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Game Info:

Metroid: Samus Returns
Developed By: MercurySteam, Nintendo
Published By: Nintendo
Release Date: September 15, 2017
Available On: 3DS
Genre: Action Adventure
Number of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: E10+ for Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes
MSRP: $39.99
(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Nintendo's Metroid series has always held a special place in my heart. From my first time playing the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) game as a child, to the fantastic Super Nintendo and Game Boy Advance titles, and even the Prime series, I have wonderful memories and continue to regard this series very highly. As a result, I always buy Metroid games shortly after release; after the terrible slump of no good games that we have had, I want Nintendo to know, with my dollars, that Metroid is a series worth supporting. Thankfully, that faithful devotion by myself and many others has finally paid off in the first unreservedly excellent Metroid game in over a decade.

Metroid: Samus Returns is the badly needed remake to the original Game Boy's 1991 release, Metroid II: Return of Samus. Metroid II was in many ways a great game given the incredible limitations of the original Game Boy, with a tiny screen, only four colors, basic sound chip, and minimal processing power. But it definitely did not age well. Even I, a gamer who lived through the era playing plenty of classics, including the original Metroid, never did finish Metroid II. Given the importance of this game to the overall story of the Metroid series, it was important to give it a proper treatment, and I'm glad that they finally did.

After the threat of Metroids was established in the original NES classic, the Galactic Federation decided to eliminate the entire species from their home planet of SR388. They were simply too much of a threat to be left alone, as they did not want them to be weaponized by others like the Space Pirates, so they sent the only one who has had any success defeating them: Samus Aran. There are a whole lot of Metroids to be found there, and with the help of a device that can detect how many are living nearby, she then sets off to exterminate them.

Because of your relatively straightforward goal of eliminating Metroids one after another, this is a somewhat more linear game than other entries; that's not really a major issue, as there are still plenty of secret power ups to go back and get. Both normal enemies and bosses, which are usually some form of evolved Metroid, become progressively more difficult as you are also given the tools, through various new weapons and upgrades, to defeat them. The moment you gain one of the major suit upgrades, or the Super Missile, it increases your effectiveness dramatically. Sometimes, these upgrades accompany some crazy bosses that are far outside of your typical Metroid enemy. And how you fight your battles has also changed since previous entries.

Metroid: Samus Returns
Highlights:

Strong Points: Fantastic return to form with enough changes to feel like something new; tough as nails; looks great, especially in 3D; wonderful soundtrack
Weak Points: Controls hurt these old man hands sometimes; tough as nails
Moral Warnings: When Samus dies you see her suit shatter and see her trademark 'Zero Suit' body suit (and if you beat the game quickly enough you see her in it larger on screen); you shoot and kill lots and lots of enemy aliens that are out to get you; enemies can cry out in pain upon death

The general layout of the game - a 2D side view of Samus as she explores her surroundings, fights off enemies, shoots enemies with her blaster or missiles, and backtracks as she gets more powers is largely the same as previous 2D entries. What has changed is the increased focus on combat. Samus has a new melee attack that is most often used as a counter attack to specific quick strikes that various enemies make. Rather than the more typical foes who seem to ignore that you are present and just soak up blaster fire, enemies charge aggressively at you, often with a telegraphed flash, which is meant to be a hint that you are supposed to press the melee button now. Most normal enemies do this, and bosses do also, though since you don't get a lot of practice for some boss types, I found trying to get that timing down to be difficult sometimes.

Another new addition is the Aeion abilities. These all rely on a special, separate meter, that replenishes quite quickly as each kill will almost always drop some. The first and most controversial ability is the Scan Pulse, which can show you all secrets located nearby, as well as revealing the map around you. It also shows you all breakable blocks in your immediate vicinity. If that sounds like it would take much of the fun away, then please don't use it. The other skills are all game related, and are very useful and interesting, and solving some puzzles requires them. There are both offensive and defensive skills available, and they can come in handy for boss fights to help tame that challenge a bit.

And challenging this game is. Metroid games have always been difficult on the boss front, but this game takes things up a notch. Several bosses really took everything that I had to defeat them, including some of the amiibo bonuses; if it wasn't for those, I would probably still be trying to beat the game rather than writing this review...

And that brings us to perhaps the worst thing about this game: the frankly ridiculous amiibo situation. On the one hand, and perhaps from Nintendo's perspective the only one that matters, people really want the amiibo because of what they offer. But what they offer is so overwhelmingly important that those unlocks should be available in some other way, even if it's just via paid DLC. Especially since all of those amiibo are virtually impossible to find.

Metroid: Samus Returns
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 92%
Gameplay - 19/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 90%
Violence - 6.5/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 8.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

There are four amiibo that work with Samus Returns: Smash Bros. Series Samus, Smash Bros. Series Zero Suit Samus, and the two new Samus Returns Series Samus and Metroid. They look great – especially the new Metroid one. But the Smash Series amiibo were released late 2014 and late 2015, and are long since impossible to obtain, and the new amiibo have a similar fate – sold out practically everywhere. So even if you could get them, which is more a hypothetical than a reality, it would cost close to $60. Thankfully, I've had my Smash Series ones for a while...

The Smash Series Samus unlocks a gallery and an extra missile tank that offers ten extra Super Missiles. This is far more useful than it sounds; that is nearly one third more Super Missiles than you normally have even end-game. Quite useful, and the concept art gallery is nice, but not a must have. The Zero Suit Samus amiibo unlocks a bonus energy tank, which is equivalent to three additional 'normal' energy tanks. This is again almost an extra third of health. It also includes a music player in the gallery. Why not include this in the base game?

I have not been able to get my hands on the two new amiibos yet. But having beat the game, I think I can say with confidence that these are perhaps the most infuriating of the bunch. The Samus Returns Series Samus isn't too vital; it unlocks an extra Aeion tank, which is handy, but hardly game changing. It also unlocks a gallery of Metroid II art, which would be nice. But what many people are really upset about is the Samus Returns Metroid amiibo. It holds behind that piece of plastic an entirely new game mode: Fusion Mode. This is the hardest difficulty level available, that you can't access any other way, and it makes Samus look like her Metroid Fusion self. A lot of people are really upset that an entire mode is locked up behind an impossible to get amiibo; I agree on this point. Come on, Nintendo.

On the moral front, Metroid: Samus Returns is more or less what you would expect from a science fiction action adventure: violence, as you blast bad aliens to bits, though there is the occasional alien cry upon death. One scene shows green blood. If someone were to beat the game in under four hours (not me, seventeen over here *shame*) they would see Samus in her Zero Suit, which is her in a one piece form fitting blue unitard. For those familiar with older games, yes, there are three different ending outfits based on game completion time.

Metroid: Samus Returns was a unified cry of joy from Metroid fans everywhere: finally a new 2D Metroid entry, the first one since 2004's Zero Mission. And it turns out this joy was well deserved, as the game is simply excellent. I don't think it's the best Metroid game ever, but does that really even matter? It's fantastic, and absolutely worth your time and money. I just wish the amiibo situation wasn't so crazy.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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