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Metroid Dread

Developer: MercurySteam Entertainment Publisher: Nintendo
08 October 2021
Metroid Dread - cover art
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4.10 / 5.0
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958 Ratings / 6 Reviews
#118 All-time
#4 for 2021
After video evidence sent to the Galactic Federation reveals that X parasites - thought to be extinct after their native planet's destruction - might still be alive on the remote planet ZDR, seven EMMI (Extraplanetary Multiform Mobile Identifier) robots are sent there to investigate. Contact is quickly lost with the EMMIs, and so the Federation sends the X-immune Samus Aran to take their stead.
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NOTE: it would be nice if you go read my review of Samus Returns as it informs this review...

I was wary seeing mercury steam given the lead on this legendary title, I didn't think they had it in them to make Metroid Dread. It didn't seem like their strength. I thought Samus Returns was in large part drek and feared them not being up to the game I'd waited so long for. What I got was a mixed bag, lacking what I always loved from Metroid but wholly playing to Mercury Steam's strengths and showing the unique approach they can bring to a metroid game.

Metroid Dread, as it is now, finally released, is not aptly titled. Mercury Steam do not do traditional atmospheric Metroid, they do not do dread. This game is so far from Fusion, my personal favourite in the series. Metroid Dread is the most action centric 2D Metroid. Atmosphere and tension are thrown to the wayside in favour of some of the smoothest most expressive controls I've ever laid hands on in 2D and outright the best, most engaging action ever seen in any Metroid.

This game was marketed as Metroid Dread, and a lot of people still see it as that. The EMMI are the flagship feature of this game, adorning all marketing in particular the game's release trailer. That trailer showing us the instadeath cinematic for when the EMMI catches you. This was exciting, really exciting. It seemed to be a return to Metroid Fusion's SAX and the horror it brought about. It fit the picture Metroid Dread had built in my head over all these years.

Let me cut to the chase, I don't think the EMMI are at all scary, or at least I don't think they maintain that fear factor as the game progresses. Interaction with the EMMI takes place solely in segmented areas of the game in which they roam about. This is a fair and understandable design decision, being constantly chased by the EMMI would give the player little time to breathe and soon become exhausting. The EMMI then becomes this little gauntlet you weave through every now and then. The focus is the player's gameplay experience as opposed to grander sensations of dread.

I should be clear that the EMMI is immaculately put together. Supreme attention has been put into the way it is animated. Its pathing is a kind of self correcting optimal writhing that just sluices through any obstacles. It never seems to lose momentum when following you and I think this is one of its greatest strengths. Its design is built around this flow, something I have the utmost respect for. It seems when making the EMMI they did not start with a static design but intended to have its personality and design shine through its animation, and thus preplanned for its unique method of locomotion in the intricacies of EMMI's design. All this goes a long way to making the EMMI scary but is ultimately squandered by other factors

Metroid Dread is very much a Nintendo game made in 2022. The design trend of death having as little consequence as possible persists. There's little need to save as when you die you'll typically be sent only a couple rooms back to the last hidden autosave. This was a conscious decision not to ever frustrate the player, and can be seen to rhyme with the game's dislike for backtracking that I'll talk about later. It's this excessive checkpointing that robs the EMMI of their fear factor. When the EMMI gets you and you see the epic and seamless death cinematic you are simply sent right back outside the EMMI zone. These hidden checkpoints are always triggered when entering an EMMI zone. As consequence for dying to the EMMI is so minimal they soon become less of this obscene source of dread and moreso reduced to a momentary setback. All the work gone into their presentation to make them feared is for naught when they can do so little to you. The EMMIs don't stop being fun, they are always engaging to weave around in thanks additionally to the freedom excercised by Samus' control scheme here. The issue is that this game is not called Metroid Fun, it is called Metroid Dread. Is that so damning an issue, a non-apt title. Why shouldn't I accept this game for its strengths? The things it cares about and strives to excel at. Its like the line in Matthewmatosis' "Meta Microvideos", "Every game is bad in an endless number of things and only good in the few ways it was crafted to be". Maybe the marketing team are at fault for the way the game was put forward and the developers should not be blamed for making a bad horror game when they never meant to make a horror game. Or is it instead the fault of the weight of expectations upon the long rumoured Metroid Dread. Their sole opportunity to make the Metroid game of their dreams playing wholly to their strengths was to take on this mantle. We can never really know how much Dread changed over time. If it initially meant to be more horror focused and that Mercury Steam shifted that focus to play more to their strengths and make simply the best game they could as opposed to making something that lived up to the title Metroid Dread. The best insight we can get as to Sakamoto's initial intent and whether Mercury Steam were really what he envisioned comes in this interview. Sakamoto does seem to insist that this is what Dread has always been. Whether or not you take his word for it is up to you. I think with this conversation on Dread lacking dread its easy to spiral and end up nowhere and saying nothing. How am I to debate someone's enjoyment of this game solely as a smooth as butter action-packed metroidvania? Am I the player expected to shift my expectations with the game's true strengths when seeing its clearly advertised ones lacking? Should I curate my own critical experience in the way someone playing Smash Bros Melee curates a specific ruleset not explicitly put forth by the developer. I will return to this topic later in the review, for now I'll actually spend some time discussing the game itself.
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ruth1120 2021-10-18T20:42:21Z
2021-10-18T20:42:21Z
3.5
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Super Metroid remains the definitive Metroid, but for my money, this comes in at a solid #2. Aside from all of the quality of life improvements, this is the best action game in the series, with a Samus that controls more smoothly than ever and has a versatile kit of movement and combat options. It's understandable that those who like the exploration in Metroid feel a little let down by how gently and easily the game nudges you in the right direction, enforcing a linear path unless you go out of your way to sequence break. (Although I get a little confused when people cite Zero Mision and Fusion as being better on these grounds when they were even more mind-numbingly linear. Honestly, only Super Metroid seems to have done exploration really well!) But even then, I'm impressed how the game gives the feeling of navigating through a complex system with all the interconnected tunnels, elevators, and teleporters. Even though the game is guiding you, you don't really know where the game is guiding you, so it still felt to me like there was a sense of exploration even though I wasn't actually doing the work. When you look the map as whole - the biggest Metroid yet - you really start to see how complex the map really is, and you can start to appreciate it more when you try to hunt down collectibles.

Crucially, it doesn't feel like a slog travelling through big areas because Samus controls so damned well (which is not always the case for a Metroid game!) - besides tightening up all her usual techniques, the evasive dash and slide makes moving around very comfortable, especially as the game goes on. (The game really asks for that movement, too - I was pleasantly surprised that the game actually asks you to shinespark to progress through the game! They even give you a cute little cutscene at one point.) At the same time, though, I think MercurySteam did a great job of making you feel the lack of Samus's powers early in the game; the early part of Metroidvanias can sometimes feel a tad easy to make up for your lack of powers, but the presence of the invincible E.M.M.I.s makes them much scarier to evade, while in the late game you can move so seamlessly that they start to feel like a secondary threat. It feels so good when you can finally move like that, too - the game holds out on crucial powerups for a long time. That's gotta be the longest wait ever for the Morph Ball, and Adam mentions the Gravity Suit hours before you can actually get it. Once you do get these things, Samus really does feel completely different.

That threat instead moves to the litany of bosses in this game, which are universally awesome. (Running along Experiment No. Z-57!) Obviously the mid-fight cutscenes, after you hit the parry, are incredibly badass, putting Samus into an action movie where you can still be blasting away at the boss. But even the regular gameplay is a delight - there have been some great Metroid bosses through the years, but it can also often feel like a pain in the ass to avoid their attacks given the controls and limited visibility. Now that we're not reliant on a 4:3 screen and Samus has a litany of movement options, darting around enemy attacks feels much more intuitive and fun. Also, the Kraid sequence break is fucking raw - it's cool enough that there's a whole cutscene for a sequence break, but Samus literally shooting inside of Kraid and killing him from the inside is one of the coolest scenes in the game.

The quality of the cutscenes also comes through in the story, which I've also seen people talk about as a high point of this game. It's definitely one of the better Metroid stories, but it's not that good. As with any Metroid game, the narrative doesn't seem like a core focus of the game, and the actually interesting stuff can be summed up in a few sentences. Samus remains an enigma - her characterizations through the years have seemed inconsistent at best - but visually I do love how she reckons with her Chozo and Metroid DNA and seems to lose all control over both through the course of the game. (Though the eventual X 'cure' doesn't seem to make much sense.) The best parts of the story are in how she moves in the cutscenes, and the scene where she actually speaks to Quiet Robe is a sudden shock. But those are isolated moments, which largely seem separate from the rest of the game; the environmental storytelling isn't up to the series' best (Fusion might actually be the most successful on that front, at least of the 2D games), where the different areas of the planet can feel a little arbitrary and the E.M.M.I. zones are slapped in the middle a little. Metroid storytelling is the one area of the series that I think holds a lot of untapped potential, but given the series' history I think it's pretty hard to pull off at this point, and it's never been a priority for a reason. We're all there for other reasons.

End of the day, this is the Metroid game that feels the best to play, a dream for someone like me who cares more about how the game feels more than anything else. I haven't gotten around to doing a hard mode run, or to trying for 100%, but I know that when I do it'll be a lot of fun.
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Azdiff 2021-10-17T00:49:31Z
2021-10-17T00:49:31Z
4.0
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Not a Metroid fan but this was incredible
Whenever playing any Metroid game other than super Metroid I always found myself losing interest rather quickly, not even 2017’s Samus Returns could get me into the series, but with this new entry in the 35 year old series, I just can’t stop playing, it’s so fun whenever you get a new power up to just run around with it. Bosses are difficult but fun, power ups are so fun to use, and while story is definitely secondhand, there is enough to keep you engaged in it. The visuals are absolutely gorgeous, with heavy detail and background elements that fully immerse you in the world of planet ZDR. The music isn’t exactly what I want f it to be, it doesn’t always convey what I’m supposed to be feeling, but the sound design is absolutely stunning, it provides a feeling of what the game is named after, dread. This has quickly become my favorite Metroid game and it will probably be even more fun on later play throughs. I’m not quite done the game (I’m almost there, just need a few more things) but for now this is a 9/10 and earns game of the year for me.
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calebeedude 2021-10-27T19:03:07Z
2021-10-27T19:03:07Z
4.5
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metroid & contra, good together
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yoitu 2023-10-01T14:31:09Z
2023-10-01T14:31:09Z
›80%
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A dense, tough as nails game. I was surprised as this is the sort of difficulty I’ve come to expect from indie studios, rather than the established ones. It is rather short and linear as recent Metroidvania goes, which is fine considering how intense the game is.
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grillonbleu 2023-09-26T12:43:49Z
2023-09-26T12:43:49Z
4.0
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Metroid Dread - Nintendo Switch
The fact that Nintendo thought it was a good idea to bring back Metroid with this game is wild, considering that this is probably the hardest Metroid game there is. My fucking god it is challenging, but a really fun kind of challenging. That final boss can go eat dirt, that shit was too fucking much. Like my god that dude is just so fucking much all at once.
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kyungsoon03 2023-07-13T02:05:31Z
2023-07-13T02:05:31Z
4.5
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Catalog

TSoM1959 Metroid Dread 2024-02-25T11:39:22Z
2024-02-25T11:39:22Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Metroidvania
666LILGILGAMESH666 Metroid Dread 2024-02-24T04:45:31Z
Switch • XNA
2024-02-24T04:45:31Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
goal: complete
Giann96 Metroid Dread 2024-02-23T03:26:02Z
Switch
2024-02-23T03:26:02Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
ZachGM Metroid Dread 2024-02-20T22:36:43Z
2024-02-20T22:36:43Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
JeuneEpsy Metroid Dread 2024-02-20T09:30:40Z
2024-02-20T09:30:40Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
col10 Metroid Dread 2024-02-20T01:02:53Z
2024-02-20T01:02:53Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
gshdgsdh Metroid Dread 2024-02-19T15:06:33Z
2024-02-19T15:06:33Z
1.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
hyperhaxorus Metroid Dread 2024-02-18T16:47:00Z
2024-02-18T16:47:00Z
73
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Pancakeman Metroid Dread 2024-02-15T12:27:00Z
2024-02-15T12:27:00Z
5.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Seosamh Metroid Dread 2024-02-08T10:05:00Z
Switch
2024-02-08T10:05:00Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
RobDylan Metroid Dread 2024-02-05T23:41:17Z
2024-02-05T23:41:17Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
cookiewill Metroid Dread 2024-02-04T11:20:51Z
2024-02-04T11:20:51Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
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  • Previous comments (97) Loading...
  • DavidthePearce 2023-07-01 14:05:53.802772+00
    surprised to see that the studio is spanish. good for them [2]
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  • Dan_CiTi 2023-07-14 06:57:45.316024+00
    On the highest echelon of 2D action, just an incredible game. Though it does take some time to really get onto its level and flow with what it's doing, when you get good at it it's very satisfying.
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  • Meatlejuice 2023-09-22 03:02:26.811726+00
    Playing this for the first time after playing through ZM/AM2R/Super/Fusion sequentially for the zillionth time and I feel like I've been hit by a train. The design of this game (mostly the combat) is going to take a lot of getting used to.
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    • Meatlejuice 2023-09-23 07:11:11.236139+00
      Took a bit less than I expected, the fights after you unlock the storm missile upgrade are extremely fun and engaging, having that upgrade allows fights to be a lot more fast and fluid.
    • watercolour 2024-02-05 03:09:21.976614+00
      Is that a good or a bad thing? Honestly not a fan of the 3D graphics, so I've been unmotivated to get this game, but I only played it for a bit at a friend's place.
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  • frogychairuwu 2023-09-23 14:09:48.006795+00
    woah when this was released this was at a 3.3 what happened
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    • Exitstencilist 2023-09-25 18:43:11.878768+00
      hide Removed by mod
      This post was removed by a site moderator.
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  • Matty_G 2023-10-11 06:23:20.843611+00
    Great game minus the sections where you actually kill the emmis which is just kinda annoying
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  • OK_REVENANT 2023-12-20 00:24:50.520041+00
    those minibosses are garbage, I like how the game makes you feel powerful for overcoming obstacles and finding things out on your own but that Wasn't It
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    • rainstorm 2024-01-15 01:05:26.084407+00
      The problem is they crammed all these minibosses into the final third as if they needed to pad the length of the game
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  • figurehead 2024-01-20 02:41:23.443435+00
    the emmi boss fights feel like an nes game. play for a few seconds, die, and try again over and over. i gave up. i do plan on coming back to it though
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