Metroid: Samus Returns may be a remake of a Gameboy classic, but everything about it feels like a new and refreshing return to form for one of Nintendo’s biggest franchises. It’s been far too long since we’ve seen Samus Aran step away from the first-person perspective of the Metroid Prime games and deliver a great two-dimensional platformer. But it’s not the fact that Metroid: Samus Returns faithfully recreates the best aspects of older Metroid games, but rather how it improves upon and expands what makes them so good to begin with. With a combination of incredibly responsive controls, a well-built atmosphere, and a few surprise extras that Metroid fans will appreciate; you have one of the most solid experiences within the Nintendo 3DS library of games.
If you are a fan of the Metroid series or have played Metroid II: Return of Samus on the original Gameboy, then you already know what to expect with the story of Metroid: Samus Returns. The Galactic Federation comes to the conclusion that the Metroid parasite is far too dangerous to ignore, so they send the bounty hunter Samus Aran to planet SR388 to wipe out the remaining Metroid and save the galaxy. You only get a small amount of actual story at the beginning, which sets up everything to come, but there isn’t much story-telling throughout the experience. Everything is one-to-one with the original game, with very little changed to the overall narrative, but the presentation is vastly improved upon. Not only does everything get a huge visual upgrade from their Gameboy sprite counterparts, but the colors make enemies and structures really pop out on the 3DS screen.
Metroid games have always set up a great atmosphere of isolation and mystery, and Metroid: Samus Returns is no exception to this. There’s little to no dialogue in everything that happens. Instead everything is told through the environment and camera angles in most action sequences. This might be a bit annoying for some that enjoy dialogue in their games, but it works well in reinforcing the isolation Samus experiences on the planet. It’s the background details and Samus’ movement in each scene that tell the story throughout the nearly 10 hour experience. In a clever fashion, little details are scattered throughout the different areas that tie together with other Metroid games, including some big connections to popular entries in the franchise.
There’s a total of eight areas to explore as you hunt down the 40 Metroids on Planet SR388, each with their own look and platforming puzzles to navigate through. Controlling Samus is as smooth as you’d hope it would be, with most abilities mapped to the face buttons and shoulder buttons, similar to other games in the series like Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion. As you explore the planet, you can find many abilities like the Power Bomb, Screw Attack, and Samus’ various suit upgrades, all of which became staples of the series in later games. These help a lot during some of the game’s challenging boss fights scattered around various locations. Some battles do have a bit more challenge than others, but they never feel impossible or overly challenging compared to the rest of the game.
There are some new additions injected into Metroid: Samus Returns that were never in the original game. Most of this is quality of life changes that make the overall experience much better than before, such as the addition of the map on the bottom of the 3DS. You have the ability to track how many Metroids are left within a given area, as well as obtain the location of your next target, both of which were never in Metroid II: Return of Samus. The biggest change however comes from the counter system that can be used on most enemies. Though it takes some getting used at the very beginning, using the melee counter is key to not only getting more energy from basic enemies, but also to delivering massive damage in most boss battles later in the game. You don’t have to use it when you can if you aren’t a fan, but it has benefits that far outweigh ignoring it entirely.
On top of all of this is the implementation of amiibo, which open up gallery items and additional extras for scanning a Metroid amiibo figure. You gain an additional energy tank for each figure, as well as the ability to play the added Fusion Mode after you beat the game at least once. It may be annoying for some that you need to do this in order to fully complete the game, but you aren’t losing out on much if you decide not to.
Metroid: Samus Returns offers a promising look forward to where the series can go, rather than just being a simple remake. Despite some content being held behind the purchase of amiibo figures, what is here offers a solid experience that gives respect to the legacy of the series and presents it like something new. The controls, visuals, and overall gameplay are fantastic, making Metroid: Samus Returns worthy of being in anybody’s Nintendo 3DS collection.
This review was based on a physical copy of Metroid: Samus Returns for the Nintendo 3DS, provided by Nintendo.