Metroid Dread (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Jorge Ba-oh 09.10.2021 9

Review for Metroid Dread on Nintendo Switch

For years Nintendo's iconic, space-exploring bounty hunter Samus has defied all odds. A lone warrior, surviving near-death situations with arm cannon, nifty suits, and athleticism. One challenge Samus wasn't quite prepared for was a nineteen year wait for the conclusion to a spiralling story arc, where Metroid Fusion wrapped up in 2002.

Almost two decades later, the story expands into a brand-new tale; finally realising Metroid co-creator Yoshio Sakamoto's vision on Nintendo Switch. Is the new adventure, Metroid Dread, worth the wait?

Contemporary side-scrolling adventures with inter-connected worlds owe a huge amount to the Metroid series. Back in the mid-eighties, Nintendo's R&D1 team brewed a tale of a bounty hunter that would explore that was essentially one enormous map, connected by rooms, platforms and gated by different abilities Samus would pick up along the way. A controversial choice in a sea of simpler action games, but one that ultimately paid off, big time.

It's been thirty-five years since, and the Metroid series is celebrating its mid-decade anniversary with a tale that Sakamoto teased would "mark an end to that story arc" started back in 1986. With such a significant role stamped all over Metroid Dread, the game had to go in big, and it does. Before diving into the Nintendo Switch release, a little backstory.

Fans of the series had been waiting for a direct follow-up to Metroid Fusion, and had been teased since 2005 with rumblings of the game's development. The "Dread" moniker was first announced in the June 2005 issue of Game Informer, with vague hints of a release in various Nintendo magazines the following year. A rollercoaster of announcements and speculation in the years that followed, until the emergence of Metroid: Samus Returns for Nintendo 3DS. A re-imagining of the Game Boy Metroid classic developed in conjunction with Spanish studio, MercurySteam.

Screenshot for Metroid Dread on Nintendo Switch

Flash forward to 2021 and MercurySteam are back with a brand-new chapter in the Metroid series; a culmination of what's come before it. Metroid Dread is essentially that - a trifle of what these past titles have brought to the franchise, and to the "Metroidvania" genre of games. The boundless maze of exploration from Super Metroid, the action from Metroid Fusion and the more contemporary movement introduced in Metroid: Samus Returns.

In the opening moments of Samus' latest quest, it's immediately apparent just how striking the game is. Environments are intricately detailed, with plenty of depth to stitch together a planet that's very much machine and organic. From dark, foreboding sections that are paved only with slivers of light to the more robust, rather gorgeous outer areas, the extra graphical fidelity on the Nintendo Switch - especially the OLED screen model - really helps cement a picture of this new, uncharted land. The art direction is quintessential Metroid; with a sense of familiar visual clues to draw players back into this universe. It's fresh and attractive enough to attract newcomers that have been spoilt by Metroid's influence - titles like Ori and the Blind Forest and Hollow Knight.

The visual upgrades also extend to Samus and the sheer number of abilities the bounty hunter has this time round - some inherited from the very first game, like the Morph Ball, to the more physical moves from Samus Returns. Coupled with a sickly sweet 60fps, navigating the vast landscape as our hardened protagonist just feels great. It's tactile and has a rewarding, satisfying flow. Stringing together some of the later-game abilities, to bat away creatures and defy bosses is exhilarating - thanks to the subtle animation, particle effects and use of smart visual feedback. Taking a series that was primarily 2D sprite based (Metroid Prime excluded) and introducing pseudo-3D models always runs the risk of losing that charm, but Metroid Dread builds upon it in a spectacular way. There are moments of minor frame drops, but it all runs equally well docked or on the go.

Screenshot for Metroid Dread on Nintendo Switch

The added oomph to the way Samus navigates the world is especially important with the new threats that loom in the darkness beyond. Initially it's a case of our protagonist awakening, abilities stripped and now vulnerable. A familiar trek through corridors sets the scene with gentle handholding for newcomers and a smart refresh for seasoned veterans. Within minutes the ambiguous, teasing plot unravels and players embark in Samus's boots. Initially it's all wall jumping and trying to find her ship, miles away on a blank map. There's that immediate feeling of isolation, but it somehow feels do-able with a little persistence. Then minutes later Nintendo and MecurySteam pull the curtains and the game lives up to its title.

Enter, the EMMI. The Metroid series has always been one of Nintendo's darker experiments; with earlier games drawing from Hollywood hits like Alien. What's behind this door? That unsettling feeling woven throughout the critically acclaimed titles. The Nintendo Switch tale builds on that by introducing robots that hunt and have a high percentage kill rate. They're not invincible by any means but are one of Samus's most formidable foes to date.

These patrol bots stomp around certain sections of the map; listening for movement. As soon as Samus enters the scene, it's a fiendish game of cat and mouse. Most doors seal and it's a case of climbing higher, sliding through narrow passages, trying to breathe. Samus pauses and the threat is seemingly over. Not quite, as the EMMI knows the map far better and slithers down. It can be temporarily knocked to one side with an extremely carefully timed counter, but 99% of the time the game over screen makes an early return.

Screenshot for Metroid Dread on Nintendo Switch

Shifting away from the more traditional sections to this new, confined segment is a distinct shake-up to the format; and it works. That horrific, almost gothic sense of sci-fi terror is amplified. Within these sections is a desire to find a way out; with the game cleverly designed to invoke that sense of looping back; more so than ever before. Is it worth sliding through a narrow passage? Possibly. But a dead-end and a blood-thirsty threat could lurk within. They may not look or sound menacing on paper, but the EMMI moments are tense and challenging. Apologies to the neighbours here at Cubed3 HQ for the screams and profanities. It culminates in a feeling of satisfaction and relief; but can also be frustrating if caught - thrown back a significant chunk only to wander in and try once again.

Speaking of re-treading ground, the Metroid series is built upon that need to back-track to progress; something very much grounded in Super Metroid. This latest re-inventing of that format feels a solid mix of linear progression, back-tracking, and action set-pieces. In an age of flailing attention-spans (myself included), Metroid Dread has enough variety and a cleverly designed map to see light at the end of the tunnel (even if it is a red one from an EMMI in waiting).

There are areas where it may not be as clear on how to progress; constant looping and trying just about everything - bordering on frustration. That said, there's something compelling and ultimately rewarding to lure players into finally escaping this infested land.

Screenshot for Metroid Dread on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

In very much a Metroidvania move, backtracking back to the start of the review with the question, "Is the new adventure worth the wait?" The answer is a resounding yes. Nintendo and MercurySteam have pulled off a sequel that is classic, essential Metroid with a sprinkling of the new; controls, visual direction and a terrifying new threat that sends a space-aged shiver through the spine. Metroid Dread is the evolution to how side-scrolling Metroid should feel and the conclusion to something truly special. A thrilling chapter for players who have been looking up to the stars for decades, and a compelling tale for adventurers new to the series!

Developer

Mercury Steam

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Brilliant! At first, because of the first EMMI encounter, I really didn't like it... but once I got used to that slight change in style, and got further into the adventure, I suddenly realised just how much a really enjoy it all.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

I need.

Can't a fella drink in peace?
                                -Farnham

I absolutely love the visual identity of Dread, the flow of the gameplay and the story are also excellent (thank goodness they don't reference Other M XD) Samus's new design is excellent too!

The EMMI do take a bit of getting used to but once you get it down their really fun to counter if you get caught! Genuinely the best Switch title since BOTW for me

I'm currently at the point where


so I'm loving it even more now! Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

jesusraz said:
I'm currently at the point where

so I'm loving it even more now! Smilie


Me too XD

I spoke too soon.. Smilie I really hate EMMI Smilie I have to redo those sections SO many times.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

I'm still quite early in but it's starting to hit it's flow. It does feel like a home run so far, as a long time Metroid fan.

I honestly thought I'd hate the EMMI's (and I do too, but you know what I mean!) but those sequences are so well designed that it is a positive differentiating factor from other 2D metroids.

The fluidity really does make it too - which Samus Returns had but it's even better here.

( Edited 14.10.2021 14:23 by mikem52 )

Definitely, Mike - it's super fluid, and wow some of the boss battles are more challenging than I remember from previous Metroids... but that could just be an age thing, as I'm not quite the same super sharp gamer I used to be Smilie

I'm currently using the special jump ability to bounce around anywhere and everywhere to fill every little nook and cranny of the map... I think a little bit of OCD has reared its head!

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

Finished it just now, and holy shit that ending. Smilie

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