Metroid: samus re­turns

A worth­while revival for Nin­tendo’s for­got­ten hero

Games Master - - CONTENTS -

The in­ter­ga­lac­tic bounty hunter’s ad­ven­tures are the Samus they ever were in this shiny re­make.

It’s been a lengthy ab­sence for the gal­axy’s great­est bounty hunter, but a cou­ple of hours into Samus Aran’s come­back you won­der if she should have post­poned it a lit­tle longer. A re­make of Game Boy se­quel Metroid II, gen­er­ally con­sid­ered one of the se­ries’ weaker en­tries, Samus Re­turns does rather too good a job of mak­ing planet SR388 an un­pleas­ant place to be. Hos­tile en­vi­ron­ments are part and par­cel of any Metroid game, of course, but with only one en­ergy tank to play with, mis­takes are too ag­gres­sively pun­ished in the early hours. En­e­mies are ir­ri­tat­ing rather than chal­leng­ing, swoop­ing down to at­tack the sec­ond you en­ter a room, and oc­ca­sion­ally wait­ing for you at the bot­tom of a blind drop. Com­bat is built around a new melee counter sys­tem, a mighty swipe of Samus’s arm some­how much more ef­fec­tive than an arm can­non at tak­ing down these skit­ter­ing nas­ties. A swing leads to a stun, and then you un­load. It’s sat­is­fy­ing when you get the tim­ing down, but since it’s com­fort­ably the most ef­fec­tive tac­tic, you end up us­ing it all the time, and the plea­sure of pulling it off is dulled.

Aran sweater

With so many en­e­mies – and in the larger rooms they’ll respawn, so when back­track­ing you’ll of­ten have to kill the same crea­tures twice in short or­der – Samus Re­turns loses some of that sense of splen­did iso­la­tion that’s been so key to Metroid’s ap­peal since the orig­i­nal. And at first, the 3DS cir­cle pad doesn’t seem quite up to snuff when it comes to the more ex­act­ing ex­plo­ration chal­lenges, where pre­ci­sion and speed are re­quired to make it through ar­eas be­fore de­struc­tible blocks re­form.

With an­noy­ing bug swarms, col­lapsi­ble blocks de­posit­ing you in deadly acid pools, and ques­tion­able col­li­sion de­tec­tion that can see you die be­fore a fatal blow ac­tu­ally con­nects, you might be con­vinced to give up. But Samus Re­turns is a game that even­tu­ally re­wards per­se­ver­ance. Pro­gress­ing into the bow­els of SR388 re­quires you to find and kill a given num­ber of Metroids be­fore you can de­scend fur­ther, and these bat­tles are con­sis­tently ex­hil­a­rat­ing. The cir­cle pad be­comes a boon rather than a hand­i­cap, giv­ing you full 360-de­gree con­trol of Samus’s arm can­non, while the stag­ing and sound­track raise your pulse just as the build-up threat­ened to send it flatlin­ing.

Then, once you’ve got your­self a fourth en­ergy tank and a three-way laser, you’re laughing. Smaller en­e­mies are no longer a threat, but an op­por­tu­nity to top up your Aeion gauge – an­other new ad­di­tion to the game – with counters, giv­ing you ac­cess to a handy shield, a pow­er­ful burst-fire op­tion, and a time-slow­ing phase drift. The big bat­tles es­ca­late pleas­ingly in scale and ex­cite­ment, while ex­plo­ration be­comes more flex­i­ble and fun, even in the face of tur­rets and other haz­ards that hit hard enough to en­sure you can’t sim­ply breeze through with­out penalty.

A strong endgame isn’t quite enough to put Mer­curySteam’s ef­fort among the up­per ech­e­lons of Metroid games: it still lacks Su­per’s im­pos­ing soli­tude and the pan­icky ten­sion of Fu­sion. Still, de­spite those fal­ter­ing early steps, it’s (even­tu­ally) good to have Samus back.

“With only one en­ergy tank, mis­takes are too ag­gres­sively pun­ished in the early hours”

Tiny en­e­mies that drop from the ceil­ing are a handy source of en­ergy and mis­siles be­fore the Metroid bat­tles.

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