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Metroid Dread...

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

I played through Super Metroid for the first time recently and I loved it. It’s got everything a landmark title needs. Atmospheric music, an engaging story that pulls you in through the gameplay, (mostly) fun controls and plenty of secrets to find in a massive, dramatic world. Its predecessors, Metroid and Metroid 2: Samus Returns are decent and lay the groundwork for the formula that created Metroid 3: Super Metroid.

While I don’t particularly enjoy Metroid (it’s dated, cryptic and difficult), I appreciate it. Metroid 2 I have some nostalgia for, but not enough to play through it again now. Since I think Metroid 3 is phenomenal, I had high hopes for Metroid 4: Fusion. It had almost a decade to advance the formula of a genre its series helped spawn, the Metroidvainia. Unfortunately, I feel it missed the mark.

The dark, foreboding atmosphere and minimal exposition of the first three games were replaced with a bright, colorful foreboding atmosphere and exposition every ten minutes or so. Fusion still has a wide array of powerups that allow you to explore and traverse a research space station. A station that is under attack by a deadly new enemy that mimics Samus at her most powerful. The platforming is solid and while the powerups are Metroid standard, (ball, bombs, ice, spin jump, etc.) that's fine because they're fun and presented in new ways.

I didn't do any Metroid research(i.e. google Metroid lore and scan through some wikis) until after playing through Fusion. I know I'm meant to care about all the backstory that's being heaped out, but the presentation is such a contrast to the rest of the series. As a result, all the exposition dumps that Fusion crams in only serve to confuse and annoy.

If you've played Metroid: Other M apparently things make much more sense but that isn't the case for a lot of people, Myself being one. Kingdom hearts has that same problem. Gaiden syndrome I guess I'll call it. Where a side story ends up having major implications on the numbered entries of a series even though it isn't really part of it. I'm not going to recount any of the Metroid stories here other than the one addition of backstory I did enjoy that was presented through gameplay and maybe two lines of dialogue.

Samus, canonically, saves the animals at the end of Metroid 3 and they manage to find a ship of their own and escape the exploding planet Zebes. I found this unlikely, even in a game with space chickens and dragon pirates. However, in Fusion, we find them again on the research station and discover not only are they intelligent, but sentient. So, I guess it isn't really fair to call them animals, is it? It was a nice touch that didn't affect the pacing and was well scripted.

Overall, I don't hate Fusion. It's flawed and inferior to its predecessor, but it has moments of greatness. It does the most with the limitations of the handheld format and while it has some infuriating gameplay when it's fun, it's FUN. Then I heard Metroid 5: Dread will be coming out in a few months and my excitement and trepidation both peaked. I'm curious to see what the developers have learned in the last two decades since Fusion. Will they prune the awkward story they shoehorned in and let the franchise grow in a new direction? Or will they keep it all and go from there? Or will they revamp completely?

The thing that really worries me is that Dread has been in development on and off for almost 20 years. The game's producer, Yoshio Sakamoto, has said the reason for the delay of the game is that each time he tried to make it, the technology wasn't there yet. The last time a game was in development so long over so many console generations was Duke Nukem: Forever. Which was one of the most anticipated and unequivocally underwhelming games of all time. Over the decade or so of Duke Nukem's development, it was built and stripped and rebuilt and added on to and tweaked until we got the crude mess that it turned into. I don't mind the crudeness of the Duke, but the crudeness of the game that bears is name is appalling.

My dread is that Metroid will have fallen into that same trap of bottomless development. I hope not. Samus Aran does not deserve to go out the same way as Duke Nukem. From what I've seen, the gameplay looks tense and exciting which is understandable as the theme of the game is fear, but we'll have to wait until the game comes out to see. When it does, you can bet I'll be reviewing it. Until then, thanks for reading and stay sound.

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