Friday, 20 October 2017

Metroid: Samus Returns ★★★★★

Metroid 2, for the original (house brick, of a) GameBoy, was impressive for its day. Even with the hardware's limitations, it managed to have nice big sprite work and animation. It wouldn't have been my first choice for a Remaster, but I'm glad they did. Metroid: Return of Samus is more of a reimagining than a remaster, as it doesn't stick close to the original's design, outside of the story's concept. 

Coming straight off of the events of the classic, original NES game. Humans send in the bounty hunter, Samus Aran, to commit planet-wide genocide, wiping out all remaining Metroid and the Metroid Queen, on their homeworld - SR-388. Probably not too far from LV-426 and wherever Headcrabs come from. -Come to think of it, maybe, the Squidling kids were once human and now have a squid-like facehugging, social media obsessed, parasites controlling them… waaaait…

Once you get past the opening cinematic, with some dialogue and (Basil) exposition, then, unlike more recent entries in the Metroid series, you're left alone to explore and play the game without interruption. This is back to the 2D side-scrolling goodness, of the older Metroid's. The ones that inspired the exploration, find new power-ups and then start backtracking to find new, previously inaccessible, areas genre. (Batman: Arkham Asylum, still my favorite in the series, did an extremely good job of converting this concept into a 3D environment but the 2D Castlevania’s will always be at the top of the list, for me).

Metroid: Return of Samus uses a pseudo 2.5D, with 3D polygonal models and backgrounds, which works incredibly well. Personally, I'm a fan of 2D sprites but Metroid, graphically, is very impressive. Aside from the jaggy edges from the lack of anti-aliasing, due to hardware limitations. It looks and plays a lot like some of the newer games in the genre, like Shadow Complex and 2014's Strider (which were basically love letters to Metroid, anyway, and amazing games). The game's subtle ambient soundtrack helps Immerse you into the tense, claustrophobic and desolate planet. The map's layout has been massively expanded upon, compared to its Gameboy counterpart, and barely resembles the original map.

-Side note: My 3DS XL died, during my playthrough. (This turned out to be an issue with the WiFi chip). I continued on with my old original 3DS. I would highly recommend playing using an XL; so you can take in the atmospheric scenery and enemy design. On the upside, the smaller screen did help make character edges look smoother but I'm not sure that was worth the hand cramp.-

There are a lot of Loot Box, Pay to Win and just lazy, money grabbing DLC issues going around, in games, recently. One I've not heard much about is Metroid's Harder Difficulty being behind a paywall. To unlock Hard Mode you need to buy (or borrow) an Amiibo. That's some dodgy Nintendo tactics, even by Nintendo standards. At this rate, Next Pokemon game, you'll need to buy all the Pokemon Amiibos to acquire Pokemon. Stick to DLC just being cosmetic items that having no effect on gameplay and then I don't have to care.

Samus has a few new additions to her move set. Holding the -L- button allows you to stand still and aim 360°. Handy for some precision aiming and shooting down airborne enemies.
With a well-timed -Y-, Samus will perform a parry and counter, almost all, enemies; including bosses. This is a good way to deal some big damage. The wall grab lets you grab ledges, which you can also aim off of. The Sonar is a bit of a controversial one. You unlock this really early on and using it will show you any areas with weak walls and secrets hidden around. As you go through, gathering new abilities, you soon feel more than a match for enemies.

Your main objective is to hunt down 40 Metroid. Each new area you get to has a shrine-like statue with a certain amount of holes in it, to represent the amount of Metroid within that area. Each time you find and kill a Metroid, you acquire its DNA strand and then take them back to the shrine, to open the next area to explore. This isn't as boring as I've just made it sound. Boss battles start out simple. A parry with a few shots or unloading a bunch of missiles into them will take out the first few you encounter. They soon begin to get more complex and expand upon their behaviour, with lots of bigger and more varied Metroid hybrids. Learning the Boss patterns becomes key to finishing them off.

With the success and praise Metroid: Return of Samus has received, hopefully, Nintendo won't leave it so long to do another 2D Metroid and not let it gather dust, again. Mercurysteam have done an outstanding job. I'd like to see them return to Castlevania, (they made both Castlevania: Lords of Shadow’s), and do a new game in the vein of Sympathy of the Night. Wishful thinking.

Bry Wyatt

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