In the near future, a beautiful and atmospheric new addition to the Metroid series will slide into our hearts.
It’s been 19 years since the world was decked out with a brand new 2D Metroid. Thankfully, in less than two weeks with the release of Metroid Dread, that won’t be the case. At a recent Nintendo preview event, I got to spend a little over an hour with the Metroid Dread and the Nintendo Switch OLED model.
First off, Metroid Dread looks absolutely incredible on the OLED model. The colors are vibrant and pop right off the screen. One of the great advantages of any OLED screen is the great black levels and the new switch iteration doesn’t disappoint in this regard. I also found that the OLED switch’s slimmer bezels helped improve immersion in the game world. My interest in the OLED model was very little before seeing it in person, but I’m seriously considering getting one now.
Let’s discuss the beginning of Metroid Dread. Series protagonist Samus Aran was sent to the remote planet ZDR to investigate a strange video transmission that suggests the X parasite survived. One opening sequence shows Samus facing a Chozo warrior on the alien planet, but this fight doesn’t last long and she passes out. Upon waking, Samus discovers that she is now trapped deep underground and must find a way back to her ship. In addition, the encounter also stripped Samus of most of their skills.
MercurySteam, the co-developers of Metroid Samus Returns from 2017, are again working with Nintendo EPD on Metroid Dread. It is immediately apparent that the controls for Dread build on those of Samus Returns. Free aiming is back, along with the melee counter that Samus can use to parry enemy attacks. An improvement to the parry system is the ability to activate these counterattacks while running. This new variation is called Dash Melee and I found it very effective and fun to use during my short gaming session. Probably the biggest innovation at the beginning of the game is the slide move. In previous Metroid games, encountering a passage the size of a morph ball meant that you likely needed a morph ball to proceed. In Metroid Dread, narrow passages need to be reevaluated, as many of them can simply be slipped under. The moveset for Samus feels fun and varied right from the start.
Exploring and finding new upgrades and skills is, of course, still at the heart of Metroid Dread. While I’ve only gotten a glimpse of some of the new abilities like the spider magnet, it’s obvious that the developers are trying to surprise players and avoid following the same old upgrade path. It was really refreshing not to acquire the Morph Ball in the first hour of play. Additionally, I’m happy to announce that the game doesn’t seem to be holding its way through the world. The game will surely give you clues, but it won’t explicitly tell you which room to go to next.
The original Metroid game and the world were heavily influenced by the Ridley Scott movie Alien. While later films in the Alien series would focus more on action, the original film undoubtedly falls into the horror genre. For this reason, I think it’s fitting that the new EMMI robots add a lot to the horror and excitement of Metroid Dread. The EMMI lurk around in certain areas in the game world and will hunt Samus if they spot them nearby. You are invulnerable to most weapons and can kill Samus instantly. It’s also worth noting that each EMMI behaves differently. I enjoyed my brief, heartbreaking encounters with the robots. Even if you succumb to them, the game will reload quickly and you will be revived relatively close to your last location, even if you haven’t recently saved.
Metroid Dread seems to be walking the fine line of respecting the series’ tradition while innovating in a unique way. I’m really looking forward to further exploring the game world when the game launches in early October. 2D Metroid is back, baby.