(ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON OCTOBER 21,2021)
Arts & Culture Editor
“Metroid Dread,” the Nintendo first party title that is a sequel to the almost 19-year-old “Metroid Fusion” released on the Gameboy Advance in 2002. Dread is the narrative conclusion to the 35-year-old story arc of intergalactic bounty hunter Samus Aran.
I wish I was able to provide the necessary story beats that encapsulates the saga that is one of Nintendo’s core flagship titles. Unfortunately, though I was negative 12 years old when Metroid first came out on the NES. However, if you are the type of dork like I am, you love video games and understand who Samus Aran is, and you understand what the Metroid series is. If you aren’t a dork like me then I will do my best to explain it to you. Samus Aran is an intergalactic bounty hunter and is a part of the Galactic Federation. Samus fends off against alien species and space pirates who try to harness the power of an alien parasite known as “metroids.” “Metroid Fusion,” the prequel to Dread introduces another parasite known as “X” parasites. Much like the Metroid parasites, “X” are just as dangerous and Space Pirates want to use them to conquer galaxies.
Metroid Dread starts with that same formula: Samus Aran receives video footage that there are “X” parasites alive among a planet known as “ZDR” (Zed-Dee-R). Samus Arrives at ZDR and quickly encounters the main antagonist of the game, Raven Beak, a Chozo warrior who strips Samus of all of her abilities. Within the Metroid franchise’s canon the Chozo are raven-faced humanoids, and are considered to be the most lethal (outside Samus Aran) and most intelligent beings in the universe. It is up to Samus to regain full strength of her abilities to take on Raven Beak.
Truth be told, it has never been the story of Metroid that has captured me to be a fan of the series. It has always been about the gameplay. What I enjoy most of all about the Metroid series is just how fast and frenetic the combat is. The combat of Metroid Dread is never too punishing and never too easy. Each enemy has a different move set and patterns that require learning and mastery. The only disappointment with the combat is how few boss fights there are. Each boss fight does end with a robust cinematic that always leaves Samus Aran doing an acrobatic-kickflip over the enemy before putting them down.
I am at odds with how I feel about the design of ZDR and how the map works in “Metroid Dread.” Like all Metroid games in order to progress you are encouraged to use all the tools in your toolkit to figure a way out. You are never stuck even though it may feel like. However the way the map works often made me feel like I was truly stuck. I for one like the type of game design that allows the player to figure it out instead of having the game hold your hand through it, part of what makes it a “game.” I feel conflicted about my thoughts on this because there was one section of the game I was stuck in for three hours and was convinced I was in a hardlock and had to replay the whole game over again.
One thing I wish was implemented was some sort of a hint system, something you can turn on in desperate need. Nevertheless, I did manage to carve my way out of that lost state. The planet of ZDR has nine different areas in the game, and for the most part, they all look the same except with a different video game trope filter. “Metroid Dread” is filled with the cliche designs of water, earth and fire levels that are found in too many video games. What does stand out is Samus’ new power suit, tripped out in a red, teal, and white get up. It pivots drastically away from the orange and red power suit that Samus most notably dons.
Concerns about the $60 entry point for a 10 hour 2D video game are understandable. I am in college, I am broke too. However, I feel there are worse ways to spend $60. “Metroid Dread” is an action-packed joy-ride that you will surely be addicted to from the moment you control Samus Aran. Nintendo hasn’t released much information about the sequel to the 3D Metroid Prime games that were on the GameCube, but I hope Nintendo does not count out the 2D series because I surely would love to explore more planets in that 2D space.
‘Metroid Dread” was really enjoyable.