I found a decent amount of each and even then, the number of deaths I gathered rival that of your average Dark Souls playthrough.
Speaking of bosses, you’ll be facing a lot of them throughout the game, both mini-bosses and main ones. The main bosses are all unique and consist of series regulars and newcomers, each one requires you to use all the skill you can in order to defeat them and are all designed very well and are incredibly fun to fight, to the point where no matter how many times I died I never felt frustrated as it always felt like I was doing better each time (which for me, is a goddamn miracle). They almost felt like 2D Soulsborne bosses, which is a massive plus for me. As for the mini bosses, while they’re also very fun to fight, they repeat very often with extra gimmicks to make them a little bit harder each time. While this isn’t a complete turn off, it does lead to some of these fights feeling a little hollow at times.
Now it’s time for the complaints… is what I would normally say, but in all honesty, for once, I don’t really have any that I haven’t already discussed, and those that I haven’t are so miniscule that they’re not even worth mentioning.
This is my first time playing a 2D Metroid game to the end, and I can happily say that this game has more than guaranteed my pursuit in playing more of these games. Despite all the times I got lost and the hours I spent trying to kill a simple mini-boss, I absolutely loved every second I played this game. This is a must buy for any Nintendo Switch owner out there, and has solidified itself as one of my favourite games on the console. Even if you’re not a Metroid fan, I urge you to give this game a go.
Anime Amigo and Nerd Consultant
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