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Review

Metroid: Samus Returns Review

  • First Released Sep 15, 2017
    released
  • Reviewed Sep 12, 2017
  • 3DS

Call it a comeback.

Metroid is a Nintendo institution, one that dates almost as far back as the company's console business. The series includes phenomenal games like Super Metroid and Metroid Prime, two games that frequently appear on "best of" lists. But Metroid has been in a funk for the past decade and losing favor along the way. Fans don't want experimental spin-offs like Metroid Prime: Federation Force; they want to explore alien worlds as Samus Aran, hunt for high-tech equipment, and use it to dig even deeper into the unknown. Finally, with Metroid: Samus Returns, that call has been answered.

Why it took Nintendo so long to get to this point is anyone's guess, but Samus Returns is so good that it almost doesn't matter. A reimagining of the oft-maligned GameBoy game, Metroid II: The Return of Samus, Samus Returns is classic Metroid at heart.

As in the 1991 monochromatic classic, you hunt down dozens of powerful Metroids on planet SR 388 in an effort to eradicate the bioweapon species and keep them out of evil's hands. However, two key changes have occurred: the map has been greatly expanded and reshaped to more closely resemble what you might find in Super Metroid, and combat is more of a priority than ever. The latter is an effect of Nintendo bringing on Mercury Steam--the most recent developer to work on Castlevania--to develop the game. Thankfully (and most importantly), Samus Returns feels like a Nintendo-made Metroid, but it's still easy to spot Mercury Steam's influence--for the better.

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The most immediate contribution that you see is Samus' new parry action, a first for the series that allows you to counterattack and stun a rushing opponent. In turn, common enemies are more aggressive than usual, more liable to seek you out then wait for you to make the first move. Though parrying feels a bit strange at first as it brings your momentum to a temporary halt, you quickly learn the proper timing and understand how it fits into your repertoire, and when to rely on it.

You can also fire in any direction now thanks to the 3DS' analog stick. The same input is used for movement, which means you can really only fire at a few angles while running forward, but all you need to do when surrounded by enemies is hold another button to stand your ground and aim freely. Samus' newfound flexibility and physicality makes her feel like an even more capable hero, and makes the moment-to-moment exploration more lively than usual.

Considering that Metroid is more or less the foundation of so-called "Metroidvanias," games where you wander massive environments, poking and prodding walls and ceilings to reveal secret chambers and items, it's both curious and exciting when you unlock Samus' Scan Pulse ability. Triggering a pulse both reveals map layouts and information (including hidden passages) and temporarily highlights breakable objects in your environment. On one hand, this capability robs you of the unique joy that comes from isolating the one false brick in a wall, but it also means that you no longer need to waste time looking for secrets that may not exist.

To account for the bit of old-school joy that's now taken away (unless you opt not to scan your environment), Samus Returns makes the process of acquiring items you've located more difficult than usual. You're now often challenged to quickly juggle weapons, abilities, and maneuvers, without faltering, to reach items picked up during scans. This may involve slowing down time and activating Samus' Lightning Armor to negate damage while moving along a wall with electrified plants (two abilities that share a resource meter), morphing into a ball and laying bombs to destroy a brick, and finally sliding through the gap before it regenerates. There's a healthy balance between easy pickups and these puzzling scenarios, and compared to other 2D Metroids, it's far more fulfilling to work smarter, rather than harder, to reach 100% item completion--the real Metroid endgame.

For much of Samus Returns, that goal feels attainable thanks to your scanner. Sometimes you need to obtain a new piece of equipment or two before you can solve an item-related puzzle, but that's to be expected, and a handy multicolor marking system allows you to note where a specific weapon may be useful down the road. And by and large the game does a great job of providing insight into Samus' ever-growing capabilities, giving you the information you need to overcome specific obstacles. There is, however, one isolated blemish in this regard: a traversal maneuver with inconsistent behavior, depending on a very specific circumstance that's never mentioned or hinted at. Whether by design or by accident, this exception flies in the face of the game's otherwise clear and informative nature, and proves frustrating in a few specific and punishing locations.

Upgrades aside, the all-important Metroid battles are the other star of the show, and you will encounter over 40 of them during your mission at varying stages of the species' evolution. You initially battle with Alpha Metroids, the first step beyond the familiar jellyfish form. Without advanced weapons and defenses at the start, you will struggle a little while they dive bomb you from overhead, but their always-exposed weak points make them easy targets. The next few evolutions are notably more powerful, but ultimately pale in comparison to Omega Metroids, towering quadrupedal beasts that can quickly climb walls and spew damaging fireballs. More than simply for the sake of personal gratification, hunting for hidden items in your environment feels necessary to survive some of your first encounters with the more advanced Metroid evolutions.

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Granted, while these boss battles are more involved and enjoyable than fighting common enemies, there comes a time when facing even Omegas stops being exciting. But Samus Returns has some tricks up its sleeve, introducing a few surprise battles that help break up the action overall, and subtly reinforce Metroid II's critical link to the rest of the series.

However subtle it may be, told only through an expository intro, an unlockable gallery, and to a small degree through SR 388's environments, Samus Returns' story and lore will resonate with anyone who's familiar with Chozo, the origin of Metroids, and Samus' role in their future. For anyone else, the implications therein will likely fly over their heads. Smartly, Mercury Steam and Nintendo have elegantly incorporated these details so as to not distract an uninterested player. Samus Returns is at its best when you are engaged in exploration and combat, and thus sink deeper into the planet and into isolation. These are things anyone can enjoy, and the game never lets teasing and pleasing fans get in the way.

As the first 2D Metroid game in over a decade, Samus Returns faces unfairly high expectations. Mercury Steam's involvement, a team known to play fast and loose with classic game traditions, was also a potential red flag for some. In hindsight, there was never anything to worry about, and a lot to look forward to. Samus Returns is both a return to form and a look to the potential future for 2D Metroid games, where combat plays a bigger role and exploration involves clever thinking rather than persistent guessing. Fans get more than they bargained (and hoped) for, and everyone else gets an excellent 2D action game with one of the most captivating and capable video game heroes around.

  • View Comments (116)
    Back To Top
    The Good
    A long, sprawling adventure filled with discovery and excitement
    Intelligently revives Metroid II by adopting elements of more modern Metroid games
    Contributes to the series' lore in subtle yet meaningful ways, despite being a remake
    Streamlines exploration while reinforcing puzzle solving
    Combat is more aggressive and satisfying than expected
    The Bad
    The one instance of inconsistent logic is a frustrating bump on the road to 100%
    9
    Superb
    About GameSpot's Reviews

    About the Author

    Peter is a lifelong Metroid fan who fell in love with the series on NES. He completed Samus Returns on the standard difficulty with 100% item completion in just under 20 hours. Nintendo provided GameSpot with a complimentary copy of the game for the purpose of this review.
    121 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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    Avatar image for TerrorRizzing
    TerrorRizzing

    game is amazing, what a console the 3ds turned out to be!

    Avatar image for BloodMist
    BloodMist

    One game that was well worth the pre-order. Utterly brilliant.

    Avatar image for Lionheart199020
    Lionheart199020

    This or AM2R?

    Avatar image for coop36
    coop36

    Im glad fans got this game, I just wish it was on the Switch too.

    Avatar image for ahmetxca
    ahmetxca

    Aaah... I miss good old Turrican...

    Avatar image for Dualmask
    Dualmask

    Not sure about that parry mechanic, and I'm guessing the intentionally vague thing they considered bad is regarding the space jump...I remember that being weird to control when I first played the original Metroid 2 (yeah, I'm that old). Still, I'm liking what I see here.

    Avatar image for doc-brown
    doc-brown

    @Dualmask: Not the space jump! It's something that the game never tells you about, or even hints at. Without spoiling, it's related to a combination of the Power Bomb and the Spider Ball upgrade.

    Staff
    Avatar image for BlueCokeDragon
    BlueCokeDragon

    @doc-brown: Aaa of course! I have already done that move but I never thinked about using it "there"! Thank you! Ironicly that move is something I try out on every Metroid game, and this is the first one that gave me a response:D

    Avatar image for bdiddytampa
    bdiddytampa

    The game I've been waiting for since I got a 3DS! Only 2 more days!! been replaying old GBA Metroids and Super Metroid in anticipation :-D Tried to replay the OG Samus Returns on GB, and virtual console, and it's clunky, like most GB games, but still holds up. Can't wait to see the reimagining.

    Great review Peter! Cheers!

    Bdiddy

    Avatar image for doc-brown
    doc-brown

    @bdiddytampa: Thanks! I think you'll like this a lot :)

    Staff
    Avatar image for bat725
    bat725

    Time to confiscate my kids' 3DS ;P

    Avatar image for Quarkzquarkz
    Quarkzquarkz

    YES FINALLY BUT ON A 3DS WITH CRAPPY GRAHPICS!? UGH... =(

    Avatar image for Solaryellow
    Solaryellow

    How is the soundtrack from this game?

    Avatar image for spas2k
    spas2k

    Why isn't this on the switch? My switch has been gathering dust for months. Last time I buy anything Nintendo.

    Avatar image for BloodMist
    BloodMist

    @spas2k: New games of all sorts are released on the Switch every week. Pay better attention.

    Avatar image for Bowser05
    Bowser05

    @spas2k: Not Nintendo's fault that you are ignoring the tons of amazing games that are on the Switch.

    Avatar image for NiteX
    NiteX

    @spas2k: That sounds like a personal problem guy, the Switch has been getting quite a few games since it's been out.

    Avatar image for girlusocrazy
    GirlUSoCrazy

    Hmm the new combat system doesn't seem so great to me, especially that you have to fight that way and will easily get killed if you just try to take enemies down like in other Metroid games.

    I liked in older games how exploration was emphasized and enemies stayed mainly in the background as hazards and obstacles. Now it's like they're trying to turn it into ninja gaiden.

    Avatar image for doc-brown
    doc-brown

    @girlusocrazy: You can totally take on enemies in the traditional fashion. The parry maneuver is optional, though very useful at the start. Once you get a few upgrades, it's more about whether or not you want to employ it to gain more resources from enemies--a side effect/reward for parrying.

    Staff
    Avatar image for girlusocrazy
    GirlUSoCrazy

    @doc-brown: Thanks! That puts aside any fears I had about enjoying it! On the Kotaku review Chris Kohler said it was mandatory, and when it comes to retro games he generally knows what he's talking about.

    I made a mistake though. Re-reading it, he says it's not parry that's necessary but the melee attack timing that is crucial.

    Is it a finisher? Is it necessary? I guess not since you say you can do combat traditionally.

    Can't wait to get into this game, guaranteed buy as I'm a Metroid fan either way.

    Avatar image for doc-brown
    doc-brown

    @girlusocrazy: The timing matters in so much as you can miss a parry/melee if your attempt is too early or too late. That said, you get into a certain rhythm and grow comfortable with the audio/visual cues, and it becomes second nature.

    Staff
    Avatar image for girlusocrazy
    GirlUSoCrazy

    @doc-brown: Thanks for the clarification! And thanks for the review! Can't wait to get my hands on it!

    Avatar image for deactivated-5a0b0bf0c8fa5

    Hope this gets released on Switch.

    Avatar image for phili878
    phili878

    Never played any Metroid game, can't wait to give this a go.

    Avatar image for CRAPCOM1926
    CRAPCOM1926

    @phili878: them you should play Super metroid or Metroid Zero mission for the GBA and them Metroid fusion the last one in the story is oficially the last metroid game, this game is Metroid 2 after this game comes Super metroid.

    Avatar image for olander
    Olander

    @CRAPCOM1926: Metriod Fusion is the last one for the story? There wasn't any other Metriod games for Gamecube or the wii? I remember playing Fusion in middle/high school.

    Avatar image for CRAPCOM1926
    CRAPCOM1926

    @olander: Fusion is the last ONE STORY WISE. Prime is before Metroid return of samus, super metroid, etc

    Avatar image for Pelezinho777
    Pelezinho777

    It's like 6, but upside down.

    Avatar image for Quietstormtcb
    Quietstormtcb

    Great Review!!! Wayyyyy better than IGNs review!

    Avatar image for cetaepsilon
    cetaepsilon

    Awesome ! I knew it's going to be that good with all the front page stories !

    ...

    Hold on a second. This is not Destiny ?

    Avatar image for BloodMist
    BloodMist

    @cetaepsilon: heh, Destiny wishes it could compare to a game like this in quality.

    Avatar image for Sepewrath
    Sepewrath

    Got it pre loaded, just waiting for the unlock. Its been too long since I've played some Metriod; I'm ready. This is going to be a nice warm up for the greatness that will be Prime 4.

    Avatar image for quibit
    quibit

    This game looks so good I'm tempted to get a 3DS... so tempting.

    Avatar image for CRAPCOM1926
    CRAPCOM1926

    @quibit: why the hell you dont have a 3ds alredy? 3DS ia MUST have console with too many great excellent good games and some mediocres one, RPG, JRPG, Turn base RPG, Adventure games, Puzzles, 3rd party Support and yeah nintendo games buf if nintendo games arent your thing you still have games from Square, Capcom, Atlus to name 3 of my favorite japanese developer ( Capcom is there mostly because monster hunter but used to be a great no so long ago now is just there)

    Avatar image for deactivated-5a1cc7fd1fbbd

    Nintendo nails it again on 3DS!

    Avatar image for santinegrete
    santinegrete

    It's nice to see Nintendo aiming to the right direction from time to time.

    Avatar image for phili878
    phili878

    @santinegrete: they operate since 1889 (yes, 1889), and you say right direction from time to time?

    Avatar image for santinegrete
    santinegrete

    @phili878: yes, the direction that gives us games we actually want to play. That direction, the one we care about.

    Avatar image for phili878
    phili878

    @santinegrete: you do know they went that exact direction since the NES, right? The best games of all platforms, happened to always be Nintendo games, same with classics, and I saw this as a Amiga, Atari, NES, SNES, PC, all PS and all Xbox Vet...

    Avatar image for santinegrete
    santinegrete

    @phili878: yes I do. In fact your previous comment made me remind all that. It's good to know there's gamers that know their stuff :)

    That was a golden era, nothing compared to the Wii era (the WiiU included)

    Avatar image for BloodMist
    BloodMist

    @santinegrete: the Wii era is over, so welcome to a new golden age.

    Avatar image for lorddaggeroff
    lorddaggeroff

    I find paper Mario on android fun, well kinda textures pop out.

    Dam you bowser, what's a girl gotta do to save Mario.

    Avatar image for Silver17
    Silver17

    @lorddaggeroff:

    "Dam you bowser, what's a girl gotta do to save Mario."

    ^ Bowser's not into dudes... ;)

    Avatar image for lorddaggeroff
    lorddaggeroff

    @Silver17: Bowser's into Mario, not my fault it's not dame.

    Blahh. Anyways paper Mario a fun so 😝

    Avatar image for draco934
    draco934

    Just finished AM2R the other day, can't wait to see how this plays.

    Avatar image for angrycreep
    angrycreep

    @draco934: I'm still playing AM2R and i still believe that this is the best metroid game ever done and it wasn't even done by Nintendo

    Avatar image for NiteX
    NiteX

    @angrycreep: Technically it WAS done by Nintendo seeing how it's a sole rip of Metroid 2.

    Avatar image for Btwistin
    Btwistin

    I can still go back and play super metroid from start to finish these days. Still have the original cart. And i need to fix up my old cell that has MHL capabilities to play on my tv.

    Metroid: Samus Returns More Info

    Follow
  • First Released Sep 15, 2017
    released
    • 3DS
    1991's Metroid II: Return of Samus has been rebuilt from the ground up for the 3DS, splashing color into a world ripe for exploration.
    8.1
    Average Rating34 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Metroid: Samus Returns
    Developed by:
    Mercury Steam
    Published by:
    Nintendo
    Genre(s):
    Adventure, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes