The new adventure of Samus Aran, as we discussed in our first contact with the game, has all the ballots to become one of the best heroine games. There was a desire for a recovery of the classic 2D flavor of one of the games that gave the genre its name metroidvania, and the Spanish Mercury Steam have been used thoroughly to achieve it.
To do this they have implemented a series of tactics, some of them tremendously brave, that allow the game to be both a franchise revamp and a classic Metroid. We review some of the tactics that Mercury Steam has developed to turn ‘Metroid Dread’ into a real find and a mandatory stop and diner for fans of the saga.
2D in its purest form
It is no longer just the classic perspective of the ‘Metroid’ games that distinguishes the traditional titles of the series from the also great Prime: it is that levels and mechanics are executed with exquisite taste. I tend to look suspiciously at 2D action and platformer games that don’t pull the pixel, because they are often imprecise, but Mercury Steam has made a game that is tasted as classically as the first installments of the series. Platforms placed to the millimeter, very fine-tuned collision detection, maps designed to exploit the possibilities of 2D … 2D here is not only aesthetic, but also imbues the philosophy of the game.
A cycle is over
This is not so much the responsibility of Mercury Steam as of Yoshio Sakamoto, producer of the series since its inception. Here we will know the end of the narrative arc of the Metroid, which goes back to the first game of the series (there is nothing) and that continues more or less directly what we saw in ‘Fusion’ in 2002, with the first appearance of the X parasites, and whose surviving traces are the start of this game. First, with the dispatch of seven EMMI robots, and second with the arrival of Samus when they stop transmitting signals. Over the course of the game, the story gains weight and multiple enigmas will be solved that go back to the beginning of the franchise.
The EMMIs, a welcome landing on the gallery of enemies
A real discovery: deadly, fast and versatile to the point that they can chase Samus through areas she cannot access herself. They bring welcome changes of pace to games, which turn when these enemies appear in frenzied arcades of skill and memory. The evolution they follow as they are defeated by Samus, increasingly difficult to avoid, is a marvel of design to give them variety, and they remind the Dark Samus of ‘Fusion’ in her relentless effort to persecute us without rest.
An authentic metroidvania
Some of the last installments of the series in 2D, like ‘Metroid Zero’, still respecting some of the tics of the franchise, gave in to the eternal accusations to the saga of being too difficult and lowered the demand, with continuous clues about where head and maps less labyrinthine and with fewer secret areas. Mercury Steam takes us back to the days of crawling every corner of the map (when you can place beacons to mark key points and objectives to go to later you know that you are going to get lost for sure) to find exits to apparently closed areas, and it gives us back the joy of improving Samus’s costume to access areas that are clearly there for us to return in due course.
Glorious final bosses
Although some of the great moments of ‘Metroid’ are related to bosses (starting with Mother Brain in the first game), the saga itself has always been more remembered for its development than for these confrontations. That changes in ‘Dread’, with superbly designed, aesthetically terrifying final bosses bordering on frustrating difficulty but ultimately surmountable. And above all, that they are a good incentive to seek even the smallest increase in the capacity of your arsenal, to be well prepared for clashes with them.
Halfway between the help to orient yourself in the huge mapping and the lucky visual decision, Mercury Steam has put a lot of effort into designing each area of the map distinctively. Typical resources (caves, stone, lava, metal) are used with great pleasure, they transform as we interact with them and move under visual codes that allow us to differentiate them intuitively. Without clearly separated levels, Mercury Steam uses subtle resources to differentiate them, and the result is effective and intuitive.
Play with expectations
‘Metroid’ is ‘Metroid’, and In a game that wants to recover the flavor of the classic installments of the franchise, innovation has to be present, but in miniscule doses (here in the form of some weapons and abilities like an improvement of the free aim, the arachnoiman or the camouflage to escape the EMMI). But Mercury Steam prefers to play with expectations to introduce changes. For example, introducing the Morphosphere later in time, when you are bored of seeing corridors clearly designed for it. Or proposing rooms that must be overcome with skill, but that suggest that what is missing is the correct equipment. A romp with the player (especially the long-distance fan) that allows ‘Metroid Dread’ to be both classic and innovative.