Metroid Dread: Nintendo’s Sci-Fi Masterpiece
The room is filled with a deathly gray glow, which flickers as the orb at the center of it speaks. It emits a sound that is cold and impersonal. But it’s still a welcome relief from the horrors of your past. As the voice ceases, silence falls. The only way to move forward is through the perilous depths of your enemy’s stronghold. But, the ever-present threat of death will not stop you. You’re determined. You are capable.
You are Samus Aran.
You are also isolated on an alien planet, where everyone is determined to destroy you. This will likely happen dozens of times.
Metroid Dread’s nearly perfect juggling act includes balancing these two identities (the space hero and the sense of overwhelming danger). With its clever approach to action, pacing, and classic Metroid experience, it’s still a great Metroid experience. Dread is also one of Nintendo’s most exciting games in years. It’s thrilling, brilliantly designed and a wonderful culmination of Samus’ decades-long 2D saga.
Old Sins, Long Shadows
Metroid Dread starts by reminiscing about the four previous adventures of Samus in this branch. It’s an important part. Metroid games tend to leave their storytelling to lore or brief explanations at the end and beginning of Samus’ commission. Dread weaves important narrative points through cutscenes, conversations with Adam, Samus, and Samus’ navigation AI.
Dread begins with a message. The unknown sender transmits a video of a single X parasite. This is the same species Samus believed she had destroyed at the end of Metroid Fusion. She sets out to investigate but the results she discovers are beyond her expectations.
Metroid Dread’s story, without going into spoilers, is powerful and changes how we see the four previous games. It helps that Dread almost exclusively focuses on Samus. The galaxy’s fate is always in danger, but Dread is a personal story about Samus and the deadly grudge she holds.
Dread feels more intimate and immersive by placing her at the center of the story and having Samus actually experience it. Dread’s exceptional production values and well-cut scenes make Samus feel more connected to the story. This makes it easier to feel every victory and struggle more strongly than ever before.
Fast and deadly
MercurySteam is in charge of Dread. MercurySteam’s faith was limited in what MercurySteam could accomplish with Samus Returns. Its fast-paced approach could never be compatible with Metroid’s classical, methodical design. Dread was a different story. I had to remind myself several times that I was actually playing a Metroid video game, especially in boss fights that require almost every tool in Samus’ arsenal.
MercurySteam might have been able to let loose with a new Metroid, just like Samus was able to absorb Metroid DNA and become a parasite. It’s still Metroid at the core, but it’s just stylish and more exhilarating.
Dread, unlike Samus Returns makes full use of his new identity whenever possible in Samus’ seamless movements, amazing Aeion abilities and vicious bosses. It’s Metroid fulfilled in many ways. It reminds me you felt like an evil space warrior fighting Mother Brain or Ridley all those long years ago, even though it was technically slow.
These E.M.M.I. These robots are the core of Dread’s personality. I don’t think it’s possible to have mild opinions about them or the Zones that they inhabit. They are both great twists on Metroidvania’s formula and the heart of MercurySteam’s design philosophy. Metroidvanias are about being observant of your surroundings and figuring out the best way to use your upgrades.
E.M.M.I. E.M.M.I. Zones make it easier to connect with your environment, which almost makes navigation a muscle memory. Your latest gadget is not a victory, but a desperate attempt to survive.
Dread’s method of defeating the E.M.M.I. It is repetitive and a little boring for most of the experience. This could be a relic from the original series. The threat they pose to Samus, even with Samus’ ultimate weapon enabled, keeps these fights fraught and creates a palpable feeling of relief once Samus departs the E.M.M.I. They are left behind as a heap of scrap.