SUPERJUMP
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SUPERJUMP

Have Metroid Games Always Been This Easy?

I made (relatively) short work of Metroid Dread despite my inability to finish games in the series thus far

Growing pains are expected to happen in video games. Loading into any virtual space for the first time is daunting. Though entire genres of games have similar button layouts and mechanics, figuring out a particular game’s nuances can take some time.

Metroid Dread. Image by author.

Horizon Zero Dawn, for example, expects players to gradually make mental notes of how to destroy its world’s mechanical fauna. Or a puzzle game, like Panel De Pon, gets players thinking about making moves lines ahead of their current position.

Thinking the way a game wants you to think doesn’t always come easy, but once the thought process clicks, new strategies become apparent. When I started playing Deathloop last month, I hurried through areas, keenly following objective markers. While the quickest route between two points is a straight line, I started deviating from the most obvious pathways as I became more comfortable with the game, instead favoring the stealth mechanics and the slab abilities over traditional, first-person shooting to both complete missions, and gather useful information along the way.

The Metroid series requires a similar train of thought. Dating back to 1986, the 2-D Metroid games are lauded for their explorational puzzles, which require players to hunt for upgrades and backtrack through areas to complete the game.

In my experience, thinking like Samus never came easy. Though I’ve played much of Metroid: Zero Mission, Super Metroid, and Metroid Fusion, I usually would hit a wall, forget my next objective, and have to start from the beginning only for the cycle to repeat. I might arrive at a boss a few missile tanks short, only to get frustrated trying to topple baddies with the more laborious charge shot.

Needless to say, I found Metroid games frustrating. In fact, until the release of Metroid Dread, I echoed the sentiments of David Jaffe, the God of War creator who lambasted the game for its “bad design.”

The fifth entry in the series changed my tune. Rather than putting the game down partially through the campaign, I returned night after night, playing in spurts and beating normal mode in just under 10 hours. I beat it all without a walkthrough, too.

Of course, my success begged the question — has Metroid always been this easy?

Source: Nintendo Life.

Quality of Life

Having trekked through Dread, I returned to the series’ apex, Super Metroid, on Nintendo Switch Online. From the moment I exited Samus’ ship and start exploring Planet Zebes I can genuinely say, no, not all Metroid games are as easy a lift as Dread.

While I’m plenty proud of my accomplishment of actually beating a Metroid game, Dread curries favor with players old and new through quality of life improvements. Compared to the SNES Metroid title, Samus’s movement is incredibly sleek and efficient. New maneuvers like the slide and the terrain parkour help the intergalactic bounty hunter keep pace as she moves from screen to screen.

Older moves also receive helpful upgrades. The wall jump doesn’t require nearly as much precision as it did in Super Metroid, and Samus’s general movement speed and precision make platforming a dream.

Early in the game, a heads-up text box reminds players that if they are stuck, shooting their surroundings can lead to clues about where to go next. While this is plenty helpful, the return of the Aeion ability scan pulse from Metroid: Samus Returns makes hunting out hidden areas a breeze.

Add to this Samus’s more precise control, including her counter strike, which makes many enemies susceptible to a one-shot kill and sends bosses into interactive cutscenes with copious opportunities for damage, and Metroid Dread feels almost too easy. Despite the game’s setting introducing Samus to a number of threats that will kill her in an instant, Samus quickly feels too strong for her own good.

Though I’ve yet to begin a hard mode playthrough, it seems Nintendo took the classic approach to increased difficulty — enemies have more health and Samus is more fragile. Typically, that means subsequent runs rely less on figuring out new strategies for bosses, and more on memorization of existing patterns and weaknesses. Timing jumps and bomb placements might be stricter, but this type of hard mode is really more of the same.

Source: Nintendo Life.

Difficulty aside, I’m going to revel in my completion of Metroid Dread for a while longer. As part of a series that prides itself on creating a sense of isolation, Metroid Dread is a worthy entry.

The encounters with E.M.M.I., the form-changing near-indestructible bots that hunt the Metroid-infected Samus, are tense and harken back to Metroid Fusion’s SA-X encounters. A soundtrack that relies on echoing synths and spacious rhythms also builds into the cavernous nature of ZDR as Samus in her low power state feels incredibly insignificant against the planet’s inhabitants.

And while the game’s fluidity means it feels more like a shoot-em-up than any of the series’ past adventures, Metroid Dread is an exceptional, if slightly easier entry, that sits nicely among the titles in the rest of the franchise.

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Brandon Johnson

Brandon Johnson

Forever hunting for my new favorite music sample. Founder of tripleot.com & abrandbox.com. 🌴🦩

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