Metroid: Samus Returns is a remake of the GameBoy’s Metroid 2: Return of Samus that goes so far above and beyond it might as well be a brand new game. The 16 year jump is obvious in far more than just the presentation. The environments are far more fleshed out and the game is both faster and more streamlined. The controls do feel a little overwhelming at first but past this learning curve are not an issue. This is a fantastic remake.
Samus Returns looks great on the 3DS and almost comical in retrospect when compared to the original. Introducing color not only breathes life into this nightmarish planet but helps you navigate it better as well. The music is memorable and enjoyably referential. One nice effect is that any time Samus is submerged in liquid, all music and noise become muffled like one would expect. Experiencing these go hand in hand with how much the environments have changed since the original. Areas are more diverse and enemy filled which make the encounters more interesting and deep. It is a faster game but it gives you the tools to properly play a campaign of this scope.
With the added interface the game’s many different weapons are much more streamlined when managing. The analog stick allows for far better aiming than the GameBoy’s D-pad and the shoulder buttons and touch screen help introduce useful shortcuts. There are so many power ups you unlock and dealing with them this time around is much easier. However, holding down L to enter a proper aiming mode is a little less than ideal since running and gunning would have been useful for many boss fights. It is also depressing to see that players with a New 3DS can’t use the right analog stick to alleviate this (or for anything at all). This ends up being a bit of a steep learning curve out of the gate but in no way game breaking.
True to its roots, this is a metroidvania game that feels so much better than Return of Samus did. Being able to easily differentiate between obstacles due to the color coding is a welcomed addition. Even when you are stuck, the game will point you in the right direction to hunt the next Metroid. This was greatly appreciated since each area is huge with many hidden pathways. The inclusion of a map alone (with a fast travel mechanic!) is a lifesaver for a metroidvania game. It promotes retracing your steps, without the annoying tasks of manually backtracking, that this genre is known for.
With all the retracing you can guess that exploration is at the forefront of its gameplay. The game is split up into nine different areas and each new ability/weapon you unlock will allow you to bypass previous obstacles. One downside is that a lot of these hidden areas are a little too secretive. Many of the obstacles you will have to pass will require destroying one single block in the furthest corner of the room. You are given a scanning device but it only lasts for so long and drains your energy. More than once I found myself at a dead end, without any energy, having to just roll around hoping I dropped a bomb down in the correct spot. For anyone wanting to hunt around every nook and cranny this might sound ideal but for the rest of us - at least it’s an uncommon occurrence.
When you aren’t exploring you will be fighting the many different enemy types. Not only is the combat much easier to handle in this remake but the game also kicks it up a notch in difficulty. Opponents move a ton faster. A large portion of the encounters will focus on creatures charging towards you to attack. Samus Returns adds in a new counter system that lets you avoid the damage and auto target an enemy’s weak spot. It’s fun to use and many boss fights will require this in order to cause a lot of damage. Some instances will even start a cutscene that shows off some cool moves from our protagonist. The game feels extremely fresh and the combat is a big driving force to this.
If you are looking for more than just a simple remake of Metroid 2, then Samus Returns will deliver in spades. So much has been updated that this feels like a brand new entry in the series. The environments have been completely revamped and the new combat controls, despite a less than ideal learning curve, make the enemies much more interesting. Streamlining the traversal with a great map and fast travel features is a huge plus. This game is a blast throughout and will keep fans excited for the serie’s future.