Metroid Dread

Playing a game like Metroid Dread kind of feels like travelling through time. The franchise hasn’t had a console entry in the series since 2011, and the past ten years have seen the MetroidVania genre blossom. Thankfully, Metroid’s history as a 35-year franchise means this new entry manages to feel as lovingly nostalgic as it is razor sharp in 2021.

There are a lot of strange strings that come attached to Metroid Dread. It was originally announced in 2003 as a direct follow-up to Metroid: Fusion on the Game Boy Advance, only to be cancelled sometime afterwards. It comes at a time when gamers are desperate for any shred of information on the much-anticipated Metroid Prime 4, the next entry in Metroid’s FPS side-series which began with 2002’s Metroid Prime. It’s also kept the position as a direct sequel (and final chapter) to Fusion, meaning gamers have been born and grown in the time it has taken to finish off the narrative left off since that game’s release.

Not being weighed down by all those connections, while also introducing players who mightn’t have ever played a Metroid game to its world and mechanics would take a particularly slick game. So, it’s a good thing that Metroid Dread is pretty damned slick.

It’s pleasing that Metroid Dread maintains an iconic 2D presentation of its world, because it shows just how far the series has come. Moving through the underground facilities and biomes of Dread’s host planet of ZDR is an absolute joy, from the glistening gold and chrome of its lab facilities to the oppressive magma rock caverns near the planet’s core.

In fact, much of the series’ iconic design is still here. You explore the depths of the planet for new abilities and upgrades which, in turn, allow access to new areas and abilities. It’s the basic loop of the game.

Metroid Dread

Making your way through the depths of ZDR is half the battle, too. The design of Metroid Dread may appear open world at first, but much of the critical path through the game feels like it has some invisible hand guiding it. As you close off and open up new pathways, or reach unseen heights with newfound abilities, the clever design of the experience becomes clear.

That said, there are plenty of moments where you’d be forgiven for thinking “OK… so… what do I do now?”, and it’s in moments like this where the old-school nature of Dread becomes clear. Where Metroid comes from, games don’t hold your hand nearly as much as they do now.

Controlling series heroine Samus Aran through these zones comes with good and bad. Samus moves like liquid metal through the map of Metroid Dread, and when things lock into place and the missiles from her arm cannon are flying, it’s easy to fall into a badass flow-state as you carve through the threats before you.

“As you close off and open up new pathways, or reach unseen heights with newfound abilities, the clever design of the experience becomes clear.”

However, Dread’s controls can also be extremely unforgiving, and there’s a chance that you’ll end your play sessions with a slight case of hand cramps after a few hours of play. A lot of key moves require three or more inputs on your controller, and you’ll be expected to make them with a moment’s notice, especially during the game’s white knuckle boss encounters. A game like Metroid Dread is the perfect time for the Switch Pro Controller to shine.

For fans of MetroidVania games like Hollow Knight, Dead Cells and Axiom Verge, Metroid Dread feels like the return of the queen in many ways. It’s the series that invented a genre that produces must-play games to this day, and while it’s clearly playing with a few old tricks, there are no cobwebs on this spacesuit.

Metroid Dread is available now on Switch.star-4

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi