When it came to time for questions during our hands-on demo with Metroid: Samus Returns for the Nintendo 3DS, the very first thing we asked was, “Why now?”
That's because, one deviation aside, Samus Aran has been out of the public spotlight for seven years - it's been a whole decade if you trace her absence back to the beloved Prime series. Yet even still, if you were to ask a Nintendo fan to name the company’s top franchises, Metroid is a lock to be name dropped. This is 2017 though, and it’s fair to wonder how much relevance this storied but almost dormant franchise currently holds to the company. To this, we were offered just a single explanation by the Nintendo Treehouse members:
Metroid: Samus Returns is a “revisioning” of the classic Game Boy title Metroid II: Return of Samus, which released way back in 1991. That old, monochrome adventure continued the basics of the franchise: 2D platforming through nonlinear maps, the exploration of which reveals secret pathways, character upgrades and much more.
It was a formula so innovative for its time back in 1986 - after the release of the original Metroid - that it spawned a genre based on the two franchises that originally (a decade apart) employed it, still endearingly referred to as “Metroidvania” games. The second part of that portmanteau, the Castlevania series, is not so coincidentally attached to this project in the form of Spanish developer MercurySteam, previous developers of the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow series and the team behind this new Metroid project.
And so it all comes full circle like a rolling Samus ball: Castlevania, Metroid and Samus herself, are all returning in one small package that was handed to us running on a New Nintendo 3DS XL, the 3D turned up full blast and speakers pumping those classic, ominous space vibes.
Much like the original handheld title, the game begins with Samus emerging from her signature helmet-shaped spaceship. Unlike the original title however, a full fledged cutscene with storyboards precedes any gameplay, allowing for a more modern take on storytelling within a game. Though if you’re worried that excessive story might bleed into the traditional isolation of the classic Metroid titles, don’t. Even the basic “how-to” dialogue text that teaches you how to use Samus was unobtrusive and functionally bypassable in this demo.
And every square inch looks the part of a murky planet without qualification: it all looks great on the 3DS.
As for the gameplay, Samus functions largely the same as she always has by using the system’s analogue stick, not the D-pad. She can jump, wall jump, shoot beams from her hand cannon and crouch, with more abilities slowly becoming unlocked as you discover them within the game. This time around, once unlocked, she can charge and hold a shot while still moving. Overall, it feels great. Her movement feels weighted but fluid, all without a hitch.
From a gameplay perspective, the game’s most obvious change is the addition of a melee attack, Samus swinging her hand cannon in an uppercut with just the push of a button. The attack is moderately powerful, and it noticeably has a few seconds of cooldown.
It may seem redundant or even sacrilegious to introduce hand fighting into the Metroid universe, but it became quickly apparent why Nintendo and MercurySteam did it. Aggressive enemies by and large produce subtle visual clues to their attack patterns, which if properly timed with an uppercut triggers a parry mechanic that deflects the enemy away while also stunning them, immediately allowing you to auto aim your traditional weapon fire straight into them. It’s an addictive play mechanic that feels sexy-smooth, and it’s just difficult enough to pull off that you’ll feel a rush of dopamine every time you land it. It’s a fantastic way to make the old feel new again.
Not new, however, is one important trademark of the series.
Within the demo we stumbled upon a massive shrine that subtly suggested we bring back something to its alter. Said our Nintendo Treehouse guide - “Nothing in the game screams out to bring something back here, which shows in part how the developers wanted to keep the exploration of Metroid intact.” This muted guidance is a crucial hallmark of the series, and we’re happy to report it seems carefully observed and upheld.
General exploration was easy thanks to the system’s second screen. The 3DS may be aged, but it still does the job. The game’s map unfolds on the second screen beneath the gameplay, which is so helpful it's hard to imagine life without it. Especially considering the original title didn’t have a map whatsoever.
Also behind second screen menus are a glossary of in-game items and terms, a current loadout of Samus’ abilities across her body, still unannounced amiibo functionality, and an icon mapping system that allows you to place up to ten permanent beacons onto the map, creating visual bookmarks for you to casually reference. Anyone who has played Nintendo’s recent blockbuster The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will understand how immensely useful this pin feature may prove to be, and it's functionality that once again brings to mind MercurySteam's oft-overlooked Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate on 3DS.
As the demo progressed, what began as simple A to B progression quickly evolved, with more pathways making themselves options with hidden power-ups to those who could piece together their puzzles. Those familiar with the original game may have a leg up on everybody else; outside of Samus’ signature grapple beam, which was originally absent in Metroid 2, Nintendo was coy as to whether the game would feature any new areas or bonus gameplay. But the new presentation and modern aesthetic really made this feel like an entirely new experience in our time with it. It’s worth saying that the 3D effect created a nifty feeling of depth, making a two dimensional game feel much deeper for those who enjoy leaving it on. Seeing the planet’s nooks and crannies actually went a long way to making us feel alone and vulnerable.
Also helping players feel alone is the lack of omnipresent music. Again, this is an experience that presents music only when it wants to, making the remixed versions of classic Metroid tunes all the more impactful when they arrive. We’re not sure we’ll ever tire of this excellent approach to sound in games.
The game neared its end when we encountered the rogue Metroid present in the game’s reveal trailer. Here is where we’ve saved the best gameplay innovation for last: pressing the “L” button smoothly puts Samus in a standstill and her cannon on a 360 degree swivel, allowing you to precisely shoot anywhere around yourself. Never was the need for this more present than during this mini-boss fight, which combined with the aforementioned parry system, makes fighting larger enemies come alive.
We were jumping, diving, punching and aiming with the fidelity of a far more complex game, yet all within the confines of a 2D platformer. It all just works, and it feels as polished and refined as any game in the series.
In dramatic fashion, we disposed of the Metroid and in turn, our time with the demo. Having experienced it first hand, it’s that much harder to understand why Nintendo has left the Metroid franchise - in its traditional style, at least - on the backburner for an entire generation of potential fans. But whatever the real reason they have for doing so, we came away from the game feeling the exact same logic that was shared with us by Nintendo's team:
Buying is game so hard. Can't wait!
Under that tough armour is a woman. That's true of any man.
@Nintendian I thought your profile picture was a actual bug on my screen 😂
I have already pre-ordered mine and the new amiibo. Can't wait as it is also released on my birthday )
@ChilledLadmcr Also pre-ordered. I want this game so hard.
I've pretty much got a 3DS just to play this game.
Something tells me this will be my last major 3DS experience. And the console couldn't go out on a better note.
I'm pretty excited bout it. Nintendo has spent a lot of time making games that really aren't for me. Solid games like Arms, Splatoon and Fire Emblem just aren't for me. I'm glad people like them, but Nintendo can do those AND Metroid.
I've been aching for a modern 2D Metroid for years. This will DEFINITELY be a day one buy for me!
I'm so freaking hyped for this game. The original Metroid 2 was one of my favorite games as a child and still one of my favorites today. Nintendo is just killing it this year.
I can't wait to play this game!. Also, I can't wait to hear all of the ominous, ambient tracks. The only reason I wanted the legacy edition was for the soundtrack CD.
It's been time.....
This will be my last 3DS game (probably) and what a way to go out! Bring it on.
I can't wait! This game is the reason I bought a New 2DS XL!!
It took long enough, but the 3DS finally got its Metroid game (not counting Federation Force since it was a spin off). I'm so hyped!
In a way, I'm curious, buuuuut----I'm skeptical, mainly because I haven't been impressed with anything that MercurySteam has developed. Also, as cool as some parts of the game look, it does seem to have a Mirror of Fate aesthetic, and that worries me.
Why does Nintendo seem resistant to the notion of developing these titles in-house? Metroid Fusion was terrific, as was Metroid: Zero Mission. They took a gamble with Retro, yes, and it paid off but their work with Team Ninja didn't.
Honestly, I would love for Nintendo to develop a new Metroid themselves.
I'm hoping Nintendo fans show up and buy it. Many are certainly willing to buy any port.
But as Banjo said, I wish this was this developed in house.
Looks soooooo goood! I'll play the poopoocadoodlydoo out of it in it's glorious 3d. Also, probably last game I'll buy on the 3DS.
@BanjoPickles I get what you're saying, but in this case, I would rather see Nintendo put effort into a brand-new game. Metroid II is already a complete and well done title, and MercurySteam has something to work with. The basic template of the game is done and it would be difficult for them to screw it up. Smaller, independent studios do a good job of handling Nintendo's remakes (like Grezzo did with Ocarina and Mask for 3DS). A brand-new title would require much more creativity and talent, and in that case, I wouldn't trust a company like MercurySteam to deliver a solid Metroid game from the ground up. I think they can handle this, though, allowing Nintendo to develop new titles instead of remakes.
I understand what you're saying, but they handled the Zero Mission remake and it was brilliant! Honestly, I would love for them to handle MP4 themselves.
Do you know if the game has improved performance in any way on the new 3ds?
@BanjoPickles Though I think the idea of a Metroid 2 remake is great — it was one of my favorite Gameboy games and I played it a ton — I can't say I like the look of it and some of the design decisions. I'm looking forward to the reviews for it when the time comes.
You ask a good question about why Nintendo farms Metroid games out. To be fair, Retro Studios is under Nintendo's umbrella, so it's not quite the same thing, but they are separate. But I think it comes down to Nintendo not thinking Metroid is worth their time to develop themselves. As loved as the series is by its fans, I understand it's not a big seller for Nintendo. Of course, Nintendo hasn't been consistent with the property.
I can't wait. I love the 2D Metroid games and I love 3D Metroid Prime (well, not MP3 because it went away from isolation into some rubbish talking to people nonsense). This is looking good so far, I hope it doesn't disappoint. I have the special edition and Amiibos all pre-ordered. They all look great.
@polarbear That's a great question, and sadly I didn't think to ask that. We'll certainly make a note of that on our eventual review though!
I should note its possible this is already known via a treehouse interview or something, I just can't recall hearing anything about that. If anyone knows, feel free to comment.
@CheddarSword You think Nintendo should've allowed a free version of this game to be developed and released alongside their paid version of it? How does that make any fiscal sense?
Does anyone know if this is a "new 3ds" exclusive? Will it work on my old 3ds XL?? This preview mentions using the analogue stick instead of the d-pad
Not a fan of the original game at all (seems to be one of those cases of a "classic" just because it's old), but if this can do to Metroid 2 what Zero Mission did to Metroid 1 (ie. make it actually playable), then I'm excited for it.
@Manjushri I don't remember a cereal give away for Metroid 2 (in the US), but I might have been too busy watching Sinbad in Shazaam.
Looking forward to chilling with my cousin and playing this the weekend it releases! We both picked up the soundtrack version!
It's been a long time. Very few games will peel me away from Monster Hunter XX once it drops in late August... but this one will definitely get some play. Metroid is probably the only game I'd put MH on hold for...
Of course they were eliminating competition- it's kind of hard to win when your competition is using your own source material and it's being handed out on the Internet for free. But that's not the only reason- allowing anyone to make a game using their properties means no quality control- maybe the game turns out good and maybe it doesn't, but they would have absolutely zero say in the matter. And let's say it does turn out good but just not amazing, and some people play it and say eh, it's good but it's not everything I thought it would be I don't think I'm really interested in buying the next Metroid game. Or maybe it's mind blowing, but people don't want to buy a brand new copy of another remake of the same game afterwards. That's just one or two of the 1000 different ways it could play out, and the bottom line is it shouldn't have to play out any way other than how the creator dictates.
Give me that special edition!!
Their IP is their wallet.
Doesn't matter how "different" they are. You said it yourself- protecting their wallet- admission that the game would and will hurt sales. If you can't see that, I suggest taking some economics courses and reading the data on sales impacts from piracy and plagiarism. If you can't see that, it's by a personal refusal to do so, not by lack of reasoning.
I'm not sure about using the analogue stick to control Samus. The tight d-pad controls of the originals is part of what made them so good. Also I was hoping for gyro controls for the 360 aim (maybe that's because I've been playing a lot of Splatoon)!
Dude, it was a freaking remake. Even the game's name was "Another Metroid 2 Remake". That's a far cry from Axiom Verge, with 100% original Ip and 100% original level design and 100% original enemy design and 100% original boss design.
Seriously guy... Had they done that, we wouldn't be having this discussion.
"Back down. Now"
Bwahahahaha. Ya ok dude.
"until they take those down"
They don't have to take anything down. It's THEIR IP. They can take down or not take down whatever they wish. I don't know what kind of Twisted logic you're following, but just because they don't target every single fan game doesn't suddenly make it OK.
They only have so much time and resources and decisions have to be made on which ones are worth investing their time on.
Back down now lol... this guy
"Shall we continue"
You say that as if you actually made a valid point, which you did not. Not even close.
Choosing not to pursue legal action IN NO WISE grants any form of legality or legitimacy to plagiarism of IP.
If I punched you in the face and you chose not to go to the police, and I did it again and you chose not to go to the police again... does that mean I can now LEGALLY ARGUE that you do not have the right to charge anyone who punches you in the face.
It doesn't matter if they care or not. Legality is not preceded by one's interest. The law is the law is the law, and irrespective of how much Nintendo cares or does not care, the law is the law and does not change.
People can pursue legal action all they want to- it doesn't mean they're going to win. Until a judge slams the gavel and rules against one's ability to protect their own creation, neither you nor DoctorWho nor anyone else has any leg to stand on.
Never have I looked forward to my birthday more.
Edit: Realized this post was mildly misleading. My b-day is the week following the release date, but this is a guaranteed gift!
"Don't understand the need to defend Nintendo"
Umm... because they're in the right? Why else?
I don't say that in a rude way, but just in an honest way. I don't care if it's Nintendo or the president or my next-door neighbor- the who is irrelevant. If they're in the right and someone is saying they're not... then it's only natural to speak up.
I'm a gamer. And I'm glad fan remakes exist. And that gratitude stems from my own selfish desires to play those games. But if Nintendo or whoever else decides to take action... I'm not going to argue. Because I knew that was a possible outcome from day one... and, well, that's their job. So I enjoy whatever comes my way and if it gets taken down to gets taken down. Nature of the beast.
This game looks incredible. Just wondering if anyone knows does it run fine on the original 3DS?
No worries. Happens to the best of us.
I'm so hyped for this! This preview sounds really promising so I guess that's a good sign of things to come! Nintendo is killing it this year!
@King_Johobo We need an answer to this please!!!!
Because of Captain N i always thought metroid was a game about an evil brain when i was a kid. I dont have any nostalgia for metroid because we never had it.
I dont quite see the appea of the original which i experienced via nes mini l but will pick this up anyway since it looks good.
i liked rpgs more as a kid as well. Would love of they remade faxanadu...
@BanjoPickles Dispite Mirror of faith having a wonky story and some weird design choices it still was a technical sound game for a quite inexperienced developer with such few titles under their belt and no experience with 3DS before.
I have no doubt they can make this game work under Nintendo's supervision.
@thesilverbrick so many things cut out on the 3ds, and rpg maker fes being bare bones without the dlc patch for player even working is insulting. Do hope the Kickstarter clone timespinner is worth waiting as I thought Metroid was dead. Don't think it will ever top fusion for new games.
As a huge fan of the 3D capabilities of the 3DS, I'm so glad they've focussed on it and actually made it worthwhile and vital. Sucks to have a 2DS lol!
Not having music in the entirety of the game seems almost lazy, at best I'll thought out. Play super metroid without the score and you'll soon realize it's a lesser experience. I hated botw for this, even more so after playing Skyward Sword and listening to how well they did the music for that.
I can't wait for this, I got my legacy edition so I'm super happy! I'm a huge Metroid fan and this looks amazing
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