It's no secret that MercurySteam wanted to remake Metroid Fusion. The passion they demonstrated with their intention to remake the beloved GBA instalment was what led Yoshio Sakamoto, producer and main face of the saga, to choose the Spanish studio to handle Metroid: Samus Returns.
The remake for Nintendo 3DS proved that Samus Aran was in good hands and earned MercurySteam an even greater honour: being responsible for continuing the story of the saga, nineteen years later, with a completely new numbered instalment within the 2D aspect.
But the thing does not end there: this Metroid 5 also recovers the concept and the name of Metroid Dread, a title that was originally going to be launched on Nintendo DS to serve as a sequel to Fusion but was finally cancelled.
The participants of The Squid Game could know the games from the beginning and nobody noticed
For a long time, it was the eternal game that the community dreamed of even knowing that it would never see the light of the sun.
Sequel to Fusion. Metroid 5. 2D development. Metroid Dread. We are not exaggerating if we say that what MercurySteam has in its hands is the dream of anyone who has considered themselves a Metroid fan in recent years.
Have they managed to live up to such a responsibility? We tell you about it in our analysis of Metroid Dread for Nintendo Switch.
The ultimate organism
Let's get to the point: Metroid Dread is the new playable summit of the saga, the benchmark that future instalments will aspire to. From the moment we take the controls, the feeling of speed and fluidity is constant; It's nice to control Samus.
And to achieve this, it seems that MercurySteam had one thing clear at all times when designing the gameplay: never break the rhythm.
Hence, to the usual actions, such as running, jumping or shooting, new features such as sliding are added, which allows us to sneak through tight spaces without having to stop to activate the morphosphere, or the sudden impulse, a useful "dash" to avoid attacks quickly.
The same philosophy of not breaking the rhythm has been applied to the actions introduced by Metroid Samus Returns, the 360º aiming and the counterattack, since now both can be carried out on the move and are much more refined.
In particular, the counterattack has been balanced to the exact point: normal enemies no longer use only attacks preceded by a flash, which invites us to use the beam more often. Or what is the same: to play as a 2D Metroid of a lifetime.
And when they do use them, the window for reacting is tighter or harder to predict, making counterattack a useful and satisfying tool, rather than a constant necessity.
The depths of ZDR
Level design is often a key aspect in Metroidvania; what differentiates the good from the not so good.
And in that sense, Metroid Dread does things in an unusual way, both within the genre and the saga itself.
To begin with, the "journey" is in the opposite direction: the game begins in the depths of ZDR, and the goal is the bounty hunter's ship.
It's funny because if Samus Returns was a descent into hell, Dread is an ascent to heaven.
Another aspect that is highly valued within Metroidvania is that exploration is favoured, allowing to obtain skills that open new routes in a different order, including objects that make it worth going back, numerous secrets ...
In short: offering a non-linear development. Super Metroid is considered a masterpiece of the genre for this very reason.
Metroid Dread is committed to a design that is both linear and non-linear.
We explain ourselves: the indicators have been completely fled. Adam, Samus's computer, is usually in charge of telling us what the next goal is, but it is up to us to figure out the right path based on the skills we have. He never pinpoints the exact location with bright light markers.
In addition, at Metroid Dread we continually return to previously visited areas. And not just looking for optional items: backtracking is a must here.
Because there is not a single area of ZDR that can be seen in full on the first visit. And you can rest assured because to encourage the returns to the already known places, there are several clever tricks ...
This leads to great moments where we wonder "where should I go now?" And, in some cases, it even means getting lost and going around until you find the right route.
The EMMI’s of the Federation
If you have followed the Metroid Dread promotion, by now you will know that one of the great novelties of this instalment is the E.M.M.I .: robots that tirelessly pursue Samus until they find her and eliminate her.
This translates into stealth sections in which we must avoid alerting these sentries because if they locate us and manage to catch us, death is (almost) assured.
Broadly speaking, it could be said that they are an evolution of the moments in which we faced the SA-X in Metroid Fusion, forcing us to use stealth against an enemy against whom we are at a disadvantage.
Sections with E.M.M.I. They have left us with a good taste in our mouths, and the most important thing is that despite their characteristics, we have not found them frustrating. On the contrary, they are a good way to add rhythm and some freshness to the classic Metroid gameplay.
But we also believe that they are not fully exploited. Because even though each E.M.M.I. has a characteristic ability, in the end, the strategy to follow with all of them is always the same: run and pray that the exit we have chosen is the correct one.
Spectral camouflage, a new ability specifically designed for these sections, isn't even usually worth using.
E.M.M.I. They generate great moments of tension, especially when it comes time to load the shot as we watch them slowly approach Samus. But maybe we were expecting a little more ... terror.
Because for a game nicknamed "Dread" (fear, terror, dread), Metroid 5 is never scary. As in all Metroids, the atmosphere is magnificent: the sense of mystery is constant and manages to make us feel alone in the face of danger on an unknown planet, but it is far from the terror that Metroid Fusion transmitted.
The Last Metroid
By now, it is more than evident that Metroid Dread takes its inspiration without hesitation from Fusion. And that also applies to history, in which we find parallels such as having a computer indicating the next objective, which is continually affected by the fact that we are at a disadvantage, the presence of an unknown attacker ...
At times it seems that Metroid Dread is a game designed specifically for those who played Fusion; It is a gift for GBA delivery lovers.
And we have been surprised that they are not walking with half measures: it is a total continuation of that story, although the events of Samus Returns are also taken into account (we finally understand the meaning behind that mysterious secret panel). And they even allow themselves some references that only the most passionate followers will recognize.
As in classic games, exploration and action are the bulk of Metroid Dread, saving the moments when Adam gives us a report on the situation.
But there are a couple of occasions in which a greater narrative exposure is committed through video sequences, dialogues, explanations ...
It doesn't seem like a bad solution to us, since in this way the usual gameplay without interruptions of the Metroid 2D is preserved and, at the same time, a story is told in a traditional way.
The face and sound of terror
We've been raving about the gameplay of Metroid Dread, and it's a must to mention that much of the "fault" is with Samus' exceptional animations.
The fluidity with which it goes from running to sliding, from sliding to hitting, from hitting to a shooting ... It is only possible thanks to a worked and numerous set of animations, of which we must also highlight the spectacular counterattack sequences against the bosses. Or small details, such as him resting his hand on walls and other surfaces when he comes into contact with them.
Graphically, Metroid Dread is a sweet pear, one of those games that look especially good when playing in handheld mode and watching it on the go.
Above all, Samus's design and the different suits stand out, being especially striking the metallic texture with which they are made and the pattern of lights that accompany them (it is very cool to see how they light up in dark areas).
But also the scenarios, which inherit the "live backgrounds" born from the 3D effect of Samus Returns. It does not matter where we are in ZDR: if we take a look at the bottom, we will always appreciate small details, from plants that react to Samus' passage to creatures that go about their lives quietly. It is one of the keys to its fantastic setting.
And all this with a rate of 60 frames per second, which is why Metroid Dread looks so good in motion and enjoys that constant feeling of fluidity and speed.
There are small drops at certain times, but nothing serious or too remarkable to be considered a negative point.
As for the soundtrack, we are facing a work in which original compositions prevail, although there are some remixes of well-known songs (such as the "Theme of Super Metroid", which has become a kind of leitmotif for the saga ).
All the new melodies are true to the spirit of Metroid and are perfect as an accompaniment to get fully into the atmosphere that Dread raises, but we miss a more catchy theme, the kind that stays in our head after playing.
We also miss some more lively songs, especially the usual heroic theme that is usually heard on the first level of all Metroids. And for guides and impressions on the best games around, stick around at GamesAtlas.