A Revitalization of Sidescrolling Metroid
With E3 2021 drawing to a close, all eyes have been on Nintendo to provide a jolt of excitement to an arguably lackluster digital weekend. Though there have been highlights, E3 this year was ready to end with a whimper. That is until Nintendo rolled up its sleeves and proved that there is still plenty of juice in their energy tank to get excited about this year. After a nearly two-decade hiatus, the long-running Metroid series is getting a new 2D entry this fall with the newly announced Metroid Dread.
While Metroid Dread is a brand new game it has actually been in development for years now with the Metroid: Samus Returns team over at MercurySteam and Nintendo once again collaborating to bring the space pirate intergalactic universe to life. Set after the events of Metroid Fusion, this sequel has been rumored for a very, very long time. The short trailer that debuted during the direct and a development history commentary was more than enough to provide a fresh dose of hype that could carry fans through to November when Metroid Dread and a gorgeous Amiibo two-pack will release simultaneously.
Beyond the Hype
But Nintendo graced fans with more than a mere teaser trailer or bonus behind-the-scenes look from the game’s producer Sakamoto Yoshito. They devoted a Treehouse segment to Metroid Dread, and what they showed was mesmerizing. A seemingly perfect fusion of modern design sensibilities and classic moody Metroid exploration, Dread amps up the action with a few new key abilities. The Treehouse segment showed plenty of promise and is more than enough to chew on for new and old Metroid fans.
While Dread has been in development for a while, the release and reception of Metroid: Samus Returns was a key part in getting Dread to Switch. Collaborating again with MercurySteam Entertainment proves that Nintendo has found a partner they can trust. Metroid Dread looks to be a 2D Metroid game to the core but is rendered with HD graphics. There are even returning features from Samus Returns, like the 360-degree free aiming system, and even a nod to Other M with some segments of dramatic over-the-shoulder aiming. The trailer showed off classic Metroid moves and abilities like the Morph Ball, but Dread is also putting its own spin on things by giving Samus a sliding ability right out of the gate.
Also returning is the counterattack, which lets players time button presses to stun and even destroy some weaker enemies. New to this game is the ability to run and counter, a kind of dash melee attack, keeping the momentum going for Samus as she learns to deal with a new dangerous threat: the robotic E.M.M.I. enemies. These armor-plated monstrosities are relentless and chase Samus across multiple rooms. The Treehouse presentation showed Samus defeating one of these enemies by powering up her blaster with an Omega charge and timing an attack just right, but the Omega cannon doesn’t seem to be a permanent fixture (at least in the early game). Samus will have to use her superior mobility to outmaneuver these Terminator-like quadrupeds as she learns why they are chasing her and how to stop them at their source.
The E.M.M.I. bots show that Nintendo isn’t afraid to take some cues from other popular games of the last few years. It remains to be seen if these characters reach the heights of Mr. X or Lady D from the recent Resident Evil games, but turning Samus the bounty hunter into someone who is also being hunt-ed is a clever inversion that has not been featured in Metroid’s 2D entries. Metroid has always been an empowering franchise, and it will be all the more satisfying when Samus finds the tools and firepower to stare down an E.M.M.I. without having to flee.
There are still several returning staples like Map Rooms and Missile Tanks. Starting off somewhat disempowered and growing an arsenal over the course of the game is Metroid 101. But Dread is aware of the weight of history and is more than willing to buck tradition. During the Treehouse, one of the presenters commented that rather than starting on the surface of the planet and battling her way towards the center, Samus instead starts deep within and yearns towards ascension.
Metroid Dread has been in the works for a while. Metroid fans are still grappling with the fact that this long-rumored game is even real, and with a release date mere months from now, this game has instantly become one of the fall’s hottest titles. The game promises juicy lore and Nintendo has even set up a Dread Report page for updates. Whether you are a longtime Metroid fan or a new convert who first experienced Super Metroid via the SNES Online app, there is no denying that Metroid Dread is a highlight from this year’s E3.