Mar 21, 2022 6:40 pm
Oct 6, 2021 1:00 pm
Metroid Dread first turned up in 2005 – it even got a name drop in a terminal in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. In many ways, the re-announced, presumably reworked Metroid Dread of 2021 feels like that 2D-ish Metroid game we should have gotten 16 years ago, following two masterpiece Metroid games, Zero Mission and Prime. It’s not often we get to say this about a game that emerges from more than a decade of development purgatory, but the wait has been worth it: The epic delay allows Metroid Dread to use the Switch’s power to greatly improve on what could have been accomplished on previous Nintendo systems, and makes the supposed conclusion to Metroid’s mainline story something of a grand finale.
Everything works in handheld form, but you really have to dock the system to get the full 2D-style Metroid experience on your TV that we’ve been missing in the three decades since Super Metroid on the Super Nintendo (that said, Zero Mission looks pretty cool emulated on the Virtual Console). Playing on a big, HD screen reveals sprawling alien scenes in diorama-like backgrounds, lit by the dynamic glow of Samus’s arsenal and projectiles. Also thanks to the Switch, the action never seems to drop a frame. That’s important, since combat is lightning fast, and just keeps getting faster with each powerup. Everything seems to speed up as you move through Metroid Dread. Upgrades add to your movement, and reduce backtracking time with boosts, dashes, and jumps, all while you’re making incredibly short work of once-powerful enemies with your new arsenal.
One issue I had with the last Metroid, the 3DS remake of Samus Returns, was the cramped controls of the 3DS hindering the action – especially the new, twitchy combat. That combat makes a return in Dread, but here on the Switch it’s much more comfortable – and more fun. The counter system from Samus Returns, which requires careful timing to react to enemies visibly foreshadowing their attacks, is just one of many moves including dashes, feints, dodges, and timed-charge attacks that make up your bag of tricks, and that can take up a lot of buttons. It’s not bad on the Switch in handheld mode, but Dread only really shines with the Pro Controller. If I had to beat a boss – and these are some of the toughest bosses in Metroid history – I docked every time.
These are some of the toughest bosses in Metroid history.
Those boss fights range from the traditional big, drooling monsters with patterns and weak points to learn, to almost Smash Bros.-esque encounters with enemies that mimic your move set. The variation is welcome, especially in contrast to the way Samus Returns pitted you against the same boss bugs many times over. I don’t want to give anything away, but these are some of the best boss fights I’ve ever played in an action platformer: Without exception,they seemed impossible at first, but post-victory, I felt like they’d made me a better player.
One repeated encounter you’ll have is with the creepy, crawling EMMI bots which you might have seen a lot of in previews of Metroid Dread. These are less what you’d think of as boss fights and more akin to stealth missions (and sometimes a manic race to the finish line if you are spotted). The EMMI pursuing you transform entire regions of the map into one-hit-kill zones (you do have a small window of escape, but it’s vanishingly small) – which makes another new-to-Metroid feature of Dread, auto saving, which triggers just outside the EMMI zones, extremely welcome.
One aspect of boss fights that I’m not too keen on, however, is the use of counters as quick-time events: Timed button-pressing sequences that you must complete to transition to another stage of a boss fight. It is often impossible to discern whether you even need to be shooting a boss while you await its next counter-able move. I would like to be able to use my 200-some stock of missiles to just destroy a boss the old-fashioned way; what am I collecting all those missile tanks for if I can’t even barrage a boss with overwhelming firepower once in a while?
There are some truly inscrutable puzzles that left me pondering between play sessions.
Speaking of collectibles, the many ways missile tanks and other upgrades are hidden is exquisite. There are some truly inscrutable puzzles that left me pondering between play sessions, and going for a 100% run is a great way to experience the intricate way the world is put together. The Speed Booster and Shinespark moves are especially conducive to mind-bending puzzles and require incredibly precise, split-second platforming that’s both fun to figure out and gratifying to (finally) pull off. By employing some classic Metroid moves, like bomb jumping, I was even able to “sequence break” and get some upgrades I couldn’t even use yet, which made me feel like a badass. That kind of flexibility and freedom made the world feel that much more welcoming to exploration and experimentation.
If you aren’t a completionist, you can choose to shoot through Metroid Dread in a shorter burst. According to the game log, I spent 11 hours on my first run, reaching 82% completion – but that figure clearly excludes pause screens, which you might spend a lot of time on because the map itself has been overhauled and tracks mysterious things you can’t interact with, items you saw but didn’t obtain, and rooms with a secret you didn’t even spot. I pored over the map screen frequently to discover secrets, but also to discover my next step. I suspect that many will turn to a strategy guide for the latter, since Metroid Dread does very little to direct you to your next objective. As a general opponent of hand-holdy waypoints, I like this change – especially in a game that emphasizes probing every block. In addition to the tricked-out map, you also get a scanning tool that’s balanced just the right way to give you clues to secret paths but doesn’t lead you around by the armcannon.
The map, and really the world itself, morphs a few times, too – especially in the later game. I won’t spoil any late-game tricks for you, but while they aren’t quite to the scale of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night’s upside-down castle, the new routes you’ll have to work out and the enemy obstacles you’ll encounter are all quite cool.
Dread ramps up the speed at which you get new tools and access new map areas to something of a fever pitch.
I’m not sure I needed another length of game added onto the end of this, anyway. As my fellow editor Kat Bailey put it, Samus Returns overstayed its welcome – and it was stretched a bit thin by the end, with repetitive bosses and a map that took a while to make your way across. Dread learns from that mistake and gets the pacing right, ramping up the speed at which you get new tools and access new map areas to something of a fever pitch. It’s up to you to pick a point, take a breath, and backtrack if you’d like. Otherwise, you can power on through to the end. (You will absolutely want to bring as many ammo and life upgrades with you as possible, though – again, these bosses are no joke!).
One point at which Metroid Dread slows down a bit too much, though, are thinly veiled load screens between areas – elevators, trams, and teleporters. These hard transitions break up the world more than in previous games, which is one spot where the Switch’s 2016 hardware catches up with Dread’s ambition.
Samus does something completely unexpected.
Earlier this year there was a bit of ballyhoo around this being the final chapter of at least one Metroid storyline, and whatever you are thinking that means, it’s crazier. Unlike the Prime series and other spinoffs, this is a “mainline” Metroid game – the fifth since 1986’s Metroid – and though the story is sparse (probably for the best after some hammy diversions like Metroid: Other M), it supposedly wraps up here. Despite the twistier elements of the plot, there is one series-peak moment when Samus does something completely unexpected. It’s subtle, and it’s lovely, and I can’t wait for fans to experience it. That subtlety extends to much of the story, as well. There isn’t a lot to it: A bounty hunter, a bunch of innocent but very hungry aliens, and of course a new reason for how you lost all your great weapons and equipment.
I found it refreshing that, where games like Other M went way too far building out the world of Metroid and ended up with some pretty awkward results, Dread shuts that world out and focuses. Instead, Dread is grounded in a story about Samus and the vanished birdlike alien race that raised her, the Chozo. It’s an approach that reminds me of series greats, Metroid Prime and Zero Mission. And those Chozo? They sure built a lot of subterranean tunnels for a race equipped with wings, but we can let that slide.
Metroid Dread gets so much right after so many years that I almost feel resentful that we didn’t get this game and a few sequels in some steady cadence starting in 2005. But instead, I’m incredibly happy to play a Metroid that is back at the top of its game. Even though it’s the latest in a decades old series, Dread has just enough clever innovation to balance its familiarity. The universally recognizable mix of tough puzzles, tougher boss fights, ever-evolving exploration options, and intricate level design that recent games like Hollow Knight and Ori get so right has an origin point: It’s Metroid. I love those games, but the Metroid team, a mix of old and new developers now, have shown that they know how to do it best.
In This Article
Is Metroid Dread worth playing? ›
Metroid Dread is great for players who enjoy the usual style of Nintendo games, but with an added challenge. The many bosses you encounter throughout your journey do not go down lightly, and you will often find yourself on the Game Over screen several times throughout your first playthrough.Is Metroid Dread too difficult? ›
Metroid Dread is already a very difficult game, as Polygon noted in our review, with bosses in particular offering “enormous spikes in difficulty” and no “helping hand” along the way.How many hours is Metroid Dread? ›
So when Metroid Dread releases with a playtime of approximately 7-8 hours for a standard playthrough and 12-13 hours for a 100% completion, it does raise some eyebrows from a purely hours-to-dollars viewpoint.Is Metroid Dread the best game ever? ›
Metroid Dread has been hailed as one of the best Metroid games of all time, with a great story, cool lore additions, and exceptional gameplay. Nintendo's Metroid helped redefine video games in the 1980s, and for more than 35 years the series has continued to push action-focused sci-fi gaming forward.Is Metroid Dread too scary? ›
Metroid Dread is scary. While it won't permanently scar any seasoned horror veterans, it's certainly the most unsettling Nintendo game ever made. It features tense chase scenes, boss battles against grotesque monsters, and some late game twists that are genuinely unnerving.Is Metroid Dread as good as hollow Knight? ›
Its a different tone of a game so comparing them is almost meaningless. Both are perfect at what they try to do. Hollow Knight is more moody and mysterious because thats what it goes for. Dread is much more tense with its chases and the fact that its sci-fi leads to a completely different atmosphere.Does 100% Metroid Dread do anything? ›
Metroid Dread players can unlock a variety of artwork by reaching 100% completion, and all of it can be viewed in this guide. There are tons of collectibles scattered across Metroid Dread's map, which improve Samus's abilities in different ways.Is Metroid Dread a good game for beginners? ›
Metroid Dread has introduced many newcomers to the series, serving as a starting point for many players. The Metroid games are challenging, and Dread is no different, featuring labyrinthian level design, tough enemies to take down, and a litany of well-hidden items to uncover.Is Metroid Dread good for new players? ›
Metroid Dread: The Final Preview Gallery
Nintendo knows that not everybody might be up to date about the history of Samus or where Dread takes place in the bigger story, and that is okay. The previous title is nineteen years old, so Metroid Dread is really an introduction to the franchise for many players.
Metroid Dread vs Metroid Prime 4: 7 Ways Metroid Dread is a Bigger Deal