Metroid has finally landed on the Nintendo 3DS console in the form of Samus Returns, a reimagined version of the classic Game Boy title. We've been rolling, blasting and leaping our way through this lengthy adventure and here's our full review.
When Metroid hit Nintendo’s Game Boy back in the early 90s, a fresh wave of young gamers became addicted to Samus’ adventures. Car journeys, weddings and even the occasional maths class became the ideal opportunity to blast and roll around the vast, complex levels, in search of that elusive power-up.
Metroid proved itself perfectly suited to portable play, which is why we’re baffled that it’s taken Nintendo six years to properly bring the franchise to the 3DS console. Of course, to bash out a well-worn cliche, the wait was predictably worth it, as Metroid Samus Returns is a beautifully presented and lengthy adventure.
We’ve kind of come full circle with Samus Returns, which is a ‘reimagining’ of that original Game Boy title. Samus is once again tasked with infiltrating the creatures’ homeworld (catchily titled Planet SR388) and wiping out the Metroid population for good. Of course, as ever, she begins the game with no powers to speak of; perhaps a crippling and apparently freakishly common case of space amnesia. Therefore to hunt down the villainous leeches and exterminate them, she’ll have to track down and snaffle various power orbs, to restore her abilities.
Chances are you’re aware of the Metroid series already, in which case all you need to know is how Samus Returns on the 3DS stacks up. Well, this beefy adventure doesn’t piddle about with a winning formula. Gameplay focuses heavily on exploration, with a heavy dose of combat and a fair bit of precision platforming thrown in to keep things interesting.
Your mini map becomes an invaluable asset when negotiating Samus Returns’ many expansive areas. This is permanently on display on the bottom touchscreen, to make things easy. You can also pause the game and scroll around the map at your own leisure, as well as place coloured pins, although sadly there’s no way of jotting down notes on any items you can’t access and so on.
A fair bit of backtracking is (as ever) crucial to success. Every area has sections which can only be explored once the proper power-up has been found, often much later in the game. Luckily you can activate teleportation devices as you roam around, which takes some of the pain out of cycling back. All the same, we’d have liked a proper notes tool on the mini map, to make matters a little less confusing.
Of course, this backtracking does extend Samus Returns’ length somewhat, although the game is massive anyway. Full completion takes roughly 20 hours, depending on how often you get stuck or end up aimlessly wandering. Definitely a good one to take on holidays, if you have a long journey to kill.
Speaking of getting stuck, you’ll have to be rather meticulous when exploring the various levels in order to progress, as quite often the sole path is seriously obscured. For instance, one early section requires you to freeze an enemy and use them as a platform, before blowing up an innocuous section of the ceiling with a rocket and leaping up. In most games, this would bag you some deluxe hidden reward. In Metroid Samus Returns, it’s simply the way forwards.
Still, we like a challenge and thankfully you do have a fresh new sonar power-up to help out. This sends out a pulse of energy which reveals any weak parts of the environment, a vital tool for discovering any possible routes. This takes some of the potential frustration out of exploration. Likewise, the presence of a Metroid husk - as well as a handy proximity meter - are clear indicators that one of your targets lurks nearby.
Combat is just as fast and frantic as ever. Often you’ll have around half a second to react to an enemy’s attack as you enter a new area, while the Metroid battles demand strong reflexes as you progress further into the game. Luckily Samus is as deadly as ever, with an immensely helpful counter-attack that can repel most foes if timed well. The ability to stop and aim in any direction using the thumb stick is also essential for taking down enemies above and below.
So far, so familiar. However, we really have to applaud Samus Returns for its brilliant presentation. As always, the audio is fantastic, with plenty of haunting tracks that add to the game’s foreboding atmosphere. However, it’s the stunning 3D visuals that really stick with you long after you’ve powered down.
From the swishy start menu onwards, it’s clear that a lot of care and attention has been put into this Metroid game’s graphics. Each environment has a distinctive appearance, with impressive amounts of detail lurking in every background. This visual feast alone is enough incentive to progress, in order to see what the next area looks like.
You can grab Metroid Samus Returns on the Nintendo 3DS right now, and we'd recommend doing so.