It’s hard to believe, but we haven’t received a proper Samus-starring Metroid adventure since Other M launched seven years ago - the role of Metroid Prime: Federation Force will always be disputed. Our chozo-suited heroine has finally come back to us in the aptly-titled Metroid: Samus Returns. It’s a reimagining of 1991’s Gameboy-only Metroid II, which is a direct sequel to the NES original.
Compared to both the original and Super Metroid, perhaps the best-known game in the series, Samus Returns is a bit of a different animal. Rather than focusing on finding and defeating space pirates, Samus is instead tasked with hunting down the remaining metroids on SR-388, the energy-sapping species's home planet. There are 40 metroids on the planet in total, and to unlock the way to new areas you’ll need to defeat the metroids in a given section of the map to drain some of the acid preventing you from moving onward. In each area there’s a statue that displays how many metroids you must find; when you defeat them, you’ll need to extract their DNA and return it to the statue to open the way.
All of what we’ve talked about so far is par for the course for a Metroid game, and isn’t unique to Samus Returns. As we mentioned, Returns isn’t a simple remake but instead a reimagining, and that extends to the gameplay mechanics. New to this game are Aeion Abilities; there are four of them and each gives Samus a unique new power. One allows you to reveal large portions of the map as well as find destroyable blocks in your immediate area, while another creates a lightning armour around Samus that will deflect damage; we’ll save the full list for you to find on your adventures. Each of these abilities is powered by a new gauge called the aeion gauge - each ability uses a small portion of the gauge and you can refill it by either countering or killing enemies.
Samus’s ability to counter is the second brand new component to Returns, and as its name implies it allows her to counter an enemy attack with one of her own. The counter is a powerful new tool in Samus’s arsenal but it’s not one that can be used in any situation. Many enemies will charge Samus, and you’ll need to precisely time your counter to match their charge. Every enemy that can be countered emits a telltale glow before their attack which will help you time your button press. Initially we had a hard time with this, but within a few attempts we were able to catch on, thanks to the brief tutorial the game provides in its opening minutes.
There are, however, some enemies that are impervious to the counter, and we feel the game doesn’t do the best job of explaining that. We encountered a Metroid early on that could cloak itself in energy and rush you. The counter wasn’t effective on the enemy, but the game didn’t really give us any clue that would be the case. It was only after repeated trial and error that we determined it wasn’t the timing, but rather that the enemy was invulnerable to the move. When you do land a counter on an enemy, they’ll be knocked back and left open for attack. In our experience countering enemies worked well one-on-one but was more difficult when there was even two enemies trying to come at Samus at the same time. Landing a counter with the right timing is immensely satisfying, though, as time slows for just a moment and the camera zooms in to emphasise the impact. We were initially skeptical of the mechanic, but a few hours in we find ourselves setting up counter attacks even when it’s not strategically necessary.
Both of these new abilities are interesting, but it seems unlikely that they’ll become staples to the series as a whole. The tweaks Nintendo EPD and MercuryStream have made to the series’ shooting mechanics should make their way into all future 2D entries, however. Rather than being limited to shooting diagonally, vertically and horizontally, by pressing the L button, Samus will now stand in place and you can fire in any direction. It’s a simple change that goes a long way. When Samus is aiming, her arm cannon will produce a helpful tracking beam so you can see where your shots will end up as well, making it easy to peg even moving enemies.
Beyond these changes, if you’ve played a Metroid title before you’ll be right at home playing Returns. All the face buttons still do the same duty, but directional movement has been moved to the Circle Pad as Samus’s new aeion abilities are mapped to the D-Pad. Pushing a direction on the D-Pad equips the ability while the A button activates it. MercurySteam has wisely chosen to move as much of the UI - including the map - as it can off to the 3DS’ touch screen, keeping the action up top as uncluttered as possible. This is a great decision because the game looks fantastic.
Moving a 2D metroid to use 3D models has really paid off. The result is the cinematic feel fans of the Metroid Prime series have come to love, with the tight mechanics and engrossing exploration that lovers of the retro classics have been yearning for. We enjoyed smaller details like sparks shooting from damaged doors, or being able to see heat distortion and flames licking out from behind doors where the environment beyond was too hot for Samus to brave without a suit upgrade. Tweaks like these make the game feel a bit friendlier to newcomers while not ratcheting down the difficulty as to be frustrating to seasoned veterans.
If you are needing that bit of extra help, however, the included amiibo functionality will give you a bit of a boost without breaking the game. Each of the four existing Metroid amiibo, including the two that will release alongside the game, grant Samus an energy, missile or aeion tank to help give you a refill when you’re running low. They won’t make the game any easier, but it should be enough to help those that haven’t spent the last couple of decades hunting space pirates. There’s certainly no shame in using these amiibo, however, as the challenge in Returns is the real deal. In the early going especially, before you’ve found too many energy tanks, enemies can take you out rather quickly if you’re not careful. As with many Metroid games, the game gets progressively easier as you locate more beams, missiles, bombs and suit upgrades, but the journey to get them is fraught.
We’ve been playing Return of Samus for just a couple of days, but we’re liking what we see so far. It’s a successful mix of elements from past and more current Metroid titles that comes off as the best of both worlds. The old-school challenge combines with a dash of modern convenience and visual flair to make something that feels simultaneously new and familiar. We’ll have much more on Metroid: Samus Returns as its release day approaches, but for now we must return to getting the last metroid in captivity and restoring peace to the galaxy.
Edit: This article has been updated to remove an erroneous reference to SR388 as the the planet on which the original Metroid took place. We regret the error.
Only 13 days to go!
"9s ago." That has to be the quickest I've ever gotten to an NL article. Now to read it so I can comment something actually relevant!
I hope it turns out well even if it is a remake and not a new game. That's what happens when a system is in its twilight and needs some quick fixes. They even handed it off to an outside studio. I've the superior European Special Edition pre-ordered and I don't own a 3DS. That's how nice it is.
@Not_Soos Some day you'll get to number 1.
going to rent it through gamefly, maybe buy later on. Need to save some money.
"It’s hard to believe, but we haven’t received a proper Samus-starring Metroid adventure since Other M launched seven years ago - the role of Metroid Prime: Federation Force will always be disputed. Our chozo-suited heroine has finally come back to us in the aptly-titled Metroid: Samus Returns. It’s a reimagining of 1991’s Gameboy-only Metroid II, which is a direct sequel to the NES original."
And it's hard to believe we haven't had an original new 2D Metroid for 15 years. We're still waiting.
Day one! Samus is back!
I had the privilege to demo this at one of the Nintendo World Championships 2017 locations and I gotta say, this game is definetly going to be a great return to 2D Metroid
This is 3DS month. Monster Hunter Story and Metroid. It eis going to be a good one.
Can not wait. Oh well, the wait for "Metroid Prime 4" will be much longer... still, quite looking forward to this.
Edit: Dude updated the article, which is more than most sites would do. Very cool!
Love me a good 2D Metroid, and the original sequel is one that I played a lot as a kid. I'll definitely be picking this up.
"Ha ha, 'snort', I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder."
This game snuck up on me! I'll have to set $40 aside next check!
@SLIGEACH_EIRE I wouldn't worry too much about it being a remake. From everything I've seen and all the hands-on impressions I've read (and I've read quite a few), they say this game is almost unrecognizable as Metroid II. The only thing the two games have in common is their basic overall story, and even then, the remake has even fleshed the narrative out almost beyond recognition. Everything has been completely overhauled, and frankly, the game really needed it. The original is nearly unplayable by modern standards, especially when compared to all the other 2D entries in the series.
@FrankJaeger Yes, I stopped reading after seeing this blunder...
@Yomerodes Gods no, I don't want anyone to get fired! It's just weird when websites that cover all sorts of games get this stuff right, and when a Nintendo-focused site gets it wrong.
Like... Nintendo is literally all you write about. This is one of Nintendo's bigger franchises. It always outlines the planet a Metroid game is on. And for the 2D Metroids, there's only 2 planets to choose from.
It's just really weird. Like it makes it seem like they assigned a staffer who's not actually familiar with the franchise, when I would hope there's at least one writer for this website who is familiar with the franchise. Cause, again, it's a Nintendo-focused site.
@FrankJaeger, @MegaTen: Glad to see I'm not the only one who caught that. XD I'm a relatively new fan to the series (started with the original Samus Returns on the 3DS VC a few years ago), so for a brief moment there I was second-guessing my knowledge.
Can't wait for this! This'll make the wait for Prime 4 (somewhat) bearable.
Oh yeah, it's this month, huh...crap.
I got Stories to get next week, was also thinking of Sonic Mania. T.T
@MegaTen Sorry! I'll be the first to admit I didn't play the original Metroid. It was a tad before my owning an NES and one I never circled back to. The article has been corrected.
@FrankJaeger I've never played the original, but have finished every game since! I wouldn't really call myself unfamiliar, but I did flub this one and I apologize.
About how long did a play through of the original game take? Is this reimagining longer? My issue with Metroidvania games is the lack of replay value.
day 1. paid off. can't wait. maybe my GOTY
Hope for a switch port next year 🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏
@ZurapiiYohane: This is intended since the original Metroid II was officially named: "Return of Samus"
By the way: I would have preferred a clean nice 2D-sprite-remake of Metroid II.
Don't bother apologising to @FrankJaeger. His comment just makes him sound like a massive prick. It was a small simple mistake. Some people need to get over themselves.
@JH64 Me too. I'd be more likely to buy a Switch version.
For goodness sake we had a 3D Metroid on the DS, Nintendo has so little ambition these days beyond the 2 main franchises Mario and Zelda.
@Franklin Dude it's a remake of one of the original games. Also let's be real, a ton of people WANT 2D Metroid again.
@Steve_Bowling @OneArmedGiant Actually, it is a significant mistake that is inexcusable for the site to publish, but the responsibility lies with whatever editor approved the article, not the writer; that's the person who should be apologizing. Not just to the readers, but to the writer for allowing such a mistake to be attached to a piece with his name on it.
Mistakes happen. And given this is an impressions article about a video game, rather than some journalist reporting on breaking political news... I would say it's very excusable. People make mistakes. It's not like this is IGN or something. People need to lighten up.
People want a 2D Metroid, just like people want a new 3D Prime entry. Nintendo is giving us not one, but both. I think your definition of "ambition" completely misses the mark.
I can't wait until this game drops, I love 2d metroids.
So far I haven't really heard any critisisms of this game so far so I guess it's okay for me to stay very excited about this!!!
@JaxonH Of course mistakes happen. But one of the traits of a professional organization is that there are some mistakes that it does not allow to happen. If you consider NintendoLife just a fan site, then yes, everyone, including me, has overreacted. But if you consider them journalists who provide a source of Nintendo coverage, then no, such a basic mistake should not have been published.
The only ambition lacking here is a simultaneous port to Switch.
There should be many more 2D Metroid games, in my estimation. One between each 3D release would be great. Let them both experiment with new ideas and feed off each other and offer a support when the other one isn't the best.
Having a 2D alternative around the corner would have helped when Metroid Other M got a mixed/negative reception, for instance.
@Steve_Bowling Haha it's fine, it's really cool you updated the article. Most sites wouldn't!
@OneArmedGiant Thanks for the love boi. I think it was an okay comment, and I also followed up, but to each their own
I never played the original Metroid or Metroid II, my first (and only!) taste of the series was Super Metroid. But that game alone was enough to hook me irremediably to the franchise. It's a pity I never had the chance to play any other Metroid game until now, so, for me Samus Returns is a totally new game and the reason I bought my first 3DS system ever! (I got a New 2DS XL back in July just because of this game!)
So even more than Metroid Prime 4 on the Switch, Samus Returns is the game that I can't wait to get my hand on... Still two long weeks...
As amazing as it looks and as much as I love Nintendo. I cannot support this game because of the AM2R incident. Nintendo does not need to ruthlessly protect their IP's as they do, fan projects do not hurt their revenue. I will have to download this title on my hacked 3ds.
Looking forward to this. Glad Nintendo took down AM2R, if only to give this a better chance at sales with the unconvinced.
So hyped! Metroid 2 finally getting the remake it deserves.
Nintendo Fans:"THE 3DS ID DEAD!!! Face the facts nerds, your system is gone"
Nintendo releases Samus Returns
Nintendo Fans:"This is an amazing year to be a 3DS owner"
"The result is the cinematic feel fans of the Metroid Prime series have come to love".
Whilst I'm not sure I agree the Prime series is cinematic (we might just have differing definitions of the term for a game), if this game evokes even similar feelings to the first two Prime games for me then I'm extremely happy. I was a little worried how the 3D models and backgrounds would work for what is effectively a 2D Metroid, so this sounds positive. Assuming it's Prime 1 & 2 it shares similarities with, and not Prime 3.
Some people keep whining that this is a remake, I am so happy with that, Metroid 1 and 2 are the ones that I could not get in to. Years ago I played Zero mission and that was such a good way to play metroid 1. And like @thesilverbrick said, It's near unrecognizable.
For all the people nit-picking about the articles original description of the planet, I'd be more concerned about the line "All of what we’ve talked about so far is par for the course for a Metroid game, and isn’t unique to Samus Returns."
Except, um, the whole "killing Metroids to drop the lava level" was unique to the original Metroid 2, 1 game out of 10 is hardly par for the course, and the giving their DNA to statues to do this is unique to Samus Returns.
That's a core gameplay mechanic, and suggests more of an infamiliarity with the series than fluffing up the planet - a detail which is incidental to the actual game.
Good article though, just surprised to see people overanalysing one point while ignoring another that seems bigger to me.
Personally I find the first 2 Metroid games very hard to go back to. The movement limitations and lack of a map (especially in the first game) make them a real chore to play with tonnes of aimless backtracking.
This is why I have no qualms whatsoever with this being a reimagining / from the ground up remake of Metroid II. We already got Zero Mission, now this ones round it all out nicely.
So basically, those few that keep on moaning or merely "pointing out" (as if we didn't already know) that it is "only" a "remake" can suck on a doorknob (wow thats an old cartoon reference).
Oh and really excited for this, will drop all other gaming commitments for this one.
Can't wait for this. My 3DS has been neglected after I finished hey! Pikmin and got a switch
@PanurgeJr Get some perspective, man. Literally every news outlet makes errors occasionally, including ones far more significant than this - the legitimate ones go back to correct and acknowledge the error, as happened here.
And getting the name of a fictional planet wrong is about as minor as such errors get.
@-DG dude I spent like £300 on this game haha
Metroid: Amiibo Returns
@NintyNate How!? Did you have to buy a 3DS for this game?
Can't wait for this definite day 1 for me, I wish I was quick enough to get the special edition. My only minor concern is its length(assuming it follows Metroid 2's length) bringing review scores down and making it sell less than it deserves.
This game looks awesome, but man is that trailer bad. Horrible writing with cliche action movie trailer voice guy, it's just awful. I can't even sit through a minute of that. It's like they're trying too hard to impress the "cool kids".
Anyway, I'm glad to hear the game is as fun as it looks.
@PanurgeJr mistakes, by definition, shouldn't happen--that's why they're called mistakes. They're inadvertent. Get something reasonable to harp on.
@ECMIM @Sondheimist @Rontanamo_Bay I understand how I may have come across as unreasonable; in my defense it's a lot of fun to remind NintendoLife, who think they're journalists, that they're just not. Journalists, when writing about SNES Mini preorders, would have done more investigating into the realities and constraints of manufacturing, instead of just paying lip service to it and assuming it didn't contradict their editorial position. Journalists wouldn't have written a hatchet job about RCMADIAX and asset flipping. Journalists wouldn't have tweeted a photo of Kamiya asleep at E3; in fact, they never would have taken the photo in the first place. I know that I overreacted, and I ought not have, for no other reason than nobody ever should. But I want gaming journalism to evolve, and people who should be contributing to that but aren't make an easy target for my frustrations.
@Steve_Bowling hey man don't worry bout the mistake it's called being human and it happens lol.
How's the 3d looking is it the 3ds swan song as I've heard?
I don't play my 3ds in 3d much but from what I've heard it's totally worth it on this game.
Hey, remember when we had to pay to read the news on Nintendo Life? ...Yeah, me neither.
This is a gaming news site. Hardly a national emergency broadcast or the Wall Street Journal. Everyone needs to chill out and have fun.
@-DG right, I bought the Samus edition 3ds XL, Samus and Metroid amiibos, the legacy edition, the special edition with t-shirt, guide and poster haha
@NintyNate Nice! lol. That Samus 3DS looks great. I'd love to get the amiibo... but my collection is a bit out of hand as it is...
@-DG haha collection??? I has a huge Metroid collection that's worth more than my life lol I have like uhhh 200 amiibo?? Not sure haha
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