In the Crosshairs: Metroid: Samus Returns (Nintendo 3DS)

Metroid: Samus Returns. This title is amongst the few that were revealed during Nintendo’s E3 presentations this year that got fans excited. Nintendo 3DS owners should already be aware of this upcoming release – aside from it’s reveal during E3, this also justified Nintendo shutting down the popular fan-made Another Metroid 2 Remake (AM2R for short), a remake of the Game Boy title Metroid 2: Return of Samus. There was quite a stir when Nintendo announced the game’s amiibo functions (this made me write two articles about amiibo here and here). But one can’t be too certain – there might be someone out there who, despite all the press that the game has been getting, is still not aware of the first 2D Metroid game in more than a decade. I’m here for that guy – here to talk about what I think is Nintendo’s last big title for the 3DS.

Box art of Metroid: Samus Returns for the Nintendo 3DS (NA version).

Why is Metroid: Samus Returns such a big deal? First off, this franchise (together with Konami’s Castlevania series) created an entire sub-genre of platformers known as “Metroidvania” games which remain popular today. Despite helping create an entire sub-genre of platforming, we have not seen a 2D style Metroid game since Metroid: Zero Mission was released in 2004 for the Game Boy Advance. That’s right, no 2D Metroid titles for more than a decade even if Nintendo has continued to develop 2D style platformers for their Mario, Kirby, Yoshi, and Donkey Kong titles. And there is a market for these 2D Metroidvania games even in today’s time – recent releases like Axiom Verge remain to be quite popular among the gaming crowd.

Looking at the three classic Metroid titles, the games that set the standards for “Metroidvania” style platformers, the first two were positively received by critics and fans alike but are laden with flaws that, in today’s time would be considered game-breaking: outdated graphics, the lack of an in-game map, issues with health and energy recharging and heavy reliance on backtracking. The 16-bit Super Metroid had all addressed these flaws and can still measure up to today’s standards but I can’t say the same for both Metroid on the NES and Metroid II: Return of Samus on the Game Boy.

Anyone who wanted to play Metroid II would have to deal with black and white graphics – that is, before the release of Metroid: Samus Returns.

At least Metroid was remade as Metroid: Zero Mission on the Game Boy Advance which addressed some of the original’s flaws but we don’t have a modernized version of its sequel – anyone who wants to play the sequel would have to bear with the Game Boy’s limited color palette and it’s game design flaws (this is the reason why Metroid II was remade by a fan of the franchise). Metroid: Samus Returns gives us a modern take on this old classic that is more palatable for today’s gamers.

The substantial graphics upgrade is actually worth the price of admission – levels are better represented now that we actually have colors and textures to look at. Metroid: Samus Returns is also made of 3D models rather than flat sprites and backgrounds so it works well with the stereoscopic 3D function of the 3DS (no, Nintendo has not abandoned this despite popular opinion) – the game even zooms in on the action at different angles during close combat sequences (more on this later).

Excellent 2D Metroidvania mechanics with modern gameplay features make for a great reintroduction of the Metroid franchise.

Does Metroid: Samus Returns offer more than just a graphics overhaul though? Thanks to preview copies being made playable in several of Nintendo’s events, we have an answer – Yes! Samus now has a few new moves at her disposal to help her battle the Metroids, the first of which is a new aiming mode which allows for a full range of 360 degrees for better precision. Samus was limited to firing in just eight directions in the past; more precise aiming leads to better level design and better combat. Thanks to all that Smash Bros. fighting, Samus also brings with her some new melee attacks that give a more dynamic feel during battles – especially when the game zooms in during a close combat combo attack.

Beyond new abilities for Samus, Metroid: Samus Returns also has other gameplay enhancements such as an in-game map (finally), more health and missle recharge stations, and fast travel points to minimize/ease the backtracking. These improvements, combined with good level and game design, gives us a 2D Metroid that, if previews are to be believed, is up to par with today’s standards.

The addition of melee combat makes the battles of Metroid: Samus Returns more dynamic compared to the previous 2D Metroid titles.

And as for this being a remake rather than a completely new game, aside from being a classic, Metroid II: Return of Samus is significant to the Metroid franchise simply because this is the game wherein Samus wipes out almost all of the Metroids from existence. The end of this game ties up real closely with Super Metroid and, without being too specific to avoid spoilers, helps drive the emotional impact of that 16-bit classic’s twist home. Heck, I almost bought a copy of the Virtual Console version of Metroid II but didn’t push through with it due to the game being so outdated. Metroid: Samus Returns is a modern day version that will let me experience this significant chapter in the Metroid franchise.

There’s not much more that I can say about Metroid: Samus Returns, to be honest. Metroid is one of Nintendo’s premier franchises, one that has been dormant for quite some time. It is number one on my list when I wrote about Nintendo franchises that need to be revived. The revelation of both Metroid Prime 4 and Samus Returns caused people to go bananas during this year’s E3 events. This is a remake of a game that was already a great one when it was first released, and it is the first step in bringing back the Metroid franchise to modern day video gaming – Metroid: Samus Returns is a can’t miss game for both 3DS owners and Metroid fans alike.

Metroid: Samus Returns is set to be released to the North America region this September 15, 2017. Are you going to get your hands on a copy right away? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment or two below!

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