The discharge of Metroid Dread came like a surprise to a lot of. News on a sequel to Metroid Fusion, the until-now final chronological installment in the series, choose to go without an update since 2002. The only clue to Dread existing whatsoever, whether it might be so named, was a most likely completely coincidental scan log referencing “Metroid project ‘Dread'” in 2007’s discharge of Prime 3.
The developer, Mercury Stream, had previously produced Metroid: Samus Returns, the sport that brought melee combat and a new Aeion system into the series, each of which make their return in Dread. With this particular game being in certain form of development on and off in the last couple of decades, it’s intriguing to see it finally brought to life by a studio relatively new to the franchise.
From a technical perspective, Dread checks all the areas you would expect a Nintendo game to. The art invokes the realistic tone Metroid is renowned for but stays aware of the Switch’s limitations. It hits a stylized blend between what would be seen from the Prime game and the more anime-focused action of Other M. The controls are responsive and fluid (as they should be, some challenges require pixel-perfect precision), and also the loading time between parts of the world never feel oppressively long. There is some noticeable slowdown occasionally, but it never can last for greater than a matter of moments, and also the areas where the game wants you to give consideration are completely optimized.
Samus’ movement feels fast and agile. The simplicity the wall jump is a big step-up from its rather tricky implementation in Super Metroid, though the insufficient control over its path is an unfortunate downside because of its convenience. As the melee counter may seem to become an invite for constant halting when engaging with enemies, it never feels that way in practicality. Avoiding enemy interaction is simple, almost unconscious even, and the sheer force of the melee counter ensures that any enemy interaction can last a few seconds at most when you are getting a hang of the timing.
The level design is also noticeably clear. Mercury Stream clearly took a cue from criticisms of Metroid Fusions’ linear progression. While Metroid Dread is still highly linear, it never feels that way. ADAM (Samus’ AI assistant and also father figure- it’s weird) never lets you know what to do. Instead, the map itself naturally lends itself to your progression. You will never be asked to bash yourself against an impossible challenge all night at a time only to discover you just don’t possess the power needed to progress. The sport gives you all of the hints needed. If you find a shuttle or an elevator, you’re meant to go. If a wall is within your way, you shoot it. Players acquainted with Metroidvanias must only expect to find themselves stuck a couple of times for the most part while progressing the plot.
While some may find this to be a step down from older game’s much more open maps, it’s largely necessary for Metroid Dread. Partly due to its massive size. A single region of Dread’s ZDR can seem to be bigger than almost the entirety of Super Metroid’s Zebes. While Samus’ speed can transport her through the world relatively quickly, it’s no real surprise the game often just opts to provide fast travel instead of a mile-long trek through areas you’ve recently been. Fast travel also helps players skip round the map’s often extensive E.M.M.I. zones, which may be a welcome break given the challenge from the rest of the game.
Speaking of, with most from the game’s marketing being centered around the E.M.M.I. and also the feeling they’re supposed to invoke, you'd be completely forgiven for thinking the tone is overblown. It is a Nintendo game, it may only be so scary. And that is true. Even if caught by an E.M.M.I., Samus’s death means she’ll be sent right back away from zone. It’s rather forgiving, and depending on the context it can often totally drain the worry from a situation. But many encounters don’t have that context.
Throughout the majority of the game, traversing an E.M.M.I. zone will feel like sharing musical tastes on a first date. It’s stressful, reflexively avoidant, and you’ll feel immense relief when it’s over. Consistent survival requires learning a map’s layout almost as extra time of the controller you use to experience, and just whenever you decipher it the sport will switch some misconception on you. One of the E.M.M.I. moves faster than Samus does, another can easily see you thru walls, and something is able to temporarily paralyze you once it spots you. Metroid Dread constantly makes certain that you’re never too prepared for the situation available. When you are strong enough to trivialize most encounters, you’re also not fighting E.M.M.I. anymore regardless.
This constant difficulty curve permeates through the rest of the game too, especially in its bosses. You’ll notice that Metroid Dread more often than not places precisely what you'll need at the front of you. Losing sight of your way to seize every energy tank and missile expansion is nearly purely just to reach that 100% completion mark. This is because damage greatly scales in later rounds, to the stage that how many upgrades you’ve searched for is mainly irrelevant. Whenever a boss knocks out a tenth of the health bar per hit, having the ability to take one or two more isn't a game-changer. Rather, learning patterns is exactly what turns the tide. By time those patterns are learned, you’re automatically. Cleanly moving via a three-phase attack and nearly flawlessly finishing someone else in charge often makes you leave feeling you’re stronger than whenever you went in, despite the previous hour of failed attempts.
All of this all comes together very naturally to form a level of difficulty that’s less like utter punishment and more like training. Whenever you pull it off, the satisfaction originates from the advance of your skill, not the relief to be done with it. It’s a gameplay experience which more than makes up for that, frankly, middling plot.
The Unfortunate Parts
While the gameplay of Dread hits it from the park, the story is not as much as exactly the same task. Despite being marketed as the “end from the Metroid saga”, it seems that hardly any was actually concluded whatsoever. Actually, Metroids don’t even come in the game, besides the twist that Samus herself has become a Metroid. The Federation continues to have Metroid DNA through their vaccine, and Samus herself is now a repository of the DNA for anyone else who wants to seek it out. Samus ends the sport where she started, just now she’s stronger.
For those looking for a follow-up to Fusion, the storyline also fails to deliver here. Fusion left served by a plotline about Samus going against the Federation itself after uncovering a shady bioweapons ring among their leaders. This thread was continued in Other M, however it finds itself strangely missing throughout this plot. Indeed, it doesn't only never show up, but the game starts by informing us that Samus continues to be on the Federation’s payroll even with ended the last game by blowing up certainly one of their research stations (and the accompanying planet).
This is not to say the game doesn’t provide information for the fans of the series’ story, but it is to state it doesn’t provide depth into it, just extra time. How is Kraid on ZDR? What's the Exelion Star Corporation? Why do the Chozo on ZDR get access to pseudo-Mother Brain clones? These aren't questions which are answered, but you will become familiar with the name of the tribes Samus comes from along with a part of Chozo vocabulary (which is, admittedly, very cool).
Of course, Metroid has not been very well noted for its plot around its atmosphere, but unfortunately Dread also fails in this way. The majority of the music is rather forgettable, relegated to the background, and the environments, while certainly varied and delightful, never truly end up part of the main focus. The extensive backdrops, which should ostensibly clarify a feeling of naturality to the world, rarely communicate with Samus proper, instead appearing more as something for that eye to glaze over while searching for secrets on your plane. Although this game certainly plays better than Super Metroid, it fails to hold the same type of tone and iconic imagery Super Metroid held.
Metroid Dread is hard, but it’s hard in a really good way. The kind of way that enables you to sometimes wish to toss your controller, but doubles your resolve while doing so. It’s smooth, quick, and makes Samus feel fast and robust around it possibly can without turning into an action platformer. Unfortunately, regardless of the sheer cool factor of Samus wrestling with a thousand-ton behemoth, the storyline does not carry the weight and also the soundtrack is less than the series’ par. While those problems may be disappointments to long-term fans, Dread is unquestionably among the best in the franchise, well more than well worth the $60 price tag. For Mercury Stream’s second entry, Dread is incredibly promising, also it supplies a great deal of expect a future Metroid entry.