How Metroidvania is it? Medium Fit. Like the game it's remaking, Metroid Samus Returns has a strictly linear progression based on how many Metroids you kill - although a LOT of collectables have been added.
Primary Challenge: Ranged Combat
Time to beat: ~8 hours
Review Info: Metroid Samus Returns was played on the Nintendo 3DS using a physical copy.
Buy Metroid Samus Returns if you like…
- Hunting Prey
- Intense Pattern-Based Action
- TONS of collectables
- Seeing an update to a Nostalgic Classic
▼ Review continues below ▼
Video games are a fascinating medium, as there are so many aspects a person can draw value from. For many players, the simple joy of the action is enough. Others may value the escapism or immersion more. Because of this, remaking any game comes with divisive consequences; one director’s vision may not match up with what some players got out of the original. Even the most faithful adaptation is going to have some differences because of this, but in the case of Metroid Samus Returns, it feels like they were trying to be something completely different from Metroid II: Return of Samus from the outset. The same story beats are there, but the tone and overall game design philosophy really sets it apart, although it’s not so different that it doesn’t feel like Metroid anymore, just not like Metroid II. Whether these changes are good or a bad really depends on how much you value the original game, or whether the new vision fits your own tastes. I’m in the camp that Metroid II is something of a flawed masterpiece, so of course I would rather see a more faithful adaptation than what we officially got from Nintendo. Even with Metroid Samus Returns being so different though, I think that the result is still a very good game, and its major flaws don’t necessarily come from the way its story is told.
Metroid II is the story about how Samus Aran eradicated all the Metroid species from the galaxy. Because of this, the Combat is going to play a major role in the game itself. This is the thing that Metroid Samus Returns excels at, and it presents the best combat system the 2D Metroid series has seen up to this point. In most Metroid games, the number of missile packs and energy tanks you find matters more than your actual skill in dodging attacks and landing hits. With enough exploration in those games you can simply stand and deliver your payload and make it through most of the content. While finding upgrades is still very helpful in Samus Returns, if you don’t learn boss patterns, develop strategies, or hone your reaction skills, you’re going to get eaten alive.
A lot of enemies have sides to them that are completely invincible, so layering on shots is going to be ineffective unless you aim at their soft underbellies. Aiming is assisted by a new dedicated button that gives you three-hundred and sixty degrees of precision at the cost of being unable to move. This means enemies have to provide openings long enough for you to draw a bead, and I’m happy say all of the foes you face are kind enough to be designed with this in mind. When they do lunge at you, it would be unfair if your only option was to simply jump out of the way, especially given the size of some of the creatures. This is addressed by a new dedicated “melee counter” button which allows you to parry attacks. They really wanted you to get used to this mechanic because throughout the game are these really annoying mosquitoes that repeatedly lunge at you until countering them becomes second nature. If you’re coming into this after just playing some other Metroid game, these lunging attacks can be really irritating. As the bosses get stronger though, you’ll not only be glad you were forced to learn how to parry, you’ll appreciate the type of action it enables. The boss fights in Metroid Samus Returns aren’t just an improvement on original Metroid II’s clunky dot-matrix offering, they’re also excellent for action platformers in general. This is especially true for a few new bosses introduced with the Remake.
Making the combat more nuanced is a bit of a double edged sword when it comes to remaking Metroid II, however. There were 39 Metroids to kill on the Gameboy’s planet SR388, and they couldn’t hardly reduce that number without people inevitably complaining that they were short-changed. When you take a 10 second fight and turn it into a 30-60 second one though, repetition starts to become a problem. The Alpha Metroids – or the most basic ones you face – take well over 10 missiles to kill compared to the simple 5 their Gameboy counterparts were able to handle. They also have the ability to drop bombs on you, to charge themselves up with missile deflecting electricity, and other new abilities that make the fights more complex – and drawn out. It’s a lot of fun to face them at first, but it becomes predictable pretty quickly, especially since there are almost no surprises in the environments you face them in.
In the Gameboy game a Metroid could show up anywhere, even in a simple hallway. With the loud music that plays when they become hostile, there are points where it’s nearly a jump scare to come across them. In Samus Returns, any time you’re near a Metroid, your Metroid scanner starts to beep rapidly, and every fight takes place in a nice and tidy arena. The arenas can occasionally have lava or some other environmental hazard, but nothing that provides any unfair advantage to the Metroid. This is part of what changes the tone of the game, but I’ll get to that tangent a little later. One advantage that fighting the same Metroids over and over again does do is emphasize how powerful Samus is becoming. Interestingly, unlike the original, your Ice Beam can appropriately provide tactical advantages when fighting almost any Metroid type, causing them to slow down and be easier to aim at with your more powerful missiles. It also feels good to be able to speed up a fight with your abilities; it’s a fitting reward for diligently finding as many power-ups as possible. They perhaps went a little overboard with the number of power ups there is to find, however.
Level design has always been Metroid’s strength, but by comparison it’s Samus Return’s weakness. It is definitely not bad by any means, and it’s nice to see some new power-ups besides speed boosting and space jumping introduced to the formula. I also think they played with Metroid II’s most unique power – the Spiderball – in interesting ways. If your favorite thing about Metroid’s exploration is simply finding things and challenging yourself to collect all of them, Samus Returns is a collector’s paradise. On the other hand, even the most OCD collector might find themselves getting bored with the sheer quantity packed into Samus Return’s levels, and some of them are really frustrating to try and collect. While some of the collectables in previous Metroid entries required some amazing shinespark skills, or other really difficult to pull off shenanigans, Samus Returns adds in a limited energy meter for some of your powers that you have to go recharge if you fail to solve the puzzle – making failure more punishing.
To me though, the biggest missed opportunity as a remake of Metroid II is recreating that feeling of atmosphere that the original did so well. Samus Returns pays lip service to some of the most memorable moments of the original, but fails to capture them with the same meaningful impact. In one case it makes doubling back on older areas just confusing when previously it was how the director setup a big new Metroid reveal. At no point in the game did I really find myself immersed in Samus Return’s world, which could be because I was I was looking at my mini-map, or because the ambient noises of SR388’s creatures have now been given techno remixes. A weird way that the immersion is broken is how they removed the mystery of why the progress-blocking hazardous liquid is removed when you kill enough Metroids. In the original Metroid II you couldn’t go too deep into SR388 because of lava or acid blocking your way (apparently it’s officially acid now.) Back then, when you killed enough Metroids it would magically disappear. Now you have to collect Metroid DNA and deposit it into a sort of Chozo Vending machine that drains the acid for you – but to me that only raises more questions. Between over-bloated level design and general mechanical changes, the world of Metroid II feels less like a survival horror, and more like you’re a hardcore bounty hunter just doing her job.
Maybe focusing more on Samus is the whole point of Samus Returns though. Metroid II was more about the Metroids, so was Super Metroid really. Samus as a character really didn’t start coming into focus until Nintendo remade the first Metroid with Zero Mission. In that game we got to see how she was raised by the Chozo, and even a few tidbits on how she felt about that first mission. While there aren’t any similar style cutscenes focusing on Samus in Samus Returns, the Metroids seem to take a backseat to glorifying her as a hero. As you progress, Metroids actually start running from you, making you, and Samus, into a real cold hunter, stalking down your prey. While I think they did a great job with maybe the most important reveal of Metroid II in the game’s ending, it still immediately takes a backseat to this remake’s story being about Samus. In this light, some of the more fan-service oriented decisions seem a lot less out of place than if you had heard about them out of context.
With all my criticisms against Metroid Samus Returns, I have to admit that the original Metroid II was definitely not perfect by any means either. For many players changes to combat and even the tone may make for a better game than turning on that ancient 1991 piece of digital history. I personally don’t think it replaces the original, but I do think it’s a valid adaptation, and I think it’s fantastic that we get to have both. If you’re a Metroid fan, I consider this a must-play, or I at least recommend you give it a shot. It’ll maybe broaden your horizons a bit if you haven’t also played other 2D Action games, but it’s definitely worth checking out. It’s not the Metroid II I remember, but I also wasn’t disappointed.
Among the best that the 2D Metroid games have to offer, although it can get repetitive by the nature of Metroid II
Your platforming skills are rarely truly put to the test, it's generally puzzle platforming in style
The design of the exploration seems less deliberate and more that they tried to cram as much as they could into the world, making it less rewarding than other Metroid games, but still good
Piecing together how to get every Missile upgrade is sometimes a challenge, but it's also sometimes frustrated by requiring a limited energy source to accomplish.
While they failed to capture the spirit of the original Metroid II, there are still some excellent scenes for fans to enjoy.
The graphics are at its best when the 3D is turned on if your eyes can handle it. Otherwise it still looks great.
The remixes of Metroid II's music gives a new upbeat vibe to the game.
Like other Metroid games there are minor rewards for speedrunning, and they've added a few difficulty modes. This game is notably missing the 100% collection rewards that Zero Mission had.
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86 88% OpenCritic〉
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