3DS

North America

Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS) Review

by Neal Ronaghan - September 12, 2017, 4:59 am PDT
Total comments: 12

9.5

Mixing bold additions with tried-and-true gameplay helps make Samus’ return a very notable one.

Metroid: Samus Returns has a lot riding on it. Right off the bat, this 3DS game holds the distinction of being the first 2D Metroid from Nintendo since 2004. Second off, the development team is one with multiple things to prove, as Nintendo newcomer MercurySteam is seeking to prove their worth after Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, and Yoshio Sakamoto and his team at Nintendo are setting out to recover from the fallout of the 2010 Wii release Metroid: Other M. Samus Returns, a remake of the 1991 Game Boy game Metroid II: Return of Samus, has big shoes to fill, and fortunately, it expertly fills all of these giant Metroid-shaped shoes and then some. Metroid: Samus Returns is a brilliant entry in a beloved series that brings together the fuzzy nostalgia of old Metroid games while clawing repeatedly at a bright new future that will hopefully come to fruition.

Samus Returns is less a remake and more a complete reimagining of the second Metroid game. Retaining just the broad strokes of Metroid II’s monochromatic origins, it takes you through the same journey through Planet SR388 to eradicate all of the Metroids on their home planet. Outside of that basic structure and general planetary layout, this is, however, a brand new game. New power-ups, primarily from other entries in the series, appear and the world is littered with oodles of new secrets. Unlike the series’ previous remake Metroid: Zero Mission, this doesn’t hew as close to the original work, which works to the new version’s advantage. The new labyrinthine take on SR388 is a large part of why Samus Returns is so good, but the freshly added mechanics are key to why this feels like such an important step forward for 2D Metroid.

Combat gets a major and much needed shot in the arm. The new melee counter ability, which lets Samus deftly knock away and stun an enemy with a well-timed button press, is integral to success, especially early on. This simple addition transforms Metroid into a more close-encounter-focused experience, where you are far more encouraged to get up close and personal with enemies as opposed to keeping distance with long-range attacks. While some of that magic wears off as you get deeper into SR388 and get familiar power-ups that boost Samus’ weaponry to her regular late-game world-wrecking potential, the introduction of the melee counter is one of the best elements of Samus Returns. Melee countering does appear to be maybe too much of the focus early on, but as the adventure continues and your arsenal grows, it soon becomes just one of many helpful abilities you can call on when needed. A lot of boss fights do build to waiting for the melee counter opening, but it’s more just one method you can defeat the hordes of Metroid you face off against than the one true path of victory.

Aeion abilities are another major new addition and for better or worse, this is the only place where truly brand new power-ups are found in this remake. These four abilities, slowly found throughout the first few areas, provide a helpful boost in a way that is reminiscent of Nintendo’s old Super Guide concept. Scan Pulse reveals map tiles and hidden blocks nearby you, which is helpful if you’re stuck or looking for that last power-up in an area. Lightning Armor provides another layer of defense, especially useful for challenging bosses and volatile areas. Beam Burst is a super powerful rapid-fire gun attack that can take down virtually any enemy. Phase Drift slows downs time, which opens up the possibility for some interesting later game puzzles that require the use of this power. Each one is tied to the new Aeion meter, which can be expanded with hidden power-ups. Some might lament the addition of these challenging-reducing power-ups, but they actually help make Samus Returns more difficult by default. Unlike more recent Metroid games, this rarely tells you where to go next, letting you explore and get lost in the cavernous world.

Outside of the new touches, the game just feels like Metroid, mixing together a lot of the series history into this remake. Power-ups not found in Metroid II originally show up here, letting you use the Grapple Beam, Charge Beam, and Super Missiles to add to the complexity of the maze-like world. While it’s a little bit disappointing that no new-to-the-series power-ups show up outside of the Aeion abilities, it’s nothing that holds back the majesty of this adventure. The journey to eradicate the Metroid takes more twists and turns this time around, with added bosses and sections.

It took me a shockingly long amount of time to complete my first runthrough. I rolled credits at about the 13-hour mark with 75% completion, which didn’t include the time spent dying on some tricky late-game foes. Returning to the game, even after you beat it, for 100% item completion is made significantly more engaging and fun thanks to the well-placed warp statues in each area. You still need to backtrack, but a lot of the monotony of it is excised. The warp addition is another astute modern tweak made by Nintendo and MercurySteam. Potentially helpful is the notation feature, but the small map on the touch screen makes it hard to mark anything too specific (I’m even using an XL model!). Additionally, pulling out the stylus to try to mark anything down often slowed down the game far too much for my liking. It’s a nice option to have, but it’s just clumsy in practice.

After beating the game once comes Hard Mode, which, well, is a lot harder. Enemies do more damage and the game is far more punishing. If you own Metroid series amiibo, including the pair of brand new ones coming out on the same day as this game, you can unlock other bonuses. With the new Metroid amiibo, you can unlock Fusion Mode, which is a slightly more difficult hard mode that lets you play wearing Samus’ suit from Metroid Fusion. The other Samus amiibo unlock bonus energy, missile, and Aeion tanks during play as well as art galleries and a sound test after completion. If you don’t have access to the amiibo, you’re only missing out on some superfluous options. Unless you’re the type to replay through games on their hardest difficulties, the amiibo usage is ultimately just a nice bonus.

Going into Metroid: Samus Returns, I was hopeful and optimistic. But given the past decade of Metroid, it was hard to not be a skeptic. After beating Metroid: Samus Returns, my skepticism washed away, mostly thanks to the fact that this 3DS game pays a loving homage to the greatness of past entries while adding enough new elements to feel like a fresh and wonderful modern experience. With their powers combined, Nintendo and MercurySteam basically struck gold with this game. Samus Returns is a dynamite entry in the fabled series and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Metroid: Zero Mission and Super Metroid. If you’ve been waiting for a new 2D Metroid game from Nintendo for more than a decade, you owe it to yourself to play this game.

Summary

Pros
  • Aeion abilities function as brilliant difficulty adjustor
  • Brilliant return to classic Metroid form
  • Cool new secrets and twists
  • Excellent soundtrack
  • Melee counter deepens combat
Cons
  • Lack of brand new power-ups

Talkback

LemonadeSeptember 12, 2017

I have very little experience with 2D Metroid. Im hoping to try it first before thinking about buying it.

Nice to hear the game turned out well

ClexYoshiSeptember 12, 2017

I was DEEPLY worried thyat this game would be a very... Mercury Steam experience, drawing less on the series' roots, going strictly for atmosphere or orchestral stings, requiring the balance of aeon that only replenishes if you manage to defeat enemies with entirely too much HP with the melee counter, randomly inserting Patrick Stewart as a new character while we discover that Samus was actually the Metroid Queen all along as a way to forsake and stand against the Galactic Federation that had cursed her to bounty hunting this whole time...


I might be a bit bitter, and think this studio after it leaves Nintendo's guiding wing will return to complete mediocrity.

This will be a fun one to pick up. it's got a hiiiiiiigh bar to beat if I'm to prefer it to AM2R, though.

AdrockSeptember 12, 2017

Quote from: ClexYoshi

I was DEEPLY worried thyat this game would be a very... Mercury Steam experience, drawing less on the series' roots, going strictly for atmosphere or orchestral stings, requiring the balance of aeon that only replenishes if you manage to defeat enemies with entirely too much HP with the melee counter, randomly inserting Patrick Stewart as a new character while we discover that Samus was actually the Metroid Queen all along as a way to forsake and stand against the Galactic Federation that had cursed her to bounty hunting this whole time...

This is a stretch. Konami and Nintendo hired MercurySteam for completely different purposes. Konami wanted a reboot which is exactly what it got. Lords of Shadow was always meant to move away from Castlevania's series roots. If anything, I felt like it didn't go far enough. MercurySteam was obsessed with little references until it just flat-out put Alucard in there because people like Alucard. I liked Mirror of Fate and reboot Alucard even if I think it hurt the story more than helped. Lords of Shadow had that major modern day plot twist then walked back on it since a large portion the sequel takes place in Gabriel's mind. All MercurySteam had to do was put Dracula in actual Hell and cover maybe Satan's march on Heaven. But nope, imagination castle...

SteefosaurusSeptember 12, 2017

Looks like it's finally time to start looking for a 3DS then...

Question though, is the Spiderball in this? I really like the idea of it, and I'm pretty curious if it's in this game or if they limited its use severely.

broodwarsSeptember 12, 2017

Sounds like it'll be a decent game to pick up once it's ported to something other than the 3DS. And if it doesn't come to Switch, I'll be fine not playing it.  Good to see Mercury Steam back with another solid title, even as someone who liked Lords of Shadow 2 (albeit less than LoS 1).

Luigi DudeSeptember 12, 2017

Hopefully now the fanatics in the Metroid fanbase won't turn into rabbid dogs anytime Sakamoto's name is even mentioned.  Dude has one of the most impressive resumes in gaming history with the huge variety of quality games he's been involved with, directed Super Metroid, Fusion and Zero Mission, a trilogy of gaming many directors would kill to be responsible for, and yet he had one miss-step in Other M, a game that while heavily flawed is still a decent title, and suddenly became worse then Hitler and Stalin combined.

Seriously, even when Miyamoto was having his way with Paper Mario and Star Fox Zero, people would still gave him credit for his previous classics.  Sakamoto on the other hand after Other M actually had people saying he had nothing to do with his classics like Super Metroid anymore and that he somehow stole all the credit from others.  Shit was just ridicules.

SteefosaurusSeptember 12, 2017

Quote from: Luigi

Sakamoto on the other hand after Other M actually had people saying he had nothing to do with his classics like Super Metroid anymore and that he somehow stole all the credit from others.  Shit was just ridicules.

Agreed, unfortunately I think many Metroid fans felt like they were being ignored post-Other M, while during the GameCube era the series was kind of presented as the "third Nintendo franchise". I'm not sure why, but for whatever reason Metroid fans seem more hung up on the story/continuity than the average Zelda discussions.

Maybe the developers brought that upon themselves a bit, by making Other M a much more narrative game than previous entries, but I totally agree that the intense hatred is rather overblown. I might be jaded since I liked Other M's gameplay (not so much the story haha), but yeah I'm hoping this'll end the needless complaining, if Samus Returns is well-received broadly.

StratosSeptember 13, 2017

I still need to pick up Other M. Its pretty cheap, and I want to try it for myself to see how it is.


Happy to hear MercurySteam benefited from being under Nintendo's wing. Maybe there will be more partnerships in their future, similar to how Next Level (right studio?) made Luigi's Mansion 2 and became a 2nd party developer.

Nintendo always seems to bring out the best in outside developers they work with, and it's nice to see this is no exception. I'm really looking forward to Friday to play this, and hope it does well and leads to more great 2D Metroid games.

StratosSeptember 13, 2017

That was the case with Silicone Knights and Rare too.

ClexYoshiSeptember 13, 2017

Quote from: Adrock

Quote from: ClexYoshi

I was DEEPLY worried thyat this game would be a very... Mercury Steam experience, drawing less on the series' roots, going strictly for atmosphere or orchestral stings, requiring the balance of aeon that only replenishes if you manage to defeat enemies with entirely too much HP with the melee counter, randomly inserting Patrick Stewart as a new character while we discover that Samus was actually the Metroid Queen all along as a way to forsake and stand against the Galactic Federation that had cursed her to bounty hunting this whole time...

This is a stretch. Konami and Nintendo hired MercurySteam for completely different purposes. Konami wanted a reboot which is exactly what it got. Lords of Shadow was always meant to move away from Castlevania's series roots. If anything, I felt like it didn't go far enough. MercurySteam was obsessed with little references until it just flat-out put Alucard in there because people like Alucard. I liked Mirror of Fate and reboot Alucard even if I think it hurt the story more than helped. Lords of Shadow had that major modern day plot twist then walked back on it since a large portion the sequel takes place in Gabriel's mind. All MercurySteam had to do was put Dracula in actual Hell and cover maybe Satan's march on Heaven. But nope, imagination castle...

and yes, I felt those references were shallow and had no substance to them. I was saying I don't like how Lords of Shadow Plays. I don't like that it punishes you for getting hurt at all and not paying attention to counter oppertunities. I'm saying Gabriel Belmont and the MoF protags all feel weak as shit if you're not using magic to augment their offense, and if you're not playing the game the very specific way the devs want you to play it, then you're not getting your magic back and every fight is a fucking SLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOGUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

Imagine if you had to say... Melee counter every Zoomer and pump 5 missiles into them to get Aeon back, and then use Aeon for another enemy in order for them to drop missiles? THAT is my problem with Lords of Shadow. That was my fear when I saw the two things Mercury Steam implimented into Samus Returns. or if the rooms sealed off for combat arena stuff with even minor enemies that somehow kick the living shit out of Samus unless you dodge very specific attacks in a specific way because OOPS you didn't notice the enemy flashed white so that means you have to dodge and not melee counter! (also, on the dueling ammo thing... that's something I didn't like about Metroid Prime 2 Echoes.)

Also, I think The Varia suit on the cover of this game looks ugly and mishapen. as does the Samus Amiibo. it's got a tiny scrawny head and a hunchback.

Speaking of Hunchbacks, I dislike that MercurySteam's attempt to inject humor or flavor through Lords of Shadow's impenetrable blandness was via trying to Minion-ize Fleamen. Castlevania's humor comes from it having very video game-y or 'anime is happening' sorts of tropes and playing it as straight faced as the Hammer style horror that took before it.


I don't know why, but Lords of Shadow always gave me this... Tolkien vibe. like... the game could be set in Middle Earth and it'd probably feel more appropriate.

ejamerSeptember 13, 2017

For what it's worth, I'm with ClexYoshi. 


His criticisms of what MercurySteam did with the Castlevania games ring true for me.  They took everything about that series and changed it for the worse.  I shared his fears that Metroid gameplay would be changed the same way.


It sounds like that isn't what happened.

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Metroid: Samus Returns Box Art

Genre Action
Developer MercurySteam Entertainment
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: Metroid: Samus Returns
Release Sep 15, 2017
PublisherNintendo
RatingEveryone 10+
jpn: Metroid: Samus Returns
Release Sep 15, 2017
PublisherNintendo
RatingAll Ages
eu: Metroid: Samus Returns
Release Sep 15, 2017
PublisherNintendo
Rating7+
aus: Metroid: Samus Returns
Release Sep 16, 2017
PublisherNintendo
RatingMature
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