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'Metroid Dread' fulfills decades-old 2D action-platformer dreams

Posted at 5:49 PM, Oct 11, 2021

TUCSON, Ariz. — The new "Metroid" game is called "Dread," but it may as well have been called "Metroid Delight" because of how thoroughly satisfying it is at granting the wishes of players who had been begging for a sequel like this since the Super Nintendo days.

Nintendo kept on making "Metroid" games, but never a true side-scrolling fashion. And as strong as the GameCube "Metroid Prime" trilogy was, they left fans with a nostalgic yearning for the old-fashioned 2D style.

Such was the longing for a new 2D Metroid that an entire genre — dubbed Metroidvania — sprung from the yearning. Some of those games approached and even surpassed the best of the 2D Metroids.

But no one does things quite like the OG, and Nintendo jumps back into the game with a sweeping sense of awe in its decidedly old-school throwback.

"Metroid Dread," released Oct. 8 on the Switch, delivers just that, with six to nine hours of hectic action-platforming. The game is an exclamation point on a stellar year of first-party Switch releases with serpentine levels, ample drip of power-ups, and a brutal rogues' gallery of bosses.

Step aside, Mario. One second, Pikachu. It's Samus's time to shine.

The game bulges with fan service but doesn't entirely give players all of their favorites. A final-act twist, while predictable, rings true not only to the lore but to the tropes of 1980s-style storytelling.

Stripped of her powers at the start, Samus grinds her way through the caverns of various realms, plunging through a linear path disguised as an open-world laden with false walls, buried secrets, and tantalizingly out-of-reach or impenetrable pathways.

Devilish sentries knew as E.M.M.I. chase you around in cat-and-mouse portions. Adding a spark of horror to the mix, the near-invulnerable monstrosities stalk you with ominous persistence. You quickly grow to hate the E.M.M.I.s, which only increases the sense of satisfaction when you eventually manage to take them out.

While the saga abounds with anachronistic charm and an unforgiving manual save system, there are myriad quality-of-life improvements that nod to modern gaming.

Nintendo also flexes its graphical powers in boss scenes that evolve into mini cut-scenes, expanding the scope into moments of resounding triumph.

"Metroid Dread" may not do a whole lot to move the franchise forward, but that's precisely why it's so successful at what it does.

Every bit as replayable as the best 2D "Metroid" titles, it's an achievement as majestic and thrilling as blasting through a wall and finding a hidden upgrade.