Metroid: Samus Returns Review – Evolution at its “OK”

Metroid is a series that needs no introduction. It has been a staple of Nintendo consoles since its debut on the Nintendo Entertainment System or Famicom, depending on where you live. But unlike other Nintendo staple IPs, Metroid has been given a raw deal in the last 10 years, to say the least. So with the release of Metroid: Samus Returns, Metroid fans rejoiced to have a “proper” 2D game, but how good is it?

Metroid: Samus Returns
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo EPD and MercurySteam
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: September 15, 2017
Players: Single Player
Price: $39.99

Metroid: Samus Returns is quite the interesting game when it comes to visuals. Being a reimagining of Metroid II: Return of Samus on Gameboy, a lot of the visual structure and design remains the same but updated and polished for the Nintendo 3DS. A lot of visual staples can be found in the game, with a slightly updated look.

That last part is key “for the Nintendo 3DS.” While the game looks good for the system, I can honestly think of no reason why this was not developed and ported to the Nintendo Switch at this point in time instead, besides Nintendo’s wish to keep the system alive somehow. What looks good for the 3DS does not look good for 2017. In fact one thing that constantly made me laugh was the fact that every elevator load screen looked as if the game was an old 1997 pc game. The game was just released and it’s not aging well visually. But the graphics are serviceable nonetheless, if not disappointing.

The reimagined map design is actually quite entertaining and interesting. In a lot of ways, the game feels bigger and more robust on that point alone. But that too is not without its faults. Some of the new map designs can be either unintuitive or too simple, depending on the mechanics they want you to use, which leads us to gameplay.

Right from the start players will notice that Metroid: Samus Returns is a bit more fast paced than its predecessors. Timed jumps and pattern recognition are going to be the bread and butter for anyone playing the game. The game’s “melee counter” mechanic is used in every fight with some small exceptions, so learning how to pull that off while running through areas will be key for most players who do not operate at a snail’s pace. It gives a new but familiar feel to the gameplay that fans will enjoy. But once the player finds some decent power-ups, the mechanic becomes mostly useless as you can just blast everything to bits like a standard Metroid game.

The faster pace and sets of pattern recognition are also a double edge sword. While they are fun and interesting, the 3DS is just bad for it, it only took an hour for my hand to start cramping up and after I finished my playthrough my thumb was swollen from having to use the 3DS’s god awful circle pad and thin but heavy frame. This could have been avoided if it was released on the Nintendo Switch, which has very competent thumb sticks.

There is also the addition of a new mechanic that the game does not tell you about what so ever, which is a bit annoying and can leave players scratching their head. The game has added a morph ball super blast jump, that can propel you across the screen until you hit another wall. This is done by by using the Spider Grip ability which allows you to stick to surfaces of walls in morph ball form, and then planting a Power Bomb right under the player. This is used to get several upgrades in the game that are blocked by red crystal spikes, but the game never shows any sort of example for it. This is unlike any other Metroid game as they usually give you an example of hidden skills like this through the planet’s animal inhabitants. While this is a bit annoying, it is not required to complete the game.

Another issue about the gameplay in general is that the game serves up 40 or so repetitive mini boss type fights instead of a handful of big boss battles which would have served the game better. Originally, Metroid II was the same, there was a series of 40 or so fights with five ever evolving visuals were the Metroids changed visuals significantly after each iteration. There are also three major boss battles that differ wildly from the original game, but after completing the first and most difficult of them, the rest are a cake walk. (Editors Note: This paragraph was clarified slightly after post.)

It should also be noted that there is a little less than 10 hours of gameplay on the first playthrough if you are aiming for a 100% completion. I myself was able to pull an 8:33 on my first playthrough with 100% of the upgrades. But I am sure there are some players like Dean Takahashi who will find themselves playing the game for much, much longer, if you catch my drift.

The sound and music are uniquely Metroid, and hit all the right buttons to induce that sweet, sweet nostalgia. This is one area that the series never seems to get wrong, and is nice to see the sound teams at Nintendo EPD and MercurySteam pulled it off. The moody atmosphere the music brings and unique sounds that fill the areas you are exploring, make up for some of the visuals dated feel.

Like other 2D Metroid games, the story is light with basic context inscribed at the start of the game. You are on a simple search and destroy mission: Find the weaponized Metroids and destroy them. Normally there is a bit of mystery to the Metroid games, and you never know what you will find but in this installment, everything is pretty much a known quantity which giving a somewhat unsatisfying feel. This also extends to the mutated Metroid mini bosses and how plentiful they are. As bosses normally act as a reveal or climax point in these games, the numerous encounters only serves to dilute the experience, which makes the story repetitive. Since this was a reimagining, I can understand the need to expand for the platform while keeping it similar to the original, but this had to be the laziest way of doing it and is the laziest thing I have see in a long while with a Nintendo stamp of approval.

Metroid: Samus Returns is a fairly competent game completely neutered by the device it’s locked to and lazy design choices. While enjoyable, the game is extremely short and repetitive for the $40 price tag, while feeling dated right out the box. By the time of its completion you will feel like a 14 year old boy who just discovered the internet. Quickly finishing with a hand cramp while closing out what you were looking at until you get that “itch” again.

Metroid: Samus Returns was reviewed on Nintendo 3DS using a review copy received from Nintendo. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

The Verdict: 7.5

The Good:

  • Nice new mechanic additions to the series.
  • Fun and fast paced combat.
  • Great sound design.

The Bad:

  • Graphically dated on release.
  • Held back by hardware that gives you hand cramps.
  • Repetitive Mini Boss fights.
  • Shiggy Diggy Doo

    Oh boy here comes Michael “I judge the game because of hardware it’s on” Jordan again.
    Do you see me giving Vanquish a low score because a power surge fried my PSU? No? Because it’s not part of the game. And I know I’m not the only one to point this out. I fucking hate this Metroid game but even this shit has me defending it.

    And also, I’m all for shaming Dean Takahashi for being a retard and general piece of shit but a review for a game that has nothing to do with him is not the place to do it.

  • OldPalpy

    I think it’s justified in this case, PSU doesn’t matter to the quality of the game while the controls and hardware hurts this game when it could have easily been on Switch.

  • James Hewitson

    Yeah this is how i feel about Metroid Returns aswell, what could have been a great game is merely an OK game thanks to the ancient hardware it running on, too many mini boss fights aswell i agree. Hopefully this will get a Switch port in future where they can hopefully improve it.

  • Shiggy Diggy Doo

    When you review the game you should review the motherfucking game. If the hardware affects the software in a way such as resolution and FPS, it’s entirely justified since that’s affecting the game directly.

  • OldPalpy

    Which it does so what’s your problem here? If you’re talking about his complaints about the controls I could only see them being invalid if nobody else was having them but the reality is the whole DS line is infamous for their cramp inducting control placement, I’d say this game could have avoided this by having a d-pad option but it’s placement makes it painful to use for extended periods of time at least on the OG 3DS.

  • TheOnceAndFutureKing

    Huh, I guess all the hype means it’s wildly overrated

  • SullenSamurai

    I haven’t played the game yet, so my judgment remains mostly reserved. However, there were a few statements in this review that raised some alarms, though not about the game but the reviewer.

    “Another issue about the gameplay in general is that the game serves up 40 or so repetitive mini boss type fights instead of a handful of big boss battles.”

    So, exactly like Metroid II then? Outside of a new Metroid mutation, which didn’t exactly demand you change your tactics much, the only real boss fights in the original game were against Arachnus and the Queen Metroid herself.

    “Originally in Metroid II, there was a series of five ever evolving fights were the Metroid changed significantly after each iteration.”

    Once again, the mutations didn’t change things up too much. It mostly just boiled down to having to hit each subsequent mutation with more missiles. This also makes it sound like you fought one evolving Metroid five times over the course of the original game in big dramatic boss fights, which is hilariously untrue. In Metroid II, you’re literally tasked with killing off about 40 Metroids—every battle (except the one with the Queen) feeling more like a mini-boss than a real one.

    So your two biggest gripes in this review are: it’s not like the original game (read: it’s literally just like the original game), and I wish it was on the Switch instead (I kinda do too, but still).

  • sanic

    Should have made federation force 2 instead I guess.

  • Punished Crate

    While I agree that the controls can (and will most likely) give you hand cramps if you play for a long period of time, griping about the graphics is just silly. We’re lucky we got a new Metroid title anyways, and don’t look a gift horse in the mouth just because “oh it doesn’t look as good as it could.”

    It’s on the 3DS, and for a 3DS title, it looks really nice, granted it is a little rough around the edges, but you ultimately get that with 3DS titles, even in the ones that look super sleek and smooth. The environments are something to behold, as they have a lot of detail to them, not to mention depth which really allows the 3D function to shine, and when its base is Metroid II, where you have bland white backgrounds with little detail, seeing something like this is awesome because you can see that they put effort into it.

    Speaking of Metroid II, did you ever play it? Of course fighting the Metroids is boring and repetitive, and I feel like that’s why it’s the black sheep of the series. I mean come on, you have to kill 40 (50 if you count the last area and then the queen) throughout your genocidal quest, nothing really being different than pumping the later evolutions with even more missiles than the last. Here they give you multiple different ways of fighting them, and while they’re still monotonous, you can take them down in satisfying ways, but to make the fights NOT monotonous, every single encounter would have to be different, if not every few, and even then it’d be irritating to play.

    Metroid II isn’t a perfect game, and Samus Returns, while a better game by far, suffers from some of the same problems the original did pertaining to monotony and linearity, and I think that’s okay. I’ve completed the game 100% and I’m absolutely satisfied with it, and I hope we see more 2D Metroid in the years to come.

  • Totally legit points but while I am a die hard fan of the series, I have to judge the game in a way to showcase the game as a product. Like I have said in the past, a 7 from me still means that its worth the money to play, but it does have major flaws to consider before you do so.

  • Don’t remind me that that exists please .

  • Nagato

    Well yeah, it’s a new Metroid, so it has to be amazing no matter what.

    Anyone with a decent eye for gameplay or experience with the dev already saw this coming from miles, though.

  • Nagato

    Damn shame that the OG DS tends to be shat upon online, as it was the last Nintendo handheld that was genuinely a joy to hold and use. Such an amazing dpad too.

  • I might have phrased it weird because of the deadline and it slipped through editing. I will add a statement and a note.

  • SullenSamurai

    It’s cool. Good to see you pay attention to feedback.

    The revised segment is much more accurate.

  • malbhet

    I played Bullet Witch and loved it for its cheesy mechanics and gameplay, I no longer have any shame or standards.

  • TheOnceAndFutureKing

    I thought it looked okay at first, but then I thought it was great after beating it.

    idk, maybe some people are too jaded or maybe my standards aren’t that high.

  • Shiggy Diggy Doo

    >On OG 3DS
    And this is exactly why this bullshit shouldn’t even be in consideration for a review. In your case, you could simply just grab up a larger 3DS made for larger hands to alleviate that.

  • totenglocke

    Michael kind of has a reputation for faulty logic in his reviews…and if enough people criticize his faulty logic, he posts psychotic rants on YouTube about how much he hates the readers of nichegamer.com. It’s hilarious and sad at the same time.

  • Sylentmana

    I love the game. I’d give it an 8.5 myself but I would have preferred to play it on the Switch.

  • Travis Touchdown

    “Muh 3DS…”

    Eat a dick, two of my favorite games this year were 3DS remakes. Samus Returns is stellar.

  • disqus_Gvs3G32z1K

    We shouldn’t complain about the graphics because we’re desperate for a Metroid game? That’s ridiculous. If anything, nintendo should have put far more effort into this remake after the horrible treatment the series has endured for almost the past decade.

    Putting it on the 3DS was also a terrible idea for several reasons. One of the biggest being that the handheld has been plagued by piracy for some time now. SR in particular was leaked and playable days before its release date. Some people chose to pirate the game as it meant they wouldn’t need to buy the amiibo to unlock the extra content. The smart thing to do would have been releasing it for the switch as it would have created one more reason to purchase the new console. The shortage of the switch consoles at the moment is due to nintendo’s ineptitude (or it’s just as likely intentional) but eventually everyone who wants one will get it (unlike the NES classic…).

  • Thank you for pointing it out, when something slips through that was not intended its always better to get it fixed asap.

  • If I was reviewing it as a fan of the series I would have pushed for an 8, but sometimes you got to push through that for a product review.

  • SuuLoliBoob

    >Graphically dated on release

    What does this mean? Like, i guess when you think about all the current tech/graphics today, but it looks far more better then the original in my opinion. Were you really expecting anything more for a remake on a 3DS?

    Other then that little nitpick, pretty good review. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/23ae2188b46125ea6ba56e50e382b7f5673e1a5f0a6a61fe5acec3715e2c2bf7.jpg

  • Funtime Happysnacks

    “Stop complaining and just buy another expensive handheld”

  • Funtime Happysnacks

    “We’re lucky we got a new metroid title anyway, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”

    A corporation releasing a long overdue installment of a series they’ve been profiting off of for a decade while showing no respect to it whatsoever is not “lucky”, this game could have come out 5 years ago with the exact same graphics and not looked out of place.

  • OldPalpy

    A real shame that they decided to to make all of them either feel gummy or stiff or mixes between the two after that.

  • OldPalpy

    The only way they shouldn’t be up for consideration is if Nintendo simply blocked these models from playing the games otherwise it’s fair game, the medium is the message.

  • DrearierSpider

    Another cash grab Metroid game outsourced to the lowest bidder then. Well goddamn, how did I not see this coming?

  • Shiggy Diggy Doo

    >Fuck this game for something that isn’t the game
    Retard

  • Bitterbear

    MercurySteam is infamous for giving female characters a butterface. Does this also happens with Samus after the reveal at the end of the game?

  • sanic

    But this review convinced me federation force 2 is the true path.

  • Nagato

    Nah, none of the 3DS revisions (sans possibly the old 2DS) solve the shit ergonomics, and the buttons themselves keep being pretty awful to use.

    Kind of a shame Switch doesn’t innovate in this area by offering multiple kinds of joycons; analog stick on top with an actual dpad, dpad on top, mushy dpad, proper GBA SP/OG DS-style microswitch dpad… Seems like a shitton of easy money to be made.

  • Nagato
  • PaRaLLaXTHeTiCS

    I wasn’t impressed with the graphics in the trailers. Looked flat and bland. I can’t say they’re great in themselves after playing the game, but that 3DS 3D just brings another dimension to them. Sounds obvious and silly to say, right? Well, it really changes how the game feels. The graphics while nothing extraordinary, just feel right with the 3D.

    Not much to say for gameplay. It’s Metroid with a few new tricks. Which is always a great thing. The level design is god-tier.

    The 3DS itself kills my hands, but that shouldn’t be a knock against game.

    I was on the fence about picking it up, but I’m glad I did. It’s the type of game I keep thinking about wanting to play when I can’t. And when I do, I take my time and savor it. Back-tracking rarely feels so good.

  • PaRaLLaXTHeTiCS

    Are you all like me where you constantly bitch about how uncomfortable the 3DS is, but refuse to get one of those comfort grips?

  • Ninjagai

    Can’t hold 3ds: 7.5

  • Rob

    Oh christ, I didn’t realise this was made by MercurySteam, aren’t they the same people who took the winning formula of 2D Castlevania and made it a tedious grind with horrible combat?

  • Rob

    I’d also like to conduct a quick strawpoll: Is there ANYONE who prefers the 3D models in these 2D games to the more traditional sprite art?

  • Rob

    You brush your teeth with Nintendo’s spunk, of course you love it.

  • fnd

    So nobody in this thread or in the review managed to make a comparison with the stellar Metroid 2 remake that was shut down by Nintendo? For shame man, for shame…

    I second the hardware criticism tho, all games that are not on PC should be penalized for it.

    “Repetitive Mini Boss fights.”
    Not a problem on the fan game, don’t know if it’s bad on this one…

  • Malcolm_Ecks

    They should have designed the console to be comfortable to hold in the first place. Like they do with controllers.

  • PaRaLLaXTHeTiCS

    Guess that answers my question.

  • Michael Richardson

    “Graphically dated on release.”

    It’s not graphically dated for a 3DS game. It actually looks pretty decent in 3D. There’s no universal standard for how games released at any one time should look.

    “Held back by hardware that gives you hand cramps.”

    Didn’t give me hand cramps, and I played for hours at a time.
    Is this a review of Samus Returns or of the NIntendo 3DS hardware?

    “Repetitive Mini Boss fights.”

    Yes… because it’s Metroid II. Except this remake actually spices up the battles and makes them fun.

    Terrible, borderline unprofessional review.