Samus Returns Review


You know, I've been noticing something rather...shall I say, PECULIAR about the "Top 10 Best Nintendo 3DS Games" list on TheTopTens. What exactly IS that thing, you might ask? Why, the answer to that question is simple, fellow cadets; at the moment of me writing this review, THIS GAME SOMEHOW STILL HASN'T MADE IT UP ONTO THAT LIST'S "TOP 20" PAGE YET!

Of course, we all know the REAL reason for this; it's the infamous AM2R scandal that happened during the game's development, where Nintendo issued an un-necessarily harsh DMCA strike on Another Metroid 2 Remake (in favor of Federation Force, no less) and then proceeded to most likely steal many of AM2R's ideas in the process of assembling this (equally) astonishing masterpiece together. Which, of course, leads us to the especially big question:

Is this game really able to stand on its own when COMPARED to AM2R? Well, to put it as cornily as possible, the Metroid fanbase will never truly be at peace until the answer to this eternal debate is finally brought OUT of captivity, so let's get into it before Metroid ironically devolves into any MORE of a blatant Halo clone, shall we?

STORY: While it might not be literally MADE out of purely concentrated memorable moments like Super Metroid was, Samus Returns' style of minimalist storytelling is still VERY clearly in the vein of SM; sure, it might not be quite AS atmospheric as Super Metroid and the Prime trilogy, but in my opinion, I can easily say with confidence (AND without even having to spoil anything about it, no less) that the Super Metroid style of storytelling is easily done JUST as well here as it was there. Now if Nintendo had only taken the time to add AM2R's Logbook feature into the mix, THEN it would've been perfect. However, as it stands, SR is already a brilliant retelling of the Metroid 2 storyline through and through, with QUITE a lot of fanservice to boot (although, again, still arguably nowhere near as much as the amount that AM2R had at times).

GRAPHICS: Perhaps one of the OTHER most controversial aspects of this game, Samus Returns' visual style is something that the vast majority of players have indeed been factually proven by statistics to either love or hate with a burning passion. Basically, Nintendo scrapped the traditional (albeit ridiculously gorgeous) 2D-sprite art style from AM2R and replaced it with a slighhtly evolved form of Nintendo 64 polygons. Although this might sound (and also look, at least at first glance) absolutely HIDEOUS, just trust me; play the game enough and you WILL get used to it. By 3DS standards, the game's 2.5-D graphical look is executed beautifully, especially with regards to the painstakingly detailed and immersive backgrounds for each area.

SOUND: Truly one of the most criminally under-appreciated aspects of the Metroid franchise in general, the fittingly eerie and otherworldly atmosphere of the golden age series' (again, most notably Super Metroid's and the first Prime's) music is brought back in full force with Samus Returns, to the point where the game's special edition even literally comes with its own limited-edition CD just to show off how exceptionally good its soundtrack is. Much like numerous other things about the game in general, it pays wonderful homage to the old (most notably through the obligatory returns of Super Metroid's unbelievably iconic Red Brinstar and Lower Norfair themes, as well as a few cheeky references to Green Brinstar here and there) while still adding heaping portions of "new" into the equation as well; truly, it is a perfect chronological mix.

GAMEPLAY: Now this is where the really important comparisons between Samus Returns and AM2R come into play. Naturally, there are a huge number of little details and things that factor into this decision, but overall...believe it or not, I think I might actually love both of them equally, but for very different reasons. To make a long story short, AM2R fully understands the point behind Metroid and actively does everything it can to reinforce this point as much as possible (and also to not include a Ridley fight because it would have been "too unfaithful to the original Metroid 2), whereas Samus Returns really DOESN'T get the point behind the franchise but is still a blast to play regardless.

At its core, Samus Returns still plays basically exactly the same as Super Metroid, Zero Mission and Fusion (in fact, arguably to the point of feeling almost inexcusably dated at times) and is still basically the exact same formula of game as the original Metroid 2, just like AM2R before it.

However, just like in Metroid Fusion and Prime 3, a somewhat (actually QUITE) annoyingly extreme focus has been placed on combat this time around, meaning quite a few different things that can be various levels of annoying depending on the player's mood and overall dedication to the franchise.

Thankfully, the combat mechanics in this game HAVE evolved to an admirably great extent as a result of said prioritization, even going as far as to include melee counters (that are often way too easy to perform and slow the game down way too much at times, although they DO make Samus look and feel like even MORE of a total badarse than before) and fully gyroscopic aiming (which is the main reason why this game actually REQUIRES you to use the 3DS thumbstick in order to play it; before you ask, no, there quite unfortunately IS no option for classic-style controls in this game).

On the other hand, however, the boss battles are still very much a mixed bag. While the actual full-scale boss battles (Diggernaut, Queen Metroid, Proteus Ridley) from the endgame are all nothing short of absolutely amazing, the standard Metroid battles have vastly too predictable of attack patterns compared to their AM2R counterparts and can also cause quite a few irritatingly cheap deaths when you first encounter certain forms of them; thankfully, however, the game has automatic save checkpoints at the entrances to boss rooms, effectively negating the frustration issue altogether.

More importantly, the four Aeion Abilities that Samus acquires throughout the game are just absolutely BEYOND game-breaking on so many levels that it's not even funny; where to start, you may ask? Well, first of all, the Scan Pulse (although you technically don't HAVE to use it) automatically reveals every single map square and breakable block in the general vicinity FOR you

Expanding upon that rather unfortunate sentiment, the Beam Burst gives Samus access to a RAPID-FIRE PLASMA BEAM at a ludicrously early point in the game; the Lightning Armor makes her completely immune to local environmental hazards (yes, ALSO including the Queen Metroid's vore-a-licious stomach acid as well); and last but not least, the Phase Drift all but literally removes the timers from timed block puzzles altogether. And yes, that's only the BEGINNING of how ridiculously overpowered Samus is STILL able to become in this game.

However, the fact that this game at least requires players to actually USE all of their abilities in conjunction in order to solve puzzles, regardless of how extremely gimmicky and obvious said puzzles might actually be in retrospect (and how completely forced-in and un-necessary the mandatory post-game Metroid-block-breaking quest for 100% completion was), is a feat of brilliance in and of itself. Bravo...MercurySteam?

OVERALL: While Samus Returns is indeed a profoundly strange and unusual remake with a rather large number of crippling flaws, it ultimately does a great job of balancing them out with the good stuff. The world it takes place in is incredibly expansive and atmospheric for a side-scroller, and at heart, it very much feels like a straight evolution of the Super Metroid forumla; in fact, I would honestly KILL this game's Amiibo support just to see an SM remake done in the trademark Samus Returns style (and also to no longer have some of its most crucial features greedily locked BEHIND said Amiibo support, while we're at it).

Puzzle-wise, the game still holds the player's hand way, way, WAY too much in my opinion (as well as those of MOST people that played it), but in literally every other aspect, this game is just plain great. Maybe not a truly timeless work of art like Super Metroid or AM2R, but it sure as hell is a vastly more challenging game at any rate. Even without the Fusion remake setup in the ending, 9.5/10


Nice review. It's pretty satisfying that Nintendo is finally giving the Metroid franchise the treatment it deserved all these years after its Dork Age in the form of games like Other M and Federation Force. - visitor