It seems that the ending of Metroid Fusion was an illusion; Samus Aran is now tasked with investigating the rumour that shape-shifting X Parasites have somehow found a new lease of life. What will she find?
Rarely does a game gain such a loyal and devoted fanbase as the Metroid series has over the last 35 years. Beginning in 1986 and progressing chapter by chapter until today, Metroid has a fan base fierce enough to ostensibly rival some football clubs. Fast-forward to this year, and it seemed as though Metroid was down and out, a sequel was not ready – but then arguably the biggest announcement came out of E3 2021 - Metroid Dread. An action-adventure game built solely for the Switch consoles by Mercury Steam and Nintendo, Metroid Dread intends to release on the 8th of October.
Finally! How did this game happen?
The Metroid Dread project began as a result of a window of opportunity; the Nintendo Switch finally bought the hosting technology capable of hosting Metroid producer Yoshio Sakamoto’s vision of what Dread should look and play like. It has been years of toing and froing since rumours of a Dread release surfaced 16 years ago (yes, that long), surrounded by apocryphal conjecture and whistle-blowers, but the Metroid community remained strong throughout. Upon its pre-order release, Metroid Dread, the last game in the narrative arc, broke records on GameStop and Nintendo – the community is that big. Fans of the series are set to receive exactly what they have waited a good portion of their life for; a 2D, side-scrolling sequel to the events of the 2002-released Metroid Fusion. What a time to be alive!
What is the game's context?
Metroid Dread takes us straight into the heart of Samus Aran’s character arc, as the famed bounty hunter is tasked to investigate a world gone rogue: Planet ZDR. A task force of E.M.M.I robots were assigned to discern if the cosmic conjecture about surviving sects of X-parasites was true, but the robots quickly went AWOL. Obviously Samas isn’t too happy about this; she thought she wiped them out during the events of Fusion, so she works with the Galactic Federation and visits ZDR herself. Upon her landing all is really not well, Samus encounters a wise, ethereal Chozo Warrior and from here the Dread story begins, starting as it means to go on – a tense, gripping story from the outset, and it is not long before we are completely ensconced in Aran’s mission.
What is the concept of Metroid Dread?
As we traverse the myriad biomes of Planet ZDR, and its magnificently designed mazes of caves, magma chambers, underwater ruins and steel labyrinths, Aran is sure to encounter a variety of defective E.M.M.I. Robots of all size and skill track Aran through their claimed home turf, and if they catch her, they’ll execute her on sight; no wonder this game is called Metroid Dread. To avoid a grizzly death at the hands of rogue artificial intelligence, we must use stealth and sneak about, furtively dashing in and out of each nook and cranny, but upon detection we have only two choices: stay put and try to penetrate the robots’ thick plated armour or make a sprint for it in hopes we will stumble across the Omega Cannon. Chance would be a fine thing!
'Robots of all size and skill track Aran through their claimed home turf, and if they catch her, they’ll execute her on sight.'
Where is Metroid Dread set?
The guys at Mercury Steam have somehow turned some concepts bordering banality into a vibrant, encapsulating collection of biomes. Through each location can we find and forge different paths, but we can also return to each location to seek out further upgrades and the like if we choose to. The expectation at the door of Dread was skyward and intense – it would have been quite easy to disappoint fans – but the design of this world is immaculate and realises the hopes of many a stoical Metroid fan. As we turn our line of sight away from the beautiful backdrop and onto what remains, it becomes increasingly obvious that ZDR harbours the vestigial infrastructure of a once thriving civilisation, what other secrets lay hidden in the subterranean network? What really happened here? Huge creatures lay dormant, a fossil of (or a product of? Planet ZDR’s history, and it would be a great, great shame if Samus Aran…woke them up. Yikes!
How do we fight enemies in Metroid Dread?
We can run all we want, but inevitably we will at some point find ourselves trapped, and then we will have to put up a fight. Fortunately, Samus is equipped with an arsenal of weapons and evasion techniques to use at her discretion, the upgradable, beam-firing Arm Cannon coming first and foremost. Otherwise, Samus can avail herself of the eagerly awaited Melee Counter, the Grapple Beam or her Missiles to fend off any threatening E.M.M.I robots. That said, Samus can also slide, jump, cling on to certain surfaces using the Spider Magnet, she can morph into a ball to traverse tight spaces, and she can also employ Flash Shift as both a defensive and offensive manoeuvre. Or, if you go about it in the right way, Samus can simply submerge herself in the Phantom Cloak. Come on, we can’t complain that our toolbox is incomplete. Though combat and movement are extremely fluid, clean and fast-paced from the get-go, additional enhancement to weapon, ability and suit are unlockable as the tale of Dread plays out; we will need such boosts where Boss enemies lay a few scenes ahead else we will end up only Metroid Dead.
'Though combat and movement are extremely fluid, clean and fast-paced from the get-go, additional enhancement to weapon, ability and suit are unlockable as the tale of Dread plays out.'
It’s a given that Metroid Dread will end up in this history books; it’ll go down as one of the most celebrated and venerated Nintendo games of all time. A decade or so from now, we will look back at Dread with the same wistful adoration as we now have about titles from our early gaming career, like Metroid Fusion. Utilising some phenomenally thrilling gameplay a result of intense combat and silky movement mechanics and placed in an environment perfect at allowing a Metroidvania narrative to occur, Metroid Dread is likely to live up to the years’ worth of hype and buzz surround it. The date you need is the 8th of October, the name is Metroid Dread, and the console is the Nintendo Switch don’t miss it!
Metroid Dread comes out on the same day as the release of the Nintendo Switch OLED Model. Why not play Dread on the OLED?
Images sourced from Nintendo.