By using this site, you agree to our Privacy Policy and our Terms of Use. Close
Metroid Dread (NS)

Metroid Dread (NS) - Review

by Paul Broussard , posted on 08 October 2021 / 5,627 Views

To say that the 2010s weren’t great for Metroid fans would be like saying that Mt. Vesuvius’ eruption was a bit of a downer for the residents of Pompeii. First there was Other M, an experience not unlike sitting through a really long school graduation speech given by the world’s least charismatic sea urchin. Then, after a full five year gap, there was a 3DS spin-off featuring Galactic Federation troopers which somehow received even less inspiring critical reception. Even with 2017’s solid remake of Metroid 2, the 2020s couldn’t really go anywhere but up. 

Enter Metroid Dread, the long awaited continuation to 2002’s Metroid Fusion. Veterans of Fusion will of course remember it as the game that left Samus on a bit of a cliffhanger, having disobeyed the Federation and put herself in a position where she was likely to be wanted and put on trial. Dread proceeds to pick up where Fusion left off by... completely ignoring that cliffhanger and doing something else entirely. Samus and the Federation apparently settled their differences over tea and biscuits, and despite the Federation having now twice put the safety of the galaxy at risk by using Metroids as bioweapons, Samus is still willing to work for them. I guess the Covid recession means even bounty hunters can’t be picky when work shows up.

Anyway, Dread begins with Samus investigating the origins of a mysterious video depicting the believed-to-be-extinct X parasite on the distant Planet ZDR. The Galactic Federation sent in a team of robots to investigate previously, and that turned out about as well as it usually does when the Federation tries to handle a mission by themselves, so Samus has to clean up the mess. Except it doesn’t go great for her initially either. Upon arriving on Planet ZDR, she gets beaten up by a mysterious assailant and has most of her abilities stolen from her. Clumsy Samus, when will she ever learn to upload her power-ups to the cloud so she isn’t left completely defenseless when her suit’s data gets corrupted?

Samus is forced to explore Planet ZDR to try and recover her abilities and find out whether the X really do exist, and being a Metroid title, exploration takes center stage. ZDR is easily the biggest 2D Metroid map to-date, and the largest map in any 2D Metroidvania game I have personally played. The exploration is quite good too. Nintendo and Mercury Steam have done a very good job of designing a game where your hand isn’t held, but you’re also not likely to get frustrated over not knowing where to go. You’ll get lost at points, but it’s never the irritating kind of being lost.

It’s difficult to comment on how open ended the game is, at least from a single playthrough and briefly starting a second. Initially, it appears to be about a bit more open ended than Metroid Prime; where there’s by and large a definite order that items have to be collected in, but there's room to use hidden skills to collect expansions before you’re “intended” to. I can’t say for sure though without a lot more experimentation, but at the very least I was able to locate one entirely optional power-up as well as a number of expansions early. I even managed to snag expansions for a power-up I wouldn’t obtain until much later, although somewhat disappointingly Metroid Dread won’t let you make use of them until you find said power-up.

Speaking of power-ups, there’s an impressive variety on display here. Many of the old series staples show up, such as the morph ball, missiles, bombs, plasma beam, and an entirely revamped Speed Booster that has some really clever puzzles designed around it. There are also a ton of new tricks in here as well. Some of the more notable inclusions are an invisibility power that helps Samus avoid detection, a lock-on/homing multi-missile function that's a bit similar to the seeker missiles from the Prime games but has more combat applicability, and a dash/air-dash ability that's just a ton of fun to play around with. I’ve said before that there are very few games that can’t be improved with an air-dash feature and it turns out Metroid is no exception.

The combat itself is probably the best it’s been in the series as well. Samus controls as well as she has in any series entry, with a slide and the aforementioned dashing mechanic all giving her a spectacular amount of mobility. Samus Returns’ parry makes a comeback and can now be performed during a full sprint. And running up to an enemy and smacking it right in its stupid face is an experience that never gets old. On that topic, the enemies themselves are varied and unique, addressing arguably the biggest complaint about combat in Samus Returns. I think I saw enough different types of regular foes within the first two areas to eclipse the entirety of Samus Returns.

But the real meat of the combat here is the boss fights, and Dread delivers in droves. It contains the most bosses of any Metroid game, and they’re all incredibly fun and well-designed encounters that will put your knowledge of the game’s mechanics and your abilities to the test. The final boss especially stands out in my mind as one of the most elaborate encounters in a Metroid title. Dread’s bosses also tend to be fairly challenging, at least compared with most previous Metroid releases (they've tended a bit too far towards easy for my tastes). You should be prepared to die at least a few times on each encounter; these guys hit hard and fast.

On the subject of dying a lot, now is as good a time as any to bring up the EMMI, arguably the unique selling point for Dread. Remember the aforementioned Galactic Federation robots that went missing? Unfortunately for you, they’ve all been hacked and reprogrammed to want nothing more from life than to shove a giant metallic straw into Samus and take a big slurp. They’re also virtually indestructible, meaning that avoiding them is the only real option.

From a gameplay standpoint, the way this works is that most environments contain an EMMI who patrols specific zones of the map. Outside of the EMMI zone, it’s the usual exploration/action Metroid fare, but inside, the rules change drastically. Samus has to resort to stealth when navigating these zones while an EMMI  organically searches for her. If you do get spotted, the EMMI will start chasing you, and if the EMMI catches up, prepare to enjoy your new career as a pincushion. If Samus does get caught, you do have a couple of opportunities to parry the fatal strike, but these are both pretty much just guesswork and if you fail both then it’s an instant game over.

The EMMI actually remind me a lot of the Alien from Alien Isolation more so than the SA-X from Fusion. This certainly isn't a bad thing; in fact I'd consider the comparison to the Alien about as high a compliment I can give an enemy who slowly chases you and forces you to resort to stealth tactics. Both the EMMIs and the Alien search the area organically, both respond to player cues such as noise made from movement, and both force you to make use of all the tools at your disposal to survive. It’s up to you to know when to rely on, say, your invisibility power to hide, and when to recognize that hiding is futile and to try and book it for the exit before you get caught. That said, I think I would have preferred that the EMMI simply deal a significant chunk of damage rather than being an instant kill; it feels a little questionable in my opinion to get an instant game over regardless of how many energy tanks you’ve found, but maybe that would take out a sizable chunk of the tension involved.

The one thing I know we could definitely do without are the dumb segments at the end of each area where you have to actually destroy the EMMI. Every so often, Samus will stumble upon a limited-use weapon that allows her to take down one of her pursuers once and for all. This switches the game into an odd perspective that’s sort of over the shoulder but not quite. You have to aim at a changing EMMI and shoot its face plate off before launching one final charge shot to kill it for good. It’s just a test of aiming from a weird point of view that’s found nowhere else in Dread and really doesn’t serve as a relevant test of skill. The fact that it comes with a potential instant death penalty for failing just adds to the frustration.

The EMMI are a larger part of a narrative that I suspect will be a treat for most long-time fans of the series. While it’s not especially complex, there are a lot of larger details in the series that finally get addressed, and it’s cool to see a number of lingering questions from prior games be resolved. Dread does a particularly good job of portraying Samus as a character through a hundred subtle different ways, be it the way she animates, her facial expressions, or some other, more spoilery related stuff. Maybe the most impressive thing about the story is that it somehow manages to make Adam likable after Other M... and apparently the way to do that was by making him somehow even less human than he was in that game.

Circling back to Samus’ animations, they're part of a larger push towards a superb aesthetic. When Samus Returns released, a number of people called for a return to older, sprite-based designs, but after playing Dread I’m really glad they didn’t. The environments are absolutely gorgeous, and characters move and animate wonderfully. Some of my favorite little touches are the way Samus interacts with the environment, like putting her hand up against a wall when she runs into it as if to break her momentum.

Dread certainly isn’t a perfect game, and I wouldn’t be the absolute stick in the mud that I am without addressing a few nitpicks. The sound balancing feels notably off, with the music being far too quiet for my tastes, and there's no option to adjust it. There’s also no option to adjust controller layout as well, which is becoming a consistent theme across Nintendo games that really shouldn’t be the case in 2021. Some of the complaints about enemies being too tanky without having to resort to using the melee counter from Samus Returns also apply here, especially after a certain story event around the 2/3rds point of the game that causes many of the enemies across the planet to become significantly stronger.

Despite a few slip ups here and there, Metroid Dread is a fantastic return to form for a series that has been dormant for far too long. Dread takes a lot of gambles and the vast majority of them pay off. Between the rock solid exploration and atmosphere, the incredible boss fights, and the solid tension building of the EMMIs, Dread is probably the definitive 2D Metroidvania of the 21st century. The 2010s may not have been kind to Samus, but the 2020s are certainly showing her in with style.


VGChartz Verdict


9
Outstanding

This review is based on a retail copy of Metroid Dread for the NS

Read more about our Review Methodology here

More Articles

38 Comments
S.Peelman (on 09 October 2021)

Too be honest the good reviews, this review and everyone here raving about it kind of makes me want to get this game sooner than I was planning.

  • +7
GoOnKid S.Peelman (on 09 October 2021)

Do it!

  • +5
S.Peelman GoOnKid (on 10 October 2021)

I might!

  • +3
Majora S.Peelman (on 09 October 2021)

I feel the same and I’ve never been interested in Metroid before!

  • +1
Hibern81 (on 10 October 2021)

I've waited a long time for this game, and it was well worth it. Add another masterpiece to Switch library. Dread is simply phenomenal!
Bravo Nintendo!

  • +4
Ljink96 (on 09 October 2021)

Totally deserving of the score. One the best games of the year. I've dabbled in Metroid in the past and really enjoyed Super and Zero Mission but this game is on a level of its own. My only nitpick is the music isn't always memorable but it does have purpose. Mercury Steam and Nintendo knocked this one out of the park.

  • +3
hunter_alien (on 08 October 2021)

Great review! I think you just pushed me off the fence regarding the game :-)

  • +3
SvenTheTurkey (on 08 October 2021)

I get that people weren't happy about federation force, but it was actually a really fun game. Yeah, it was a spinoff, but it was a lot more fun than other M, which I still like for what it is.

On topic, Dread is pretty good. Only a little over an hour into it. But the movement feels great. Still not crazy about the aiming from Samus returns. Anyone who thought that game was just ok, like me, will be pleasantly surprised at the vast improvements made between that game and dread. Super Metroid is still the best(so far), but Dread really has a lot going for it. It's feels like a very well crafted game overall.

  • +2
Alistair SvenTheTurkey (on 09 October 2021)

Let's get a Super Metroid remake for the Switch 2 from this team :)

  • +3
SvenTheTurkey Alistair (on 09 October 2021)

No way. Some games just shouldn't be touched. It's already on switch. Let's just leave it at that. It can only lead to disappointment. Lol.

  • +6
Alistair SvenTheTurkey (on 09 October 2021)

No, many remakes are great. "Don't do it, they can't do it properly" is a weird response. In fact, at minimum they should do a Pixel remaster, like Square is doing for Final Fantasy. Those are great on modern screens.

  • +2
SvenTheTurkey Alistair (on 09 October 2021)

I'm just saying that because Metroid 2 was disappointing to me. And zero mission I like as much as Metroid 1, but not more. So the evidence points towards it being less good. But pixel perfect scaling on Super Metroid looks fine to me.

  • -1
Alistair SvenTheTurkey (on 09 October 2021)

Yeah it might be hard to beat the original FF6 for example, that had beautiful art and music, but a pixel remaster is a 100 percent upgrade. You get wide screen and the same art. Works with modern devices. SNES Metroid could use the same. Nintendo should do pixel remasters of all their famous SNES games.

  • +1
Comment was deleted...
Alistair (on 09 October 2021)

It's a fantastic game. Animation is unbelievably great, and the atmosphere and sound design and visuals are top notch. Fast and responsive controls, almost perfect.

I'll nitpick: the music is not great, not just that it is quiet. The game is far too linear, basically they stuff upgrades in early levels that require late level items. You get a teleport and it locks you off from going back to level 1 until very late. They should have made it worth re-exploring level 1 after you get the upgrades from level 2 etc. Basically you are forced to run forward for 6 hours getting upgrades before you get any significant reward going off the beaten path and trying to upgrade your energy tanks or missiles etc. I got 4 upgrades for an item before I even unlocked the item, that is silly. Sure hope Prime does this better.

Basically if it had much better music I'd give it a 9.5/10. At this point I think it is a solid 8.5 or 9/10. Depends on how much you love the Dread sections and dying on bosses.

  • +1
MTZehvor Alistair (on 09 October 2021)

"They should have made it worth re-exploring level 1 after you get the upgrades from level 2 etc."

I think they do, personally. There's a number of energy parts and missiles that you can get in Cataris and Arctaria simply by returning after checking out Daigon. There's a ton of room for using IBJ to grab stuff early as well, including some of the missile + tanks which wind up being really important for combat late game given how good missiles are in Dread.

  • +1
Alistair MTZehvor (on 09 October 2021)

i really don't agree, in fact if you complete a teleport section, it closes you off so you don't go off and collect anything after you complete the teleporter section, there's in fact no way to return to earlier levels for a long time until after you get the ball for example also, leading to surprisingly frustrating "only go forward" game design

  • 0
MTZehvor Alistair (on 09 October 2021)

I'm not really sure what you mean there. Some of the teleporters are closed off, but you can definitely return back to older areas pretty easily at nearly every point in the game via elevators/transit stations. I frequently went back and forth between the first three areas grabbing expansions with the new tools I had gotten.

  • +7
SvenTheTurkey MTZehvor (on 09 October 2021)

He might just mean it's discouraged. It's not impossible, but you have to go out of your way a bit. I'm only to the third area, but so far it seems they try to guide you through a particular path.

So if you want, you can go back, usually. But it seems the game is often pushing you forward. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing since they keep you from wasting time in an area that you can't make progress, but it seems a little inconvenient to go back and explore so far.

  • +1
MTZehvor SvenTheTurkey (on 09 October 2021)

That's probably more fair to say, I'd argue. I think Dread does encourage following a specific path of sorts, at least through the first three areas (I think it really opens up after you down the third EMMI), but I may just be stubborn enough to insist on going back whenever I get something new.

  • +1
Alistair MTZehvor (on 09 October 2021)

you're not representing the actual gameplay properly

you are forced to run straight to the third level, then backtrack just for an EMMI, but you don't then go finish off level 1 or 2, the game punishes you by wasting your time if you try to collect stuff, better to just move forward

when you get a teleporter, if you proceed it then is blocked by debris and you can't explore after finishing the teleporter area

basically you go forward, and forward, and forward in a linear fashion for hours

  • -1
MTZehvor Alistair (on 09 October 2021)

I don't feel like I am. To take one prominent example, after the green EMMI is defeated and you grab Varia, you can take the intended route and head back to Cataris to fight the second boss. Alternatively, you can take out the yellow EMMI, go around through Dairon to Artaria to get grapple beam early, sequence break to get bombs early, and quick kill the second boss.

I agree with you that the teleports are a bit restricted (as far as I can tell at least, always the potential I missed something), but I can't agree that the game doesn't make it worth your while to poke around in old areas. There's a number of opportunities to pick up expansions (which are very useful imo, especially given how good missiles are in this game), as well as ways to get various powerups early if you're skilled enough.

Beyond that, I personally found myself frequently going back to areas on my first playthrough just to pick up expansions throughout the first couple of hours. Maybe there's an argument to be made that the game makes it not as easy to backtrack as it should, at least early on before the game and the opportunity for major sequence breaks really emerge, but the possibility is still there and depending on how much you enjoy sequence breaking I'd posit it's worth it as well.

  • +1
Alistair MTZehvor (on 11 October 2021)

super linear, you even get a ton of upgrades within the last hour of the game and at that point, why bother, just finish it

the hidden items are minor, you can't get them when you actually come across them, and back tracking is exhausting and slow until the very end, but at that point, you should just beat the boss and put the game aside

  • 0
MTZehvor Alistair (on 12 October 2021)

Without wishing to come off as rude, it feels like you're just ignoring the points I've brought up in favor of simply repeating the same claim again and again.

The game is absolutely not super linear, and I think I've brought forth enough examples that this is no longer a remotely valid criticism. Just in case I haven't for your taste, though, you can skip or acquire a multitude of important items out of order, including bombs, grapple beam, super missile, spin boost, scan pulse, storm missiles, gravity suit, cross bombs and more. You can opt to skip entire upgrades if you want, like the space jump and scan pulse. People have already started optimizing these tricks and skips to get the game down to about a two hour completion time. And this is just what we know after only four days of playing it. Who knows how much more will be discovered in the months and years to come?

This line of argumentation just doesn't hold water. You can't realistically claim that Dread is linear when such a significant portion of the game can be done in varying order. Just because you may not have found these shortcuts yourself doesn't mean it is rigidly linear.

  • +1
Alistair MTZehvor (on 12 October 2021)

your examples did not disprove it at all, you basically go straight forward, they even block you off with debris after a teleporter, they put too many items in early levels that require super late tech, you are not accurately describing the game to new players

WAY too often do you just run in to items on your map, even 2 hours before I beat the game I'd have the full 6 markers on each level with stuff I couldn't collect

also it is dumb that you are restricted to 6 markers, also dumb the map doesn't hide things you've already collected (at least as an option)

I've played every Metroid game and I'm a huge fan but if you want to try to hype it up as the best thing ever instead of a fairly linear game without good music that basically retreads old ground, go ahead, it's great and not great

MANY reviewers agree with me

  • 0
Alistair MTZehvor (on 12 October 2021)

you're giving them an easy pass for "you can choose the order" because you can do the smallest things out of order like getting the scan pulse earlier... pick whup, doesn't affect the overall design, Ori 1 is much better designed, I was expecting something a little more, Dread is a great game, but not something new or very special

  • 0
MTZehvor Alistair (on 12 October 2021)

Several things here.

"you're giving them an easy pass for "you can choose the order" because you can do the smallest things out of order like getting the scan pulse earlier... pick whup, doesn't affect the overall design"

I...legitimately listed half of the powerups in the game that can be gotten out of order. And, yes, getting items like the gravity suit, super missiles, space jump, and more early drastically changes how the game plays.

And, again, this is literally just four days after the game has released. If you truly are a "huge fan" of Metroid, as you claim, you should know as well as anyone that the majority of speedrunning and sequence breaking techniques are discovered well after launch, which means we're likely to find far more as we go on. In other words, the whole half the powerups in the game is just the ground floor. It's likely going to be even more flexible.

"your examples did not disprove it at all, you basically go straight forward,

You may have "basically gone straight forward," and you may have opted to not go back to look for items or ways to change up the way in which the game was played, but that does not make it the case for everyone, especially when there are already dozens of videos demonstrating a variety of different ways to approach the game.

"MANY reviewers agree with me"

1) Appealing to authority is already a flawed line of argumentation, but sure, whatever.

2) Let's suppose that this group of "many reviewers" does exist. Most reviews are based on a single playthrough which couldn't even begin to scratch the surface of sequence breaking.

3) Since we're on the subject of what reviewers say, the vast majority of site reviewers also seem to agree that the game is "very special," and indeed has quite a bit new to it, myself included. Since you put so much stock in the consensus of reviewers as if our opinions are somehow worth more than the average consumers, then I expect you to fully accept our consensus opinion of Dread as an excellent title that does a lot to innovate and push the genre forward.

  • +1
SvenTheTurkey MTZehvor (on 12 October 2021)

Listen fellas. I keep getting notified about your comments. Can't we all agree it's a fun game.

Linear or not, that's how every Metroid is intended. Yes, there are always secret things to find in a Metroid game. But like it or not, sequence breaking is due to a lack of design. Had the developers caught every glitch and exploit in super Metroid, they would have fixed them.

Does it even matter if it's linear? The first time I played a Metroid game, I didn't know what order to do things in. I just assumed I was getting what I needed when I needed it. It was fun. Like how this game is fun.

So it's like either play it and enjoy it or trade it in. I'm sure it would sell for 80% of retail. No one is going to win this argument. You'll both be much happier if you two just drop it and agree to disagree.

  • +1
Comment was deleted...
Comment was deleted...
Comment was deleted...
GoOnKid mZuzek (on 10 October 2021)

I agree so much. Blasting a final blow into that damn metal face is insanely satisfying and I wouldn't want to have it any other way!

  • +3
Comment was deleted...
Kakadu18 coolbeans (on 11 October 2021)

Which games got a 10/10 score here?

  • +1
Comment was deleted...
Comment was deleted...
Comment was deleted...
Comment was deleted...