We enter the world of planet SR388 with a mission to eradicate an entire species of creatures. The environment is hostile; everything that is alive seemingly wants us dead. To be fair, we also want them dead. Space pirates, who are clearly just pirates in space, gave the Galactic Federation enough reason to believe it to be a just cause to wipe out the entire species of Metroids. Who they gonna call? Samus Aran. A quite probably female sentient pest control aficionado whom apparently never comes equipped to deal with the terrain she is asked to jump, run, roll, shoot, bomb, and wreak absolute havoc upon. Our mission, should we pay the price of the cartridge to accept it, is to traverse SR388 and accomplish this rather unethical, but most likely necessary, mission of genocide. Welcome to Metroid: Samus Returns!
As mentioned, our Metroid hunter is the absolute worst at preparing for her missions. They say she’s a female, but honestly how many females do we know that don’t go into almost everything without being at least somewhat prepared. That purse thing they carry is a lot like Hermione Granger’s magic bag in the final Harry Potter films. You need lip balm? They have it. You need a nail clipper for that irritating hang nail? That’s right, they have 5 of them. This space damsel is heading to an unknown planet and conveniently doesn’t have any of the nifty gadgets she had from the previous adventure.
This is the much-anticipated remake of the Game Boy title Metroid II: Return of Samus. See what they did there? They dropped the ‘II’ and ‘of’ and swapped the words. Not only does it save ink and code lines, it also lets us know that this isn’t the same game we played on that monochromatic nightmare that harkens back to the days of tube televisions and video cassette recorders. What are those things? Ask Grandpa.
We start off in Samus’ space ship heading for our destination. The apparent ruins of the Chozo who were an ancient and highly advanced species of sage-like avian sentient beings that inhabited several planets including, but not limited to, the one we are heading for. This is a good thing because our heroine has done a hard reset of all the sweet armor and weapons she had before. Maybe she sold them on the dark space web.
We start our journey by heading down into the caves within the planet. It’s kind of nice that the Chozo were here to install elevators instead of ladders, clone chambers (save thingy), healing stations, and weapon refilling do-dads. Along with that they have new abilities for our avatar that includes all the possible weapon and armor upgrades we will need to methodically explore the catacombs extending far beneath the planet’s surface.
Among these powerful upgrades, we get to roll up like a ball, stick to walls, jump higher, and gain many more terrain and enemy crushing methods that help us nab every secret and seemingly impossible location we see. Like Super Metroid, as we travel thorough these dark passageways we are mapping the areas we’re visiting. We also have the ability to use a kind of sonar ping to tell us what the surrounding area looks like. It can detect breakable wall pieces that we don’t notice with the naked eye. This is the foundation that Metroid games are laid upon. Exploration. We’ve never been here before, we don’t know where we’re going, and we will be backtracking through explored areas quite often.
Fortunately, thanks to the power of the 3DS, these areas we are travelling through look amazing and beautiful. We can’t compare this to the PlayStation 4 when we talk about graphics, sound, and all that. We compare it to other titles created for the system it’s on and I have to say that it has the most gorgeous environments I’ve seen on this platform. In fact, it’s so awesome that we probably don’t want to call this a remake; it’s more of a re-imagining of a title we possibly overlooked back in the day or, for many of you, perhaps weren’t even born for.
I highly recommend cranking up the 3D mode if you can (sorry 2DS players), as it’s magnificently stunning. The stereoscopic 3D adds so much to the game’s backgrounds and just wait until you blow up a frozen enemy! You will also want a decent pair of headphones to truly appreciate how outstanding and immersive the experience is. It’s probably the best this handheld system can provide. Giving yourself the best opportunity to hear all the sound and music supplied is an important piece to this game. It’s haunting at times and gets your pulse pounding at others. It always seems to fit the area and the remixes from prior games are outstanding. If you were willing to get the super duper deluxe version with the soundtrack, it could be assumed that you were aware of that. So do yourself a favor and block out the exterior world. It sucks out here anyway.
Controlling Samus has never been better in the 2D format. I love the 360° lock-in aiming that quite perplexed me for some reason when we went to a Nintendo event and were fortunate enough to play early. The poor Nintendo reps really did try to help me. The button layout works very well and the learning curve is short, I must’ve just been having an off day at the event since it all flowed flawlessly once I got the game home.
What happened to me next has happened to me several times with my 3DS XL that I recently purchased. I have large hands. While I play I have my pinkie fingers supporting the bottom of the system. That power button is very close to where my Hugh Jass Pinkies™ rest. What happens is this: during moments when I’m battling Metroid bosses I find that I have pressed the power button and cause my system go into shutdown mode. I haven’t had this problem with other titles. Maybe I need a 3DS XL XL? This is a good time to mention that the game ramps up the difficulty nicely, but the boss battles can get frustratingly intense. Luckily if you die (and you most likely will), you respawn right outside the boss chamber. This is fantastic and saves precious time.
What are we going to get with Metroid: Samus Returns? An extremely beautiful and well-designed title with amazing sounds and gameplay that will definitely fill that need we have of the Metroidvania titles. I can’t believe it’s taken this long for a classic Metroid game to come to the 3DS, but I’m so happy it finally did! I can’t speak to the length of the game because I always take longer to play games like this due to my absolutely obsessive desire to find everything. I’m that guy who found all 120 shrines in Zelda: Breath of the Wild and has logged 220+ hours in doing so because I just have to get my character’s feet on every single surface that the developers allowed us to be on. If you’re that completion hungry like I am this will be a much longer gaming experience than for those who just want to get to the end. But remember, my friends, it’s not the destination but the journey that holds all the keys to wonder and amazement. That sounds corny, but seriously take the time to explore. It’s most of the fun anyway.
Metroid: Samus Returns Review
- Graphics - 10/1010/10
- Sound - 10/1010/10
- Gameplay - 10/1010/10
- Lasting Appeal - 9/109/10
Final Thoughts: OUTSTANDING
The epitome of a 2D action and adventure game with emphasis on nonlinear gameplay that has made this series as successful as it has been for 30 years. Continuing improvements on an already solid design make this as much fun as Super Metroid, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and other “Metroidvania” titles released over the years. An absolute must-have for those who enjoy this type of experience. A gem that exceeds expectations and delivers a challenging and enjoyable experience.
Jay has been an avid gamer since the Intellivision days. His hobbies include building PCs, 3D modeling and printing, and spending time with his children and dog.