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Metroid Dread (Nintendo Switch)

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    Metroid Dread (Nintendo Switch)

    Hello all. Today I’m beginning an ongoing review of Metroid Dread.

    Console: Nintendo Switch
    Developer: Mercury Steam (developer of the Metroid 2 remake Samus Returns for the 3DS)
    Cost: ~$60USD for the standard edition, ~$90USD for the Special Edition. Special edition includes holofoil art cards of previous Metroid game box arts, the game in a Steelbook case, and an art book. I acquired the Special Edition on launch day, October 8th. I got it at the 3rd place I stopped, was 3rd in line, and only 3 copies were available there. Huh.

    For those who don’t know, Metroid is, in a nutshell, is a series about intergalactic bounty hunter Samus Aran. It chronicles her missions across space, often being pitted against the scourge of the galaxy- the Space Pirates. The gameplay is largely exploration-based, though more recent entries have been more action-focused. Metroid (along with Castlevania) pretty much started the “Metroidvania” subgenre of games. This game starts off with Samus heading to planet ZDR to investigate the disappearance of 7 Galactic Federation surveyor/exploration robots known as E.M.M.I. I’m leaving out some other details for spoiler reasons.

    I don’t have any screenshots of the game (they’re readily available online anyway), but I do have pictures of the contents of the box.

    The box:

    What’s inside:

    The holofoil box art cards:

    Steelbook case:

    Can’t get away from them, haha:

    And an ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS 191 page artbook, with a few pics of the pages:

    The first 53 pages contain art from the first 4 mainline Metroid games- the original Metroid, Return of Samus, Super Metroid and Fusion, as well as the remakes: Zero Mission and Samus Returns. The rest is devoted to Metroid Dread. And I can’t say this enough- this book is absolutely beautiful. It’s definitely worth the upcharge for the Special Edition if you are a fan of video game art books.

    OK, onto this review. Again, this review will be ongoing. It isn’t a complete review so much as it is my impressions of the game as I play through it. I will try to keep spoilers at a minimum and I’ll try to label them as I go.
    Note: I am playing this game primarily on a television, with only a little bit of time in handheld mode. I much prefer playing on the TV with a pro controller. I will, however, include comments for each.
    Also keep in mind that I’m not exactly a seasoned Metroidvania player. I’ve played through a few Castlevania games, Shovel Knight, Metroid Prime and Fusion as well as bits of the original Metroid and Super Metroid. However, that’s about where my experience ends. I love the Metroid franchise, but I’m not super hardcore or anything.

    Right out the gate, Metroid Dread does a good job of getting you up to speed on the backstory of the main games of the franchise. This is great for players that are new to Metroid. It doesn’t provide anything super specific, but it’s enough to make the player informed. It’s also been 19 years (!) since Metroid Fusion was released, so this is a good refresher for those who haven’t played the previous games recently.
    After the backstory and a cutscene that sets up the game, you’re off exploring. Right off the bat I noticed how fluid the movements are. This is a far cry from Super Metroid and it’s floaty behavior. The controls feel tighter and virtually everything you do has a good level of satisfaction to it. Sliding, wall jumping and even simply firing your arm cannon feel good. One thing that I’m mixed on is the free-aim function. This is a carryover from the remake of Metroid 2 on the 3DS (Samus Returns). It basically replaces the aim up/down buttons from Super Metroid and Fusion with a single button hold while aiming freely with the left (movement) stick and is accompanied with a laser pointer. It’s nice for precise shots, but you can’t move while aiming. Though you can still aim up/down whole moving by tilting the left sick up/down during movement. It takes a little getting used to if you never played Samus Returns.
    As you start exploring, a few basic tutorials pop up. These are minimally invasive, amounting merely to subtitles outlining basic controls. Read it, do it and it’s gone. And the game doesn’t stop/pause the action for extensive reading. Very free-flowing.
    But that’s not to say there isn’t any game stoppage. Early on there are small cutscenes that showcase certain aspects of the game and set the tone of certain things/events, such as the E.M.M.I.s and recurring things. The gameplay stoppages got slightly annoying after a while, but they slowed down once you get a couple hours into Dread. Overall, they are there to simply introduce you to elements of the game.
    Note: I am playing this game slowly, trying to get as many upgrades as I can along the way. My first couple hours may be different from your first couple hours if you regularly play Metroidvania games.
    Another note on “stoppages”: These aren’t really stoppages, but sometimes there are little quicktime things during boss fights that you can act within. They’re not gaudy at all like other games with big flashing “hit this button!” prompts. Rather, they are free-flowing and fit the pace and feel very well. This feature is also a carryover from Samus Returns.
    On sound: It is pretty good. The music is great, as always from a Metroid game. The sound effects are good as well, but one thing I noticed is that when playing handheld with in-ear phones the sound effects are muffled a bit. You might have to tweak the music and sound effects to your liking if you play with in-ear phones. I haven’t tried on-ear or over-ear phones yet. The sound coming through the handheld speakers themselves isn’t as nice as through a TV (to be expected), but it’s good.

    On graphics/art design: This game is gorgeous. I have rarely seen a side-scrolling game with this much detail. Not only are the character models beautiful, but the backgrounds as well. There are a lot of small details and nuances that really contribute to the feel of the environment. For instance, in one zone I was walking through I would hear a banging sound, and in the background I would see a metal bulkhead being pushed/dented outward as if something was coming to get me. Local fauna in the backgrounds will also react to your presence, sometimes foreshadowing what is to come. The immediate visual effects are also great. When you find doors leading to environments with extreme heat or cold, you can see the heat or cold coming off the doors before you even open them. Actions like charge shots and explosions, as well as general lighting all contribute to a very satisfying feel to the game.

    On gameplay design: Aside from the minimally invasive tutorials, the game doesn’t have much handholding. Like previous Metroid & Castlevania games, you’re required to try stuff and figure out most of it on your own. Even the menus don’t offer much aside from the early-game tutorial notes. This, of course, bucks current game design trends that drown you in waypoints and help text. It is truly a lost game design in the AAA game space. However, it is back in full-force here and I’m very happy to see it. This is something that Nintendo typically does very well, and it shows here.
    But this is not to say it’s full-blown exploration-based like Super Metroid. There are some spots where the game funnels you to go to certain locations, creating some linearity. However, once you get to the next upgrade/plot point it opens back up for you to explore with whatever new thing you’ve seen/acquired. I feel that it’s an average between the exploration-based Super Metroid and the more linear Fusion.
    The feeling of dread (as the game title implies) doesn’t go full-blown horror, but it is definitely there in terms of suspense. The E.M.M.I.s are the core of this and they do their job well. Each one behaves differently in it’s attempt to eliminate you and it really gets the blood pumping. The feeling of suspense and (good) anxiety that is generated is a quality that few newer games have in my opinion. And the feelings of happiness, relief, pride and success are amplified that much more when you conquer that threat (or when you simply make it out alive, haha). The only newer game I’ve played that I can compare this feeling to would be Dark Souls. And while those feelings aren’t to the magnitude of what Dark Souls generates, it’s up there.

    On difficulty: This game can be hard, as seasoned Metroid players can expect. There are points in which you’ll die- a lot. Like it’s predecessors, as well as the Castlevania and Dark Souls games, you’ll be required to observe, learn and be persistent to overcome tough obstacles and bosses. If you’re thinking this is a game that will hold your hand via help text or cheesing, you’re wrong. I wouldn’t say it’s masochistic like Dark Souls 3, but it will be difficult if you don’t understand the need to observe, learn and try again. Things do get somewhat easier as you acquire upgrades, but the game will almost always throw something else at you to keep you on your toes, whether it’s a new enemy with beam immunities or a new environment that requires a different upgrade to progress through unhindered.

    On controls: This is one of my few gripes about this game. The controls are good in that they have a decent base layout. The basic movement and aiming controls feel fine, but some upgrades require extensive use of buttons that are not in intuitive locations.
    [SPOILER ALERT] For example, there’s a gauge that allows for a few suit-based functions, but the buttons are mapped to the A button and the right stick click. There’s another beam function that is mapped to the left bumper. [/SPOILER]
    Some of those button functions force you to either to really take the time to learn them or you’ll be scrambling at times to find the right one to push. Often times I end up pushing 2 or 3 buttons to find the right one. Which leads me to my gripe with the controls: there’s no button remapping. I’m not sure if there’s button remapping within the Switch console itself, but if there is that’s the only way to do it as of this writing. However, this is something that was also present in game design from years past, so it somewhat goes with the territory. I’ll just have to get used to it. Though they did have it in Super Metroid…
    The other control gripe I have is you can’t use the D-pad for movement. When I play 2D games I almost always use the D-pad for movement. This is irritating to me, considering all the D-pad does is navigate menus and expand the in-game minimap (more on that later). I’d gladly swap out the minimap expansion function to be able to use the D-pad for movement. I will say, though, the control stick isn’t too bad. It definitely takes some getting used to, but it works.

    On the map and menus: This is one of the most detailed Metroidvania maps I’ve ever seen. Icons, upgrades and even approximate heights of ledges are readily viewable. I would actually say it’s almost too detailed- it can appear very busy at times and be difficult to find very specific things. However, there is a function that can highlight all icons of a particular type. This is very handy for tracking things like missile and energy tank upgrades. But looking for that one semi-hidden path that you missed in that room you found an hour back might take a little time until you get used to it. It’s not that bad- it just takes a bit to get used to the detail.
    There is also a minimap of your current and surrounding rooms that stays up during gameplay. It’s not super huge, so it’s pretty non-invasive. I actually forget it’s even there most of the time. You can expand it slightly on the fly by pressing left on the D-pad.
    The menus themselves are as you’d expect from other Metroid games- simple and functional. In the case of Dread, they are more minimalist in appearance than previous Metroid titles. This goes very well with the overall feel and aesthetic of the game. Simplicity is it’s own elegance, as I like to say.
    One nice thing I found in the menus was a list of things you’ve done, featuring things such as “Defeated [insert boss here] in [insert location here]”. This is nice for getting up to speed if you haven’t played the game for a while.

    In closing out this post, there’s one last note on overall design that I feel is worth noting: I’ve seen many “hardcore gamers” talk down on this game being “2D” in format and still full price at $60 for the base game. These people are either super ignorant or simply don’t realize how well this game was designed in terms of graphics and gameplay. It is beautiful and the gameplay harkens back to the days where you actually had to work at the game. Aside from my personal gripes about certain controls, this game is superb in terms of overall design.

    Currently, I am ~5 hours in and have explored multiple zones, gathered a few suit and beam upgrades, defeated 3 E.M.M.I.s and 2 major bosses. Again, this is not a complete review, but an ongoing one. I will update this post as my thoughts on the game change, as well as make additional posts. If you have any questions or want more input on a particular element of this game feel free to ask.

    -Beautiful character graphics with excellent environmental graphics, design and effects.
    -Tighter controls compared to previous mainline Metroid games.
    -Good gameplay and difficulty design. They mesh together very well.
    -Gameplay and actions have a satisfying feel to them.
    -The art book for the Special Edition is incredible. Definitely worth the cost of you’re a hardcore Metroid fan and/or love good video game art books.

    -Some controls/functions are placed rather haphazardly, which cannot be addressed due to the lack of button mapping. Also can’t use the D-pad for movement (my preference, but the stick works fine).
    -Sound through earphones seems poorly mixed, but I believe it can be adjusted at the main menu.
    -While the map is detailed, it’s almost too detailed and it maybe difficult to find specific things or navigate until you get used to it.

    Last edited by glaman5266; 10-12-2021, 09:01 PM.
    New Feedback

    Reserved for future posting. I will also get some pics up soon.
    New Feedback


      New Feedback


        Nice! I also picked this up at launch and have been having fun with it. Makes me want to go back and play Fusion. The E.M.M.I. background music gives me anxiety
        💀Keeper of the Ointments, Ragnastock💀


        • glaman5266


          Editing a comment
          Yeah, it's like "Holy crap! Get away! GET AWAY! GO, GO, GO!" lol

        Pictures of the Special Edition contents are up.
        New Feedback


          I've been a Metroid fan since childhood and I bought and am playing Dread, and I have to say ,I'm pretty frustrated already. That first level Boss is near impossible to beat, at least for me. I can't believe they made the first level boss that hard!!!!?

          Could this be on purpose to make me buy Amiibos for the powerups?

          I'm seriously considering selling my copy already !!
          '96 RF Mini Cocker, '95 RF Autococker, Trilogy SF Autococker (mech'ed) , 68-Automag Classic, Banzai Splash Minimag, Gen-E Matrix, Shoebox Shocker 4x4, Warp Feed Rainmaker, Mech'ed SP1 , Montneel Z-1, Tippmann Pro-Carbine, Tippmann Mini-Lite, Tippmann Model-98, Tippmann SL-68II , Tippmann 68-Special, Spyder .50 cal Opus/Opus-A , Spyder .50 cal Stormer

          Meleager7 Feedback:


          • Jonnydread


            Editing a comment
            Shoot the projectiles and you’ll get health/missiles.

          • glaman5266


            Editing a comment
            Also look above the doors on either side. There should be a wall you can cling to. It’ll help for a couple things. I beat it without using those. After I won & looked at the map I noticed the blue surfaces over the doors. I was like WTF, lol.

            Don’t give up. You’ll get it eventually. That one took me maybe 5 tries.

          • Meleager7


            Editing a comment
            I need to fly one of you guys into Toronto Pearson airport to beat this boss for me ! i'll bring my Switch with me .

          Thanks for the review.

          What year is it? How can I not map my own controls?


          • glaman5266


            Editing a comment
            You’re welcome.

            I know, right?
            But I am getting used to it. Still get my bumpers mixed up on occasion, but I’m getting much better at it.