Nintendo is no stranger to the rising trend of remakes, remasters and reimaginings. If anything this is the company that has leant on their back catalogue and nostalgia the most often, but while Metroid: Samus Returns is a reimagining of Metroid II for Game Boy, it might as well be a brand new game.
The main story here is the same, with the renowned bounty hunter Samus Aran tasked with heading to the planet SR388 and wiping out the parasitic Metroid that live there. However, Metroid II’s version of SR388 was simply a rather barren planet, with new areas opening up as earthquakes change the underground areas you’re exploring. Here, the setting has changed to incorporate various Chozo monuments and architectures, with these acting as the gateways to new areas, draining the hazardous liquids so that you can head deeper underground.
Exploring the caverns of SR388 is made that little bit easier by having the map on the lower screen of the 3DS, letting you see where you’ve been and spot possible locations for secrets much more easily. Your hunt for secrets and destructible blocks is made all the more accessible by the scan pulse ability, which sends a ping out from Samus’ location and traces all the areas nearby onto the map.
Purists might feel that MercuryStream are taking things too far on the accessibility front, as the Scan Pulse is just one of several tools to aid exploration. Samus returns with a bunch of digital drawing pins in her pocket, letting you mark points on the map for later investigation, while the game will subtly alert you to the nearby presence of one of the metroid you’re hunting. There’s even a hints system, where presenting metroid husks to a Chozo monument can point you in the right direction.
The Scan Pulse is just one of the Aeion abilities,which drain an energy meter that’s refilled from killing the native fauna and scooping up the glowing dots of energy and health they leave behind. Additional abilities include things like lightning armour, and as each one is added, you’ll have to consider when and where to use your Aeion abilities more carefully.
That said, some of Samus’ best tricks are her oldest, as she gains new beam weapons, such as the rather crucial Ice Beam, and the Spider Ball. The Spider Ball is my favourite, as it lets you quite satisfyingly attach to most walls and ceilings in the game to roll around and find new areas. I loved that rolling around for well in excess of a minute was eventually rewarded with discovering Chozo restoration points that refilled my health and energy.
Some of the most fundamental changes come in the combat, with the signs of modernity sprinkled throughout. Samus can aim in 360 if you hold down a shoulder button, rooting her to the spot, but allowing for much greater accuracy, but almost as important is the now melee counter attack. The enemies in Samus Returns are more numerous and aggressive, more than happy to charge at you as they attack. You’ll come to rely on the ability to counter with a melee attack, stunning them and automatically locking your aim onto them so that you can dispatch them with a flurry of gunfire. It’s easy to forget you have this ability, but something that you’ll grow into as the game progresses.
Exploring the imaginatively named Area 1 – Samus’ one true flaw is coming up with place names – it all comes together neatly, as you simply head in various directions and discover first the Ice Beam and then the Spider Ball, both of which are crucial to reaching the locations of four lightly mutated metroid in this area. Defeating them is a simple case of attacking them with the Ice Beam and missiles, while dodging their attacks. They pose the most danger when charged with electricity and swooping down upon you, but all you need to do is dodge or freeze them to prevent the elemental damage and allow you to perform a melee counter.
Metroid: Samus Returns is a root and branch reimagining and modernising of a classic, to the point that it would be practically unrecognisable were it not for the name. Above all else, it’s a joy to have another 2D Metroid game releasing in addition to the recently announced Metroid Prime 4. It’s been too long, and I’m looking forward to exterminating some metroid in September.