In the very near future, a beautiful and atmospheric new entry in the Metroid series will slide its way into our hearts.
It’s been 19 years since the world has been graced with a brand new 2D Metroid. Thankfully in less than two weeks that will no longer be the case with the release of Metroid Dread. At a recent Nintendo preview event, I got to spend a little over an hour with both Metroid Dread and the Nintendo Switch OLED model.
First of all, Metroid Dread looks absolutely incredible on the OLED model. Colors are vibrant and pop right off the screen. One of the great benefits of any OLED screen are the superb black levels and the new Switch iteration does not disappoint on that front. In addition, I found the slimmer bezels on the OLED Switch helped increase immersion into the game world. My interest level in the OLED model was very low before seeing it in-person, but I’m seriously considering picking one up now.
Let’s discuss the very beginning of Metroid Dread. Series protagonist Samus Aran has been dispatched to the remote planet ZDR to investigate a strange video transmission that indicates the X parasite has survived. An opening cutscene shows Samus facing off with a Chozo warrior on the strange planet, but this battle does not last long and she blacks out. Upon awakening, Samus discovers that she is now trapped deep underground and must find a way back to her ship. In addition, the encounter also stripped Samus of most of her abilities.
MercurySteam, the co-developers of 2017’s Metroid Samus Returns, are once again working with Nintendo EPD on Metroid Dread. It’s immediately evident that the controls of Dread build upon those of Samus Returns. Free aim is back along with the Melee Counter that let’s Samus parry enemy attacks. One improvement to the parry system is the ability to activate these counter attacks while running. This new variation is called the Dash Melee and I found it very effective and fun to use during my short play session. Probably the biggest new addition at the game’s onset is the slide move. In prior Metroid games, encountering a Morph Ball sized passageway meant you probably needed a Morph Ball to proceed. In Metroid Dread, narrow passages have to be re-evaluated because you can just slide under many of them. The moveset for Samus feels fun and diverse right from the get-go.
Exploration and finding new upgrades and abilities is of course still at the heart of the Metroid Dread. While I only got brief glimpses at some of the new abilities like the Spider Magnet, it’s evident that the developers are trying to surprise players and avoid following the same old upgrade path. It was honestly refreshing to not acquire the Morph Ball in the first hour of gameplay. In addition, I’m happy to report the game does not appear to handhold your path through the world. While the game will certainly give you hints, it won’t explicitly tell you what room you need to go to next.
The original Metroid game and world were heavily influenced by the Ridley Scott film Alien. While later films in the Alien series would focus more on action, the original film no doubt falls in the horror genre. Because of this, I find it fitting that the new E.M.M.I. robots greatly help intensify the horror and tension of Metroid Dread. The E.M.M.I lurk around the game world in designated areas and they will hunt Samus down if they detect her nearby. They are invulnerable to most weapons and can kill Samus instantly. It’s also worth noting that each of the E.M.M.I behave differently. I enjoyed my brief heart pounding encounters with the robots. Also, even if you succumb to them, the game quickly loads back up and will revive you relatively close to your last location even if you hadn’t saved recently.
Metroid Dread appears to walk the fine line of respecting the series tradition, while also innovating in unique ways. I’m very excited to continue exploring the game world when the game releases in early October. 2D Metroid is back, baby.